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Farewell Tour

Two Hours Traffic wraps it up with a final tour in December

by Bethany Koughan

Two Hours Traffic on the corner in 2005. (photo: Marianne Dowling)Over the past decade-plus, Charlottetown’s Two Hours Traffic have made a name for themselves as one of Canadaʼs best-loved indie rock outfits. From their startup as hometown darlings, their vibrant sound and unforgettable hooks have made them a favourite across the country. Their second full-length album, 2007ʼs Little Jabs, reached the top 10 in Chart Magazineʼs list of Canadian College Radio Top 50 and earned them a breakthrough in the form of a shortlist nomination for the Polaris Music Prize. Theyʼve since appeared at the Winter Olympics, been featured on a myriad of magazine covers, and can boast placements on some major American television series including Gossip Girl, The O.C., The Office, and One Tree Hill. Having performed on four continents and won many industry accolades, Two Hours Traffic is undeniably one of Prince Edward Islandʼs greatest musical exports.

After a fantastic 12-year career, the band announced last week that they will be wrapping it all up with a string of farewell shows scheduled next month. I sat down with founding members Liam Corcoran and Andrew MacDonald to discuss their decision, and find out what might be in store for the four gents in the near future:

Buzz: Letʼs talk about your decision to stop performing as Two Hours Traffic. Youʼve made it clear that it was an amicable decision, but can you tell us what sorts of things factored into the decision? How do you decide when to move on from a project which has been so successful for you in the past?

Andrew MacDonald: When we set out to record Foolish Blood we knew that there was a good chance that it would be our last recording. Derek [Ellis, drummer] was seriously considering returning to school and unless the record really took off, we knew it would be tough for him to continue on with the band. When he finally made the decision to go back to school, we discussed the possibility of getting another drummer but it just didnʼt feel right. We were really happy with how Foolish Blood turned out and we felt it was a good note for us to go out on.

Liam Corcoran: I also feel that we reached a certain creative limit with Foolish Blood. We are extremely proud of the record and I’m not sure where else we would have to go with our sound. I think we could get together tomorrow and create some cool music, but I don’t think it would fit into the THT world.

Buzz: As fans may have noticed, in 2012 you parted ways with guitarist Alec OʼHanley and also made a move from longtime producer Joel Plaskett to work with Darryl Neudorf. By most accounts this change was well received and provided a recharged sound for your most recent recording, but is it fair to speculate that this shuffle in some way influenced the decision to step away from the band?

LC: If anything, the making of Foolish Blood prolonged our career. We weren’t sure if we could continue after Alec left the band. It took some soul-searching but we decided that we’d never forgive ourselves if we quit at that moment. So we started the search for a new member…in the end, we got Nathan [Gill] to play bass and Andy became the lead guitarist. When it came time to record everyone was in agreement that we should step outside of our comfort zone, which was recording in Halifax with Joel. Without Joelʼs help and encouragement we may have never made it past our first EP. He was much more than a producer for us. We just felt that for Foolish Blood, we needed to try something new, if only to challenge ourselves.

AM: A friend of ours, Matt McQuaid from Holy F*ck, recommended Darryl and we hit it off right away. We spent two weeks at his studio in Mono, Ontario and it was fantastic. Writing and recording that album was a real pleasure.

Buzz: Youʼve had a pretty stellar career, especially for an East Coast band. Having had the chance to play internationally and work with some industry greats, what would you say are your biggest accomplishments?

LC: Getting shortlisted for the Polaris was cool because it put us on the radar across the country. I think our biggest accomplishment was simply touring as hard as we did and becoming a headliner in our own small way. When we started, it was all about getting to open for big bands: that was the dream. I credit our manager, Larry Wanagas, with showing us that that was perhaps not the best goal. He made us believe that we had to be the show, and in the end it's a lot more rewarding to headline a small club than open in a stadium, at least in my opinion.

Buzz: After more than a decade in the business, what would you say are your biggest criticisms of the industry, or the process of trying to make it as a band?

