Saturday, November 30, 2013

How Did Music Move You

Music!  It fills you.  It soothes you.  It moves you.  Today was a tough day and tonight I sat and watched the Garth Brooks special and wow.  The day brightened and my mood has changed drastically in the couple of hours the show was on.  Why?  I spent my teen years listening to Garth and his songs have been in the background of many memorable moments.  Heck there are country songs that sing about just that thing and ironically I love songs that focus on that theme whether they were songs by Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, or whoever.

I saw Garth Brooks perform live once and there is something about the guy that draws you in.  He can perform and he can make you feel the music with him.  I think he might be a bit crazy too but his fans seem to even relate to that...I know I do.  He gets giddy performing and you start laughing with him, maybe even at him a little, but he doesn't seem to care as long as you're enjoying the song.

Lately I've been going through some of my older music and listening to that 80's and 90's country and remembering how I got to where I am today.  Garth talked about his musical journey and it got me thinking about what mine might look like.  What would yours look like.  Would it have Ray Charles, Alabama, Keith Whitley, the Statler Brothers (that's true harmony and I loved trying to sing bass), Kenny Rogers, Beatles, Alan Jackson, and my all time favorite George Strait (a man's man if there is one in my opinion)?  Maybe it would be Twisted Sister, Haywire (do you remember them?), Harem Scarem, Warrant, Motley Crue, or AC/DC.  The Canadian boy I am, I would have to include some Hank Snow (thanks Nan), Blue Rodeo, Paul Brandt, the Rankins, Great Big Sea, and Chris Cummings oh and don't forget Terri Clarke (I loved Terri's attitude).   I think my show, not that I'd ever have one, would have to be a marathon.  There is no way I could narrow it down to even just 20 songs.

All the good moments have songs and the bad moments simply became good ones because of the music.  Friends bond over music, whether through a mutual love of a song or through teasing someone about their taste.  It's no different than a Habs fan tormenting a Leafs fan but let's not go there.  Go pull out some old CDs or 45's even and let 'em blast. "Ooohh I got friends in low places...."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When to Celebrate

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  My wife is winning the battle over whether we should turn on the lights yet or not.  She's had the Christmas music playing, the eggnog running, and has been wrapping gifts for two weeks already.  With all that going on around you it's hard not to get into the spirit.

Personally I always seem to fight a moral battle over when it is proper to celebrate Christmas.  Why does it have to be a battle?  Christmas is all about Christ and in my mind, we should celebrate him everyday.  Oddly though, because of the commercial side of Christmas, we tend to forget what its about and then we tend to think, "Wow is it bad to celebrate Christmas before Remembrance Day is past?" 

I am going to try from this point forward not to worry about when I start to celebrate Christmas and instead try to make every day a celebration where I thank God for the gifts he continually gives me, especially my wife and kids who help me celebrate no matter what time it is. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Misty Mountain Madness

Blogger's Note:  This is a copy of the column I had published in the November 12, 2013 Kings County Record.  I have performed a clean up, on the waterfall site referred to, in the past.  I have also cleaned up sections of  the road that leads up to Misty Mountain.  It is maddening that people continue to dump garbage in various locations along the Millbrook Road.

There is a place near where I grew up that has long been a destination for partiers, hunting, and outdoor enthusiasts.  Parties were held there, first time camping trips have also been a part of the landscape there, bike trips often rest there, and water will always be its signature.  Misty Mountain is a local landscape legend.  It has a long history that includes farming, forestry, and spring water. 

Topographically, it is not overly impressive, its rounded mass and height though make it stand out amongst its nearby counterparts.    Two steep valleys surround the mainly forested mountain and the valleys provide some beautiful scenery, no matter the time of year or the weather conditions.  The Cotter Hollow stream wraps its way around the hill flowing from its source on the high southeast shoulder, moving first to the east for a short time, then an uninterrupted run north before turning west towards the Mill Brook.  The Mill Brook runs the other way, clock wise, around Misty Mountain.  It starts in dramatic fashion with a high waterfall at the source and I often love to visit its look off which you can drive up to.

I use the term "drive up to" rather loosely.  You'll need a four wheel drive vehicle with modest clearance to get there.  The roads aren't fully mapped so that gives you an indication to how rugged it might be.  Approaching from what locals call the Misty Mountain Road it is a steep ascent up the southwest portion of the mountain.  Deep gullies fill the road and you need to choose your path carefully or you could end up hung up.  As you near the top clear cuts currently become noticeable to your right and you get a great view towards Sussex and beyond that to the hills around Springfield.  It is a great view and an almost noble location that will always speak to those who know its greatness.

On my latest trip up there I had my kids and I was hoping to show them the waterfall and sharing with them the Mountains modest nobility.  Not everyone knows about its nobility though and I was frustrated to see that a great deal of garbage was thrown into the small stream at the top of the falls.  I couldn't believe it and I loaded my kids back into the truck without walking down to the look out.  Instead I drove a little further on where a large stump provides a great seat as you look back down the Valley. 

