Sara set me the task of writing a sonnet for my daily writing exercise. Here’s what popped out:
You can find a good cider almost anywhere apples are grown, but England has some of the best. In today’s post, I’m serving up these two Thatchers ciders—Rascal and Katy—with a sampler from chapter one of my book Pairings: The Bible and Booze. Why this pairing? Two simple reasons:
1/ “Rascal” is yet another in a steady stream of apple cider branding that portrays the product as “sinfully good,” “temptingly tasty,” and “devilishly delicious.” Notice a theme here? Without necessarily mentioning the Garden of Eden, many cider companies rely on advertising and logos that “tap into” images of apples and temptresses that we think are from Genesis. But are they really biblical? This brings us to the second cider…
2/ “Katy” is the name of one of the biblical scholars I quote in the chapter – Dr Katie B. Edwards, Hebrew Bible specialist, BBC broadcaster, and author of Admen and Eve: The Bible in Contemporary Advertising. In Admen and Eve, she shows how Eve has been so consistently portrayed in art and in advertising as a “femme fatale” that we forget that that’s NOT how she’s actually portrayed in Genesis! There are many other ways of reading the story of the Garden of Eden without linking an apple (iffy) with Eve as solely responsible for original sin (look to the Church Fathers for that one).
Katie was kind enough to write an endorsement for the back cover of Pairings.
You can read more about Genesis 2-3, Katie, and the secret history of apples, in chapter one of Pairings: the Bible and Booze, “Low-Hanging Fruit: Apple Cider and the Second Creation Account.” Each chapter of the book pairs a specific drink with a specific biblical text. Chapter one pairs the Genesis creation accounts with either a fermented cider, like one of these Thatchers, or an alcohol-free farmer’s market cider, like the ones you can buy from Rougemont Quebec, or in the Okanagan, or the Niagara Peninsula, or the Annapolis Valley.
Order your copy at https://en.novalis.ca/products/pairings !
Oh, I like looking at that.
I can hardly believe it. I’ve been writing for decades. I’ve written short stories, academic papers, sermons, presentations, blog posts, a novel, and non-fiction memoirs and travelogues. I’ve been fortunate to have both academic articles and short stories published. But it’s been a waiting game to see whether a publisher would ever pick up one of the book-length manuscripts. Now it’s finally happened — a publisher said YES, and it wasn’t the manuscript I expected! But I’m SO happy that Novalis Press took a chance on Pairings: The Bible and Booze. One of the editors wrote: “I loved it! In fact I couldn’t put it down.”
Pairings will be out soon in Canada and the US, and will be coming out in French a few months later (translated by my friend Sabrina Di Matteo). It’s the first time I’ve signed a book contract. I even received the Press’s standard advance (completely unexpected for someone used to academic publishing). I admit it: it’s a thrill!
Not long ago they sent me some possible book covers. The one I picked (see above) is the choice the Press went with as well. It kind of looks like a Bible, doesn’t it? I love the retro feel, the woodcut approach. And the old-school Bible colour.
So what’s in the book? Here’s what my pitch said: “The manuscript represents the latest biblical studies research. Its commentary on popular biblical texts – arguing tongue-in-cheek for why they should be twinned with certain drinks – is a delicious “taster” for both. Pairings feels like an excellent dinner conversation shot through with a gentle sense of humour.” I added that “Pairings: The Bible and Booze turns our natural curiosity about dissimilar items and our thirst for the old truths into a lively and inspiring book about the Bible.”
See for yourself….here’s the Table of Contents! Each chapter offers up two tasty suggestions – one alcohol and one alcohol-free – to match a passage. Some biblical studies types, friends of mine, have seen the pairings. They often disagree with my choice of drinks…but that’s part of the fun! You may have other pairings to suggest too, once you start to read. I’d love to hear your suggestions.
I hope to hold a physical copy in my hands very soon. I can’t wait. Look for more news in the coming weeks!
On the recommendation of Ken Wilson, I’m reading Something of his Art, a 100-page book by English-Welsh author and broadcaster Horatio Clare about a walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck, Germany. In October 1705, at the age of 20, a rebellious young Johann Sebastian Bach headed north on foot to pay a surprise visit to the elder organist and Baroque composer Dieterich Buxtehude. Clare and two others from the BBC recreated that walk, also setting out in the fall. The record of their trip – you can listen to a BBC podcast series about it – contains Clare’s reflections on everything from Bach’s temperament (students of the day carried rapiers to defend themselves) to ways that the autumn countryside – and our world – have changed because of climate degradation.
Ken loved the book; he told me I would too. He was right.