AM: In terms of industry, just how terrible mainstream radio has become. I donʼt understand what happened to make rock radio so unlistenable over the past 10 years, but Iʼm crossing my fingers that one day things will be set right and great Canadian bands like Zeus and Rah Rah can dominate the airwaves.

LC: Itʼs also very difficult to make a living in a band right now, and being in an indie band is basically like running a small business in an extremely saturated market; itʼs tough to succeed. There's not much point in complaining about it, but if you're willing to stick it out and sleep on some floors for a while, I guarantee you'll have some of the most amazing times of your life.

Buzz: Youʼve managed to establish and grow your career over the past decade from PEI—which, as Canadaʼs smallest province, is arguably an isolated part of the country. How do you think this affected your direction? Did it make progress more difficult, or was it integral to your development?

LC: Staying on PEI definitely became a big part of our story, for better or worse. We resisted and ultimately never gave in to the industry standard of re-locating to the biggest centre possible. Sure, we might have missed out on some opportunities by not being in Toronto but we didn’t see that as a good enough reason to leave behind the pace of life we enjoy in Charlottetown. We did a lot of driving, but a band like Hey Rosetta! has done a whole lot more.

AM: We are so much happier at home and I think the music is better because of it.

Buzz: What lessons have you learned from this whole process that you will take with you going forward professionally?

AM: We have had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great people. Joel Plaskett in particular taught us a great deal. We have all learned so much about songwriting, production, and everything that goes into making a band work. More than anything, though, it is the friendships that we have made along the way with other bands that has made it all worth it.

Buzz: What has been your favourite/ most unforgettable experience as part of THT?

Both: Hard to pick just one.

LC: I never thought I’d be able to say this: after finishing up a 10-day tour of India where we performed in 3 different cities, we spent the final day watching the World Cup Finals in cricket where India was facing Sri Lanka. We sat drinking beer with our guide, Nihaal, and peppering him with questions until we more-or-less understood the game. India went on to win the match and the whole country went into celebration mode. It was an amazing way to cap off the trip.

AM: I feel really grateful that we have been able to travel as much as we have. We have been across Canada, throughout the US, we had our first European tour last year, and weʼve even been to India and Australia. I feel very lucky to have travelled so much doing what I love.

Buzz: Any plans for the future, musically? Is it time for a break, or are you envisioning new projects already?

AM: I haven’t envisioned a new project yet, but Liam and I will keep writing songs together. I’m not sure whether that will lead to a record any time soon, but in any case I’m looking forward to starting the writing process again.

Changing Environs

Experiencing Catherine Miller’s exhibition at the Confed Centre

by Judy Gaudet

Root people by Cahterine Miller (photo: Buzz)I stand and imagine I’m inside the glass case, among the green fronds as they fall in soft curtains, softer fragments, shot with silk threads, lit with glass beads. It’s a wall of seaweed, the colours and textures lovely. There are four glass cases. In the next, an opposite world—a wall of cement blocks covered in assorted fabrics. In the third there are a row of fabric sculptures of potato plants, some doing well, some with their leaves rather blighted. The reason is in the root, where some plants produce families, houses, and others taps running with polluted water, embroidered money, dead fish. In the last case there’s an abandoned house, knit from cotton thread, like an abandoned fish net lost at sea, or houses in the country where the families have joined the urban exodus. It’s a sensuous world Catherine Miller creates, colours and textures from cotton, wool, silk, organza, wire, threads and beads. But also a pointed one—where the viewer must consider both the beauty of the Island landscape and some of the dangerous effects people may have on it.

