No one tells you this

I’d never been outside of Canada. When I complained about this growing up in our suburban house outside of Toronto, my father would helpfully point out that he’d once driven us across the border at Niagara Falls and then done a U-turn and driven us right back, so technically speaking I had, in fact, left the country. I was unmoved. Literally as well as figuratively. Unlike every other person I knew in Ontario, my family had not gone to Florida for winter vacation. We had not done the drive down I-95 to visit grandparents or go to Disney World. We didn’t even make the trip to Buffalo to take advantage of the cheaper American prices at the mall outlets. The MacNicols stayed put. Travel was for other people…

Growing up, nearly everything existed for me only in books, which had the effect of making all travel seem automatically rife with adventure and exoticism, no matter the reality. When friends complained about the terrible monotony of being trapped during spring break in the back of their parents’ car en route to Myrtle Beach, it fell on uncomprehending ears. To me, the concrete American Interstate held the same unknowable mystique as Paris. Perhaps it was less than surprising then that I cleaved on to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder the way I did: not only was she also an adventurous young girl, she was a real person; I could find the places she’d gone to on a map and know she’d actually been there, and that because she’d done it, perhaps I could do it, too. Eventually I found my way to those dots in real life along with many others, always slightly astounded that I had managed to manifest my own childhood imagination.

~ Glynnis MacNicolNo One Tells You This: A Memoir (July 10, 2018)


Book Review: HuffPost – ‘No One Tells You This’: The Triumph Of Choosing A Single, Childfree Life At 40

Miracle. All of it.

It had snowed overnight, but there were already tracks on the ground. The fine powder had covered the perimeter of spruce and willow and was already starting to melt on the topmost branches when I set out on my expedition. Ahead was a denuded and frozen basin of snowy ridges and gently rising slopes.

The noise of the village had faded, and as I took my first steps onto the plateau, following the contour of the land, an intense squeak escaped from under my boots. It was all I could hear for the next 10 minutes. A muffled, metronomic marriage of snow groaning on sand. After that, I had reached my destination. I had crossed what many believe is the world’s smallest desert.

This was my introduction to one of North America’s most bizarre geological phenomena, the Carcross Desert in Canada’s Yukon. At first glance, it admittedly didn’t look like much. Hardly recognisable as a desert and only 600m wide, best measured end to end by bootprints, it was blanketed in snow, the sand only apparent between cracks in the melted crust. But the details sharpened over time. Closer inspection revealed a miniature kingdom of fine-grain sands, a rare habitat for plants, ungulates and insect species that may be new to science…

The Carcross Desert’s unique genesis is the result of 10,000 years of natural labour. The Yukon was last glaciated during the Wisconsinan McConnell glaciation, she explained, some 11,000 to 24,000 years ago. “Carcross would have had 1km of ice sitting on top of it,” she told me, while hunched over research papers and geological fieldwork studies. “You just can’t picture it.”

As the ice started to melt, lobes of ice began to retreat south, leaving the southern Yukon with heavily scarred valleys. Lipovsky likens this to a vast construction site, as “the ice bulldozed everything”. Over time, massive lakes formed at the snout of the lobes, then when the ice retreated, water levels dropped, leaving beaches and strand lines socked in between the valleys. To finish, sand was hoovered up by fierce winds and blown north-west, giving birth to one of the world’s most unlikely deserts…

To be categorised as an arid desert for scientific purposes, one needs to receive less than 250mm of annual precipitation, while semi-arid deserts receive between 250mm and 500mm. This is the category that Carcross falls into, despite sitting in the rain shadow of the surrounding mountains…

Despite such contradictions, what’s not debated is the sense of awe and sheer amazement the desert inspires. As you enter, its mystery deepens, the tall willow and spruce appearing in ghostly silhouette. Beyond this, surprises wait. Yukon lupine and Baikal sedge flower in summer. Rarely seen coast dart moths and dune tachinidae hover in the skies. Five new species of gnorimoschema, a genus of the moth family, have been discovered. The likelihood is there are more.

All this beauty in one of the Earth’s most unforgiving and complex environments is hard to fathom. This isn’t the Sahara, the Gobi or the Kalahari. But each step across its diminutive dunes makes you realise: this desert is a whole world of wonder unto itself.

Mike MacEacheran, from “The Unlikely Home of the Smallest Desert” (BBC.com Travel, June 22, 2018)


Notes:

  • Thank you Christie!
  • Photo: Dave Brosha with Carcross Desert. “The Carcross Desert, famous for being one the of the smallest “deserts” in North America. Located in Carcross, Yukon, Canada. I really don’t think there’s too many places in the world that combine such a strangely beautiful mix of snow and sand.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

Miracle. All of it.

It is, after all, not necessary to fly right into the middle of the sun,

but it is necessary to crawl to a clean little spot on earth where the sun sometimes shines

and one can warm oneself a little.

~ Franz Kafka, from Letter to His Father


Notes:

It’s not that Canadians don’t love their country. I do. Most Canadians do, too. They just love it quietly.

