Friday, November 28, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: In Isolation

When I started sharing my father’s letters,
I decided to proceed chronologically.

I skipped this letter originally
because it seemed so ordinary.
Then I returned to it for that exact reason.

Today it’s hard to imagine
waiting for a weekly bush plane
to deliver mail and news.

Mail Run

Or the isolation of an Indian teacher 
who could talk to an administrator
only by shortwave radio.

Or the loneliness of long nights
in the boreal forest.

Boreal Forest and Lakes.
Northern Ontario

So here it is, an ordinary letter, 
written by my father
on Thursday, September 23, 1960:

Hi There! 
Everyone at Lansdowne is busy 
reading letters, magazines, and back issues 
of their hometown newspapers, 
for today is MAIL DAY, 
a very important day in the week 
of every person in Lansdowne.  

I received four lovely letters 
from you, Sara, 
and three others, also lovely, 
from you, Mother.  

There is going to be a plane 
in tomorrow or Saturday, 
and I have written 
individual answers to each of you, 
so I will be able 
to send them out on that plane.

A Letter from Lansdowne House
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Well, I wish you 
could have seen me this afternoon 
holding a singing session with my pupils.
First we sang "O Canada,"
and then we tried 
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home." 

Cover of Sheet Music
When Johnny Comes Marching Home, 1863

I won’t vouch for 
the tonal integrity of this recital, 
but the enthusiasm was overwhelming, 
and that is the main purpose 
of the singing sessions – 
to draw the Indians out, 
overcome their shyness, 
and encourage them 
to use the English language.

After we finished murdering 
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home,"
we proceeded to demolish 
"Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be,"
and "I’ve Been Working On The Railroad."

Original 1918 Cover of K-K-K-Katy

I don’t know if these songs 
are on the approved list 
for use among the Indian schools, 
but they are the only ones 
that I can sing and be sure of 
being reasonably in tune.

Oh yes, I also tried them singing a round.  
The one I picked was 
"Row, Row, Row Your Boat." 

This selection was nothing 
but disorganized confusion at first, 
because the children had never tried 
singing rounds before, 
but as soon as they got the idea, 
they made a great job of singing rounds.

Have either of you 
got any old song books 
that you could send me, 
or song sheets used by the BYPU1
or other church societies?

I don’t want hymns though, 
because the Indians are Anglicans, 
and the Bishop might not appreciate it 
if he heard all his little charges 
singing Baptist hymns.

I bought a battery-operated 
transistor radio today.  
It is a portable.  
It cost $59.95.2

Transistor Radio
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall of 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

This may sound extravagant, 
but a radio is almost a necessity 
up here in the bush.

The nights are awfully long,
and there isn’t too much entertainment.  

Bill Mitchellhas agreed 
to let me pay for it 
over a period of several months.  

It is a nice little radio 
and gives wonderful reception.  
It only has the standard broadcast band, 
and no shortwave band, 
but it has all the Mid-Western U.S.A. 
and Canadian stations.  

In fact, at night, we have more stations 
than we know what to do with; 
although, the morning and afternoon reception 
leave a lot to be desired.  

Oh yes, one beautiful feature 
of this radio is that it operates 
on three flashlight batteries.  
This is better than paying $17.50 
for a power pack.
Everyone up here 
has radios similar to mine, 
and they tell me that the batteries 
last for several months 
of rather continuous listening 
before they wear out.

I can’t think of anything more 
to put in today’s Edition 
because I have had no more 
misadventures in that damned canoe, 
or anything else amusing or interesting, 
so I will close till tomorrow.

Bye now, 

Bill Mitchell and Local Man
Hudson Bay Store,
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall of 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1 Baptist Young Peoples Union
2 My father was making about $300/month
3 Manager, Hudson Bay Store.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Oh How I Miss You Blogfest

Today I am participating in the

Oh How I Miss You Blogfest.

It is hosted by 

Alex J. Cavanaugh,
Andrew Leon,
and Matthew MacNish.

To participate is simple.
List one to three bloggers you really miss. 
List one to three bloggers you would really miss 
if they stopped blogging. 
And then go let them know!

Blogs I'm Missing:
There are two bloggers I have been missing terribly.
Both are creative, intelligent, talented, widely-read,
and passionate about the environment.

They are wonderful and dedicated mothers
who live on opposite sides of the world
and want, more than anything, 
to raise happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children.
Which, of course, probably explains their absence.

National flower of Singapore

The first is B&R 
from Singapore,
and her blog is 
Bikbik and Roro.

She was one of my
earliest followers,
and so encouraging to
this beginning blogger.