These experiences are part of the display of fabric art in Catherine Miller’s exhibit Changing Environs presently on at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. If you come in through the Richmond Street entrance you will first see these four large display cases in the lobby, then continue into the downstairs gallery. Here my eye is drawn to the beautiful fabric art scenes on the right wall, that seem to offer sheer pleasure. I suppose you can go round the room in any order. But I save those for last. To the left there are more things to think about, the sun setting on a corner store and rural post office, a dried river bed, a house roof inundated in the ocean, a series of six lighthouses, three standing and three fallen. The message here is clear: change is loss, may be threat, an island is vulnerable to economic pressures, environmental degradation, to global warming. I’d heard about the maps of the Island in various stages of drowning, but found them more moving than I’d expected; there’s a loveliness in the rusted nails woven into the white fabric to make the shapes of the land in various levels of ocean rising, one material finding its various possible equilibriums within the other.

In the middle of the floor, a strange other map of blue lace doilies and embroidered money draws a further social conclusion, as does the rowboat carrying the Island’s symbolic oak tree with its roots wrapped for transplanting, rescued in a kind of ark in the flood.

Last is the wall of beautiful fabric scenes. The thread painting in which the planted field, the house and stream and the golf course share the upper section, all contributing to and relying on the water table and the well in the bottom part of the picture, reiterates the theme of warning. But I study the other two fabric paintings—the vivid trunks of a forest opening onto the shore, red cliffs holding their position against the calm and deep blue ocean. Sunlit, beautiful, rich. They remind me of what we still have, our Island, vulnerable, yes, and yet so full of wonder still, and worth our love and care.

Sweetheart of a Film

Jenna MacMillan and Ann Thurlow film debuts at IMAF

by Laurie Brinklow

Norma Jean MacLean and Chris Francis and on the Sweethearts set at The Green Man, Vintage and Vinyl.For as long as I’ve known Ann Thurlow, she’s been writing stories in her head. While washing dishes or dropping off to sleep, the long-time CBC broadcaster, journalist, and editor creates quirky characters mired in unlikely situations—then shares them with her friends. Now—not content to publish a short story or a book—Ann has teamed up with Jenna MacMillan to make a film of one of those stories.

Called Sweethearts, the 12-minute film premiered at the Island Media Arts Festival May 8. Featuring total newbies Norma Jean MacLean and Chris Francis alongside actor Lennie MacPherson, the film tells the story of a vintage store shopkeeper who goes home every night to her deadbeat boyfriend. When customer Chris, who is sweet on Laura, finally gets up the nerve to ask her over for dinner, she agrees—with hilarious results.

Ann says, “The movie is about food: Jeff can cook, and Chris can’t. Everyone knows somebody like Jeff—the stoner who collects records and organizes them by sidemen. But they can’t all cook.”

Ann wrote the script just after Christmas, and they filmed it during a blizzard in February. Says Jenna, “Everyone came—even shoveled the sidewalk. They just wanted to make a film.”

“Everyone” included a team of visual and media artists who generously offered their time and considerable talents for free. Kelly Casely and Roger Carter offered their store, The Green Man, for the film’s primary location. “Even my mom (Mary Beth MacMillan) volunteered her incredible cupcake design skills,” laughs Jenna.

Ann says writing the script was easy. “At CBC I produced hundreds of pieces of video and audio. How to structure a story is ingrained in my heart. Once I got used to the idea that I could make people say what I wanted, rather than finding clips, it just kind of went.”

Jenna graduated from Toronto’s Ryerson film program in 2010. “I worked in Toronto for a year on various film projects but struggled to make my own films. When I came home to make Fine Tuning last summer, I fell in love with the community. I’ve already made more films here than I did in Toronto. And here you can get coffee shops and vintage clothing stores to open their doors without having to pay $1,000 a minute.”

Indeed, the film cost $400 to make—much of it to buy candy for the counter scenes.

Next up for the duo are two companion films to Sweetheart, and Jan Rudd’s Mrs. God, of Drill Queens fame, for which Ann and Jenna are planning a fundraiser this summer: a screening featuring three of Jenna’s films: Sweethearts, Fine Tuning, and the documentary Redheads on Redheads—plus a visit from Mrs. God herself.