July 1 is Canada’s 150th anniversary, but nobody seems particularly eager to join the party…

The irony is that Canada, at the moment, has a lot to celebrate. Our prime minister is glamorous and internationally recognized as a celebrity of progressive politics. We are among the last societies in the West not totally consumed by loathing of others. Canada leads the Group of 7 countries in economic growth. Our cultural power is real: Drake recently had 24 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time — for one shining moment he was nearly a quarter of popular music. Frankly, it’s not going to get much better than this for little old Canada…

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, articulated Canada’s difference from other countries perfectly: “There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian,” he said when he was prime minister in 1971. “What could be more absurd than the concept of an ‘all Canadian’ boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.”

Nationally, Canada has been spared the populism that has swallowed the rest of the Western world because there is not, and has never been, such a thing as a “real Canadian.” … To lead this country, you must be able to navigate multiple languages and multiple cultures. Our longstanding identity crisis has suddenly turned to a huge advantage — we come, in a sense, pre-broken…

So why is Canada so bad at celebrating itself?…Canadian self-flagellation results always in the same warm, comfortingly smug sense of virtue…It transcends the political spectrum. Whether it is Conservative insistence on frugality and small-town values or the furious outrage of identity politics on the left, everyone has the same point to make: We’re not as good as we think we are, and the government should do something about it…

None of what I have written should be taken to imply that Canadians don’t love their country, or that I don’t love my country. I do. Most Canadians do, too. They just love it quietly…

~ Stephen Marche, excerpts from “Canada Doesn’t Know How to Party” (NY Times, June 23, 2017)

Berg!

An iceberg ran aground over Easter weekend just off the small Newfoundland town of Ferryland, population 465, drawing knots of tourists eager to catch a glimpse.  Some are locals or travelers who happened to be nearby, but many are a special Canadian breed, the iceberg chaser — People who flock to the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland at this time of year hoping to see the huge frozen chunks of broken glacier that drift by on a stretch of sea known as Iceberg Alley.

The berg at Ferryland rises about 15 stories above the waterline — and that is only about 10 percent of its mass. Some of the submerged ice comes into view when the berg is seen from above…

The stunning view that is causing traffic jams of onlookers on the coast road is actually a snapshot of the iceberg’s death throes, 15,000 years in the making. What began as snowflakes falling on Greenland during the last ice age has crept to the sea in a glacier and then broken off, probably sometime in the last three years, to float slowly out into Baffin Bay. Bumped and nudged by one another and by melting pack ice, the bergs eventually get caught up in the southbound Labrador Current and sail down Iceberg Alley.

~ Dan Levin, excerpts from a story in the NY Times, April 20, 2017

Don’t miss the full story and other fantastic photographs by Jody Martin here: A Chunk of the Arctic Stops By for a Photo Shoot

Dinner! Let’s eat together…

Stick with this to the finish…


Thank you Susan

Breathe into me

peyto-lake-full-moon-banff-canada

At night I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its
face against mine.
Breathe into me.

~ Jalaluddin Rumi, excerpt from “Some Kiss We Want” in A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings by Coleman Barks

 


Photo of full moon over Peyto Lake by Cath Simard. Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Don’t miss her other shots of Banff here.

We interrupt this broadcast for Breaking News from Canada

gray-jay-bird-canada

The Gray Jay? Say What?

After a process lasting nearly two years…Canadian Geographic hopes the government will adopt its recommendation in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. It says the choice between the country’s 450 species of birds “was made neither lightly nor quickly.”

Part of the controversy is about the selection process — the gray jay came in third in the online poll, behind the common loon and the snowy owl…

But the pick is controversial, prompting headlines such as this one in The Toronto Star: ” ‘The gray what?’ Outcry as gray jay named Canada’s national bird.” Hashtags such as #teamloon are full of outrage and sadness. “Unlike Canada … the gray jay is drab and not terribly photogenic,” wrote the Ottawa Citizen in an unflattering article titled, “7 embarrassing photos that gray jays don’t want you to see.”…

It was a long, heated selection process. Backers for the different birds duked it out in a “battle royal” debate, streamed live, where they mulled questions such as “Is the cry of the loon a hauntingly beautiful lament or the stuff of children’s nightmares?” and “Is the Canada goose a messy, ill-tempered brute or a unifying symbol that is also surprisingly delicious?”…

But Aaron Kylie, an editor for Canadian Geographic said: “We didn’t just follow the popular vote, because also, to be frank, I don’t think that we should decide a national symbol based on a popularity contest,” Kylie told the newspaper. He pointed to what some see as a cautionary tale, from the U.K.: “If we did those kind of things, that’s how you end up with Boaty McBoatface. It’s not really the right way to go about something that’s so serious.”

Read on – Merrit Kennedy, Canada Is Agonizing About Choosing A National Bird:

I come here for silence


Filmed in the Canadian and Greenlandic High Arctic

TRUTH: Canada to you.

Check out what some Canadians are saying about what’s happening down south.


Thank you Lori!

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