In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reading locally

Eating locally has reached its tipping point. It's been building for a decade now, coming in from the fringe. Books -- The Hundred Mile Diet; Animal, Vegetable Miracle; Omnivore's Dilemma-- and movements -- Slow Food, Kitchen Gardens International -- have raised general awareness that our expectation that we will eat, as a matter of course, things out of season or out of our planting zone, or processed food products with eternal shelf lives, has had its day. On Friday Michelle Obama began a vegetable garden on the south lawn of the White House. Here in Nova Scotia, farmers markets are gaining ground each year. The era of uniformity and industrialization in food, about fifty years in the making, is sputtering to an end. Let's hope.

Reading is another way we can benefit from a more local orientation. Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes was recently chosen as the winner in the 2009 Canada Reads competition. It's the compelling story of a woman captured as a girl in her native Africa and sold as a slave in the American colonies. She eventually escapes to freedom with the British during the American Revolution and is a part of the tumultuous founding of Shelburne and Birchtown. She leaves Nova Scotia with John Clarkson's fleet and returns to Africa, to Sierra Leone. It is a remarkable story, so remarkable that fiction must be the best way to tell its astonishing truth. Yet every bit of it is historically grounded.

The Book of Negroes -- partially set just across Shelburne Harbour from us -- helped me understand better this place Greg and I have chosen to call home. What other books could be out there, I wondered, that could help me understand our new culture? I began a sort of random search, and now I have a new blog category: reading locally. There are wonderful writers -- mostly out of print -- who tell of life within one hundred kilometres of McNutt's Island. I don't know whether many people read these writers nowadays. But I will do my best to find them and read them and then write a little something about them now and then, so that if you wanted to know more about this local culture by way of reading, you could.

Within one hundred kilometres of McNutt's Island -- and probably within one hundred kilometres of every place on earth -- there is, I imagine, a rich garden of local reading, filled with tastes and textures and experiences and perceptions that you just can't get anywhere else.

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