Ann says making Sweethearts was a team effort. “I was just so impressed that nobody brought any ego into it. It’s the ethos of here that allows such projects to happen. Everyone just wants to help each other. Where else in the world can you say, I think I’ll make a movie and then just do it?”

Something in the Water

A group portrait and video of Prince Edward Island musicians

by Anna Karpinski

Anna Karpinski lines up her subjects for Something in the WaterThe idea to photograph a group portrait of Island musicians was conceived, as many things are, at the kitchen table over a couple of beers. We were talking about music and I was commenting on how I wanted to do a photography project on the music scene here on the Island. It seemed to me that good things were happening, people were writing songs, making CDs and touring noticeably more than when we first moved here 8 years ago. My husband suggested a photograph like “A Great Day in Harlem.”

“What’s that?” I asked. He proceeded to educate me on this iconic image.

The image was organized and taken by Art Kane for the cover of Esquire magazine in 1958. He invited jazz musicians, representing three generations of jazz history, to gather on 126th street in Harlem at 10 am for a group portrait. His biggest fear was that many would not show up at such an early hour since most musicians played until  3 or 4 in the morning. To his surprise 57 musicians came out: Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, to name just a few. The second challenge was to get the musicians to stop talking long enough to organize into a group because most were friends who had played together at one time or another and were too busy catching up to pay attention to the photographer.

Not much has changed since 1958... My biggest fear was that many musicians would not show up to stand outside on a freezing February afternoon. To my great surprise 76 musicians gathered for the photograph. And just as Art Kane warned, they were all too busy talking to pay attention to the photographer. Everyone was gathered in Memorial Hall at the Confederation Centre, drinking coffee and catching up. I was trying to get them to move in front of Province House but could not be heard over the conversations bouncing off the walls. After many failed attempts, a group of people next to me voted Mike Dixon as loudest voice in the room and his holler got everyone outside just in time to catch the good sunlight.

Mille Clarkes shot film footage as everyone naturally assembled into a group pose. When I looked through my camera lens the scene was incredible. Everyone stood looking straight ahead smiling and joking amongst themselves. There were musicians from younger bands like Boxer the Horse and Racoon Bandit standing together with long-time players like Chris Corrigan, Chas Guay and Scott Parsons. Katie McGarry, new to the scene, stood with Meaghan Blanchard, Colette Cheverie and Cynthia McLeod. Tim Chaisson stood behind Allan Dowling who was beside Ian Toms and Glen Strickey and so on and so on.  It was a magical moment; a crowd of passers-by started to form to watch the proceedings.

The photograph and documentary film, both entitled Something in the Water are being exhibited at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery as part of the Warming Up exhibition curated by Pan Wendt. The exhibition runs from April 2 until June 19. An opening reception will be held at the gallery on April 2 at 7 pm.

A great thanks to all the musicians who came out for the shoot and to our sponsors, The City of Charlottetown, The Buzz, The Island Media Arts Co-op and Music PEI. A special thanks as well to Ryan Wilson for assisting on the photo and Adam Perry for assisting on the filming.


Interview with Jim O’Leary

by Heather Doran

Jim O'LearyOn April 3 the PEI Symphony Orchestra will introduce their first Composer-in-Residence with the world premiere of his work Softly at Night the Stars are Shining. Jim O’Leary, an award-winning composer, will be joining the PEISO in the fall. Originally from Windsor, Newfoundland, O’Leary has studied at the University of Prince Edward Island, the School of Music in Pitea, and at Cambridge University. I asked Mr. O’Leary about the upcoming concert and his position as Composer-in-Residence.

The work you have done with the PEISO previously featured instrumentalists. Why did you decided to write something for voice?

I have written several works for soprano Helen Pridmore over the last 10 years, but mostly for her in a chamber setting. Discovering the vocal music of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski a couple of years ago provided the impetus to want to compose something for voice and large orchestra. It felt like a logical progress to write something on a large scale for Helen. Compared to writing purely instrumental music, the main deference obviously is that I had to consider Helen’s voice and how I would set the poems to music. Otherwise the process wasn’t any different than my normal way of composing.

