treasure among my stacks

Stumbled over during a recent bout of perusing…

“He says, slowly, that there is an island in Grand Lake called Glover Island. And Glover is the largest island on the island of Newfoundland. And on Glover there is a pond. And on that pond there is a smaller island. I want, he says, to paddle up Grand Lake and portage over Glover Island. Get to that pond and cross to the island and spend a night. He says there’s only one other island in the world with a lake holding an island, and a pond on that island with an island in that pond, and that place is Sumatra. And if you took a globe and put a finger on Newfoundland and another finger on Sumatra you’d see they’re pretty much on opposite sides of the earth.”   —Excerpt from a story by Michael Winter, as found in the essay: The Ends of the Earth, by Lisa Moore (The Walrus, July/August, 2006).

But what Michael Winter story is it from??

“Oh, Mrs. Turner is a sight cutting the grass on a hot afternoon in June! She climbs into an ancient pair of shorts and ties on her halter top and wedges her feet into crepe-soled sandals and covers her red-gray frizz with Gord’s old golf cap—Gord is dead now, ten years ago, a seizure on a Saturday night while winding the mantel clock.” —Opening paragraph, ‘Mrs. Turner Cutting the Grass’ by Carol Shields

“God, this is what literature is supposed to sound like—one man simply telling another man the simple humiliations and agonies and always-too-late epiphanies that add up to his and everybody else’s life—and not a sack of tricky tropes to be toted out and professionally employed in order to expertly con the reader into imagining a pretty little Book Club-approved daydream.”from What Happened Later, by Ray Robertson

“I grew up cynical, married an optimist. A field biologist who held the legs of songbirds pinched between thumb and fingers and described their plumage to me. We hiked through boreal forest, scrambled above alpine meadows, strolled the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. We walked beneath the ten thousand rustling wings of crows bedding down for the night on the electrical wires beside a remnant stand of trees. As we walked, beneath our feet we found the torn feathers of a grouse, the long shadow of a hawk. Death, I saw, is part of the beauty of this world, as painful as it is. And so, I learned to balance here. Walking with my optimist, I found I could stay standing even if the world would not stay still.”from the essay ‘A Container of Light’ by Lisa Martin-Demor, The New Quarterly #120.

“Everyone wants in on it. Everyone! Not just the cat, the pig and the dog. The horse too, the cow, the rhinoceros, the orang-outang, the horn-toad, the wombat, the duck-billed platypus, you name it. There’s no peace any more and all because of that goddamn loaf of bread… It’s not easy being a hen.” —from ‘The Little Red Hen Tells All’, in the collection Good Bones, by Margaret Atwood

“I remember a story my father once told me. A boy is playing in the sandbox in the schoolyard, and darkness falls. He hears the voice of his mother calling him in for supper. On his way home, he loses his way in the shadows and walks until his feet are sore. He curls up against the side of a stranger’s house and falls asleep. In the morning, the sun pries open his eyelids. He is back in the schoolyard. He realizes he is not the boy at all, but the sandbox, and so he is already home.” — from ‘Bouncing’, in the collection Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, by Stuart Ross



flavour vs taste

“The typical consumer believes that naturally flavoured processed food is somehow healthier than artificially flavoured processed food. The distinction is laughable… Flavours are value-neutral from a health standpoint. They are chemicals. The only difference between a natural and synthetic flavour is the source material and derivation process. Take cherry for example. What gives cherries their ‘cherriness’ is a molecule called benzaldehyde. To make natural cherry flavour, you start with cassia, a tree bark related to cinnamon and, using chemical-free processes like pressure and steam, extract from it cinnamic aldehyde. This can then be converted into benzaldehyde, the base of natural cherry flavour. To make an artificial cherry flavour, you extract the benzaldehyde from coal tar on petroleum using chemical processes. The molecules resulting from both processes are identical, although the natural flavour costs ten to fifty times more to produce.

“Aside from flavour, the other ingredients in ‘all natural’ foods—starches, proteins, fats, etc.—are often dramatically modified from their naturally occurring states in order to produce products that better withstand the intense processing required to manufacture safe packaged food.  ‘All-natural processed food’ is an oxymoron and a myth… But the idea that it’s better for you is deeply ingrained in society. It’s become a key to success from a consumer-acceptance standpoint.”

—excerpted from ‘Frontiers of Flavour’ by Nelson Handel (The Walrus, June 2005)

the illusion of a forest…

“The natural disaster of a forest fire returns carbon to the soil, enriching it for the new forest to come. A clear-cut removes the trees that are the source of that carbon. To walk there is to see a landscape devastated as if by bombs. Reforestation? It seems that real care is taken only for the hills and mountains that border highways where tourists and people from the cities can see them. Those are the clear-cuts where the corporations put up signs to tell the passing cars when the forest was replanted and how well it is doing today.

“The corporations rarely harvest their trees right up to a highway. If you stop your car and walk 300 metres into a forest, you will often stumble across a clear-cut hidden from the cars that pass. The trees you see by the side of the road are the illusion of a forest left there to salve your conscience. Back out of sight, on the plateaus and hills and mountains, the forests are doing poorly. The variety of species is reduced to one of fir, pine, hemlock, spruce, tamarack, or whatever, depending on which of one or two species is likely to return the greatest profit.

“Diversity of species is anathema to the managers of the new forest. Monoculture is king. It is precisely what happened on the vast prairie, where rich and diverse grasslands were replaced with fields of grain. The landowner’s system of fallowing fields on alternate years allowed for massive evaporation from the bare earth. The moisture rising from the subsoils brought with it salts from the ancient seas that once covered the land, and when the moisture evaporated, it left the salt behind. Vast areas of the Great Plains are pocked with crystal deserts where nothing grows.”

~ excerpted from ‘The Forest’s Edge’, by Patrick Lane (The Walrus, May 2005)