Monday, November 3, 2014

Never Forgotten National Memorial: an open letter

November 1, 2014

To the Honourary Vice-Chairs, Ambassadors, Honourary Patrons, Volunteer Directors and Executive Advisors, and Board of Directors: Never Forgotten National Memorial;

As Armistice Day approaches, November 11th, I have on my mind the proposed memorial at Green Cove, which is said, “will usher in an exciting new era of commemoration, one allowing Canadians to honour and respect Our Fallen in a manner never previously experienced or possibly even imagined.” That I can’t imagine what exactly this experience will be is likely my failing, but I do have a few concerns about the project I’d like to present to you today.

I will say immediately I am not against war memorials, and I am not against the Green Cove memorial. I lived and worked in Ottawa, raised my children there. Every year my husband and I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph, a memorial we passed almost daily, which has recently, and tragically, become the “iconic” memorial to soldiers in Canada since the death of Cpl. Cirillo. The Cenotaph ceremony allowed me to honour dead and serving Forces members, and provided a chance to personally honour my grandfathers, who fought in World War I, one having spent time in a German prisoner of war camp, and to recall my uncles, who fought in, and survived, World War II. My father was in the Naval Reserve when the war ended.

The ceremony also gave me a chance to remember my uncle Roy Schnarr, an RCAF flyer who died when his plane malfunctioned in a test flight in New Brunswick, on November 11, 1943. He was 20 years old. He never made it overseas. His mother, my grandmother, never understood how his death had served Canada. The day she was told of his accident, she put away a quilt she was working on and didn’t touch it again until the early 1980s when she came to visit me in Ottawa. We took her to the Peace Tower where the custodian of the Book of Remembrance turned the pages to find Roy’s name. She was moved to tears to see his name there with so many other war dead. In some way it legitimized his death in her mind and heart. That is a powerful memorial, a book of names, one that could open the heart of a mother grieving for over 40 years. When she returned home, my grandmother finished the quilt she had put away, and today it is in my mother’s bedroom, another kind of memorial, an intimate and domestic one.

As you can see, I am not against memorials. My reservation about the Never Forgotten memorial arose when I realized no one seemed to know the process for development of the monument nor who would pay for it.  When I looked at your website and saw the scale of the monument -- a enormous statue -- and realized the amount of concrete that would be needed to support it and the parking lots for the many Cabot Trail visitors expected. I worried development would possibly destroy, but certainly transform, a beautiful natural outcrop, already an active tourist stop, into something that I was not yet sure would truly honour the military. I worried what the mentioned “marketing opportunities” meant and what the gift shop would sell and where those gifts would be manufactured. In effect, I worried this was a somewhat grand project concerned as much with making money and honouring donors and partners, as it was about honouring war dead and serving Forces members.

Then I read in the Globe and Mail on Saturday, October 25th, an article by Alec Scott interviewing Michael Winter, a Newfoundland writer, who had been asked to write a non-fiction account of those Newfoundlanders who had served in the Great War. Winter described the Beaumont-Hamel memorial in France, and his description made me realize that a different kind of memorial was possible. Here is some of what Michael Winter had to say:

Winter mentions the impact that visiting the Beaumont-Hamel memorial had on him. “I was ambushed by what I felt.” He said. “No one was there; it was completely empty.” He had a picnic in the spot where 650 men died, 250 of those deaths within minutes. “I had this strange feeling of so many men experiencing what they didn't know would be the last night of their lives.”  He said the park had been preserved as it was after the battle and he went on to describe the memorial, “It’s effective. The whole park is surrounded by 5000 trees native to Newfoundland. These trees by now are huge, some 100 feet tall – much taller than they’re able to grow on the Island. The soldiers died young, and yet the trees are ancient now. They felt like witnesses, a force from home that overlooks this battlefield.”

I wonder if there is still time to consider a memorial in our beautiful Cape Breton Highlands National Park or elsewhere that would not transform Green Cove into a concrete base for a huge statue and a grouping of buildings and parking lots, but like the Beaumont-Hamel memorial, might meld what Green Cove naturally offers into a “living” memorial that would honour the memory of the dead and serving members of the Canadian Military and Merchant Marine, as well as honouring the land that those same war dead and Canadian Forces members come from – Canada. Green Cove on its own, as you mention in your, is “the Cabot Trail’s iconic look-out”; it’s an awesome spectacle. If naturally enhanced in a careful way, keeping in mind those dead and living Canadian soldiers, it could prove one of Canada’s most lovely natural memorials to those who served and serve in Canada’s Military.

