Tuesday, January 31, 2017

IWSG: Wednesday, February 1, 2017 ~ Two Sides of the Same Coin

It's the first Wednesday 
of the month ~ 
the day when members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and offer their encouragement
and support to other members.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are stepping up to help IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh are:
Misha Gericke,  L.K. Hill  Juneta Key,  Christy, and Joylene Butler. 

I hope you have a chance to visit them and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate an encouraging comment!

This month's IWSG featured question is:
How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I've thought about the relationship between writing and reading throughout my life,
especially since I began teaching children to write and to read in the late 1980s.

I don't think you can be a good writer without reading widely,
and once you start writing, I think it changes your reading experience forever.

Reading and Writing:  Two Parts of One Whole
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Reading and writing are so intimately related that participating in the two
over time deepens, enriches, and improves the experience of both.
I have come to view them as two sides of the same coin.

Back in 1990 or 1991, early in my teaching career,
I had the good fortune to attend a writing conference in Denver.
The keynote presenter was the incomparable Shelley Harwayne.

Shelley Harwayne

For those of you who aren't familiar with Shelley Harwayne,
she was involved with the public schools in New York City for over thirty years.

During this time she worked as a teacher, staff developer, and superintendent
and was the founding principal of the New Manhattan School (P.S. 290, NYC).

As co-director of Columbia University's Teacher College Writing Project,
Shelley mentored and inspired a generation of writing and 
reading teachers around the country and the world.

At that Denver conference Shelley said something I have never forgotten.
She said that if you wanted your students to become good writers
you had to marinate them in good literature.

As a result, my classroom and many others were stuffed
with the best children's literature we teachers could buy.

My Teammates and I on a School Field Trip
These colleagues were amazing and generous teachers
who inspired their students to read and to write
across their wide curriculum.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

IMHO, one result of the focus on obtaining the best children's literature by teachers
was an explosion in the publication and availability of wonderful,
at times profound, children's books in an array of genres.


Some of My Personal Favorites
See Notes Below

However my students, and others in classrooms around the world,
didn't just read excellent children's literature.
They examined that literature to learn how authors wrote and structured books,
and they applied that knowledge to their own writing to improve it.

As the reading and writing processes spiraled around 
throughout the year and in following grades,
students became better readers and writers,
and their awareness of how authors wrote good books deepened.
Students began to enjoy the books they read,
not only for the story or the information in them,
but also for the craft and beauty of the writing found in those books.

I have walked that spiraling path throughout my life,
and I have long passed the point where I value and enjoy
a book simply for its story or information.
I learn and derive pleasure from understanding
an author's skill in the craft of writing
and in his or her choice of words.

If a book is not well written, its impression on me
lasts as long as a bite of cotton candy on my tongue.

If a fiction book is skillfully and beautifully written,
I find myself reading and rereading passages to savor the actual writing,
even as I long to gallop ahead to learn the ending.

As for non-fiction, when a book is well-structured
and written in cogent, fresh language,
I understand the content better,
I acquire insight into improving my writing,
and I enjoy observing the craft of the writer.

Three of my Personal Favorites
See Notes Below

Some books I will reread entirely to better understand how
the author created an unforgettable reading experience for me.

These reading and writing experiences accumulate in my mind,
and the spiraling continues, both enriching my life immeasurably
and deepening my pleasure in both processes.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a giant among writers and readers,
certainly among those I admire most.

One of his many well-known quotes is about the process of writing,
and it is the one that resonates most with me as a writer and a reader.

He said of writing The Lord of the Rings that the story
“...grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind:
out of all that has been seen or thought or read,
that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”

Personally, I expand the meaning of Tolkien's quote
to include my understanding of story as a reader.
My understanding of story as a writer
has added to my subconscious "leaf-mould,"
and it has enriched my reading experience
in ways that are hard to articulate or measure.

My treasured books are my treasured friends.
I hope my pleasure in writing and reading
continues to deepen the rest of my life.

IWSG Reads:
Since I joined the IWSG, I have read a number of books
by fellow Insecure Writer's Support Group members,
notably books by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Pat Hatt
that I have thoroughly enjoyed and reread.

Alex J. Cavanaugh Books
I Have Enjoyed and Reread

Pat Hats Books
I Have Enjoyed  and Reread

I've made it a goal this year to read at least five books
published by Insecure Writer's Support Group writers.