Does our audience need to know anything about specific about your new work?  How do you want audiences to approach your work?

Audiences can approach my music in any way they want; what is important to me is that there is an audience. There is no right or wrong way to listen to music, just different musical experiences which every audience member brings into the concert hall. As a composer I am trying, within my own artistic vocabulary, to offer an audience something new and exciting while maintaining a drama that is accessible. I use a spatial set up in my new piece, dividing the orchestra into 3 distinct groups spread around the stage, which provides for very thrilling sonic possibilities; something I have tried to exploit. Helen Pridmore’s fantastic voice and the profound Polish poetry I employ also provide common ground for the audience. I think Softly at Night the Stars are Shining is the most engaging work I have composed to date and I hope to see a large audience to hear its premiere.

What will a position like composer-in-residence add to your development as a composer?

Working with one ensemble over several years is a fantastic way, through collaboration, to develop musical ideas on a large scale.  Conductor Jamie Mark is very supportive and provides me with artistic freedom, something I value. This is very liberating creatively, especially in combination with the tremendously positive attitude the PEISO musicians have shown towards my music when they previously performed my Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra and 3 Studies for Orchestra. I am looking forward to developing my musical language and embarking on new musical adventures in tandem with this dedicated group of musicians.

Your position with the PEISO obviously involves composing, but what else will you be doing?

I will advise the programming committee on contemporary works suitable for performance by the orchestra with an emphasis on Atlantic Canadian composers. I will also potentially be involved in pre-concert talks, workshops and other like-wise projects. I am looking forward to being part of the vibrant musical community on PEI.

The upcoming concert, A Fresh Turn, will also feature Bach Figural Chorales, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture and Schubert’s Symphony #9.  The concert, which begins at 2:30 pm, will be preceded at 1:15 pm by a pre-concert talk in the Studio Theatre.

Was It Made on PEI?

A quick investigation into the question of buying Island fine crafts

by Emily Jewell

Northern Watters display window is decorated for the season with Island-made itemsOver the mid-November weekend, Islanders crowded into the Confederation Centre of the Arts to attend the PEI Crafts Council’s 46th Annual Christmas Craft Fair for the chance to examine the wares of close to fifty vendors, the vast majority of which were Island-based. Those hoping to do some Christmas shopping weren’t disappointed. Craftmakers had an abundance of wooden crafts, pottery, ornaments, decorative plates, teddy bears, and a wide variety of jewellery on display and ready for purchase. Candy Gallant, who is associated with the Council, estimated that by the Fair’s end, thousands of Islanders would have attended the Fair. Clearly, there is no shortage of demand for Island crafts this Christmas season.

Although many of the vendors at craft fairs have studios that potential customers are welcome to visit and purchase from, there are relatively few places for customers to shop for crafts made by a variety of Island artisans on a year-round basis. However, options are available. Northern Watters Knitware, for example, specializes in sweaters but also carries crafts made by over one hundred other Island artisans.

I went to Northern Watters Knitware to talk to Wanda Watters, the President of the company, and Bill Watters, the Vice President. The husband and wife team, both originally from Nova Scotia, are obviously passionate about supporting Island crafts as part of their business. “We’re trying to promote to Island people that we have other Island crafts,” explains Wanda. “And it’s working quite well where people are coming in and buying the crafts for Christmas.”

Bill and Wanda see buying and selling Island crafts as being beneficial to both retailers and consumers. Selling Island crafts is a way for them to support the local economy and local artisans. “I know how hard it is to struggle as an artisan, especially for some people who are just working out of their home and they don’t have a store,” Wanda notes, “They can’t afford a store because they’re not making enough product to have a store to sell their product. I just want to help them.” The couple tries to garner exposure for Island artisans by encouraging them to label their products. “I tell artisans ‘Put your name on it.’ A lot of stores don’t want that, but for us it’s a selling point,” notes Bill.

