Episode 6: The Master Canoe Builder

For a few weeks in September, Chuck Commanda taught a group of young people how to build a birch bark canoe at the Canadian Canoe Museum. When I arrived to interview him, they had almost finished building it. The boat lay in the middle of the museum’s skills workshop and looked like it was nearly ready to hit the water.

The ground was covered with wood shavings and the builders were idly picking away at little bits of wood that needed to be shaped to go into the canoe.

Chuck told me about how they had taken the bark off of the tree for this canoe  carefully, but also quickly. And about the work they had done to get the canoe put together. He also told me about how he learned how to build canoes and learning from his grandparents. In fact, in order to get to the skills workshop I passed a canoe that he had built in his childhood with his grandparents. He took me back to that canoe and told me more about it.

I had a lovely time speaking with Chuck and getting to know him a bit. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Canada’s relationship to the canoe and my own relationship. Seeing the process for how it was built and speaking with Chuck shed some light on how he felt about it, as well as how he was channeled into that type of work.

He had initially connected with basket-weaving as a way of reconnecting with the memory of his grandmother and with his culture, but in some ways the way he could make a living off of this work was in canoe building. And as beautiful as his canoes are, I wonder if settler Canadians have a certain fixation with this type of boat.

In any case, Chuck spoke to me about the contentment he gets from doing this work, and I’m grateful that he spared the time for me.


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Episode 5: A live pastiche

Live from Sadleir House, Sounds Like Life braved a performance in front of a live studio audience. Part of Peterborough Independent Podcasters Pints & Podcasts pub night, I joined a number of other vulnerable podcasters getting onto the stage to lay our podcasts bare for all to see.

I selected some sounds from the past year that I felt had some significance to the evolution of the show. I chose the first sounds I played on Sounds Like Life when it was a Trent Radio show, and some various pieces that stood out in other ways.

I also spoke about where this show came from, and how I think about it. In dwelling on those thoughts and where I’ve come from, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that this radio show and podcast was something I did when I was going through some emotional turmoil. It was a meditative way of considering my life and what was important to me.

I feel like I need it less now. But I still love doing this.

I think I’ll need to reinvent the show in some way.


Performed live by Dave Grenon, one half of the band Joyful Joyful.

Donkeys Philip and Andrew

Episode 4: The one with all the donkeys

There’s no question that the donkeys, mules and miniature horses at the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary in Roseneath, Ont. are well taken care of. Sheila Burns and her volunteers make the rounds every day to take care of these retired animals, many of which have stories of abuse and neglect.

One afternoon in December, Sheila invited me (along with the rest of Ontario) to attend a Carolling Afternoon with the Donkeys event. It’s one of her biggest fundraisers of the year and essential for doing the work she does. She relies entirely on volunteers and donations, and each were in ready supply that afternoon.

I’d estimate over 100 people turned out for the event, and they milled around, dropping little envelopes of donations in jars, and listening to volunteers tell stories of the animals. And I guarantee each animal has its own lengthy story. Sheila told me many of them, and that’s what makes up this episode.

The Donkeys

There’s Philip and his friend Charles who were transferred from a farmer’s trailer to Sheila’s outside a cheese factory in Campbellford. Those two and a few more were on their way to auction, likely to be slaughtered and made into dog food. Both are now spunky little donkeys who make the volunteers giggle and laugh for their antics. On the date of recording, Philip found himself a ball and was doing a little dance with it, to everyone’s delight.

Some of the donkeys have sad stories too, like Joey who was found in an abandoned farmer’s field frozen to the ground after sleeping on snow, melting the frost, then freezing himself in the puddle. Only because a neighbour came across the farmer’s abandoned chickens was someone alerted to the animal’s duress. While Joey was freed from the ice, he lost half of his tail and suffered severe injuries to his legs and belly.

Joey and many other animals are on the path to recovery in Sheila’s care. None of the animals are expected to work — only to heal and play.

This year many more donkeys were headed to auction than could be absorbed by farmers looking to buy. Hay prices were at an all time high due to last summer’s drought. When faced with the question of whether they can afford to keep the animals, many decided they could not. Sheila is almost at capacity in her sanctuary, as is the other Ontario sanctuary in Guelph. Even with the animals being adopted out regularly as pets, too many are being auctioned off.