I just finished reading my first for the year,
Matowak: Woman Who Cries
by Joylene Nowell Butler

If this book is any indication,
I will have a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience
ahead of me as I achieve my goal.   

Amazon   Blog

This book is a fabulous read!  
It's a murder mystery set in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.
The book is grounded in reality all the way through.
The RCMP police work is engrossing and realistic,
and the details of the Canadian setting ring true throughout.
The two memorable main characters, RCMP Corporal Danny Killian
and suspect Sally Warner, lead readers on an intriguing chase
which kept this reader double guessing herself to the end.

And yes, I appreciated Joylene's effective use of foreshadowing which she does exceptionally well in her skillfully written book!

I'm looking forward to reading your posts to hear
how writing has changed your reading experience.

Have you read any good books by IWSG authors
that you can recommend?

Happy writing in February!

1.  Shelley Harwayne  Bio

2.  P.S. 290, NYC:   Public School #290, New York City

3.  IMHO:  In my humble opinion

4.  In Flanders Fields:  The Story of the Poem by John McRae
     by Linda Granfield   (WW1 History and Poetry)   Thriftbooks

5.  Oscar the Herring Gull
     by Roberta Heembrock  (Fiction with Non-Fiction Notes)   Amazon

6.  If You Are a Hunter of Fossils
     by Byrd Baylor   (Poetry ~ Science:  Geology)   Goodreads  

5.  The Prince of the Pond
     by Donna Jo Napoli   (Fiction ~ Fantasy)   Goodreads

6.  Howling Hill
      by Will Hobbs   (Fiction)  Amazon

7.  The Garden of Abdul Gasazi
       by Chris Van Allsburg   (Fantasy)   Amazon

8.  The Hidden Reality:  Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
     by Brian Greene   (Physics and Cosmology)   Wikipedia

9.  The Trojan Horse
     by Warwick Hutton   (Mythology)   Thriftbooks

10.  Alone Against the North:  An Expedition into the Unknown
       by Adam Shoalts   (Exploration)   Amazon

11.  Tolkien Quote:
       J. R. R. Tolkien:  A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter, p. 131  Google

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Letters in Nana's Mailbox

A half century ago everyone in Lansdowne House
eagerly awaited the mail plane on Friday.
Sometime around midday, a small bush plane from Nakina
would come winging over the southern horizon
bringing mail, supplies, and sometimes visitors.

Santa with Mrs. Mitchell
(The Hudson's Bay Company Manager's Wife)
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Donald MacBeath, December 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This meant that the community's white adults
spent Thursday evening writing letters and supply orders
to go out on the plane's' return trip to Nakina.
Roy, Donnie, and I quickly found ourselves joining
the adults in the Thursday night ritual.

On Thursday, March 2, 1961
my brother Roy wrote to 
our grandmother, Myrtle Pratt:

Dear Nana,
All we have up here is gas lights 
and a gas stove.  
We are having a lot of fun.

February 28th it was 30 below zero.  
Daddy got 40 barrels of gas.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


It snowed yesterday and part of last night 
and it snowed all afternoon.  

The snow is three or four feet deep
before you get to the ice. 

The only time the ice is good for skating is in the fall 
and sometimes the ice is eight feet thick.
Love Roy to Nana.

Gas Light (Coleman Kerosene Lamp)

Roy's Letter
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

On the same day, 
Thursday, March 2, 1961
I also wrote to Nana (Myrtle Pratt):

Dear Nana,
I am having a wonderful time up here.
The night I arrived we went
to the McRae’s for supper
and then to our new home.
It is very large and roomy.
We have to use gas lamps!
I sleep in a top bunk.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The next day there was no school,
and we spent our time trying to talk with the Indians.  

The next day, however, there was school.
Donnie and Barbie had desks, but Roy and I sat at a card table.    

We did the usual things, 
but we had a couple of hilarious times
in school the next couple of days,
like Barbie putting her coat on upside down. 

I have made two friends.
Unfortunately they are boys.
Their names are Simon and George.

Last night I went baby sitting and had a great time.
The McMahons fixed me a nice lunch,
and in the middle of enjoying it,
the baby started kicking the bed.
Of course, I didn’t know what it was. 

I ran to the kitchen, found a butcher knife
and never let go of it all evening.

I earned two dollars and spent it in two minutes
on a hobby, and that is beadwork.
These are the things I bought:  
yellow, blue, green, white, orange, and blue green beads.
There are seven tubes of them in a different color.
Also special needles and thread. 
Love, Louise.

