Flags at Half Mast Today

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is FLUTTER

Our news media today is aflutter with news of the recent tragedy here in Canada. Our flags at flying at half-mast and our hearts are sorrowing this morning as we read the details of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history: seventeen innocent people in Nova Scotia plus the suspect shot to death.

For Canadians the incident is doubly shocking and grievous, partly because something as senseless as this would happen in some small Nova Scotia communities — no one yet has any idea what triggered this rampage — and worse, because the killer went out dressed as an member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, our cross-country law enforcers.

Can flag. half. pixel1
Image: Pixel1 — Pixabay

The shootings began about 10:00 pm Saturday evening when a Dartmouth denturist named Gabriel Wortman, age 51, wearing full uniform and vest of an RCMP officer, went out to shoot people. He’d painted his car to look like an RCMP vehicle, and in one case he stopped a car and shot the occupants. He set fire to his own building and several others and shot the occupants as they fled.

According to news reports, Portapique is a beach-side town of about 100 residents on Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Bay, about a 90-minute drive from Halifax. The suspect owned two large properties on Portapique Beach Road, where the shootings started on Saturday night. The gunman then left this area and drove to a couple of other towns, was finally shot and killed around 9:00 am yesterday morning at a gas station in Enfield, NS. One officer was also killed in the effort to stop the suspect.

Our hearts ache for all these people and their families, including the troubled man who saw no better solution to his problems than to commit this deed.

I’ve given a very loose sketch here, you may well have read about this in your own news, and more details will be available as investigators piece the story together. And if anyone reads this who’s been directly affected by this horror, please accept my deepest sympathies.

Sunday morning my husband and I listened to messages from two different pastors, Pastor Hank from his home in Quebec, and our local pastor Warren. Later in the day we heard two other inspiring talks, a speaker from CA and one from MB. Then gospel songs from two different small groups — all thanks to Listen to church.com — giving us hope and courage in these uncertain times. Conversely, more details were trickling in about this tragedy in Nova Scotia. Such a sad contrast!

Fire in the Forest

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was COUNTLESS BRANCHES

A forest of living, greening branches can be an inspiring sight, but here’s an account of a raging blaze started in the felled trees on a homesteader’s farm. They were set ablze by the hired man, who had good intentions, but seriously lacked common sense. The REBLOG button on his post isn’t working, so I’ve reprinted this from Flatlander Faith.com. See the original post HERE.

[This is an excerpt from a Canadian Classic, Roughing it in the Bush, by Susanna Moodie, first published in 1852.  At the climax of the crisis described here, she buries her head in her apron. It was her custom to  pull up her apron to cover her head for privacy when praying.]

The winter and spring of 1834 had passed away. The latter was uncommonly cold and backward; so much so that we had a very heavy fall of snow upon the 14th and 15th of May

A late, cold spring in Canada is generally succeeded by a burning, hot summer; and the summer of ’34 was the hottest I ever remember.  No rain fell upon the earth for many weeks, till nature drooped and withered beneath one bright blaze of sunlight; and the ague and fever in the woods, and the cholera in the large towns and cities, spread death and sickness through the country.

Moodie had made during the winter a large clearing of twenty acres around the house. The progress of the workmen had been watched by me with the keenest interest. Every tree that reached the ground opened a wider gap in the dark wood, giving us a broader ray of light and a clearer glimpse of the blue sky. But when the dark cedar swamp fronting the house fell beneath the strokes of the axe, and we got a first view of the lake my joy was complete: a new and beautiful object was now constantly before me, which gave me the greatest pleasure.

The confusion of an uncleared fallow spread around us on every side. Huge trunks of trees and piles of brush gave a littered and uncomfortable appearance to the locality, and as the weather had been very dry for some weeks, I heard my husband talking with his choppers as to the expediency of firing the fallow. They still urged him to wait a little longer, until he could get a good breeze to carry the fire well through the brush.

Business called him suddenly to Toronto, but he left a strict charge with old Thomas and his sons, who were engaged in the job, by no means to attempt to burn it off till he returned, as he wished to be upon the premises himself in case of any danger. He had previously burnt all the heaps immediately about the doors. While he was absent, old Thomas and his second son fell sick with the ague, and went home to their own township, leaving John, a surly, obstinate young man, in charge of the shanty, where they slept, and kept their tools and provisions.