I never knew what B&R would post.
It could be a step by step record
of how she handcrafts her exquisite Blythe dolls
and other unique creations,
a moral, ethical, or religious dilemma,
thoughtful commentary on music, books, or theatre, 
or the difficult challenges of parenting.

But always, B&R was honest, fresh, and authentic.
I miss her voice and window on her world truly!

The second is Audrey from North Carolina, USA,
and her blog is Life's Simple Pleasures

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC

When you view
Audrey's blog,
you know immediately 
that she is passionate
about her family,
nature, and the outdoors,
passions she shares generously.

Audrey may focus on the simple things in life,
but she quickly makes you recognize
how profoundly important and rich they are.

While we come from very different backgrounds,
we are kindred spirits,
and I miss her every bit as much as B&R.

Blogs I Would Miss:
This is a brutal category, 
because there are fabulous blogs 
I read almost every day,
and I would miss each one.

So I'll go with my earliest blogging buds,
starting with my eighth grade friend, Ron, 
whom I reconnected with after almost fifty years;
a friend who pushed me into the blogging world
and has been cheering me on from my very first post.

Don't be confused 
if you visit Ron's blog and find 
a four-footed, long-lashed,
and waggy-tailed charmer
named Sophie who races through 
her Nova Scotian world
with Mr. Orangie in her mouth.

It's really my creative, funny, smart, 
and thoughtful friend Ron
who shares his passion for photography, writing, 
and living life fully through Miss Sophie Doodle
and her blog From Sophie's View.

Do visit, please;
but I warn you ~
you will fall in love with sweet Sophie
and Nova Scotia will steal your heart!

And the second blogger I would truly miss,
is none other than Ron's hubby Jim.
Jim's blog is Ocean Breezes,
and he posts daily with remarkable consistency.

Jim is a gifted photographer
with a keen eye 
for capturing his world
in all it's moods and colors.
I never miss his Saturday Morning posts,
containing his favorite photos of the week.
They push me to be a more creative photographer,
and it's always a delight to see the world 
through his curious and intelligent eyes.

And I never miss Jim'Contemplative Monday posts
that inspire his readers and soothe this restless soul.

And ~ well, let's just say, I read all of his posts!

Ron, Me, and Jim
Last Summer in Nova Scotia

The truth is, it's not so much about the blogs.
It's about the amazing people 
you meet through blogging
who transcend space and time to become your friends.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: Lessons in Ojibway

When my father 
arrived in Lansdowne House
to teach in the fall of 1960,
he began studying the Ojibway language
almost immediately.

Dad's School
Church of England Indian Day School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall of 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

He could not have had a better teacher
than Father Maurice Ouimet.

Father Ouimet was a French Canadian priest 
of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. 
He devoted a selfless thirty-seven years 
to working among the Indians of Lansdowne House.

Passionate about promoting literacy among the Indians,
Father Ouimet spent time teaching them
to write Ojibway in Syllabics.

Father Maurice Ouimet, OMI
with my father, Donald MacBeath
Fall, 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Syllabics is a  Canadian Aboriginal writing system 
that uses symbols to represent consonant sounds.

An English missionary James Evans developed Syllabics 
when he worked among the Swampy Cree and Ojibwe 
in Northern Ontario and Manitoba in the 1830s and 1840s.

Father Ouimet gave weekly 
language lessons to my father,
mostly by writing Ojibway phonetically 
using the English alphabet,
but he also taught my father 
some of the Ojibway words using Syllabics.

 Myntne Nouise
Myrtle Louise
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue

All Rights Reserved

On Wednesday, September 28, 1960,
my father wrote:
I had another session with the Father 
in an effort to learn some more of the Ojibway language.  

I will be letting you know 
what words I learned in a few moments; 
but first, permit me 
a short dissertation on the language.  

The first thing you have to realize is 
that there is no alphabet in Ojibway.  
The language is written in Syllabics 
which is a form of hieroglyphics, 
and the words that I write to you 
are just the Indian sounds 
translated phonetically into English.  

It is an effort by the white man 
to try to fit his alphabet into a language 
that has no alphabet of its own.  

Another thing to remember 
is that all the English sounds 
aren’t present in Ojibway.  

For instance there are no “r” or “l” sounds, 
both sounds becoming n in Ojibway.  

Consequently, the name “Roland,” when translated, 
becomes Nonant, and “Roy” would be Noy.

  Noyan Stewant
Royal Stewart
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

However, the Indians are starting to use 
all the linguistic sounds of the white man.  
It is only when they try to write these sounds 
into Syllabics that they have trouble.  

