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All About Nature

Profile: Jackie Waddell

by Nina Linton

Jackie WaddellStanding on the snow-covered ground Jackie Waddell looks up, a delicate veil of afternoon sun drapes her in a soft light. Ageless trees tower above, their craggy limbs, outstretched, create a sinuous web overhead with pockets of blue peeking through the meandering branches. A self confessed lover of nature, Waddell is at home under the big sky.

The current executive director of the Island Nature Trust has constantly used education as a tool to engage the public in a dialogue about our environment as she dedicates her life to the conservation of wild places and spaces.

“I love natural history and I love learning about it and now more than ever love teaching other people about it,” exclaims Waddell, who will do more than sixty presentations this year on all things out-of-doors.

Instilling knowledge in kids, advising adults and sharing with seniors, Waddell has volunteered her time, tutoring thousands of community members about the natural world after moving to the province in 1986.

After completing her post secondary studies in wildlife management, she was initially employed by the Island Nature Trust to oversee a three month long scenic heritage roads project. Hard working, Waddell has been able to stretch out her term there for close to twenty-five years, with her tenure including everything from the piping plover project, where she worked to protect the fragile shore birds, to making contact with land owners on behalf of the not for profit organization that works as a land trust, buying and accepting land for protection as well as helping private land owners safeguard their own tracts.

Both personally and professionally, Waddell, hopes that in future these rare areas will reach a minimum of seven per cent of the Island’s surface, forming “a beautiful network of connected natural areas that are protecting all the representative habitats on PEI.”

Working alongside many other players on the provincial protection scene, Waddell is advocating for a land use plan for Prince Edward Island, lobbying government and joining forces with other like-minded organizations to conserve and protect wildlife in wild areas for the benefit of all.

“Natural areas are the basis for our clean water, the air we breathe, they do everything from preventing flooding to provide us with beautiful places to go,” says Waddell.

Waddell aims to draw Islanders into the conversation on conservation insisting that, “education is important but I think it is just as important to listen to people. And not just listen but to act on people’s behalf to benefit the Island.”

As Waddell pushes forward with her community work she hopes that her continuous outreach will bring awareness to the needs of the living world around us.

Whether lecturing at the library, completing piles of paperwork in a search for project funding, leading a group of young students through the woods, or discussing the ins and outs of emergency bird care after a local resident has discovered an injured avian friend, Waddell is happily surrounded by nature.

“It is with you all the time. If you are driving into the city and there is a crow, that is a part of it; if the tide is out, that is a part of it. It is there all the time, whether you are a bird watcher or a baker in the kitchen looking out the window, you are looking at nature.”

And she hopes that this is the message she can pass on to others.

“It is not even to think about nature in a different way but it is to think about nature period.”

East Meets West

Shelley MacLean-Ellis and Sr. Joan MacNeil show art at The Guild

Meet the Mentor
by Nina Linton

Diane Morrison-Robinson and Shelly MacLean-Ellis.As a keen tenth grader Shelley MacLean-Ellis wandered the halls of Elmsdale’s Westisle Composite Highschool, her hands piled high with math textbooks. Her fondness for fractions and figures had led her to bulk her busy teenage timetable with mathematics and science based classes in hopes of pursuing it at the university level. However something was missing.

“I remember in grade eleven I started my first physics class and I just said this is not for me, and so I switched into arts because I had always been interested in it but I never had any room in my schedule or much of a chance to pursue art. As soon as I got in the class I knew this was for me. This is where I belong,” reveals MacLean-Ellis.

Falling into the creative hands of then art teacher Sr. Joan McNeil, MacLean-Ellis says it was McNeil’s constant encouragement to polish her natural existing artistic talent that changed the direction of her life.

Upon departing highschool MacLean-Ellis went on to become McNeil’s sole student to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and follow in the teacher’s footsteps, influencing students’ artistic sides in the classroom for the last twenty-one years.

Close friends, McNeil and MacLean-Ellis are now being brought together again through art in an upcoming show at The Guild. Running from October 10 to 17 the exhibit, entitled Capturing the Moments: East meets West, gives the teachers an outlet for their art outside of their academies.