The day was sultry, and towards noon a strong wind sprang up that roared in the pine tops like the dashing of distant billows, but without in the least degree abating the heat. The children were lying listlessly on the floor for coolness, and the girl and I were finishing sun-bonnets, when Mary suddenly exclaimed, “Bless us, mistress, what a smoke!” I ran immediately to the door, but was not able to distinguish ten yards before me. The swamp immediately below us was on fire, and the heavy wind was driving a dense black cloud of smoke directly towards us.

“What can this mean?” I cried. “Who can have set fire to the fallow?”

John Thomas stood pale and trembling before me. “John, what is the meaning of this fire?”

“Oh, ma’am, I hope you will forgive me; it was I set fire to it, and I would give all I have in the world if I had not done it.”

“What is the danger?”

“Oh, I’m terribly feared that we shall all be burnt up,” said the fellow, beginning to whimper.

“We must get out of it as fast as we can, and leave the house to its fate.”

“We can’t get out,” said the man, in a low, hollow tone, which seemed the concentration of fear; “I would have got out if I could; but just step to the back door, ma’am, and see.”

I had not felt the least alarm up to this minute. Judge then my horror, when, on going to the back door, I saw that the fellow, to make sure of his work, had fired the field in fifty different places. Behind, before, on every side, we were surrounded by a wall of fire, burning ferociously within a hundred yards of us, and cutting off all possibility of retreat.

I closed the door and went back to the parlour. Fear was knocking loudly at my heart – I felt stupefied. The girl sat upon the floor by the children, who had both fallen asleep. She was silently weeping; while the fool who had caused the mischief was crying aloud.

A strange calm succeeded my first alarm; tears and lamentations were useless; a horrible death was impending over us, and yet I could not believe that we were to die.

My eye fell upon the sleeping angels, locked peacefully in each other’s arms, and my tears flowed for the first time. Mary, the servant-girl, looked piteously up in my face. The good, faithful creature had not uttered one word of complaint, but now she faltered forth, “The dear precious lambs! Oh such a death!”

I threw myself down upon the floor beside them, and pressed them alternately to my heart, while inwardly I thanked God that they were asleep, unconscious of danger.

The heat soon became suffocating. We were parched with thirst, and there was not a drop of water in the house. I turned once more to the door, hoping that a passage might have been burnt through to the water. I saw nothing but a dense cloud of fire and smoke – could hear nothing but the crackling and roaring of the flames, which were gaining so fast on us that I felt their scorching breath in my face.

“Ah,” thought I – and it was a most bitter thought – “what will my beloved husband say when he returns and finds that poor Susy and his dear girls have perished in this miserable manner? But God can save us yet.”

The thought had scarcely found a voice in my heart before the wind rose to a hurricane, scattering the flames on all sides into a tempest of burning billows. I buried my head in my apron, for I thought that our time was come, and that all was lost, when a most terrific crash of thunder burst over our heads, and, like the breaking of a water-spout, down came the rushing torrent of rain which had been pent up for so many weeks. In a few minutes the chip-yard was all afloat, and the fire effectually checked. The storm which, unnoticed by us, had been gathering all day, and which was the only one of any note we had that summer, continued to rage all night, and before morning had quite subdued the cruel enemy whose approach we had viewed with such dread.

The imminent danger in which we had been placed struck me more forcibly after it was past than at the time, and both the girl and myself sank to our knees and offered up our hearts in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved us by an act of His Providence from an awful and sudden death. When all hope from human assistance was lost, His hand was mercifully stretched forth, making His strength more perfectly manifested in our weakness.

“He is their stay when earthly hope is lost,
The light and anchor of the tempest-toss’d.”

Smoother Spelling

Good morning everyone,

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt word is SMOOTH — an excellent, versatile word.

My dictionary claims this comes from the Old English smōth. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems English is the only language with a unique TH sound. And yet more, we’re blessed with two. Consider the SMOOTH TOOTH, for example. Do you have ny idea how much anguish these two sounds give ESL students?

It may have been much handier for learners — and certainly for spellers — had the ancients decided on separate spellings. FTH or THF for the one blown out and TH for the other — as in “this, that and the other” — which would make ‘tooth’ spelled toofth. Youngsters and people with missing teeth are apt to say “toof” anyway, and “fink” instead of think.

Back to things that are SMOOTH:
Once upon a time I took up the hobby of painting on rocks. Just bugs and such, as I don’t have access to the huge, smooth stones such as people by the ocean can find. With less than perfect stones you can use putty to fill in the dips and bumps, but rocks need to be tumbled in water for years, maybe even centuries, to polish them to a smooth roundness.

