Friday, 29 May 2009

An ode to my favorite songs

Supposedly, scent is the human sense most strongly tied to memory (according to a commercial for men's body wash, anyway), but I think I can make a pretty convincing case for the power of sound — especially music.

Last Friday, I went to Smitty's in Leduc to photograph the performance of Prince Edward Island musicians Richard Wood and Gordon Belsher. I thought I had been away from the east coast long enough to handle an evening of east coast music without succumbing to homesickness, but I left the restaurant after the first set feeling emotionally raw in a way I hadn't expected — devastated and yet uplifted at the same time.

It wasn't one particular song but rather the whole sound that somehow reached into my chest and wrapped itself tightly around my heart. Images flashed through my head — of summer road trips to the Bay of Fundy and wading in soft, ankle-deep mud at low tide, of kayaking on the Saint John River at sunset, of my mother's house in Fredericton. I recalled the strange day I found out I was moving to Alberta and how my feeling of elation at getting hired for my first journalism job was offset by a powerful sadness that I was going so far away from the place I had come to call home.

As I listened to him play, I remembered what Belsher, a former Edmontonian, said in our phone interview a few days before the concert: that travelling to P.E.I for the first time felt like coming home. I could relate; something about the smell of pine trees in the cool May evening when I first stepped off the plane in Fredericton six years ago told me I was welcome there. Maritime music always, ultimately, brings me back to that moment, no matter how far away I get.

I read somewhere that Canadians have become a very transient people. Despite the hugeness of our country, many of us don't think twice about moving to different cities, provinces and coasts in pursuit of work, education, love, adventure, a fresh start.

This is certainly true of my own history. The other day, my boyfriend and I added up the number of different houses we've lived in throughout our lives to see who has moved around more; I think I beat him, but not by much. We've both lived in four different provinces, in many different cities, sometimes briefly, sometimes for years. As a result, "home" has come to take on a rather flexible meaning.

Every place I've lived has eventually come to feel like "home," even when I resisted becoming attached to a particular location. When I left the Dominican Republic, I cried for the loss of the beaches and the wild beauty of the southern coast, for tostones and fried salami and the friends I hadn't expected to make.

When I left Whitecourt — though I had spent most of my brief time there pining to be elsewhere — I missed the Athabasca River and the local sandwich shop and the sound of trains rumbling by in the night.

The question I've been wrestling with for the past three years — a period of my life in which I haven't lived in a single place for longer than eight months — is how to hang on to the things you love about a place, the things that make it feel like home, and use them to help you get through the loneliness and upheaval of going somewhere else.

The best answer I've been able to come up with is music. As I proved to myself at the Maritime show, I only have to hear a fiddle to be instantly transported back to the happiest moments of my time in New Brunswick.

Likewise, when I hear anything remotely Spanish in flavour, it isn't hard to recall the giddy joy of roaring down the highway on the back of a motorcycle, the deep-fried smell of the propane-powered public cars in Santo Domingo, or the fresh, watery flavour of a sun-ripened avocado.

I am already building up an arsenal of "Alberta songs" — mostly country — that in the future will bring back memories of learning to drive on the winding mountain highway through Jasper, the sight of the fields and trees along Highway 39 frosted with ice after a spring fog, and Edmonton's skyline at sunset.

Sometimes, when my heart is heavy and I can't see clearly past the darkness of my own mood, I put on an old favorite song and wish to be back in what seems, in retrospect, to have been a simpler time. I look back at past problems with nostalgia, believing them to have been more easily overcome than my present difficulties. I want to stay inside the familiar melody, where it's safe.

More than anything, I want to be "home," until I realize that, for me at least, at this time in my life, "home" doesn't exist in a concrete way anymore. It's not a place I can travel back to on a free weekend, but a place I have to find inside myself over and over again.

It takes time to get to know a place and really feel at home there, the same way it takes time to learn a new song. It's only when you hear the song again, years later, and can still sing it note-perfect, that you realize how well you knew it all along.

Weekly Roundup — May 29

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• A group of Leduc County farmers says Altalink "put the cart before the horse" when drawing up potential routes for a new high-voltage transmission line south of Calmar.

