August 24, 2005

Proto-Inkslinger #11: A relaxing journey through Carbonear

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from Carbonear, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on Aug. 24, 2005

A relaxing journey through Carbonear

When you set your first foot on the Carbonear boardwalk, it feels like you are passing through a waterfall. Powell's Brook is surging beneath the bridge on its never-ending journey to the ocean. The roar of the water saturates your ears, like the roar of a crowd cheering you on at the starting line of an important race.

When you reach the crosswalk, look both ways and cross the road to get to the main section of the boardwalk, which is configured in a figure-eight pattern around two ponds. You decide to turn left and your feet thuds as you pass over another bridge, where several kids are trouting. To your left is a large pond called Rossiter's Pond, and there are a few boats bobbing on the surface.

You pass by a couple of fellow walkers. They greet you. You nod and smile. The boardwalk begins a gentle curve to the right and you look down at the still waters of the small nameless pond, which is connected to Carbonear Pond by an aqueduct. You pass by the small Aliant substation and approach another crosswalk. You cross the road, and your feet meets the wooden boardwalk once again. To your left, you see Carbonear Pond and hear the loud obnoxious quacks of ducks and the cries of seagulls. To your right is the old train track. You pass under a large tree. You enter the gazebo and gaze out at the pond. The pond is a virtual mirror, and you see the reflection of the Carbonear College of the North Atlantic campus reflected on it. You leave the gazebo and continue on course.

Up ahead looms the Carbonear Community Centre. The parking lot is devoid of vehicles. You hear the waves of the ocean crashing on the beach. The sounds fade as you make a sharp left turn. You're now on the top curve of the “eight”, beginning your return journey. You cross a small bridge and make a gentle left turn as the Carbonear CNA campus fills your vision. You can see a row of windows and through them, a solid line of lockers. You can also see the red door that leads into the main concourse of the College.

To your left, you can see Carbonear Pond. The ducks and gulls have gone their separate ways, their dispute settled for now. The boardwalk gently curves left and then straight. You pass by a rest stop with benches. You are now at the crossroads of the eight - dead centre.

You soldier on, crossing the road and passing the substation once again to undertake the final leg of the journey. The children who were trouting had moved to another place. One of the bobbing boats had moved across Rossiter's Pond, its relaxed owner looking out at the water. The sun reflects off the water, making it sparkle.

You jump off the boardwalk and approach the crosswalk. You cross and your feet makes a squelching splat as they strike mud. To your left is the ocean, and you have a wonderful view of Carbonear Island and the approaching waves. The sky is a deep blue and you feel excellent.

This particular journey is over, but the pursuit continues. This is my final editorial, and I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. I’ve archived all six editorials on my website - http://ca.geocities.com/hutchings_i/index.htm. Thank you for reading.

June 28, 2005

Proto-Inkslinger #10: Dealing with a speech impediment

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from Carbonear, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on June 28, 2005

Dealing with a speech impediment

We humans are social animals, and to get our ideas and concepts across to others, we talk. Some of us, however, find the simple act of talking more difficult than others. Some of us (one per cent of the world’s population, to be exact) stutter, which is a set of unusual communication patterns and odd behaviours that work together with the speech problems.

I’ve been stuttering since I was very young. Here’s a quick recent personal example: One evening a week ago, I had an intense craving for chocolate, so I drove to a convenience store to get a Mirage bar. The bars are behind the counter, so I had to ask for it.

"Um, a-a M-mmmirage bar, p-pleease." While struggling to get this simple request out, I was pointing at it. The lady behind the counter passed it to me, and with an embarrassed smile, I paid for it. I thanked her, and fled to my car.

My speech ebbs and flows. There are rare times that I can talk fluently, but more often than not, my syllables and phrases will repeat like a scratched record. When I block, I feel an intense strain on my jaw and face, and I must battle to get the word out. My self-confidence takes a dip and all I want to do is retreat. I stutter when I have to introduce myself – I always severely block on the first syllable of my own name. Phoning people is extremely difficult for me. I prefer emailing them or meeting them in person. You’d think that when I have a beer, because of alcohol’s relaxation property, I’d be more fluent. Not quite so – I get worse, actually. I find normal turn-taking conversation that everyone else takes for granted very difficult.