I feel that I learned a lot from that one afternoon with Sheila and her animals. Not only the struggles to keep the animals cared for and happy, and the pressure to take more in, but also of the enormous compassion she has. And of course, I learned of the  many personalities of the animals themselves. It was a lovely afternoon.


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Episode 3: Lac Brochet [by Jeffrey Moore]

Wander with me through my last day as I reflect on the familiar thoughts and sounds of the schoolyard and my temporary home in Lac Brochet.

Lac Brochet is a tiny fly-in reserve in northern Manitoba. It is home to a little more than a thousand Dene and Cree people – and a few dozen outsiders trying to make a living or a difference. Lac Brochet is named after the pike of the lake on which the people of this community survived before the airport and the Northern Store.

The Sounds

The semitrailer arrived some time in January on the winter road, and was never opened. Just abandoned. It whistled and howled on windy days. There was a sadness to it that mirrored my own, and I felt content to let it be a mystery until this day. On this, my very last day in the community, I finally investigated where the mewling came from. I suppose I was worried some student of mine might ask what I was doing crawling around under a trailer before this. There was no woeful spirit in the trailer, of course. No anguish. Just physics.

I taught high school math in Lac Brochet. I think I did it to make a difference. I think I made a difference regardless of why I did it. But the burden of it all was too painful for me to carry on, and even though having to give up carries its own pain, I had to make the choice that kept me going and let me continue making a difference for someone, somewhere – anywhere but here.

The Music

The sounds are recorded within one hundred meters of my house, and within one hundred meters of the school. The music is noise I created with an electric guitar and a mobile phone’s EM field.

My name is Jeffrey Moore, and this sounds like life.


Episode 1: Trans-Canada Trail

The Trans-Canada Trail is touted as the longest network of trails in the world. When completed, it will span the length of Canada, going from the tip of Newfoundland, to the Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories, and over to Vancouver Island.

For my birthday, my partner and I went to none of those places. Instead, we traversed a tiny portion of the trail through Central Ontario: from Peterborough, through Hastings, and ending in Campbellford.

Our intention was to cycle from our home in Peterborough to Prince Edward County, where we would enjoy all the wine, cider, cheese, and vistas the region has to offer. But, what happened was that our speed is about half of what Google Maps expects it to be. By sunset on the first day, we had only made it to Campbellford, and stayed at an inn overnight.

Our own strength and stamina isn’t entirely to blame… only mostly. The Trans-Canada Trail between Hastings and Campbellford was also an intense obstacle. While not exactly mountain-biking, it certainly felt like it. A combination of loose sand and rocks between the size of your eyeball and the size of your fist, made it a bone-quaking, grueling ride.

Not only did the trail challenge our joints, but it also challenged our tires… and won. When we were setting out from Campbellford on the second day, we discovered my partner’s tire had a cut in it, made by one of the rocks. That little sliver let a bubble of bike tube out, which eventually exploded.

At that point, we called it a day and rented a car so we could enjoy some of our little vacation.

You can listen to the sounds of that journey: the bikes rattling, the conversation, the surprises and fears, and my reflections in this episode.

Music in this episode is courtesy of Montreal-based artist Le Berger.

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Below is the raw audio file of two cyclists making their way down the Trans-Canada Trail, between Peterborough and Hastings. You can hear the rattling of a bike, wind, and soft conversation. Feel free to download and listen to it. If you want to use it in a project, please contact me.

Episode 0: Bay & Bloor

The intersection of Bay St and Bloor St in Toronto is one of the busiest in the city. It’s a central spot in the midst of the city’s high fashion district. Condo buildings and skyscrapers create kilometers high walls around you.

I stood at the Northwest corner, with a transit station around the corner to my left, a road jostling with vehicles in front of me, and pedestrians chatting or rushing head-down before me. I was one of those pedestrians rushing head-down into the crowds, when I was pulled from the flow by the sound of a trumpet player.

His music challenged the flow of the city and I found it striking. With my recorder resting on a flower pot, I took in the scene around me, and enjoyed my pause in the flow of a city.

This is the first episode of Sounds Like Life – a radio show and podcast that reminds me to drift out of the flow and enjoy the scene.

Sounds Like Life is a proud member of PIP – Peterborough Independent Podcasters.