Stephen Leacock’s lessons from Izaak Walton and the reasons I fish

What’s better than fishing and drinking beer under a tree with a friend, or as Stephen Leacock more eloquently put it: what can we learn from Izaak Walton… that a cup of ale beneath a tree is better than a civic banquet, and an old familiar song from a familiar singer outclasses grand opera.

I practise selective harvest. I fish because it is a passion and a drive, and I feel the pleasure of God’s world and the pleasure of my ancestors.

It is the practice of patience with, as Marvell puts it, an ‘idle utensil’ (Mark Kingwell insightfully offered the addition of ‘active’ to this virtue when applied to fishing). It is active patience because, as W C Stewart maintains in the practical angler, observation or the art of paying attention is the key skill to fishing.


My daughter’s first steps by Napachie Pootoogook


This is perfect subject matter for the month of May in Cape Dorset calendar 2016–notice the mother still wears parka and mukluks while her daughter has shed that winter clothing walking into her embrace. That’s the miracle of spring: you can move again (think of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale)

Old man Leudecke and John Ruskin seem to be kindred spirits

Old man Leudecke sings, ‘Take your heart’s candle and re light it’ and John Ruskin writes, ‘We want one man to be always thinking, and another to be always working, and we call one a gentleman, and the other an operative; whereas the workman ought often to be thinking, and the thinker often to be working, and both should be gentlemen, in the best sense. As it is, we make both ungentle, the one envying, the other despising, his brother; and the mass of society is made up of morbid thinkers and miserable workers. Now it is only by labour that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labour can be made happy, and the two cannot be separated with impunity.’

It’s whimsy and craft and working fervently for your heart’s purpose- and that’s just lovely– ain’t it?

The importance of really good quality local news

The surprisingly telling thing I found in Spotlight, the movie with my favourite actress Rachel McAdams, was that local papers wrote articles sounding the alarm on child abuse but it never resonated wide enough to change anything. When I’ve read pieces from the archives of my local paper, the Belleville Intelligencer, I’ve been astounded by the strength and eloquence of the writing, and more than that I’ve been told that most people actually read it and cared about it back then. I think that’s what we need to restore the value of community or at least to start.

Letter to the editor: The Walrus, June 2016

Bob Rae writes in the June issue of the Walrus that the advice “it’s hard to be smart and angry at the same time” is an axiom. Well, if smart is to mean dispassionate sophistication then I would agree it’s axiomatic. It’s a problem, though, when our leaders have cold enough eyes to look at our time compared to the olden days and see only “progress”; to look at the people who call for a more personal, face to face kind of politics and a less litigious society and see only “hysteria”; to look at people who worry some technologies aren’t working for a good purpose and see only “paranoia”.

The magic of tidying up and where that joy comes from

The magic of tidying up and where that joy comes from

The art of tidying up has sparked many serious meditations on the neurosis of our time. John Donne wrote that memory is salvation and Charles Dickens illustrated this thought wonderfully in his cluttered and yet simple and light charged stories; this realization of the power of memory is the difference between the neurotic misfires of tidying up and the miracle of grace. The gritty materialism of places and things is very important because it provides the ingredients to remember what we love the most to the point we aren’t reminded of anything else. So, it’s good we are thinking about how things can spark joy, so long as we recognize where the joy is coming from– this is the joyful destination of our memory and should be cherished above the vessel we take to get there. If you merely cherish the things in and of themselves– or demonize the things and fiendishly get rid of them– then there won’t be any joy to spark.