Friday, October 31, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: Things That Go Bump in the Night

It's Friday, which means that I'm sharing
more of my father's long ago misadventures 
in Lansdowne House in Northern Ontario.

Since it's Halloween,
I thought it would be fun to share
an experience my father wrote
about on Monday, October 10, 1960.

I'll set the scene by having you imagine
two grown men sharing a small bedroom
in a two-room cottage,
on a cold, bright moonlit night
in the far and isolated north.

Dad's side of the bedroom
was on the left.  

Uno's was on the right,
with the table and the typewriter 
they used in the middle.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In my father's words:
"The most amusing happened last night. 

"It is amusing to look back on,
but I must confess that I was scared silly
when it was taking place. 

"It all started about two o’clock in the morning,
when I woke from an uneasy sleep,
with the realization that Uno wasn’t in the bedroom. 

"Just about the time that I woke up,
Uno gave a sort of half scream, half yelp,
and came running in from the front room
to wake me up and tell me
that a strange light was shining in the front window. 

"I just laughed at him
and was going to tell him to stop being foolish,
when damned if I didn’t see a light
shining in the bedroom window above my bed. 

"Right then, I lost some of my self-confidence,
but not to the extent that I didn’t immediately
run outside to see who was outside.

"I lost a little more of my confidence
when I couldn’t see anyone or anything –
only a very bright moon
which was making everything bright as day.

"It was deathly calm when I went out,
but while I was prowling around outside,
there was a sudden loud puff
and the wind started to blow like blazes.

"Immediately the wind charger started to turn
and set up one hell of a racket. 

"Right then a black cloud sailed across the sky
and completely obliterated the moon. 

"I came in very promptly,
considerably less confident than when I had gone out.

"Well, I smoked a cigarette and talked to Uno
and tried to compose myself and assure myself
that there was really nothing the matter. 

"After the cigarette, we put out the lights,
and settled down for the rest of the night,
as skittish as two old maids
that think there is a man under their bed. 

"Then, of course, I started to hear noises;
and, any that I happened to miss myself,
Uno heard and informed me of them.

"I never knew that a house 
could creak and groan
as much as our cottage did last night. 
I wasn’t enjoying myself 
one little bit. 

"Just as I was drifting off 
to sleep again, I'll be damned
if I didn't see that light 
shining in my window again.

"I immediately rushed to the window 
and looked out ---
and saw a face looking in at me!!!!

"I let out a yelp, 
pulled down the blind,
jumped back into bed, 
lit another cigarette,
and thought about 
the night’s happenings.

"Of course, I had to recall 
just at this time
that the old Indian graveyard,
an island attached to ours 
by a sand bar,
was supposed to be haunted
by the ghost of an old Indian.   

Map of Lansdowne House
by Don MacBeath:
7 ~ Dad and Uno's Cottage
8 ~ R. C. Church
9 ~ R.C. Mission
10 ~ Wind Charger
11 ~ Indian Graveyard

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

Location of the Old Indian Graveyard (11)
from a map drawn by Donald B. MacBeath, 1960

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

"Now, I don’t believe in ghosts
(I keep telling myself),
but there is just enough
of the good Scottish superstition in my makeup
to entertain such possibilities right then. 

"Then someone or something rapped on the window
across the room, and the front door started to rattle. 

"Uno had his head under the pillows at this time
and was no help or moral support at all. 

"I got up enough courage to jump up
and make a wild grab for the light switch to turn it on. 
The darned thing wouldn’t go on!!! 

"Just then, there was another rap or two on the window
and the dogs started to howl,
and the strong wind started the church bell ringing. 
That did it!!!! 

"I was terrified by this time
and just jumped back into bed,
and buried my head beneath the clothes,
and lay there shivering. 

"Well, finally the dogs stopped howling,
the bell stopped ringing,
and my heart stopped pounding,
and I got up enough courage
to get up and try the lights again. 

"I discovered that somehow
the bulb had gotten unscrewed. 
I screwed it in and turned it on,
and felt considerable better. 