Wanda acknowledges that local products may be more expensive but adds that customers are “buying quality. We stand behind our products. If something goes wrong, I’m sure the artisans would help to fix their product, the same as us with our sweaters.”

Island crafts are a hit with more than just Islanders. According to Bill, “People who come from all over the world want PEI products because they’re in PEI. They don’t want offshore products. That’s why we’ve been somewhat successful because of what we have within this store, it’s either PEI or Canadian-made products.” These products definitely travel. When asked how far away some of the customers interested in Island products live, Bill answers without hesitation: “Anywhere. You name it.” Bill and Wanda recall customers from Israel, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Spain and China, all of whom have bought Island crafts at the Watters’ award-winning shop.

Feeding the Devils

Report from the other side of the world — Tasmania

by Deirdre Kessler

Feeding the Devils

I am sitting at the desk in the Kelly Street Writer’s Cottage in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Returned here yesterday from “Sounding the Earth” conference in Launceston. Yesterday afternoon drove home on the Midlands Hwy. in left-hand car, my first experience driving on left-hand roads. It’s far easier driving than being a passenger in left-hand-driving country.

I was in this same cottage at this same desk in October 2007, writing the novel about whaling days, looking up and out the wall of west-facing windows to Mt. Wellington or to my right out the wall of windows to the north (were the light comes from in this hemisphere) over the roofs of Salamanca Place, the old sandstone warehouses along the city’s wharf.

Here are the European goldfinches, red-masked, black-and-white heads, yellow wing bars—very showy—on the clothesline in back garden, about four meters away. Behind them, lilac bush and bush-like geraniums, white iris in bloom. It’s full-on spring here. Now they’re on the ground, closer. Yesterday I saw a galah, wedge-tail eagles cruising the upper air, a harrier, a merlin-like small hawk on a fencepost, and six pairs of superb blue fairy wrens.

Yesterday morning, the “Sounding the Earth” conference over, my host, CA Cranston, the convener of the conference, wanted her other house guest, the ASLEC-ANZ (Ass’n for the Study of Language, Environment, and Culture—Australia-New Zealand) treasurer, Barbara Holloway, and me to see Tassie devils, so we set out to the west of Launceston, about an hour’s drive, towards the Western Teir, to Mole Caves, where there is a wildlife rescue centre and Tasmanian devil education centre.

One of the carers, Sonya, gave a handful of us a tour of the recovery pens, set out on a huge property with mountain backdrop, pasture, pond, and eucalypt forest where wallabies roam free. Sonya, a young woman of aboriginal background, went into one outdoor wombat pen, complete with sheltered place, leafy piles of eucalypts, a deep hole (dug by the wombats), where there were three little (now almost 20 kg) wombats that had been rescued from the pouch of mother killed by truck on road. She picked up one and held it like a baby, cuddled and interacted with the young female as she told us about wombats, then she passed the wombat to us, and, one after another, we held her!

Sonya grabbed a tall, lidded white bucket and we followed her around other the outdoor pens. In one, two rescued koalas, in another a spotted-tail quoll lolling in the open end of a hollow log, on its back in the sun; in other large, open pen grown wombats, still not able to care for themselves; in another, tassie devils, one a female with young riding her back, though she kept well hidden.

The spotted-tail quoll we saw, lolling in the sun, sweet little face and fat belly, turns out, says Sonya, to be a vicious killer, who claws and bites prey many times its size to death, lingers long enough only to drink the blood, then leaves the carcass. The devils, who have ability to detect a scent two kilometres away, find the quolls’ kills, eat the entire prey, clean up the site.  The quolls are the ones who gave the devils much of their early bad reputation: graziers and foresters would come upon devils over kill, not realizing that the devils were scavenging the quolls’ leavings and had not killed the lamb, sheep, wallaby, wombat, other creature.