When I’m in a social situation, I only talk when I have to, or sometimes less, and generally keep quiet. People often comment on how quiet I am, but I’ve proven in the past that I’m not as shy as I seem. In high school, I ran for student council president, and read a speech to several hundred people. I taught classes in Cadets, and even won an award for my methods. I was a camp counselor for a summer. I’ve worked with newspapers in the past, and most recently at the library. Despite these accomplishments, I feel very small when I go into a stuttering block. I had several speech therapists when I was younger, but it was, and continues to be, difficult to put the methods I learned into practice in the chaotic world.

This is the main reason why I’ve chosen to be a writer. I prefer to write my thoughts down than to speak them. I bet when I propose to my future girlfriend, I’ll have to write it down on a slip of paper (laughs).

I often wonder how I must look to someone who is not familiar with me, or with the concept of stuttering. Those who don’t understand will grin patronizingly, snicker, tell me to spit it out, tell me not to worry, will break eye contact, or just ignore me entirely. Those who do understand will treat me like they treat everyone else: with human respect.

I have much more to say on this subject, but my space for this column is limited. If you’re a person who stutters, or if you’re curious about the subject (I’ve done a great deal of research), feel free to email me at hutchings_i@yahoo.ca.

May 4, 2005

Proto-Inkslinger #9: Touched by an angel

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from St. John's, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on May 4, 2005.

Touched by an angel
Classmate will never be forgotten

Cancer Awareness Week took place very recently. However, if there was ever a time that I was aware of cancer, it was then. A very good friend and fellow journalism graduate lost her life to that horrible disease. I had just finished working my first full week at the library when I received the news. I was stunned.

When you hear “cancer”, what images does it form in your mind? In my mind’s eye, I see a monster invading healthy cells – a monster that destroys and continues to destroy. It’s not totally invulnerable – it has been beaten by people before. My friend was confident that she had it beaten. Suddenly, the beast rose up, reared its ugly head again, and attacked when her guard was down.

Sometimes you can run, but you can’t escape. When he undertook his historical Marathon of Hope
from St. John’s in 1980, Terry Fox made us all aware of cancer. But no matter how far and how hard he ran, outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, the monster got him too.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, this year in Canada there will be approximately 149,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed and 69,500 cancer-related deaths will occur. 2,865 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every week and 1,337 Canadians will die of cancer every week. These appalling figures have reduced my friend to a statistic, since they were released April 12, 2005.

She was so much more than a mere statistic. She was an amazing human being with a heart of gold. She'd be there for you, even if her plate was already full. During our last year of college, she was the head of advertising for the Fall 2003 Troubador. I was the Managing Editor, but she was the true backbone for that edition (and her extra effort helped subsequent editions). I still remember the incredible amount of work she put into getting those ads when we were putting that paper together - this was on top of normal schoolwork and working at her part-time job. Without the ads, we wouldn’t be able to afford to print the paper. She was a little ball of energy and a light in all of our lives. She was very easy to talk to, and she was very understanding. A serious complaint coming from her was rare, perhaps non-existent. It's so unfortunate that her life was snuffed out at such a young age.
By the time we went our separate ways a year ago (coincidentally, this is being written on the same day we all split up one year ago), my small journalism class had a unifying friendship that transcended that of any friendship that I had with my high school class.

Since the loss of our friend and colleague, my former class’s camaraderie has become even stronger . . . and I never want to see that bond broken. The recent events have taught me to have a greater appreciation for life and everyone I know. Anything could happen. You never know how much time you actually have left with those you care about, or how much time you yourself have left.

So here’s my advice to you, dear readers: live in the present, and make the most of it. The future hasn't happened yet, and the past is gone.

Kayla will always be remembered with the greatest of love. She touched many lives. She always was, and continues to be, an angel.

March 9, 2005

Proto-Inkslinger #8: The fascinating world of books

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from Carbonear, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on March 9, 2005

The fascinating world of books

Whenever I walk in the Carbonear Memorial Library, I continually realize that it has come a long way from the little building next to the Royal Canadian Legion that I remember going to when I was growing up. The new Carbonear library that is established in the Community Centre is a work of art, in my opinion. It shares a building with the town council office and a 300+ seat theatre. You walk in, and right off the bat, you are awestruck by the amazing view of the ocean. One of my favourite places in the world is looking through the big twin windows that face the harbour. On a windy day, it feels like you are on a ship, the ocean fills your field of vision. A piece of glass separates you from the Newfoundland, Canadian, and Carbonear flags. When they’re flapping in the wind, it’s very exhilarating.