"When I got the lights back on and looked at Uno,
he was sitting up in bed chewing his finger nails
and was as white as a sheet. 
He is part Ojibway Indian,
and apparently the Indians are
even more superstitious than the Scots.

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

"Well, by this time
it was about four o’clock 
in the morning,
and we were wide awake,
so we got up and made coffee 
and read till about five-thirty,
when we finally felt 
calm enough to settle down
and go back to sleep. 

We slept till about ten this morning.

"I realize now that when I looked out the window,
I had’t seen anyone 
looking in at me. 
It was just a reflection of my own face. 

"I also realize that the wind had started the church bell,
and that in all likelihood,
the bell had started the dogs howling,
because it usually does.

"Also the noises, rappings on the window,
and rattling of the front door
can all be explained by the wind or other natural causes;
but I can’t for the life of me explain that damned light. 

"It wasn’t a flashlight, or the moonlight,
because it was too bright for either.
Besides it was the wrong color
for either the moon or a flashlight. 

"It was sort of a very bright blueish white light
and seemed to dance around outside the window. 
It looked a little bit like St. Elmo’s fire,
but that usually occurs on metal surfaces,
and our cottage is of wood construction. 

"If any of you have any suggestions as to what it might be,
I would appreciate hearing about them."

Better by Daylight

Roman Catholic Church

Dad and Uno's cottage,
overshadowed by the
wind charger

Father Ouimet's
Mission House
(very much enlarged from an old, Ouimet photo)
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue ~ All Rights Reserved

It's half a century later,
and no one knows what 
my father and Uno experienced
that long ago night.

I will say this,
my father was every inch a superstitious Scot,
and he was exquisitely attuned to the unseen.
And I am every bit his daughter!  LOL!

Stay safe this Oidhche Shamhna,
and watch out 
for things that go bump in the night!

Till next time!


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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iceland's Blue Lagoon

When people heard 
that my husband and I were traveling to Iceland,
they would invariably ask,
"Are you going to the Blue Lagoon?"

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Aurora, Paris, London, and Reykjavik,
the question was the same,
"You are going to the Blue Lagoon, aren't you?"

Lagoon Waters Lapping Against Pahoehoe Lava

At first I was perplexed, 
because I couldn't remember any Blue Lagoon
from when I had studied Iceland's geology
back in my Early Precambrian.

Yours Truly at the Blue Lagoon

And then I thought maybe I shouldn't go
with all the hype I was hearing ~
It was probably some expensive tourist trap.

But then I remembered that story 
in my grade two reader
about the Icelandic family that went for a picnic
and boiled eggs in a hot spring for lunch.

That second grade moment ~ 
in my one room school 
surrounded by autumn pastures  
in staid Alymer, Ontario ~
when I realized 
that water hot enough to cook eggs
could bubble out of the Earth!

I swore then I would go to mysterious Iceland
to see such a thing.
Maybe even cook a hard-boiled egg.

 The Ever-Patient Terry explores an alien landscape.

I couldn't deny my seven year old self.
I had to go to the Blue Lagoon.

Getting there is easy.
Buses and tour operators converge on the Blue Lagoon,
funneling through the Keflavik and Reykjavik roads
to lava-lined Route 43
to deliver people from all over the world.

Source:  donsnotes

Heading for the Blue Lagoon
Along Route 43 to Grindavik


The E-P checks a map on the walk to the Blue Lagoon.

Now endless vistas of lava might sound boring to some people,
but not if you understand the story behind them
(and, maybe, are passionate about rocks like I am!)

In a controversial nutshell ~ 
Iceland exists because the linear Mid-Atlantic Ridge
and the circular Iceland Hotspot interact.
Hot mantle material upwells in the ridge,
and a hotspot powered by a mantle plume
lifts the MAR above the surface of the ocean
to form the island of Iceland.

Source:  wikimedia 

See those fat purple lines in the map above?
Iceland is literally ripping apart
along those lines or rift zones 
where the spreading Mid-Atlantic Ridge 
is driving the North American and Eurasian plates apart.