Out in the rocky pasture was an enormous pen surrounded by low fence. In the interior of the pen were boulders and a stand of young eucalypts and patches of dense, brushy undergrowth. Sonya went into the pen, made soft pishing noises. A tassie devil came to her and she picked it up by the tail. She later told us the devils’ tails are not like cats’ and dogs’ tails, but very, very sturdy so it doesn’t hurt them to be picked up this way; also, they cannot turn around to bite a person holding them by the tail. I gather their spines are not very flexible, and this was evident in the way they lope.

Sonya came outside the pen holding, cuddling, comforting, a tassie devil, who clung to her with forepaws—serious claws!—on either side of Sonya’s neck. Sonya said this one had some trust in her and she in the animal, as she had had to care for her from early on. This animal has cataracts and is blind. We touched her surprisingly soft back fur, watched her snuggle into Sonya’s arms and neck. Sonya did not offer to let us hold this devil.

We then went around to another part of the exterior of the pen, while Sonya did likewise inside it, with the bucket. When Sonya emerged on the far side of the pen, she was followed by four Tasmanian devils, loping in their strange-to-Northern-hemisphere-eyes gait—something unmammalish, almost serpentlike about their undulating lope.

Sonya apologized to anyone of us who might be sensitive to seeing a dead wallaby’s leg, but said this is what the tassie devils eat (the roadkill on Tas roads consists of wallaby, wombat, possum). She pulled the whole, furry back quarter, leg and tail, of a wallaby from the pail and held it as the tassie devils took hold to tear at it until they could get mouthfuls. They eat every single bit—bones, fur, everything. We heard the vocalizations that frightened the colonizers and saw sun shine through the ears of the little creatures, which makes their thin ears bright red, the exact red of the native cherry tree that is part of the Dreamtime story of Sonya told us, about how the devils got their red ears and white stripes.

The four devils grabbed, clamped down on (jaws capable of 300 kg of pressure), and chewed through and ripped the hindquarter apart. A fifth devil joined them, creating a ruckus. The fifth and another devil sparred on hindlegs, making eerie and fierce growling, howling sounds before they fell on the prey again. One littler devil worked on the furry wallaby tail, not competing with the others for the bloody and fleshy end. Sonya told us the devils are social feeders, but obviously there was rank demonstration between the sparring pair.

Before long, as Sonja talked and answered questions, the wallaby was reduced to ragged chunks that individuals carried off under a dense brush cave to eat. We could see them dimly and hear the chewing and occasional growl. Tassie devils are gorge eaters, capable of eating three times their body weight. About 27 different vocalizations have been recorded.

After the formal tour, CA and Barbara and I strolled the grounds, went into the enclosure around an enormous pond that has marsh at one end. Black swans and Shell ducks in the water, on the banks. CA got the idea of asking Sonya if she could bring the ten orphaned Shell ducklings she’s been caring for to the pond. Sonya said yes.

Rehabilitated, able-bodied ducks and swans leave the pond to migrate, but many return to the pond annually. I’d been helping in the mornings to tend the Shell ducklings at CA’s place; CA said we could come together next week to free the ducklings into the pond area, where they will be safer than they would be in a farmer’s pond, as the ducklings are now acclimated to people, to CA’s cat, and to her daughter’s dog—the dog has some herder in her and rounds up the ducks, gently. Other cats, dogs, and possums will not be so friendly.

The ducklings have to be put in cat-carrier and kept indoors and warm at night, then let loose for a bit in the morning to eat some worms from CA’s worm farm. We then put them in a rabbit cage on new patch of grass every day. CA put a cup in the big water dish because the ducklings want to be IN the water, not just drink it. CA used to keep chooks, so she had a feeder. When I was filling the water dish from bucket of water, I tilted it to pour water into dish, and instantly the ducklings climbed in and swam in the water in the angled bucket.