Finally, I want to say that the jobs and ongoing commerce the construction and maintenance of the Never Forgotten memorial would provide has been one of the local talking points. Making a living memorial would create jobs, and tending a living memorial would sustain those jobs. We in rural Cape Breton, those born here and those who immigrated in to make their lives, build businesses, pay taxes and raise their children, much like Mr. Trigiani’s family who immigrated to Ontario, all know the sorrow and hardship of rural unemployment and underemployment and of losing children to cities and areas where commerce is booming. In one small and suffering area of Cape Breton, a memorial would be a boon. My intention is not to destroy the hope of those jobs, but to suggest there might be another kind of memorial, one that could just as fully serve community economic needs and the glory of Green Cove’s natural beauty and most particularly, honour the men and women of our Military Forces.

Respectfully yours,

Susan Zettell
North Shore, Cape Breton


Today in our local newspaper, the Chronicle Herald, an article told about a proposed and necessary moose cull in the CB Highlands National Park. It explained that after the moose cull, an area near the Skyline Trail will reforested. Matthew Smith, the park ecologist, said it is possible that a “moose enclosure” the size of nine football fields could be built to protect immature trees from being eaten down by remaining moose. He goes on to say, “Visitors to the park will have a chance to walk through the “enclosure” and plant trees while learning about the project and the importance of restoration.” It is this sort of project, shared by the park and the Never Forgotten National Memorial, a “living” and ongoing project dedicated to the memory of war dead and serving Forces members that could create a living memorial, an ongoing natural memorial to Canadian Forces. Something novel yet fitting for a National Park. I'm not suggesting the Never Forgotten members adopt this particular project, unless it was appropriate to do so, but I do want to allow you to see the kind of project I had in mind.

2) Moose cull a reforest project article, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Chronicle Herald:

3) Never Forgotten National Memorial:

4) John Allemang article in Globe & Mail re: war memorials

Friday, October 31, 2014

For Bernadette: October 31, 1953 - October 31, 2011

     On Prayer

     You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
     All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
     And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
     Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
     Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
     That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
     Where everything is just the opposite and the word ‘is’
     Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
     Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
     Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
     And knows that if there is no other shore
     We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

             -- Czeslaw Milosz (translated by Robert Hass)

My sister's birth day (1953) and her death day (2011) share this day, a full circle life. Her morning sunrise was all glow, the last leaves on the trees transformed from brightness to brilliance, the play of light and shadow magical. She would have loved it, loved these pictures I took for her and for my family. I share them with you in her memory.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cal's Restaurant & Grill

For our anniversary lunch Andy & I got take-out from a new restaurant on our slice of the Cabot Trail, Cal's Restaurant & Grill. There's a basic menu of foods that go with fresh, hand cut French fries: fish, scallops, clams, shrimp, burgers, BLTs, club sandwiches etc. He also serves poutine and has good onion rings and coleslaw. I've not tried the desserts yet, but I will because I overheard that they are deep fried -- cheesecake and cinnamon buns. Imagine! I could be wrong but if I'm not, Scots deep-fried Mars bars, eat your heart out. Once I try them I will report back. 

Cal & Liz

Cal built the restaurant himself and the space is bright and airy, and the floor, well it's lovely: painted cement with a beach and ocean theme. There's a mermaid sculpture I covet and a photo by my dear friend, Carol Kennedy. 

If you're heading this way, give it a try. It's a nice addition to existing eateries: The Clucking Hen Bakery & Café (lots & lots of good stuff), Simply Pizza (great lasagne as well as pizza) and The Dancing Moose (fabulous pannekoeke & good soups). 

Hours from 11 AM - 7 PM and you can call ahead: 902-929-2257.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Forty years

On his blog, Andy wrote a lovely history for our fortieth anniversary of our meeting and marriage and he also wrote a tribute to me that made me grin tearily. I can only say that I love him now as I loved him then.

Our day is summer perfect: the skies you see in the photo, a bug ridding breeze, a deep blue sea with the glory of diving gannets and occasional white caps, greens on the mountain vivid after the weekend rain. 

I offer two anniversary poems that I found and have been saving for Andy for today:



                        by Cecilia Woloch
               Didn’t I stand there once,   
               white-knuckled, gripping the just-lit taper,   
               swearing I’d never go back?   
               And hadn’t you kissed the rain from my mouth?   
               And weren’t we gentle and awed and afraid,   
               knowing we’d stepped from the room of desire   
               into the further room of love?   
               And wasn’t it sacred, the sweetness   
               we licked from each other’s hands?   
               And were we not lovely, then, were we not   
               as lovely as thunder, and damp grass, and flame?