“Being involved with art everyday in my career was all I needed for a while as I was around it every day and I was doing my little demos on the board and helping students but then after you do it for a few years you kind of think ‘I should be doing my own stuff.’ You know you should be doing some things for yourself. It is hard to fit it all in but I think it is always there and you feel like you are cheating yourself a little bit if you don’t create,” says MacLean- Ellis.

With the idea for the show being originally conceived by MacLean-Ellis and her Westisle Composite colleague Diane Morrison-Robinson, the artwork of two Eastern school district art teachers Linda Packard, and Andrew Henderson will be featured, as well as that of Sr. Joan McNeil. Through forty pieces the five artists aim to impress with their arresting acrylics and wispy watercolours.

“It is everyday things, everyday scenes, everyday people and objects, the things that we encounter and how we fit it into our day,” says MacLean-Ellis of the exhibit. “To me anyway that seems to be the common thread, you just do the everyday stuff and you see the art in everyday things and you try to expand on that and take time to notice things in your day.”

To MacLean-Ellis this show is more than just that, it is truly a realization of her dreams to be able to hang her artwork side by side in a public viewing with pieces by her mentor McNeil. And McNeil’s longstanding influence arose out of one of those everyday moments that began with a girl joining a class and finding her true passion.

John and Jenet

The Clements lead the Singing Strings into thirty-first year

Meet the Mentors
by Nina Linton

John Clement conducts a rehearsal of the Singing Strings

When John Clement retired from teaching he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do as he stared down the blank stretch of years in front of him. However, the longtime music teacher didn’t have long to think after his music students wouldn’t let him resign from their lives.

John Clement and his wife Jenet have been sharing their passion for music with students for over thirty years. The musical duo, who met and married after teaching together in the Prince Edward Island public school system, combined their love of children and classical melody when they founded the Singing Strings orchestra in 1978.

First an after school program for a handful of keen kids, the Singing Strings has operated independent of the school system for ten years now and survived the retirement of both teachers who still instruct half of the four levels of lessons.

Over the 31 years since it first began, the Singing Strings, under the direction of John and Jenet Clement, have guided hundreds of children through its program. Some students having gone on to study and play music professionally themselves.

However, through experience the Clements know that making musicians out of them all is not the target, the main aim is to build character and a sense of discipline in the youngsters.

“The goal is to, hopefully, through the pieces, the study of scales and the experiences that they have, the orchestras, the quartets, the duets; whatever they do, where ever they go that you try and make sure they reach their potential,” says Jenet. “It is wonderful to watch young people develop. It is much more fun to me to watch them do it than myself,” remarks Jenet.

Both professional musicians, John has recently slowed down his involvement with local symphonies like the PEI Symphony Orchestra but remains alongside Jenet making music come alive to their blooming understudies.

“We are teaching kids that are so enthusiastic and that is our motivation. They have all that adrenalin and we have a great outlet for it,” says John.

With weekly practices for all 60 members, both John and Jenet are living out their golden years perhaps busier than ever before. Which in John’s opinion is just fine. “Looking back on it retirement was such an unknown quantity to me and in some ways I was looking forward to not having to come to school every morning and that sort of thing but the thought of suddenly having my life around me not surrounded by kids was pretty scary.”

Never Too Old to Paint

Julia Purcell teaches art classes for senior citizens

Meet the Mentor
by Nina Linton

Julia Purcell  (photo: Nina Linton)

In Julia Purcell’s hands is a small scanned copy of a dewy self-portrait painted by one of her art students. The primitively painted subject is centered on the background, a rough wash of baby pink with bare spots of exposed paper peaking through. Framed by a mop of black hair are the two captivating eyes that catch you in a direct gaze and seem to peer back. The rosy cheeks are flush with colour, balancing the button nose and fine lips and around the neck of her shirt a red bow finishes off the personal portrayal.

At first glance one might assume that this simple and puerile painting was done by a small child but in reality many would be surprised to discover that it is a self-portrait completed by an 88 year old woman.

It is paintings like this one that got the seniors Purcell was teaching to believe they could produce art and it got the professional artist to view her craft in a new light.

“I could no more do that than she could paint like I could. I mean I couldn’t learn that. So that is why it is really fascinating,” says Purcell of the wee pink portrait.

Purcell, a well-established watercolour and oil painter, has taught three classes for senior citizens. Most recently she was the instructor for two groups as part of the free LEAP program (Learning Elders Arts Program.) With 20 hours of instruction over six Saturdays throughout the long Prince Edward Island winter, Purcell laid the foundation for beginning artists who are over 65.