It was wonderful picking up the ducklings to put them in the cage. Nine of the ducklings are from one abandoned clutch—the mother killed, and one, whom CA named Dyson after her vacuum cleaner, is a few days older and noticeably bigger than the others. CA said the little ones instantly followed Dyson as if he were the mother. While I was staying at CA’s, she discovered Dyson was a female (the mature feathers were coming in, replacing the baby fluff, and Dyson’s sex was obvious from feather colouration). So we renamed her Dysonia.

At the rehabilitation centre we walked along to a large, outdoor habitat, with netting about 8-10 meters off the ground draped from the huge eucalypts. Inside the pens. Three wedge-tailed eagles, larger than bald eagles, who cannot fly from injuries early in their lives—one of them has been at the wildlife centre for 20 years, one for 25.

Down in the eucalypt forest, we saw wallabies and fed them chook food from the little bags of it sold at the interpretive centre. Wallabys have soft muzzles, furrier than horses or deer. There is also a night-creature building on the grounds, kept pitch dark save for a few low-wattage lights near the glassed-front cages for owl, sugar-glider possums (very sweet! small as hamsters), snakes, skinks. Took some moments for our eyes to adapt from the sun-glare to the dark. The owl was awake, staring at us with its bifocal eyes in its soft feathery face.

A morning in this country at 40 degrees south latitude.

So much to see and learn.

Deirdre Kessler spent autumn 2010 in Tasmania, first in Hobart at the Kelly Street writer’s cottage, and then as artist in residence in the King’s Bridge cottage in the Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania.

Wood Islands Light

by Bev Stewart

For over one hundred years I have been standing proud and tall, shining my light out over the waters of the Northumberland Strait between Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia at the most southern tip of PEI. I was a home to my Light Keeper’s and their families for one hundred and fourteen years. My last Keeper retired in 1990. For the last 13 years, I have been a home to an interpretive museum. I have received a heritage award and a TIAPEI, Operator of the Year award in 2007. In 2008 I received a Genuine Island Host Award.

I remember the days when the Light Keeper’s children ran up and down my stairs. There was laughter filling my rooms, and the smell of good home cooking filling the air. Then in 1981 all was quiet, and my Keeper and his family were moved into a bungalow beside me. They still came to check on me on a daily basis, but it was not the same. Then in 1990 everything changed, my Keeper and his family moved away. My doors were locked and there was no one around. I was really all alone.

Then in 1997 there was another change. There was movement and activity in my rooms again. A non-profit organization had leased me. They had made plans to turn me into an interpretive museum. Slowly year after year the group turned my run down rooms into rooms with different themes. Now 13 years later, each of my rooms have a different theme.

My porch is now a nautical gift shop featuring many handmade Island crafts. My kitchen was redone to the 1950s style, where there are always complimentary food samples from the “Taste Our History” program. My two downstairs bedrooms were renovated into a Northumberland Ferries Room and an Interpretive Museum. My family room is now a Rum-Running Room.

On my second level there were once four bedrooms. There is now a Burning/Phantom Ship Room, a Fisheries Museum, a Light Keeper’s Quarters, and a Lady’s Bedroom.

On my third level there was one small room. This room was just for my Light Keeper. It was to house everything he needed to operate and work on my light. It is still the same today. But my hallway on the third level is now designated to the ice boats and ice breakers.

My lantern room is still as it was so many years ago. My light is still shining bright. To look out my tower windows is truly something to behold.

Each year I sat and watched the cliff in front of me get closer and closer…. I had approximately nine feet of bank between me and the Northumberland Strait. I feared I was going to fall into the Strait. Then in the spring of 2009 something unusual began to happen. There were men and machinery all around me…. I was then slowly raised up above my foundation…. I was rolled about seventy-five feet from my original location. I am once again safe from the waters of the Northumberland Strait. In June of 2009 my doors were opened for the season…

I am open daily from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm (last tour at 5:30) from mid-June until mid-September. I welcome school and group tours. 902-962-3110 (open hours), 902-962-3463 (off season)

Events Calendar

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