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“Time passes slowly and fades away”- Bob Dylan

WE HAVE A fun piece inside this issue on water witching, or divining. It’s a bit of a hoot, really. But at the same time, it raises a question related to folklore and customs and the activities associated with traditional rural life here.

How long, for instance, may we expect there to be people around who can find an underground seam of water using a forked willow twig or some such device? 

How long will people continue to keep chickens and enjoy big orange double-yolked eggs in the morning? A generation from now, will there still be wonderful women who can bake bread and pies so good they shouldn’t be legal?

How many young people can even cook these days? How many could cultivate a vegetable garden? Do kids learn to knit now? Will new babies continue to be kept warm in hand-knit pure wool clothing—or will it just be something made in a Chinese sweatshop?

Do little boys still have jackknives in their pockets for whittling and such—or have the political correctness police put an end to that here, as they have in the UK—where a seven-year-old showing up at school with a tiny pocket knife prompts a call to the local constabulary and a SWAT team response?

How many teens today could build a fir-lined lean-to without tools, and spend a comfortable night in the woods? How many could light a fire on a rainy night? How many can still catch a trout and clean it for the table? Can they identify wild birds? Do they even care about wildlife? Who will assume that responsibility as the generations pass?

On Fogo Island not that long ago, we heard the cheery, cherub-faced local youngsters described as “the last of the free-range kids”—children roaming at large in a completely safe environment, where every neighbour knows their names and keeps and eye on them—and only circling back home when they’re hungry.

Life goes on: things change. Does it matter? 

Sure it does. Such things are part of the Atlantic Canadian DNA. Of course, some things must pass: families don’t rely on Father’s prowess in bringing home wild meat to make it through the winter anymore…

But some of the things we stand to lose as our young people are increasingly pre-occupied with the minutiae of Facebook communiqués and mindless texting are significant, and to lose them would be to lose our distinct character… 

And that would be very sad.

~ Linda & Jim Gourlay

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