Clare walked 230 miles, roughly the distance we’ve covered in our treks on Treaty Four and Treaty Six territories. I’ve had the pleasure of singing works by both Bach and Buxtehude in various choirs over the years. And I’m a Lutheran, affected by years of hearing Bach, and by some of the same theological worldviews that inspired the composer.
But you don’t have to be musical or a Lutheran (or even a walker) to love this book: Horatio Clare is a rare treasure of an author. His rich descriptions will have you hearing the sound of their feet “through thick cushions of beech leaves, gold and bronze and red,” and seeing Lower Saxony “intricate and melancholy in the rain.” You’ll learn about Bach. More than that, you’ll find yourself walking along Thuringian trails greeting local farmers, or entering old-town Erfurt in the golden twilight. Anyone who has ventured on long treks will feel a thrill of recognition in Clare’s words: “Coming into town as night falls is a wonderful feeling after a day’s walk. You move through the streets, your eyes sharpened by the length of the day’s views, your feet tired and your muscles worked, alert and fatigued at once.”
Have you ever had nagging doubts about whether you behaved properly at some event? Or thought back on an experience, only to realize you now think about it in an entirely different way than you once did? It can happen in pilgrimages too. It was enlightening to check back with Ásta Camilla Gylfadóttir about our 2016 trek with her and a group of other Icelanders from Bær to Skálholt. I’ve been worried that with our English-language needs and our massive tourist luggage we eight Canadians “spoiled it” for the Icelanders that year. But for Milla, our walk is only a bright memory. For her, the fact that there were Canadians along on the Pílagrimar only made it better. I can’t tell you how liberating our recent Zoom chat turned out to be.
Which makes me realize once again that there are many parts to a walking pilgrimage: the journey is only one of them. A big part of any pilgrimage is narrative: the stories that gave rise to the pilgrimage (at Lourdes, for instance, the Marian appearance to Bernadette), but also the stories that come out of the experience of the pilgrims. Like the dozens of crutches left in Brother André’s chapel at St Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal, or the hundreds of pilgrim blogs, videos, books, and poems arising from the Camino de Santiago in Spain, these later stories “layer on” to the original narratives, making the original journeys richer, more complex, and more about the present. A pilgrimage stays ever-present – and ever meaningful – in its re-telling and sharing. For that I’m thankful.
I just posted the second episode in my podcast series “Pilgrimage Stories from Up and Down the Staircase”! In these 20 minutes you come along for the first part of the walk along the St. Cuthbert Way from Melrose Scotland to Holy Island, England. You’ll meet Chris and Clare, and find out why she’s Saint Clare, to me. I hope you enjoy the show, which you can find on Podbean here, and on Apple podcasts, here!
How do you walk a pilgrimage during these months of restricted travel? I’ve been walking up and down my staircase in Nottingham England, and dreaming of pilgrimages past! To share those stories I’m releasing my first-ever podcast, “Pilgrimage Stories from Up and Down the Staircase.” Each episode features a different trail, or a different character I’ve met. I’ll introduce you to enthralling paths in Norway, Scotland, England, Iceland, Canada and Indigenous territories, and provide some of the resources you’ll need to walk them. All the while I’ll be telling the stories of the fascinating individuals I’ve walked with and met along the way, and sharing snatches of our conversations, songs, and experiences.
Thursday, July 30, 2020, at 5 pm Montreal time, I’m releasing the first episode: “Walking the St Olav Way.” In the 17-minute episode you’ll hear snatches of our struggle up and down mountains and jumping late-spring run-off streams and boggy marshes. You’ll meet a friendly Norwegian border agent and a marathon German pilgrim struggling to understand his life. You’ll sit with us in rustic Budsjord Gård and hear fellow pilgrim Kathryn singing as we walked. I hope you’ll listen in to this first episode, and to the others as they come out every Thursday! The series “Pilgrimage Stories from Up and Down the Staircase” will be available wherever you find your podcasts.
To find out more about St Olav before listening to the episode, why not check out some of these resources?
- The official St Olav website, which you can find here, is a wealth of beautiful images and practical info (look for the English-language option)
- In 2011, Alison Raju wrote The Pilgrim Guide to Trondheim, available at this website.
- For my article about the history of the Trail and its modern-day recovery as well as some photos of our 2013 trek, see the International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage, here.
- For an article about the health benefits of walking the St Olav Way, written by a Norwegian scholar of pilgrimage in the same journal, see this link.
I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you on the “Pilgrimage Stories From Up and Down the Staircase” podcast!
