All posts by George

Mother Nature not Mother Canada

Since I retired from Parks Canada three years ago I have been trying to stay out of the multitude of controversies that the organization seems to wade into on a regular basis, trying to maintain my health and sanity. I had hoped, upon retirement, to focus on writing, specifically to try and communicate stories about the natural sciences that would engage a new generation in the wonders of nature and the value of parks and protected areas in particular.

My focus was to be non-fiction, but a few days after I retired, Parks Canada was hit with a series of cuts that cut me to the bone and I started blogging about the impacts to our treasured system of special places.

But day after day, writing about the travesties that the current government was imposing on us was just too disheartening, too negative.

I began freelancing and writing a few pieces for Earth Touch, a new multi-media company based in South Africa as well as some volunteer writing and editing. I also took a couple of fiction writing courses at our local college and got turned on to the notion of writing fictional stories based on my more than thirty years working in Canada’s national parks.

I just couldn’t stay away.

But I couldn’t handle the realities of what was happening to our parks so writing non-fiction, for the time being, was off-limits.

So I’m writing fiction, for the most part.

I get asked from time to time what I think about this issue or that related to parks and protected areas and for the most part, I give my response and move on.

Most recently I was asked to sign on to a petition regarding Wood Buffalo National Park as well as a letter protesting the latest issue facing Cape Breton Highlands. The former deals with the multitude of impacts facing what I think of as one of Canada’s most under-appreciated national parks and the latter deals with a proposal to erect a monument in one of this country’s most iconic national parks.

It’s this latest proposal, to erect what is being called the “Mother Canada” memorial in Green Cove in Cape Breton Highlands National Park that is a kind of tipping point for me.

Our veterans are in my view, one of the most deserving groups of Canadians.

Remembrance Day for me is the most significant statutory holiday of the year.

I have worked with veterans for decades and have nothing but respect for the service they gave to our country and the price they paid for doing so.

My parents lived on the “Army Side” near the present day town of Gander in Newfoundland and helped build the town from it’s war-era beginnings. War-related stories were a significant part of my upbringing.

One national park in every province and territory has a memorial to the sacrifices made by each and every person who served our country in wartime. In Cape Breton Highlands, that memorial sits on French Mountain, overlooking the iconic view of the park’s coastline that is known around the world.

The inscription is short but poignant.

“They will never know the beauty of this place,
See the seasons change, enjoy nature’s chorus.
All we enjoy we owe to them, men and women who
Lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in
the seven seas. Dedicated to the memory of
Canadians who died overseas in the service of their
country and so preserved our heritage.”

It is a deeply meaningful and appropriate memorial, well situated in one of our most special of places. It fits well within the context of a national park and its inscription hits the mark.

A grotesque 26m tall monument in Green Cove, Cape Breton Highlands National Park does not.

There are famous memorials across Europe that play homage to the sacrifices of those who fought and those who lost their lives during the Great Wars. Vimy is one such site and the proposed Mother Canada memorial has been likened to it.

But Vimy was a significant battleground. Green Cove was not.

Let’s not make it one.

Halifax Chronicle Herald Interview and Review

From today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald

In addition to the list of Nova Scotia stores in this article, Dyed In The Green is also available at bookstores throughout Nova Scotia (and the rest of Canada). Other stores coming on stream each week so if you don’t see it in your favourite store, ask for it! Thanks

On The Passing Of Mac Savoy

I was sorry to hear this morning about the passing of Mac Savoy, former Kouchibouquac and Cape Breton Highlands National Park Warden and for a few years our neighbour in Petit Etang.

Mac was truly one of the “characters” who made our careers with Parks Canada entertaining and lively and who inspired some of the stories that I write today. Like so many of the former veterans who found a home in the national park system, Mac brought those qualities that set these people apart from the rest of us, especially a joy of life and for life that results from having stared down death during his time overseas in World War 2. Like so many veterans, Mac never talked much about the war, but his few “reveals” opened my eyes and garnered him the respect that all veterans deserve.

And of course, Mac came back from the war with more than memories and stories.

His Scottish war bride, Daisy, was the real deal and could match Mac in every way. In fact, they were inseparable. You never thought of Mac without Daisy.

Mac and Daisy were the life of a party and King and Queen of any dance floor.

And they had a sense of humour.

When Mac and Daisy came to our wedding they shared a hotel room with good friends Norman and Bonnie Wentzell. Mac complained throughout the evening that his feet were killing him on the dance floor and only later did he realize that he and Norman had mistakenly worn the other’s shoes. Norman, whose own shoes were a few sizes smaller, apparently thought he had the most comfortable shoes on that he’d ever worn!

In another instance, Daisy was telling us about a lady who always visited her at mealtime who she didn’t quite know how to un-invite. After feeding her, Daisy proceeded to put their plates on the floor and let their dog lick them clean before she placed them back in the cupboard. When her “guest” inquired if she washed the plates Daisy responded that they were clean enough … and she never had to serve the lady again!

These stories and so many more, kept us in stitches, and still provide fodder for reminisces to this day.

And they will continue to be part of the memories we have of Mac and Daisy.

I think Mac had a good life and no doubt will be missed by Daisy and their family. He was a good man, an excellent coworker and a great friend.

He also had an uncanny ability to let people make and learn from their own mistakes without shoving it in their face, but that’s another story!

In closing, I can only paraphrase the inscription on the Veteran’s Monument on French Mountain in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, because unlike other veterans who died overseas, Mac got to “know the beauty of this place, see the seasons change, enjoy nature’s chorus” …

“All we have we owe” to people like Mac, who helped fight for our country and “so preserved our heritage”.

Thanks Mac.

You will be remembered!

Cape Breton Coastline

Cheticamp Radio Interview

Here’s yesterday’s interview with Daniel Aucoin from Cheticamp Radio CKJM

CBC Cape Breton Interview

Last week’s interview with CBC Cape Breton’s Steve Sutherland –