For several months now, I’ve been working as a substitute librarian at the Carbonear Memorial Library. It’s a very rewarding job. I’m dealing with the general public of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly. With a stamp, I sign books in and out. I help people with the computers. The four computers are almost always blocked solid. I show people how to find certain books (or at least point them in the right direction).

A librarian has to be able to multi-task. I remember one time, I was showing someone where to find a book, then someone came in with some books to be checked back in, and then the phone rang – all at once. Despite what some people may think, it is not a quiet, hum-drum job. Stamping books and putting their cards away is nothing more than a mechanical task. Since I’m just a substitute, I’m not always one hundred per cent sure where all the books are yet, but I have a better idea now then I did before. During the rare quiet time, I thumb through a paperback that may be lying around.
Books and writing have always been a passion of mine. When I’m at the library, I'm surrounded by millions of words and ideas that will surely inflame my creativity. There are many worlds here to explore, and ideas for future projects to be discovered.

In my opinion, every book is its own little world. When you open one, the author pulls you into his or her personal universe. Like television, it’s an escape from reality. Unlike television, however, you can use your imagination, which is more powerful than anything you see on television. And of course, the book is always better than the movie.

I'm definitely getting more comfortable with this job. My confidence is gradually increasing. Things are running smoother for me than they were previously. I'm not as nervous, and so fewer mistakes are being made. I'm learning the locations of all the books now (at least I hope I am), and thus I'm getting quicker at returning them to the shelves. I love the smell of books!

Pete Hamill, a famous New York columnist wrote me once with this advice, and I want to share it with you: “Read like a predator. Make it part of your food.”

January 12, 2005

Proto-Inkslinger #7: Separation may be an option

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from Carbonear, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on January 12, 2005

Separation may be an option

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941, according to the excellent docu-drama Tora!Tora!Tora! Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is said to have mused to himself, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” The Americans then thundered into World War II.

In recent weeks, the Atlantic Accord controversy is awakening a proud sleeping giant within us Newfoundland and Labradorians. We’re finally lashing out against Ottawa’s unfair treatment of us that has existed since Confederation. The words of Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente: “it's a good idea to keep picking the pockets of Chinese dry cleaners and Korean variety-store owners who work 90 hours a week in order to keep subsidizing the people who live in Carbonear, no matter how quaint and picturesque they are” is untrue, unfair, and definitely ignorant with respect to Chinese and Korean people, and the citizens of my hometown. The recent column by Wente has very much stoked the fires of Newfoundland and Labrador patriotism.

I’m a resident of Carbonear, a town in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is a member of the Confederation of Canada. In protest over the failure to resolve the Atlantic Accord, Premier Danny Williams has ordered all Canadian flags removed. I’ve joined the campaign by taking down a little paper Canadian flag that’s adorned my desk for months, and storing it respectfully in a drawer. Since April 1, 1949, we’ve had our valuable natural resources taken by Canada, and getting little in return. When the country grabs our candy bar and gives us back the wrapper with a shove, it’s time to make a stand against the bully.

When you read and hear some mainlanders’ uneducated opinions about Newfoundland and Labrador (you just have to go as far as the Internet), it’s saddening. I don’t like the term “Newfie.” While it sounds like a cute abbreviation of “Newfoundlander and Labradorian,” it’s not. In my opinion, it has the same connotations as another derogatory “n” word referring to a race of people. “Newfie jokes” seems to be a chief form of entertainment among the mainlanders. To us, it is a supreme insult.
Was the blatant removal of the Canadian flags a good idea? We’ve definitely got some national attention. But, it’s become an issue all on its own. Without a flag, it’s just an unoccupied flag pole. I would have preferred keeping the flag up (something visible to protest against), but at half-mast, or perhaps replacing the Christopher Pratt-designed provincial flag with the unofficial Republic of Newfoundland (green, white and pink) flag. That would be a sight to see.

The issue here should be the fact that we need that deal signed, and soon. Prime Minister Paul Martin made a promise to our people. It wasn’t put in writing, unfortunately, but it was recorded on the media. I remember watching him being interviewed on NTV back in June, and he was spouting these promises. In the back of my mind, I knew he wasn’t going to keep his word. This is why I didn’t vote for his party in the election.

Perhaps we need to do something really drastic with our relationship with Canada. We should quit Confederation, take control of our resources and our destinies and see if Canada begs the Republic of Newfoundland and Labrador to return.