Just below you'll see Terry walking 
along the edge of the North American Plate
at Thingvellir, an excellent place to see it.

Thingvellir (Þingvellir) also happens to be the site
where an independent Iceland's Althing (Alþingi)
or Parliament met for over 800 years. 

The Ever-Patient Terry
The edge of the North American Plate is on the right side of the photo.

And here am I touching 
the edge of the North American Plate.
Need I say this was a wildly important Bucket Item?


All this tectonic activity makes Iceland
one of the most geologically active places in the world.
And it is this activity
that makes a place like the Blue Lagoon possible.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is actually a man-made feature.
Svartsengi, a heat and electric power plant 
adjacent to the Blue Lagoon, 
taps geothermal energy to run its turbines
and provide heat for Icelandic homes.

Svartsengi draws a super-heated, mineral-rich fluid
comprised of seawater and groundwater
from wells drilled a mile or more (up to 2,000 meters)
into the geothermal reservoir.

This water has been heated 
to 392-464ºF or 200-240ºC 
by contact with cooling magma.
The hot fluid runs turbines to produce electricity
and then goes through a heat exchanger
to provide heat for homes.

From the beginning of Svartsengi's operation, 
the waste geothermal fluid was released 
into the surrounding landscape of porous lava flows.

Minerals in the geothermal fluid 
formed a white silica mud that gummed up 
the pores in the lava and formed impermeable layers
allowing the waters to accumulate in ponds.

It didn't take Icelanders too long
to discover that the lovely, warm, milky blue ponds
helped heal psoriasis patients,
and the Blue Lagoon was on the map.

When I soaked in its healing waters,
it was special fun for me,
because I knew that
the North American and Eurasian
plate boundaries meet at the Blue Lagoon.

So yes, we went to the Blue Lagoon
and joined others having a blast
in its warm, anti-aging waters.

Darn!  I forgot to boil an egg!
Looks like the E-P 

will have to take me back to Iceland.
Oh Darn!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Lansdowne Letters: Damn. Damn. Damn.

My father wrote faithfully, almost every day
from Lansdowne House in Northern Ontario.

Even when Dad thought
his day was humdrum,
he drew our family in with his stories
of life in a place so different
from our grandmother's home
in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia.

On Thursday, September 22, 1960
he wrote:

"Well, here I am again 
at the same old stand.

You certainly don’t 
have to worry 
about me running off anywhere.

This will be the last section of this week’s edition, 
because tomorrow is mail day, 
and I have to get it over to the post office 
to make sure that it gets out tomorrow on schedule.

I sure hope that there are lots of letters for me tomorrow.  
One whole week is a long time to wait between mails, 
and it would be an awful disappointment 
if there were no letters.  

I can sometimes sneak 
a letter or two out at other times, 
like I did last week, 
by asking the pilots of the various planes 
that drift in here during the week 
to mail letters for me.

  Bush Plane ~ Noorduyn Norseman CF-FQI

However, they are doing this 
merely as a service 
and accept no responsibility 
for the letters if they are lost.  
After all, it isn’t a regular mail run.

We had company at the Father’s last night.  
A pilot for Superior Airways out of Armstrong 
was forced down here by bad weather 
and had to tie his plane up in the lee of the Island 
and spend the night at Lansdowne.

He and the fellow with him 
ate and spent the night at the Father’s.  
I didn’t try to finish this letter and get it out with him, 
because the regular mail run will be going out tomorrow, 
and you will be expecting a nice long letter on that run.

Chicago Bill ~ Bush Pilot
More than once CB was forced to spend the night at the R. C. Mission
or on the couch in our home in the forestry building in Lansdowne House.
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

When I come out in the spring, 
I am liable to be talking with a shattered syntax 
and an accent that is a combination of French and Ojibway.  