P.S. Next time I will write a better letter. 

Drawing of Beadwork Supplies
in My Letter
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

While Roy, Donnie, and I sat at the kitchen table writing letters
by the light of the hissing kerosene lamps,
our parents took turns typing theirs on the newly refurbished typewriter.


On Thursday, March 2, 1961
My mother wrote to our extended family:

Hi Everybody:
Don insists that I write a line on this letter, 
but when he sees the mess I am making 
he will never let me do it again.  

I have just finished making out a list for a week's
supply of groceries for the week after next.
It is very confusing.  However we won’t starve
for the survey gang left a ton of supplies behind.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Louise made two dollars baby sitting last night and was as proud as punch,
but worried when we told her not to even hint at money
for everyone here helps anyone that needs help out.

Poor Louise was practically in tears when she arrived home.
She was afraid we would make her take it back.

She invested her money today in the beads for her beadwork.
She also bought six suckers for fifteen cents.  Quite a change.

The jackets and moccasins
the Indians make here are beautiful.

They trim them with beads
in flower designs and with fur.  

Maureen and Anne were in this afternoon,
or I should say at the door with snowshoes on.

Even the snowshoes were decorated
with puffs of pink and white wool.

Mukluks Wikimedia

The children get along well with the Indian children,
and everyone here is good to them.
Maureen had Louise in helping her bake the other day;
and of course, Louise loved it.
Iona likes Barbie to go over and play with Glennie,
while Maureen loves Donnie and says to let her
go over and play with Dunc Junior anytime.

We’ve had lots of fun playing bridge.
Both times the score was very close,
even though I was on the losing side both times.  

The first night I couldn’t get any cards,
but the last time I had good ones.  
One hand Don took me to task for making a ridiculous bid.
I bid one no-trump, Maureen bid two no-trump, 
so I bid three no-trump.  
They all laughed at me and said that I didn’t have a chance.
I made it without any difficulty at all and with no help from my partner.

Playing Bridge

It is really beautiful here,
and we have been very comfortable.  

We walked over to the Island one evening.
It was a lovely moonlit night
with lots of stars.
It was a nice walk.

Well I better stop messing up this letter.
Love, Sara


One of my vivid memories of Lansdowne House
is the first time I babysat outside my home. 
The McMahons hired me to look after Baby Glen
while they played bridge next door at the McRae's.

I was only ten (almost eleven); but I had had lots of experience
looking after my baby sister Bertie and my younger siblings,
and I arrived at the McMahon's home filled with confidence.

I had snuck a copy of one of my father's
Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazines to read during the evening,
and after checking on Glennie, I settled down to enjoy the stories. 
That was a big mistake for a young girl with an overactive imagination.

Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine 
Vol. 5, No. 11, November 1960

When I suddenly began to hear strange banging noises,
I was acutely aware that I was alone in the wilderness
surrounded by Indians and wolves and worse.

My heart began to pound and the palms of my hands liquified.
I could hardly breathe, and I could hear
something crawling up to the back steps.
I exploded from the couch and raced to the kitchen
to grab a butcher knife out of the drawer.

When I turned toward Glennie's bedroom, 
I could see a shadow on the wall beyond the fridge.
Someone was crouching with a long thin club ready to strike.
Clutching the butcher knife and creeping toward the fridge
was perhaps the scariest thing I had experienced in my young life.

I swung around the fridge with the knife raised high,
only to find a broom leaning against a stack of cartons.
The light from the back porch was casting their shadows on the wall.

When I worked up the nerve to check on the baby,
I discovered that Glennie was kicking his crib.
Talk about feeling stupid!

I made it back to the couch and held the knife the rest of the evening.
I did not read anymore Hitchcock that long night.

The moment I heard the McMahons saying goodnight to the McRaes across the yard, 
I dashed back to the kitchen and slipped the knife in its drawer. 

What I don't remember is my parents' reaction to my letter to Nana.

But I do recall my father telling me not long after 
that you don't stab down with a knife.
Instead you thrust up, making it more difficult 
for someone to turn the knife back on you.
Fortunately, I've never had to test that advice.

Norseman and Fuel Drum
Noorduyn Norseman Ski Plane  
Waldorf, Howard Special Collection 008 Noorduyn Norseman
San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives (SDASM)

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

The Brier Island Nature Reserve 
Bay of Fundy
Photo by Roy MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


1.  Barrels of Gas:
Tractor trains traveled across the frozen landscape to deliver all the fuel that the community needed to run its generators, stoves, and other machines.  The fuel came in 45 gallon drums.   The 40 barrels of gas Roy referred to was for the stoves to heat the school.