“It was almost as if some of them had been waiting all their lives to do something like this. That is what I kept hearing ‘Oh, I always wanted to do this.’ They almost needed it to be a gift as they probably could have afforded it,” say Purcell.

Tackling the challenging medium of wet watercolour Purcell guided the seniors from basic washes to shapes and beyond, with the culmination of all their lessons being an art show with their works on display.

“Seeing them develop and seeing them come from being fearful of the paint, and the paper and the brush to saying ‘Hey I can do this!’ I really, really enjoyed that.”

Purcell watched as some of her students became so passionate about painting that they bought their own supplies, “and painted all week long, and didn’t do their house work.”

Inspiring seniors to pick up a brush and view the world around them in terms of art, and shades of paint was a goal achieved by Purcell. While her mature students taught the veteran artist to question ideas she held like who is an artist and who is not.

“It is amazing that just a little bit of direction and a little bit of encouragement can take them such a long way. I had to guard my critical artist self that I would apply to the work of professional artists and look for a new standard and it was good for me to see that just creative expression is valuable. I probably wouldn’t have been able to appreciate or understand how something is an interesting little work and just written it off as childish, so I think it changed me working with them. To see their enthusiasm and enjoyment, so that is something I hadn’t expected.”

This latest piece by Nina Linton is part of a series of articles about Island creators who have become teachers, mentors and inspirations for others. Previous subjects have been pianist Katherine Murley and rug hooker Marjorie Judson.

The Private Teacher

Katherine Murley puts education degree into practice

Meet the Mentor
by Nina Linton

Katherine Murley keeps a close eye on her student’s technique (photo: Nina Linton)

In a small room, just large enough for the piano it houses, Katherine Anne Murley and her teenage music student, Max, sit snuggly side by side. A sole window casts a warm amber glow that coats their sheet music; the afternoon light spills over highlighting the dimpled foam walls. As Max’s fingers dance across the stark monochromatic teeth in the piano’s wide grin, Murley studies his every move, her placid voice encouraging Max with positive suggestions as he fills the space with a plucky tune.

It has only been a few years since this private music teacher was the student herself, studying under several local music instructors, who through their teachings, inspired her to continue inspiring musically inclined youngsters on a one on one basis.

Beginning piano lessons at age 7 with Valerie MacKenzie, Murley’s private instruction spanned the following 11 years to include flute lessons with Anne Inman, and band with Rowan Fitzgerald. She says, “By the time the I reached university I already knew that I wanted to be a private flute and piano teacher just because the teachers I had were absolutely fabulous and they were really inspiring and unendingly patient and all sorts of wonderful things.”

Now reaching the end of her three-year UPEI Bachelor of Music Education degree Murley says that what sets her apart from peers in her music program is her chosen career path. Many who want to become private music teachers take a two-year Bachelor of Music degree, while the majority of students who graduate with a Bachelor of Music Education aim to be public school music teachers.

Murley decided to extend her education after watching her teachers who “kept educating themselves.” “They didn’t just do the same thing over and over again, they made sure to try different things every year and so it is that kind of dedication to my profession that they have really inspired in me.”

With a current roster of ten eager students Murley is pleased with the positive reception she has received so far.

“When you teach privately it is you and your student for half an hour to an hour just working on making music and making a connection. It is really great to see the progress they make not just in playing the pieces, but in other aspects as well. It is always really nice to see when they realize ‘Hey, I can do this after all!’”

As Murley’s life has been so profoundly shaped by those who taught her so might she influence the students now under her tutelage.

“Sometimes I wonder if my students are going to keep going in music but for the most part I just take it a lesson at a time and a couple months at a time when I am planning out lesson of where I think the student is going to go. I think I would be a little too daunted if I spent too much time thinking that someone is going to end up in the same position as me. It would be really nice and really touching.”

To those who guided this newly inducted music teacher towards her goal Murley says that she has only two sincere words. “ ‘Thank you,’ because they have shown me where my passion is and if I hadn’t had their direction I think I would still be wondering what to do with my life.”