• Leduc mayor Greg Krischke has been honoured with an inaugural Leadership for Active Communities award.

• May's Artist of the Month is a multi-talented high school student.

• Edmonton's pro basketball team will bring the "Energy" to Leduc Composite High School on June 5.

• Taxes for Leduc County residents will be much the same in 2009 as last year.

• A local teen is headed to Vancouver for the summer to appear in a production of the hit musical Rent.

• It's almost time for the 20th annual Rona MS Bike Tour, and while 30 local high school students are getting ready to volunteer for the two-day event, a Thorsby woman with MS is training for the 183-km ride — her sixth.

• In county news, the Town of Calmar has passed its budget for the next three years and is gearing up (pun not intended!) for its annual Show n' Shine, while the Village of New Sarepta has opted not to fund a local playschool.

• Laura, despite not being the sports reporter, has all your inside dish on sports in Leduc, including the upcoming women's fastball provincials.

It's all in the May 29 Rep.

(Photo: Grade 4 East Elementary School students Kennedy Kiss, left, and Skylar Gee, watch in awe as a teddy bear flips a pancake — with a little help from teacher Dianne Brunes. Students at East Elementary raised $1,900 for the MS Society and celebrated with a pancake breakfast and pyjama day May 22. Photo by Alex Pope.)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sex offender sentenced

A Millet man who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl in Leduc last summer is headed to prison for four years.

Clinton Schuler, 27, pleaded guilty to sexual assault in connection with the incident at provincial court in Leduc on May 22 and was sentenced to six years in prison but received 20 months credit for time served.

MORE ...

Happy birthday Laura!

Laura is the big 2-1 today. We got her a Marilyn Monroe phone.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Little kid, BIG bowl

6-year-old Jordan Erickson took advantage of the sunny weather May 25 to practice his moves at the Leduc skatepark. (Photo by Alex Pope.)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Flashback: They grow up so fast!

"Dominic Mishio, a 10-year-old Leduc Minor baseball player, keeps his eye on the ball."

Dominic Mishio is now an Alderman on Leduc city council.

Appeared in the Leduc Representative on May 7, 1995.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Weekly Roundup — May 22

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

Overcrowded classrooms and schools are becoming an issue in the Black Gold Regional School Division.

• The Town of Devon is mourning the loss of recent high school grad Steven Larson, who died suddenly the day after celebrating grad with his classmates.

• The Leduc and District Food Bank is seeing an increase in their number of clients in these hard economic times.

• Leduc's L.A. Dance Academy is raising money to support one of their young dancers, who was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

• Alex spoke to two individuals about their reaction to Avi Friedman's workshop on affordable housing. Nancy Laing with the Leduc Foundation says Leduc needs to offer a wider range of housing, while Kirk Popik, mayor of the Town of Calmar, says now is the perfect time to start addressing the sustainability of our communities.

• Guests at the May 19 EDA partnership breakfast learned about nano and microtechnologies — a.k.a. really, really small machines that are smarter than the writer of this story will ever be!

• Across the county, New Sarepta's annual fair is coming up, Thorsby is hosting a community clean-up, and the Discovery Centre in Devon received some government funding.

Ch-ch-ch-check it out!

(Photo: Tribute artist Jason Scott belted out the Neil Diamond tunes at the Maclab Centre May 18. Photo by Alex Pope.)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A Diamond is forever

Jason Scott brought his tribute to Neil Diamond, "Diamond Forever," to the Maclab Centre for the Performing Arts on May 18. For more photos, see the May 22 Rep. (Photos by Alex Pope)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Weekly Roundup — May 15

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• Laura Ring has the story of a young man whose one bad choice changed his life forever.

• A local man has been recognized for his brave actions during an armed robbery.

• Affordable housing expert Avi Friedman gave a two-day workshop in Calmar last week and dispelled some of the common misconceptions about affordable housing.

• No deaths in the news this week, but there are taxes — specifically property taxes in Leduc.

• Fallen Wetaskiwin RCMP officer Jose Agostinho will be immortalized in the name of the new Southfork park.

• A local high school student has won a $20,000 scholarship for her engagement in her school and community.