Also “b” becomes p in Syllabics, 
“d” becomes t
and “f “becomes v.

My name translated into Syllabics becomes Tonant.  
Well, here are the new words:

Tipiki Kisis--------------moon (night sun)
Washekwon------------It is sunny.
Kimiwan-----------------It is raining, or it is rainy.
Sokipon------------------It is snowing.
Waiab--------------------cord or string (You can see that the
rainbow is literally cord of the sun.)
Mino Kishegaw--------It is a very nice day (or it is a nice day).
Matchi Kishegaw------It is a very bad day (stormy).
Wakaiganens-----------small or little house
Wakaiganish------------run down house, or poor house
Ikuesens-----------------girl (little woman)
Ikues----------------------woman or wife
Anishinabe--------------man (single)
Nabe----------------------man (married)
Nikosis-------------------my son
Kikosis-------------------your son
Notonis-------------------my daughter
Kitonis--------------------your daughter

Your name in syllabics, Sara, would be Sana
and yours, Mother, Myrtle that is, would be Myntne.

  Nouise with Nopenta Anne 
Finding Bertie and me apart is a challenge.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Louise would be Nouise.  
Barbara would be Panapana.  
Roberta would be Nopenta.
Roy’s full name would be Noyan Stewant.  

Barbie’s full name is cute:  
Panapana Enna (Barbara Ella).

Panapana Enna 
Barbara Ella
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Below my signature, 
I am going to type two English words, 
then the same two in phonetic Ojibway, 
and then the same word in Syllabics.  
By the way, Ojibway translated 
into Syllabics
becomes Ojipway.

Bye now,
Love , 
Tonant (Don)

On Thursday, September 29, 1960,
my father added:
I didn’t forget Donnie 
when I was giving you all the names in Ojibway.

It is just that I figured 
that you could figure her name 
from my name and yours Sara; 
then I got thinking that 
the poor little dear might feel slighted 
if she didn’t see her name, which would be Sana Tonanta.

Sana Tonanta
Sara Donalda
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


We Five, Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia
Grammie's Backyard, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Message in the House of Mirrors

Have you ever gone to a medium?
I did last night.

This was only the second time ever
that I have visited a medium,
although I have had 
some interesting experiences
with Tarot readings,
fortune tellers
and psychic friends.

So when one of my special friends 
with healing and intuitive talents
invited me to go to an event she had arranged 
with a nationally known medium, 
I was all in!

What can I say?
Curiosity is one of my strongest traits.

What a venue!
The House of Mirrors
on Market Street
in Denver's
LODO district.

Now, I've taken many
walking field trips 
to LODO 
with my third graders,
but somehow
our historical guide
never told us about 
the House of Mirrors.


Good thing too,
because it was once notorious 
throughout the Rockies 
as Denver's premier brothel.
Try explaining that to third graders!

Denver Madam Jennie Rogers 
built the House of Mirrors in 1889
with money 
tainted with blackmail and murder.
She successfully ran it 
until she died in 1910.


Jenny's rival 
Mattie Silks purchased the brothel
and reigned as Denver's 
Queen of the Row,
until prohibition fever in Colorado
shut down prostitution in 1916.


So I walked into this upstairs room
of polished wooden floors, red bricked walls,
historical photos, floor to ceiling mirrors ~
and I had no camera!  Rats!  

A small group of us gathered 
about pushed together, white-cloth-covered tables, 
enjoyed dinner and drinks,
and settled in for a fascinating ride.

I am highly skeptical about contacting
spirits on the other side,
but there is just enough 
of my Scottish father in me
to approach the event 
with my nemesis, curiosity.

I have to say, I was really intrigued
by the way the medium connected with each person
and touched on important people and events in their lives.

For privacy reasons I won't say anything 
about what transpired with the others,
but I will share part of my experience.

Dead first husband, Ray,
from a difficult marriage and painful divorce ~
which I don't regret, 
because there was much that was good
and it led me to the Ever-Patient.

So Ray's message was:
He didn't expect to go so young.
He was sorry for the separation
and he's claiming responsibility.
He's sorry he caused me pain.

At which point I burst out,
"He should be sorry!"
and planted my face in the tablecloth
with my arms over my ears.
(I hadn't expected that move on my part!)

His message continued:
He's really has a lot of regret and remorse.
He says that he's a lot smarter on the other side
and a lot less dumb than he was in this life.
He's sorry he caused me pain
for such a long time.
He didn't take care of my heart.
He was too narcissistic in life.
He said I was his healer
and that I needed healing.
He was lonely when he died.