Mostly because I haven’t owned a television in years, it’s taken me this long to get around to watching Corner Gas. I grew up in southern Saskatchewan. That alone should have made me an instant fan of the idyllic, nothing-happens-but-life comedy set in small-town Dog River (Rouleau) SK. It’s only now, holed up for the pandemic in a rental place in England with a flat-screen TV and a subscription to Amazon Prime, that we’re watching the six seasons of the CTV hit that first aired in 2004, produced by and starring Brent Butt.
There are no spoiler alerts in what I’m about to say. I haven’t seen the whole series yet, so I might be surprised by what’s to come. But so far, I love the show. It’s fun – and funny. It’s also tweaking my academic side. As a non-Indigenous person and a Canadian, I’m watching Corner Gas while at the same time working on several academic articles and peer reviews about decolonizing settler attitudes. I can’t help paying special attention to two characters in the show, Sergeant Davis Quinton, played by Lorne Cardinal, an award-winning Nêhiyaw (Cree) actor, and Paul Kinistino, owner of the Dog River Hotel and Bar. The latter was played first by playwright and actor Mark Dieter of Peepeekisis First Nation, and later replaced by the character of Phil Kinistino (played by Erroll Kinistino of Ochapowace First Nation). The last few episodes I’ve seen have been especially fun for the nuance and playfulness Cardinal is bringing to the character of Davis, who is becoming one of my series favourites.
In an article in the Anishinabek News, Keith Corbiere describes how as an Indigenous viewer the character of Sergeant Davis Quinton offered him a role-model different from the Hollywood trope of the stoic, silent “screen Indian.” From my non-Indigenous perspective I can add that Davis equally subverts the “strong silent cop” trope I grew up with as the son of a one-time small-town police officer in Swift Current, just down the highway from Rouleau. As an academic, I’m intrigued by the choice made by Butt to cast the roles of Dog River’s police officer and hotel/tavern owner with Indigenous actors. Perhaps this was accidental, but I doubt it. It strikes me as subversive, and positive. As Butt would also have experienced, in the small prairie towns in which I grew up both those roles were more often in conflict with Indigenous persons than embodied by them.
So far at least, Corner Gas never mentions the Indigeneity of two of its major characters, and occasionally of extras in the crowd scenes. It seems intent on a “normalization” of Indigenous presence in the fictional Dog River. As Cardinal said in an interview in 2004 in Windspeaker: “you don’t hear the flute or the eagle scream when I come onto the screen.” In a novel I’m putting the finishing touches on, I try in a similar way to incorporate the Wəlastəkwewiyik (or Maliseet) peoples of the St-Lawrence without focusing on them, normalizing the positive interactions between non-Indigenous characters and the Maliseet, and so tacitly recognizing Indigenous resurgence and presence.
In a quick library search and again on Google I found almost no reference to Corner Gas in relation to Indigenous issues. It would be interesting to know whether Indigenous actors, directors, and producers feel the historic sitcom’s portrayal of active Indigenous presence in southern Saskatchewan/Treaty Four territory is a positive step in decolonizing our Canadian attitudes, or a utopian portrayal of harmony that is ultimately troublesome to real-life 21st-century concerns…especially when Indigenous groups were “cleared” from those plains by Canadian government action in the 1870s. I imagine Lorne Cardinal has some thoughts on that. In the meantime, during this Covid-19 outbreak and in a time of social-distancing, I’m enjoying being a late-comer to Corner Gas’s fan-base.
Trying to bring one’s worlds together is the work of a lifetime, as fulfilling as it is challenging. I’m a biblical studies scholar interested in earliest Christianity and late Second-Temple Judaism. I research pilgrimage and journey, and try to walk paths and learn about the Land wherever I am. I’m also a Canadian trying to face some of the injustices against Indigenous peoples which created and help sustain my country. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m still learning, from First Nation and Métis friends, and from reading Cree, Métis, Maori, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe authors and scholars.
Out of this mix comes this reflection on reading the Bible through an “Aware-Settler” lens. If you’d like to know more about my own work on this, you can find the full academic paper published by Journal of Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies here: https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:26771/
If you’d like to know more about my sources, a Cree scholar whose methods have been of great help to me is Margaret Kovach Sakewew p’sim iskwew and her book: Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations, and Contexts (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009). I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Here is a film (a powerpoint with voice-over) about “Aware-Settler Biblical Scholarship.” My apologies that the sound for the first slide has somehow been cut off – it was simply me introducing myself as from Concordia University, Montreal, and a research associate at University of Nottingham, UK. If you listen hard enough, there’s also a cat and a train making an appearance in the background.
For some great photos and the reportage of these four students who walked part of the way with us, click on the link below… (and be sure to watch the very short video!)