Beech & stone.Wokandapix
Art by Wokandapix  —  Pixabay

Along the Saskatchewan River, not so very far from us, there are rocks embedded in the soil on the hillsides, but the ones I see are chunky. Right here where we live the soil is classed as dune sand, a once-upon-a-time flood plain. You can dig down ten meters and rarely find a stone of any size. All this sand is great for purifying the rain-water that soaks in.

The water table is high, only about two metres down; the original settlers in this area dug their wells with a shovel. Now one enterprising young man has a high pressure water “drill” and drills holes for posts by washing out the sand and dirt mix. Talk about a smooth operation.

“Something to Sing About”

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: NATION

Since everyone has a nation, a place they call home, and hopefully likes their own land, there should be lots of upbeat responses to this one.

According to some United Nation study on health and quality of life, Canada is one of the best countries in the world to live in. Having travelled across this fair land and lived in six provinces, I can say this is so: I do indeed live in the best country in the world. 🙂

I lived with my aunt & uncle in British Columbia for a year when I was around four years old, so can’t really count that as practical experience, but as an adult I’ve lived in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. The only provinces we haven’t visited at least briefly are Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. In spite of the occasional winter chill, I feel our quality of life has been “as good as it gets” all across our glorious nation.

According to Wiki: “Something to Sing About” is a patriotic song written by folk singer Oscar Brand that sings the praises of the many different regions of Canada.

Wonderland

The Ragtag Daily Prompt  this morning is WONDERLAND.

I encountered this word several different ways during my childhood, the first being through the well known song, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.” I’m happy to say the a warming trend has kicked in here on the prairies and the temp has risen ten degrees. It’s now -21 C here, with almost no wind —and next week is supposed to be warmer yet. Wonderful! Snow tends to lose its wonderland sense after the middle of January.

I also recall an old 45rpm record my cousin’s wife owned. The song, instrumental only with a trumpet lead, was called “Wonderland by Night.”  (Blessings on the ever helpful Wiki, who tells me this tune was recorded in July 1959.) As a girl I often wondered whether there was a real place called Wonderland and where it was. I assumed this would be somewhere in California, where all wonderlands are located, right?

Or was the song a takeoff from the popular children’s story, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? The writer Lewis Carroll—in reality Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—delighted not only the real Alice, but millions of other girls and boys since, with his delightful tale of adventure.

I was curious to know if Dodgson invented the place name, but it seems he only made use of the word. His book was published in 1865, whereas the word wonderland made its debut in English in 1790, according to Merriam-Webster, who defines it as a place that is filled with things that are beautiful, impressive, or surprising.

And that ends my knowledge of the subject. You’re welcome to pop over to the RAGTAG Community and read what other bloggers have written. Better yet do a post yourself and share your impressions of WONDERLAND.

Not Moving Much

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is STATIONARY and I found the perfect photo on Pixabay to illustrate this concept. Where do you think these fellows were going when they were turned to stone?

Statues.Meatle
Meatle  —  Pixabay

As the prompter mentions, STATIONARY is one of those words easily misspelled. Many a time I’ve see writers mistakenly use this spelling when they really meant the STATIONERY you write on, or vice versa.

Not quite as glaring, or open to misinterpretation as when someone writes “The hunter bagged a dear,” when they mean, “The hunter bagged a deer.” English is like that — you gotta watch out.

This morning I’ll start with a cup of hot coffee as I check the weather. Likely the school children will remain stationary in their beds for an extra hour this morning, too, as school is often called off when the temp goes below -40̊. And Environment Canada tells me that it’s -30̊ C with a wind chill factor of -43̊ – for US readers that’s -21̊ F with a wind chill factor cooling us down to -45̊ if we happen to venture outdoors. Here on the prairies we call that COLD.

We don’t have an attached, heated garage, so at this temp our automatic garage door won’t work — which means we tend to stay home whenever possible. If we must go somewhere Bob has to disconnect it from the mechanism and operate it manually with the cord and muscles to lift the door.

The temp is supposed to hit -27 C̊or -17 F̊ by this afternoon, a negligible difference. If we didn’t have warm houses on days like this we may well be as frozen as the fellows in the photo – but picture about 20 cm/ 8″ of snow everywhere to give the true impression.

Wishing you all a lovely, sunny day and a good cup of coffee.