Many people gripe about clear cuts but at this point I was more frustrated with the illegal dumping than with the large clear cut swaths that now dominate this area.  The mountain is no stranger to clear cuts as it was likely cut over about 60 years ago.  The trees that replaced the ones cut back then were ready to be cut again and so, they were cut.  The steep slopes mean that not all the trees are cut and the streams still appear healthy when viewed from the channel.  Litter and trash though scar the landscape for years and don't regenerate like the trees.  Dump sites actually grow because when someone sees a dump site they think it is ok for them to dump too. Clear cuts provide vistas to see beyond the trees and stumps to sit on while you take in the view.  Dump sites simply stink and detract from the scenery both near and far.  Before you dump trash along a back road, no matter how far back, keep that in mind.  With waste management systems today it is easy to get rid of trash.  Heck you pay for the system through your taxes, so why would you pay for the fuel in your truck to dump it illegally.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day 2013

Like many people this morning, I awoke with a bit of a heavy heart.  It is Remembrance Day and it is a day where we take time to solemnly think about our freedom.  It is a day where we thank those who bravely serve in our forces and other protective services, those who run towards the danger while many of us run away.  So why is my heart heavy on this day?  Why do I not celebrate those great people?  Their loss is felt not just locally but across the globe.  They leave us wishing we could all be a bit more like them, or at least that is the way I feel.

In Sussex the cenotaph stands tall in the middle of Town and today many people stood around it to Remember.  It was one of the best attended Remembrance Day services I can remember.  Even with the skies threatening snow flurries, people withstood the cold to take off their hats during the prayers and national anthem.  It is a pale suffering given what the soldiers have suffered in the past.  The many kids, not certain why they are there, look up at their parents with inquisitive eyes as their parents try to explain what is going on.  This next generation will hopefully only have to remember and not have to fight.

The day is also a time for me to acknowledge some of those great elderly people who have helped form my life and have had positive influences on the man I have become.  It is great to chat with a couple of them and introduce them to my kids and see a light in their eye as they see it was not in vain.  To all those who serve, thanks so much for giving me a chance to raise a family I hope will do us all proud.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Trying Tir Na Nog

This post has been a while in the making.  It was a topic that came to me a while back but for some reason I just kept putting it off.  I often talk about the joy of youth and of interacting with kids while outdoors.  Over a month ago now I was invited to talk to a number of 4 year old kids.  These weren't the run of your mill preschoolers.  These kids were already committed to being outdoors two days a week while at preschool.  The Tir Na Nog Forest School  is offering a new approach to learning and man do I ever wish I could have learned this way.

I arrived at the school on a drizzly morning but from the commotion I could hear down in the woods, it hadn't dampened the kids spirits. I immediately noticed a number of chickadees and realized I was in for a special morning when one perched right beside me for a moment and looked me straight in the eyes.  I found the majority of the group huddled around a cold fire pit and many were doodling on slate boards or stacking wood, or playing tag through the woods.  I had to fight off the urge to go play tag with them and instead I got comfortable with my surroundings and planned my approach for the lesson I was going to provide to the kids that day.

After introducing my self to the kids, who listened incredibly well when the teacher called them to the fire circle, I briefly discussed the importance of water to us as humans and to our ecosystem.  I was there on behalf of the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee and I was hoping to take them for a walk along the MacGregor Brook and maybe get their feet a little wet.

There was a trail down to the brook and the kids scurried excitedly through the trees and forest as the chickadees continued to flit through the white and yellow birches, the cedars and spruce.  I pointed out some deer and coyote tracks and the kids stood patiently in the mud wanting desperately to feel it squish under the feet.  Once I said "let's move on." the kids jumped and squished in the gooey mud.
This time I let the kid in me shine a little too as I stomped through the mud as I continued to make my way to the streamside.  A broad smile creeped across my face as I did.

One of the little girls asked to hold my hand and at first I was a bit reluctant.  I had the "If I hold your hand then I have to hold everyone's hand" feeling.  She left me no choice though and before long we were chatting away about everything under the sun.  All the kids were huddled around me and I did my best to make a connection with each of them.  Surprisingly, I thought I was pretty good at it.

When we reached the brook the teachers provided all the kids with snacks and I took the opportunity to show the kids some flowers from the nearby field.  I also show them some stinging nettle and insisted they stay away from that one.  After a nice snack the kids were eager to get their feet wet.  I didn't have a script or anything to work off of so I was willing to let the kids and nature lead me through the learning.  It was easy to find things to show them and simple to find ways to engage them and get their hands wet too.

As my time with the kids wound down, I couldn't help but feel down as well.  I was really enjoying myself and I thought "wow, I could do this for a living.". It was an indescribable feeling.  I felt positive about my interactions with the kids and I felt positive about teaching the kids outdoors.  The combination of the teaching and outdoors is a concept I really believe in and I think the younger we implant this process in our kids the more comfortable they will be outdoors.  

Thanks to the kids and the teachers for giving me the opportunity to explore this side of my personality.  I only hope that you all received as much from me that I received from you.