There is no one up here 
except the DOT boys and their wives 
that speak anything approaching perfect English, 
and I find myself slipping into 
the broken English of the Indians 
or the French Canadian version 
used by the Father and the Brother.  

Their English isn’t too bad actually, 
but they do have a pronounced accent 
and, at times, a rather unique grammatical construction.  

Also, I am liable to be like the Indian teacher 
that went outside for her summer vacation and had a flat tire.  

She got out, 
looked at the tire, 
and said, 
“Oh. Oh. Oh.  
Look.  Look.  Look.  
Damn.  Damn.  Damn.”  

She was so used to saying everything 
over several times for the Indian children 
that she started talking that way herself.
And you really do have to repeat yourself a lot, 
because there is really a terrific language barrier.

Well, it appears that I am running out of news 
and anything else to say.
Today has been very humdrum.  
I didn’t fall out of the canoe, 
get aground on any rocks, 
or have any other misadventures.  

A humdrum day is much more comfortable to live, 
but it sure slows up my letter writing.  
It’s an ill wind that blows no good, eh?  

I guess I will go over to the Father’s for supper 
and see if I can hear any local gossip 
that might make interesting writing and reading.

Father Ouimet and Don MacBeath
R.C. Mission, Lansdowne House, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Bye now,

Fundy Blue signing off on her latest Northern post.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Innocence Lost

The events in recent days
that have stunned Canadians 
at home and abroad
are tragic and terribly sad.

Like millions, I grieve 
for the soldiers, 
their families and friends,
and fellow Canadians.

And I grieve 
for innocence lost.

Last summer I was home in Nova Scotia
and taking a road trip 
around my beautiful native province
with my sister Barb.
Along the way we stopped in Lunenburg.

Lunenburg Harbour

My sister Barb and I found ourselves 
laughing really, really hard 
when we came across Canadian Customs
in Lunenburg's harbour.

Canadian Customs

"That's so Canada!" 
we agreed in delight;
we who were international travelers
and experienced in more difficult entry ports.

This is so Canada!
And that's what is so unique and wonderful
about this peaceful nation in the True North.
It is a nation that is open, free, tolerant, and gentle.

So as we collectively mourn the loss
of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent 
and Corporal Nathan Cirillo,
we also mourn the loss of innocence
that has struck Canadians
at home and abroad.

Lunenburg Harbour

I have lived over half my life in the USA,
my adopted country that I love;
but I also love my native country Canada,
and I always marveled that in this chaotic world
there was a place called Canada
where people were truly free 
to pursue their dreams in peace and safety.


And I pray that these tragic events
won't change the tolerance and openness 
that is Canada.

Canadians may feel less innocent
and more exposed to the horrors
that inflict so many around the world,
but we must not give in to hate and fear.
That would be far more devastating
than a loss of innocence.

Lunenburg Waterfront

The reach of ISIS and other hate groups is long, 
but Canada's strength and love of freedom and tolerance is longer.

Canadians may not understand the hate that motivates ISIS 
(and others) to do brutal and horrific acts,
but we must stand strong in our resolve to stop them.


One thing yesterday's attack in Ottawa 
should make absolutely clear
is that everyone is impacted by extreme radical Islam.

We must remember that this is a fringe element 
and does not represent the vast majority 
of peaceful and decent Muslims around the world.

We can't meet hate with hate;
but one way or another, 
we have to confront the threat.

Lunenburg Harbour

It's innocence and a sense of security that is lost. 
But the bad guys win only when we succumb to fear. 

Free and strong means 
going about your regular lives 
and not cowering because of the what ifs.

 Lunenburg Waterfront

My heart goes out to the families 
of the people killed and wounded. 

There is something so awful
about callously running a soldier over
or murdering a soldier on guard at a war memorial.

I think of our military forces 
in the US and Canada every day.

They are the best of our nations 
because they voluntarily choose to serve and protect us,
so we can go about our safe and ordinary lives 
in peace and freedom.

So rest in peace, 
Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent 
and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
Our nation and people honor your service
and mourn your loss.

God's peace to your family and friends.