Oil Barrels or Drums in the North

2.  Gas Lights or Lamps:  The Coleman kerosene lamps my father used to light our home made
     quite an impression on Roy and me.  Each evening my father would light the lamps, a task we
     watched with keen interest because we never knew when Dad would yell, "Open the door"
     to throw a wildly flaming lamp into the snow.
    The lamps had a fuel container at the base.  My father started by pumping a hand pump to
    pressurize the fuel.  This forced fuel and fumes up into the lantern where they came in
    contact with the mantle.  Then Dad would carefully stick a match inside the lamp and light the
    mantle.  He could adjust the brightness of the mantle glow by increasing or decreasing the fuel
    forced into the lamp.  The You Tube video below shows how a modern, double mantle lamp
    works which gives you an idea of how the older Coleman lamps in our home worked.  I watched
    my father change the mantles in the lamps many times.

You Tube: eReplacementParts.com

And for Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Lansdowne House
Sketched on Map of Ontario 
from Atlas of North America:
Space Age Portrait of a Continent
National Geographic 1985, pages 166-167.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Adapting to Changes

In my last Lansdowne Letters post, I shared part of a letter
my father wrote to our extended family describing our early days together
in the remote northern community on Lake Attawapiskat.

My parents were really happy to have us together as a family again;
but even more so, I think, they were delighted to be a couple once more.

Sometimes in the busyness of our lives, we make the mistake
of taking ordinary life and its comforting rhythms for granted.
Much of life is everyday moments, and we should remember
that it is these small moments with our loved ones that come to mean the most.

Path to Our Water Hole
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada 
Winter 1961
Painting by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 2, 1961 ~ Continued...
My father wrote to our extended family:

Sara is looking, and I think feeling, a whole lot better since she arrived in the North.
She is not so jumpy, and in spite of all our entertaining, she is more rested.

She has adopted about two or three of the Indian dogs and feeds them every day!
How those dogs love Sara.
They really recognize a sucker when they run across one.
Seriously though, they are starved,
and we only feed them what we would otherwise throw away.

Canadian Inuit Dogs:  by fgiamma  (can share on social media)

The children are a great help to me
carrying up the water every day, especially Louise.

Roy has begun to find the whole procedure something of a bind.
The ingenuity he displays in inventing excuses
to get out of carrying water amazes me.
I have never seen anyone who can dig up more aches and pains
than he can at water hauling time.

I make him do his share though, for I don't think it hurts
for children to have certain chores at home.

I never allow the children to go to the water hole alone,
and I always fill the buckets for them.
I wouldn't let them near it alone, for it is quite big,
and I am afraid that they could fall in.
They are forbidden to go near it except when I am with them.

A Strategic Roy
Notice how he has pulled the blanket to bring his toys closer.
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Summer 1952
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

A Different Approach to Life
I, on the other hand, had to be constantly tied down with my ubiquitous harness and rope.
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Summer 1952
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Thursday night is regular weigh-in time for the MacBeaths.
Sara has gained between two and three pounds since she came up here.
We are stuffing food into her just about every time she turns around,
and in addition, I have her taking Cod Live Oil twice a day.

My weight shot up seven pounds the first week Sara was here.
I couldn’t resist Sara’s home cooking I guess,
especially her lovely homemade bread.

However, the intensity has worn off such temptations now,
and I have gone back on my diet.
In the last two days, I have managed to shed
over a pound of what I had gained back.
I am going to loose it all, for I feel so good when I am light
that I don’t want to ever be heavy again.

Honeymoon Days
My father always struggled to take weight off,
while my mother struggled to keep it on.
Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Early September 1948
Photos by Don and Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For the benefit of my Island subscribers, I should mention
that Sara has become an aunt again.
Louise gave birth to a baby girl the last of January.
Most likely Sara has written everyone about it,
but just in case she hasn’t, I thought I would let you know.
At the same time, I want to send
belated congratulations to the proud mother and father.

It has been snowing quite heavily for the last two or three days.
The damned stuff is just cascading down.

Going to school today I was plowing knee deep in the snow,
and this is on a beaten path yet.  
If I strayed off the path, I would sink almost to my waist.
I know, I made this blunder once today when I was going for water.