Rug Hooking Legend

Marjorie Judson continues to inspire

Meet the Mentor
by Nina Linton

Marjorie Judson with her favourite rug, made with wool she dyed by hand (photo: Nina Linton)

The mere mention of her name in certain Island circles brings tales whose hushed tone is more fitting of a mythical being than an 88-year old woman. More than a legend, to the people with whom she has shared her knowledge of rug hooking, she is an inspiration.

Marjorie Judosn has been teaching the old-fashioned craft of hooking mats for over forty years through out North America, as well as at home on Prince Edward Island. “I love rug hooking,” exclaims Judson, who first absorbed the craft as a child watching her grandmother diligently pull loop after loop of old, shredded wool through the rough burlap of recycled feed sacks.

But it wasn’t until her forties that Judson took up hooking, beginning like many of her students, a novice. Learning the craft quickly Judson put down her hook and picked up a pointer when there was a shortage of teachers, and soon became recognized as an absolute authority in the craft. “I know when I first met her, I had already heard about her. I mean she was the most knowledgeable person when it came to hooking. Her reputation preceded her,” says Joan Bartlett of the Island Matters rug hooking group.

Bartlett has many fond memories of Judson who has gladly participated in local rug hooking circles like Island Matters, mentoring hooking friends on an informal level. “We often catch ourself saying her phrases, like ‘light and bright makes the eye go back,’” chuckles Bartlett about their dear friend.

“I try to give students the confidence to use their own experience. If you don’t find a way for them to see the light then you are only regurgitating information and the student goes away without learning,” says Judson.

As a teacher Judson has been described by her students as kind yet no nonsense, patient and creative, with a wealth of hooking knowledge and sense of humour. Helen Dawson, a past community school student of Judson’s, reveals that what she really liked about Marjorie’s classes were that “she would give you her advice but never demand that you follow her advice. She taught me everything, and I love it,” says Dawson. “She has inspired me to keep on going and continue hooking.”

For Judson this is what it is all about, inspiring people to take up the craft she fell in love with so many years ago. With her life’s work totalling fifty beautiful rugs, the majority of rugs influenced by Marjorie Judson were hooked by the hands of others; which the dedicated teacher wouldn’t have any other way.

To Bartlett, Judson’s close, hooking chum, Marjorie learned just as much from teaching people as the people in her classes. “When she hooked something there was always a purpose. As if she was teaching herself something first because then she was going to teach it to others.”

Montgomery Theatre

Duncan McIntosh announces plays for 2009 season

by Nina Linton

Duncan McIntoshRiding on the successful high of a first season, Duncan McIntosh the artistic director of the Montgomery Theatre, plans to light up the stage again with their 2009 productions.

The two carefully selected theatrical pieces chosen for the professional theatre company are Private Lives by Noel Coward and The Four Poster by Jan de Hartog. Keeping in tradition with the theatre's objectives, both of these on stage comedies showcase the wide influence of Island writer Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Private Lives, written by Englishman Noel Coward, is a witty comedy following a once married couple on their second honeymoons, new spouses in tow. Set in a swanky hotel in 1929, Private Lives shares the story of Amanda and Elyot, who divorced five years previous. Remarried and honeymooning in adjoining hotel suites on the French Riviera, the duo quickly realize they are still in love and can't live without each other, and elope.

Back in Amanda's Paris apartment the two rekindled lovers slip back into old ways and begin quarreling. This leads to an all out knock-down physical brawl, just as their two new sleuthy spouses come knocking at the door and the real excitement begins!

This love story about two middle aged people who can't stay married and can't stay apart has been considered hysterically funny since it was written in 1929. It has been credited as having Coward's best dialogue, continuing in the vein of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest.

Know as "the Master" Coward was a king of theatre. Born in 1899, Coward read Anne of Green Gables as a youth and Montgomery's influence can be seen in his comedic writing.

The second production The Four Poster was written by Dutch writer Jan de Hartog. Hartog was a well-loved novelist and the Toni Award winning The Four Poster was the only play he ever penned.

The Four Poster portrays the life of a middle class couple's marriage, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A two-person play, The Four Poster is a captivating romantic comedy that unfolds in a series of 12 scenes with the couple Agnes and George either getting into, out of or stationed in their four-poster bed.

Receiving the four-poster bed as a wedding present, the two nervous newlyweds begin the play fumbling around consummation on their wedding night. The Four Poster continues to chronicle the laughter and sorrow, hopes and disappointments of a marriage through children, extramarital affairs, careers, empty nest, downsizing and death.