• This year's raffle to benefit the Leduc Boys and Girls Club features some big-ticket items.

• The parliamentary assistant to Alberta's minister of health wants everybody to walk more, eat less salt.

Hello Dolly rocks! (And I'm not just saying that because I'm in it.)

• Leduc needs an emergency women's shelter, council heard on May 11.

• In sports, local rugby teams kicked off their season this month, while lacrosse seems to be gaining in popularity. Also, the LCHS athletic field is going to be renamed to honour the founder of the track club. P.S.: Don't call Laura the sports reporter.

All this and more in this week's Rep.

(Photo: 11-year-old Tristan Head tries on beer goggles at an RCMP open house May 8. Photo by Laura Ring.)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Weekly Roundup — May 8

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• Leduc County has issued a fire ban due to the extremely dry and windy conditions that have lingered in the area in the past few weeks. (I was really worried this story would be rendered irrelevant by the torrential downpour we had on Wednesday night, but as of today, the fire ban still stands.)

• STAR Catholic Schools are paving the way for more interactive education in three of their high schools. (More here.)

• STAR is also partnering with MedicAlert to increase student safety.

• Wetaskiwin and Camrose RCMP are coming to grips with the loss of one of their comrades following a fatal collision last week.

• Girls left their worries behind for a fun weekend of building self-esteem with the Boys and Girls Club.

Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger (mushroom, mushroom!)

• County residents will be getting automated meters from FortisAlberta.

(Photo: Nine-year-old Jonah Bommassar was one of the many students who came out to enjoy the "Rodeo of Smiles" on April 30 to kick off the 40th annual Leduc Black Gold Pro Rodeo. Photo by Laura Ring.)

Education innovation

This week, I wrote a story about the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division, which has undertaken some neat initiatives to make learning more interactive for their junior high and high school students in Leduc, Ponoka and Drayton Valley.

On May 1, I attended STAR's celebration of the first six months of their "Building I.T. Together" project and left feeling really excited about the opportunities that are available for students nowadays.

When I think back to elementary school and learning how to use a "word processor," I'm amazed that students today are using Skype to chat face to face with experts and other students all around the world.

I really feel that there's no better education than the one you receive by experiencing the world, especially through travel and interface with people who live differently than you do, but for many kids, that's not economically feasible. So the fact that they can learn about other countries from the people who live there without having to fork out thousands of dollars for a plane ticket is incredible — and for many of them, it will likely pique their curiosity enough that when they do have the financial means to travel, they will.

You can read more about the BIT project in the May 8 Rep, but I wanted to share the video above, which Brad Clarke from Alberta Education showed to demonstrate why radical change is needed in the way we teach our students in this ever-shrinking world.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Weekly Roundup — May 1

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• The city has officially begun work on a master plan for the future development of Telford Lake.

• They have also released the membership fees for the new LRC. They are hoping the centre will create more opportunities for sport tourism in Leduc — such as the Alberta Cup, which Leduc will host next year.

• A local high school student is our artist of the month.

• James Rajotte, MP for Edmonton-Leduc, addressed the bailout for Canadian automakers and the Harper government's Economic Action Plan at a town hall meeting on April 25.

• The Leduc "Nighthawks" are a featured volunteer group this week.

• Laura has a story about a national non-profit that helps to prevent child sexual abuse — and create awareness about what to do when it happens.

• Across the county, Calmar is karaoke-ing (I can verb that, right?), Thorsby is contemplating curfews, Warburg is looking ahead to Canada Day, and it's almost spring market time in New Sarepta.

It's all in your Leduc Rep this week. Check it out!

(Photo: Guests of the "Divas LA Style" event held at the Leduc Curling Rink on April 24 test their ability to be hypnotized by locking their hands above their heads. Photo by Alex Pope)

Rodeo magic

The 40th annual Leduc Black Gold Rodeo took place this past weekend, and from the performances to the parade to the parties, Laura and I were there with our cameras to capture the fun. Check out the May 8 Rep for full photo spreads.

(Photo: A young spectator tries to pop soap bubbles during the rodeo parade on May 2. Photo by Alex Pope.)