             For What Binds Us
             There are names for what binds us:
              strong forces, weak forces.
              Look around, you can see them:
              the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
              nails rusting into the places they join,
              joints dovetailed on their own weight.
             The way things stay so solidly
             wherever they've been set down—
             and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

             And see how the flesh grows back
             across a wound, with a great vehemence,
             more strong
             than the simple, untested surface before.
             There's a name for it on horses,
             when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

             as all flesh,
             is proud of its wounds, wears them
             as honors given out after battle,
             small triumphs pinned to the chest—

             And when two people have loved each other
             see how it is like a
             scar between their bodies,
             stronger, darker, and proud;
             how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
             that nothing can tear or mend.

                     by Jane Hirschfield

You can read Andy's blog at:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's a dog eat peas world

You tell me, is this the face of a pea thief? Well it is.

I haven't grown peas in years because Honey, our gentle, sweet yellow lab cannot resist a pea patch,and when I say the word patch, I mean it. Every year I grew peas, Honey would know the exact day most of the peas where ready for picking and those same mornings when I let her out for a pee (ha-ha), she would eat every single pea in the entire patch. The edible pod pea vines would be stretched out across the grass and the bush peas plants would be stripped bare, some uprooted, but clearly she had a reasonable technique for picking because often the plants would remain in the ground. There would not be a single pea left for us. 

After three years of this and many admonitions, I decided I hated yelling at her or trying to shame her into good behaviour more than I liked fresh peas (a lie, but I learned to live with it). Then this year I moved my lettuce bed from a slightly shaded bed to a sunny one and wondered what to put in the more shaded bed instead. Peas won. When I got home from Goderich last week, I realized the peas were ready and so far Honey had not eaten them, but when I looked out the window one morning and watched her slinking toward the new pea bed, I called her back -- she came but reluctantly and looking very guilty -- so I went out and erected a crude barricade of lawn chairs and saw horses.

So far, so good. She still tries to sneak over and perhaps she's made it when I wasn't watching but we're the ones eating peas and Honey isn't and no one is getting yelled at or needing to yell.


Don't feel too sorry for her though. Lately, on our walks, she gorges on ripe wild raspberries and blueberries and has even discovered she likes the purple berries of the clintonia plant. She found the first very small and very green windfall apples and brought one home this morning for breakfast and soon the blackberries will be ripe. Along with the odd squirrel and some of the bait mackerel and old crab and lobster remains she finds at the shore, she's a balanced from-the-wild eater and grand scrounger.

If Feeling Isn't In It

You can take it away, as far as I'm concerned—I'd rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I'm not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play the ability to impart warmth, elation . . . .  
                                                                                   Howard Moss
Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can't reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they're dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don't try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I've seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn't come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she's gone
and I'm tied to a post surrounded by people
who don't look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It's almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.
                       -- BY JOHN BREHM

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wild and not so wild things

I'm home from a visit to Goderich where my parents live and where some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world happen over Lake Huron. I was to have had a busy visit with lots of family around and a shower for my niece but I had to cancel that trip and rebook -- summer colds, don't you just hate them! The visit I did have was quieter, busy enough of course with a beach day, shopping, breakfast out, gorgeous sunset watching, a visit to say hello to my sister, Bernadette at the pier: a tender, sweet, happy visit with long serious talks, old family stories and some good laughs. Here's a picture of my parents, married 64 years in June:

Home now to begin to eat from our garden -- finally. We've had tons of lettuce, gone to seed while I was away, but because we had so little rain, everything else held back. Cape Breton has been wonderfully hot and dry, a great combination for summer fun, but not entirely good for a garden. This week we've had real rain and the garden is taking off. Here's supper last night, raw & cooked, with  a thanks to Alan Kitz for the amazing venison chops:

Here are my fat sandy feet taking a break at St. Christopher's Beach.

And finally, here's my sister, Anne, who I stayed with my  last day, with one of her amazing planters -- Ontario is not having a hot summer but a cool, wet one, obviously good for flowers! And lastly you'll see a pic of the squirrel that visits under Anne & Peter's bird feeder.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Alaska brown bear feeding on salmon

Just to keep the nature theme going -- wild in Alaska once again -- here's a quite wonderful Explore brown bear cam situated on a river waterfall in Alaska: