HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 4, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


I thought of writing an essay titled "Chris Matthews and Western Brook Pond." But I don't guess I will do it. I haven't heard a word from Chris Matthews or any of his ilk for the past two weeks, and I'm not feeling the loss very sharply.

Being away from American punditry has caused me, occasionally, to reflect on what political zealots know and what they don't know. I can't help seeing that the ratio between the latter and the former is virtually infinite. I guess that's no more than the required relation between human ignorance and knowledge. But when I apply it to TV pundits, it causes me to think I should pay them less mind than I have sometimes in the past.

Lately, I've been attending more to the habits of sea gulls than to the habits of politicians. I can't say for sure that one is more, or less, interesting than the other. Neither can I say that one reflects rational practice more than the other. Viewing politics from a distance causes me to have serious doubts about the free will of humans.

We had a canister of cooked rice in the refrigerator that had grown a little too old for human consumption. So, yesterday, before we set out on our excursion, we dumped the whole thing in the bird feeding platform outside our window. When we got back last night, not a grain of it was left. The only mystery is I can't be sure whether it was carried off mainly by the sea gulls or the crows. The latter, by the way, here on Cow Head, are bigger than I've seen anywhere else. I guess this is good crow country. I wonder if they remain here in the winter and if they do what they find to eat.

Two nights ago in the harbor we saw a sleek sailboat from St. Paul, Minnesota. That got me to wondering whether you can float a sailboat from St. Paul to the St. Lawrence sea way. The maps I have available don't show me clearly whether that's possible. Geography has become a much bigger pursuit with me than it is normally. It has replaced TV. All in all, it may be more enjoyable.

At the only store in Cow Head which sells liquor, I splurged $15 on a 375 ml bottle of Scotch. I've been parceling it out to myself so it would last the whole stay, and I've been sufficiently careful so that for my last two nights here I'll be able to have slightly larger potions than I have heretofore. At home, I don't regularly drink Scotch. In fact, I rarely drink it. But here, with the ocean winds whistling around the cabin, it seems, somehow, just the right thing. A little Scotch is a good practice, whereas, at a single sitting, a lot of Scotch is not good at all. There may be some deep human lesson in that small truth. I can't be sure.

On Thursday, we catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia, and by next week this time I'll be able to write to you from Vermont, which in my mind has become immensely cosmopolitan. You can be on the watch for signs of increased urbanity when I send these notes next time.


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