Archive for March, 2009

Dry Run

Consider this the dry run for this blog; I have just started my (tiny) publicity blitz to see if anyone finds this topic interesting. “Bluenose Garden” is a working title – if you have any suggestions, let me know! Don’t be surprised if the blog title changes periodically as I test them out, but the address will stay the same.

S.

Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie

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IN THE Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pré
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o’er the meadows.
West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and corn-fields
Spreading afar and unfenced o’er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains
Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley, but ne’er from their station descended.
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1847.

Evangeline was “the” poem that put Nova Scotia on the tourist map, although it took a few decades (and a steamship, and a railroad) for the hordes to show up in earnest. The sort of literary tourism that grew up from the poem was rooted in the romance (and tragedy) of the story, but was also inspired by Longfellow’s descriptions of the Annapolis Valley landscape. His “forest primeval” stuff is, in my opinion, a little excessive – the Acadian forest habitat is hardly dark and gloomy, and it really has the most adorable chipmunks – but it was the contrast between the forbidding nature and the Acadian’s edenic, pastoral paradise, that really seemed to get the tourist’s attention. And when it comes to the pastoral and the picturesque, I’m just as guilty as those early tourists; the Grand Pré area is still very beautiful.

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Can we hold Longfellow to account for any inaccuracies of landscape depicted in his poem? After all, he never actually saw the place, except for in his mind’s eye. Longfellow used two primary sources for his poem, the Abbé Guillaume Raynal (1770) and one of our best intellectuals, Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton, whose 1829 History of Nova Scotia provided a description of the surrounding area and the view of Blomidon which made its way into the poem.

The images from this post are taken from an 1850 edition of the poem, available here at Google Books.

Literary Landscapes will be a recurring feature of this blog. If you have any books or excerpts about Nova Scotia’s landscape that you think I should include, feel free to drop me a comment or email.

This is a round-up of some of the landscape-related news that caught my eye this week.

Grand Pre is closer to getting UNESCO designation as a world heritage site.

Two stories about Main Street-related initiatives:

First, Main Street in Dartmouth. There have been efforts for a few years to give Main Street a bit of a facelift. The Main Street and Area Dartmouth Business Improvement District just hired an executive director. The group is affiliated with HRM’s design plan for Main Street.

The second Main Street item of note is from Liverpool. The mayor there recently asked council to consider improvement projects for their Main Street, and look into whatever provincial or federal monies there might be for the work. The proposal sounds entirely hypothetical for now so there isn’t much detail to go into, but I thought this part interesting:

“He added some merchants have started on their own accord, through painting bright colours on their buildings. He wants to build on this start, making the Main St. more comfortable, conducive to new development, and be attractive to both residents and visitors.”

A small example of how the “Small Atlantic Canadian towns have colourful buildings” idea is ubiquitous. Bright colours on wooden buildings communicate a clear message to tourists and locals – that a business is locally owned, maybe boutique, evokes “the past,” and is tourist-friendly.

Finally, I love hearing about film crews in the province. I relish how easily we relinquish our belief in Nova Scotia’s unique landscape when producers ask it to stand in for every place but itself. Newfoundland? Sure. Viking Norway? You bet. Puritan Boston? Of course! Generic New England Towns? We have it covered! The latest bit of landscape casting news comes from Windsor, where our fair province is said to have an uncanny resemblance to Iowa:

Locations manager Jason Van Houten said when considering where to film, he was struck by remarkable similarities between Windsor and the scripted landscapes of Iowa they wished to recreate.

Ah, movie magic and government tax credits. Love it. This phenomenon isn’t new, by the way. In the 1920s, we pretended we looked like Norway or Switzerland to attract the tourists. Now we do it to attract the film industry.

Launch

From MacDonald Hill

Well, here we are. To quote my own “About” section, “the purpose of this blog is to share the stories and landscape of Nova Scotia, to highlight topics and events pertinent to our communities and environment, and to have an open-ended discussion on what gives our province its sense of place.”

Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it? Honestly, my own words scare me more than a little. But I haven’t been studying landscape history for four years just so I could shy away from discussing what “cultural landscape” means, and I’m not going into landscape architecture to recreate the Sonoran Desert in “Canada’s Ocean Playground.”

That last bit isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the cactus garden at the Public Gardens in Halifax. But that is totally different. I’ll tell you why some day.

So is there an audience out there for this blog? I can think of three people for sure, and only two of those are related to me. Sounds like we’re on the right path.