You should see poor Gretchen in the snow.
She literally swims through it.
Even Gretchen seems to like the North and
is looking better since she arrived up here.

Bark Post

Louise has bought some beads at the Bay, and she is getting
Anne O’Flaherty to show her how to do Indian beadwork.
She is all excited about the whole thing.
Poor Louise, she gets so excited about things like this, doesn’t she?

We have really been isolated since Sara arrived.
I sent for some aerial wire, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on in the world.
For all I know, there could be a war in progress.
Even when I do get the papers and magazines, the news is a week old.
I will be glad when we get the radio functioning again.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Chicago Black Hawks 
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, circa 1961

Amphibious Assault Ship USS Boxer (LPH-4) 
at Norfolk, Virginia (USA), in 1961

Two things have happened simultaneously.
I have run out of things to say,
and I have remembered that I have to put oil in the stove,
so I’ll just let the distaff side of the team take over from me.

Bye now,
Love, Don. 

In defense of Roy,  I feel I should set the record straight regarding hauling water.
At first Dad did accompany us to our water hole,
clambering down the hill on the snow-packed path to the frozen lake below.

He would grab the ice pick
stashed upright by our water hole
and chop up the inch or so of ice
that had frozen over it
since the day before.

Then he would fill our metal buckets
and send us on our way
back up the hill
to the forestry shack.

Flickr:  Thirteen of Clubs   License 

This did not last very long.  
Hauling water for a family of seven is a time-consuming task,
as well as physically challenging.
My father soon developed a bad back.

Dad fortuitously realized that Roy and I were
responsible enough and capable of hauling water on our own,
and we two very different people soon inherited the task.

Roy, from his earliest days, had demonstrated
an aptitude for accomplishing tasks
by expending the least amount of energy possible.
One of our family stories is how Mom first realized that Roy was very smart
by observing him pulling his blanket toward him so he could reach his toys.
For him, hauling water was a chore and there were better ways to spend his time.

I, from my earliest days,
had demonstrated an aptitude for
covering a lot of territory very fast.

It was Roy, just a few years ago,
who pointed out to me
that almost every photo of me as a child
has me harnessed to a rope
trailing out of the photograph.

Me in My Harness Carrying My Coiled Rope
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada, Summer 1952
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For me, hauling water was an adventure, and I loved the thrill
of chopping the ice hole open and filling the buckets.

At first Roy tried to wiggle out of the chore, 
but soon he had a legitimate reason for avoiding the task.
He developed serious ear infections and tonsillitis
after arriving in Lansdowne House,
so he was frequently too sick to haul water.

These bouts worsened and resulted in an operation to treat his mastoiditis
and remove his tonsils in the Sioux Lookout Hospital about a year later.

Meanwhile I carried on hauling the family water,
sometimes with the help of my younger sisters Donnie and Barbie.
Barbie, like me, had a lot of fun hauling her tiny buckets up from the lake.

Every bucket had to be strained through cheesecloth
draped over the water drum near the door in our kitchen.
Then my mother would purify it
with a few drops of Javex liquid bleach.
Soon I took over the purification job too.

I would haul every drop of that water again,
if I could go back
and relive those days with my family.
They were the best of times;
but then, being with my family is always wonderful.

Together at Christmas
Donnie and Roy, Louise (me) and Barb, with Bertie in front.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 12/25/2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.   Louise's Baby:  
      My mother's sister Louise and her husband Carl Lindholm
      added daughter Julie to their growing family at the end of January, 1961.

2.   Isolation:  
      As I recall there were several short wave radios in Lansdowne House at the time, at
      the Hudson's Bay post, the Roman Catholic Mission, the Nursing Station, and the Department of
      Transport weather station.  These short wave radios were the only means of communication
      with the Outside between bush plane flights.  The white people all had transistor radios, and
      as soon as Dad's aerial wire arrived, our transistor radio provided us with current news and music.
      I might as well have been on the dark side of the moon, for my world had shrunk to the visible
      horizons of white ice and black spruce against the sky.  I didn't pay much attention to the
      transistor radio until I became a fan of WLS Chicago and it's Hit Parade a few months later.

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Lansdowne House
The Hudson's Bay Post and Department of Transport Buildings and Houses, 1960
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

A Quick Sketch of Lansdowne House by My Father
It shows the location of the Hudson's Bay, the Department of Transport, 
and the Roman Catholic Mission on the Father's Island.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Lansdowne House, Ontario

Map of Canada