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The Accidental Geographer: Thoughts on Coming Home

My friend, Edward, directed me towards the Internet and the podcast website entitled ‘The Accidental Geographer’.

Robert Maher View from Annapolis Valley

Edward, in his version of the concept, describes a field trip, where a group of students go into a pub for a beer. They then ask the bar man for a recommendation for the best local beer available at another pub. The journey (pub crawl) is affected by the random geographic information, they receive from each publican.

(if you Google ‘The Accidental Geographer’ you can find a selection of more profound Geopolitical podcasts).

My interpretation of the concept ( on all of us being an accidental geographer) is that life takes you to different places for a variety of reasons. In my case, primarily family related, we have been to Haida Gwaii, Iqaluit, Vancouver and now back home in the village of Paradise.

Paradise is my ‘home place’. Here I use the term within the context of Stan Rowe, who wrote a book of ‘Essays on Ecology’ under that title.

So after a year and a half on the road, what has changed in rural Nova Scotia in my “home place?”

Or alternatively, what has changed in my perception of Nova Scotia ?

There are two taking off points:

1) Is there a new literature that describes life in the province?
2) Is there new geographic information that encourages greater access to the places and resources in the province ?

The answer to both questions is a resounding ‘Yes’, as we look at things with fresh eyes.

Its hard to return to the Annapolis Valley without going back to the writing of Ernest Buckler. A visit to the local Lawrencetown library led to the discovery of Marta Dvorak biography: ‘Ernest Buckler: rediscovery and reassessment’. Not an easy read, but important for those of us wanting to understand ‘slow living’.

Its impossible to return Nova Scotia without thinking about the opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. Two books that jumped off my bookshelf are:

– Scott Cunningham. Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia. Third edition.
– Canoe Annapolis County. A Paddler’s guide to Outdoor Adventure. Third edition.

Debra Ryan and Jim Todd have produced a new edition of the twenty seven paddling routes. The latest edition use colour orthophoto-based mapping

My final literary shout is for ‘The invention of Nature. Alexander von Humboldt’s New World’ by Andrea Wulf. She was the keynote speaker at the Esri User Conference in San Diego. This takes me back to Ernest Buckler. In the Mountain and the Valley,on page 291, when talking about the character, David:

‘When he grew up….. he knew he’d be the only man who ever went to every single place in the world and did everything in the whole world there was to do’.

It seems that von Humboldt had that opportunity over two hundred years ago.In the process, he produced a remarkable series of maps. Imagine following in his footsteps today.

Robert Maher Flowers Nova Scotia


Ernest Buckler 1952. The Mountain and the Valley. Holt Press.
Marta Dvorak. 2001. Ernest Buckler:rediscovery and reassessment. WLU Press
Stan Rowe. 1990. Home Place. Essays on Ecology NeWest Publishers
Scott Cunningham. 2013. Sea Kayaking in Nova Scotia. A guide to paddling routes along the coast. Third edition
Municipality of the County of Annapolis. 2016. Canoe Annapolis County. third edition
Andrea Wulf 2015. The Invention of Nature.Alexander von Humboldt’s New World. A.A.Knopf.

From the Internet, google ‘The Accidental Geographer’ or you can search the Esri User Conference and watch the video of presentation by Andrea Wulf.

2 comments on "The Accidental Geographer: Thoughts on Coming Home"

  1. Bob Maher says:

    This Summer, the Nova Scotia government announced the ‘blue route’ , a network of bicycle trails throughout the province. It is possible to imagine viewing the landscape from a diversity of perspectives : hiking, bicycling, canoeing and kayaking. As Thoreau found (Wulf p.258) ‘there was no need to go on an expedition to distant countries. Why not travel at home ?’

  2. Bob Maher says:

    On the photographs. The first is looking towards Bridgetown from the Valley View look off.
    Bridgetown is in the foreground. The road goes up onto South Mountain to West Dalhousie.
    Ernest Buckler lived there for part of his life.
    The second is the front yard in Paradise.

Comments are closed.

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