The medium told me other things as well,
but this was the most fascinating.
She had immediately zeroed in on
the most painful experience of my life
and spoke words that so resonated
with my dead husband.

So, I don't know what to make
of last night's experience.

I'm highly skeptical,
but I woke up this morning
feeling much more at peace.

This from me, the woman who learned of his death,
did a dance on the floor (visualizing his grave),
and said, "Take that you bastard!"
Not my finest moment, I admit.
One I've regretted many times since.

But, real or not,
I'm grateful for the release.

So, how about you?
Had any powerful experiences with a medium
or thoughts you'd like to share?

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: The Ups and Downs of Teaching

In his Lansdowne Letters,
my father, Donald MacBeath,
often wrote of the challenges
he faced teaching Indian children.

No matter where he taught,
Dad always said that the greatest rewards of teaching
were bestowed by the children themselves.

One challenge Dad faced teaching Indian children 
was overcoming their shyness. 
This he attributed to 
native reticence and fear of the white man.

Another was providing
a safe and suitable learning environment.

Like all teachers,
Dad had up days and down.

My Father Outside His Cottage
and Ready for School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Fall of 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Teaching is a tough job.
I know.
I taught for twenty-five years.

Now, when I read my father’s words,
I understand what he dealt with
so much more than I did when I was a girl.

On September 26, 1960,
my father wrote:

The time sure didn’t fly
during the last twenty-four hours
like it does sometimes. 
I had a rough day today at school. 

I just couldn’t seem to make any headway
with those cotton-picking Indians. 

Right now, I am fed up to the gills with Indians,
but I suppose that by tomorrow
I will be over my temporary discouragement. 

It frequently happened
while I was teaching white children,
that there would be days when I thought
that I just couldn’t take another day of it.

I think the main trouble today was
that seven new pupils arrived in school
and completely upset the relationship
that I was so slowly establishing
between the Indians and myself. 

The Indians are so shy. 
They are shy about talking to strangers
or in front of new pupils. 
I just could not get a word out of them today. 
They wouldn’t even sing. 

I really should not say wouldn’t
Couldn’t actually comes closer
to describing their quietness.
It’s really amazing how shy they are.

There was one little girl that I tried to talk to today
who just couldn’t get a word out to save her soul.
Oh how hard she tried! 

She’d open her mouth time and time again,
but not one squeak would come out. 
It was really painful to watch her efforts.

Another reason that today was so poor
was that I had to leave them alone
for about an hour this morning
while I tried to hunt up
some seats and tables for the new pupils. 

As you know,
my new seats and desks haven’t arrived,
and I have been using
some old homemade ones that the Father had;
but I have used all those that are available,
and today I had to go scrounging somewhere.

 My Indians in School
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall of 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Back of the Photo Notes:
Notice the girls all on one side, and the boys all on the other.  This was the first day.
Since then I have them shifted about and have stopped the girls wearing kerchiefs.
See the Father's homemade desks.

I finally succeeded in borrowing
a card table and four folding chairs
from the nursing station
and a card table from the MacRaes.
That solved my seating problem temporarily. 
But what do I do if more turn up tomorrow?

On the following day,
My father wrote
(with additional details from an unpublished paper):

Well, today I love my Indians again. 
Today we got along just peachy.

There is this little one in,
I guess you could actually call it kindergarten,
and she is so shy.
Her name is Daisy,
and she is barely six years old.
She is as cute as a button.

Ever since school started,
I have been trying to get her to talk to me,
but with no success. 
She won’t even say, “Here, Teacher”
when the roll is being called.

I always have the children answer
the roll call mornings and afternoons
just to give them practice in speaking English
as an aid to overcoming their shyness.

Daisy is a beautiful child,
in spite of her poor, hand-me-down clothes,
her shoes which are so much too large
that they are tied on with rabbit wire,
and the strong Indian odour
which seems to permeate the atmosphere
when she is near at hand.

But her shyness is so severe
that it actually renders her speechless.

That's possibly Daisy
on the left.
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Don MacBeath,  Fall of 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Whenever it is Daisy’s turn
to answer roll call,
she stands up, smiles,
and makes all sorts of friendly overtures,
just like a young puppy
(In fact, if she had a tail,
I am sure she would wag it.),
and she opens her mouth and goes through
all the motions of saying, “Here, Teacher,”
but not a sound emerges from her mouth.

However, today she screwed up her courage
and came out with a tremulous, “Here, Teacher.” 

I’m telling you
it was quite an accomplishment for both of us. 
I almost felt like cheering.

Bye for now,