In this production the lead actress playing Agnes will, in a Montgomery twist, be donning 12 to14 gowns all of which will be recreations of originals worn by Montgomery during corresponding years.

The Four Poster mirrors the marriage of both Montgomery, as well as her fictional character Anne Shirley, over her eight novels. Montgomery was married between 1910–1942 and this play brings to light the times in which she lived as a minister's wife. "This is a perfect examination of what a married life was like between 1890 and 1925 which is the period when Anne Shirley's marriage was, up until we finish the story in Rilla of Ingleside. It is really the marriage and lifetime of Anne Shirley," says McIntosh.

The Four Poster opens July 14, 2009 and runs 18 shows, wrapping up August 21, 2009. Private Lives debuts July 15, 2009 and runs for 18 performances, finishing August 22, 2009.

Tickets for both productions will be available on February 16, 2009, with advanced member sales beginning November 14,, 2008. For information visit or contact the box office at 902-963-3847.

Aunt Maud's Recipes

Anne 2008

by Nina Linton

Elaine Crawford with L. M. Montgomery's handwritten recipe book. (photo: Nina Linton)Christmas conjures up scenes of crammed kitchens and over stuffed tables. The enduring tradition of Christmas dinner has been continued through time by countless women who have prepared savoury meals for their loved ones, and Lucy Maud Montgomery was no exception.

Renowned for her literary skills, Lucy Maud Montgomery also had a keen interest in fine foods and took great pride keeping a "good table," both of which are staples during the holiday season.

Christmases in the Montgomery-MacDonald household in Ontario included the presentation of meals made from the many recipes that Montgomery brought from Prince Edward Island.

Elaine Crawford, a descendant of the Macneill family, who were once inhabitants of Green Gables farmhouse, inherited Montgomery's handwritten cookbook from her mother, Marion (Webb) Laird, in the 1980s. Some years following, Crawford, along with her daughter Kelly, published a selection of recipes from Montgomery's personal collection in their cookbook entitled Aunt Maud's Recipe Book.

Crawford believes Maud started her book over 100 years ago in Cavendish where she prepared meals for her grandparents. Today the fragile manuscript lives in an archival case in a safety deposit box.

The original antique ledger pages are tinged brown with years of use. The crisp paper edges are ruffled from domestic thumbs that sourced its pages for meal after meal. Montgomery's fantastic script documents recipes that stood the test of time; passed down from mother to daughter, and neighbour to neighbour. These once routine recipes now serve as a guide to the way food used to be made.

"They are very basic recipes. You do notice a difference: there is liberal fat; you don't see many salad recipes as in the winter there were no fresh greens; and they used a lot of sugar. Everything was wholesome—a more natural way of eating," says Crawford of these historic recipes.

Of Crawford's favourite recipes from Maud, new moon pudding and Park Corner ribbon cake are listed in the book.

Crawford, an avid baker herself, opened a small bakery in Norval, Ontario, where Montgomery once called home, in the 1970s . She chose to mix in one of Maud's own cake recipes with her batch of baked goods. Offered year round, 'Maud's Christmas Cake' is a tummy-pleasing version of a holiday standard.

In Montgomery's household Christmas dinner was usually served the evening of December 24th with the main course being a large feathered fowl.

Maud's overtly written instructions walk the reader through such typical turn of the century Christmas cuisine as roast goose. Her first step is to "singe off all hairs and down by holding the goose over a burning twisted paper." This is followed by an anatomical lesson instructing the careful removal of entrails including an oil bag located in the tail. She councils that "if there is any disagreeable odor wash inside and outside with soda water."

The rest of the delicious menu for Christmas would include such dishes as stuffing, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, carrots, and Thanksgiving salad chased down with Montgomery's own raisin wine.

Rich desserts like maple creams, mincemeat necessaries, or Queen of Plum Puddings with brown sugar sauce often graced the table as the final course.

Some of these foods from Montgomery's life are also found in her fiction. Anne made plum pudding farcically famous when a mouse drowned in the sauce, and the recipe was resurrected some volumes later for the holidays in Anne of Windy Poplars.

This Christmas Montgomery's antique cookbook will make it's appearance at a commemorative bazaar held in Norval, Ontario, fittingly, in a season where it may have been used the most.

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