Rose Seiler Scott


February 10, 2014
by Rose Scott
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Daily Post: Take That Rosetta! Meine Sprache


German is the language of my father and relatives on his side, but in spite of several years of formal instruction I still cannot carry on anything beyond a rudimentary conversation and native speakers would find my German grammar to be something between amusing and pathetic. Really, I would certain sure to be that you my meaning get.

Don’t get me started on multi-purpose prepositions, confusing verb declensions and important sounding, but baffling compound words. And the German articles, “die, der, das?” The tables I tried to learn in high school still haunt my dreams.

Not that German or any other language is more difficult than English with its mish-mash of unrelated words and irregular verbs.

When it comes to languages, I am certain God has a brilliant sense of humour. When the people of Babel thought they could reach God with their tower, he confused their languages. This language is going to have weird grammar and over here we have a different way of writing. And then, with this group of languages if you say a word a certain way, it means this, but a slightly different intonation… it could be really embarrassing.

I am fascinated by languages and the patterns and relationships between them. I would love to wake up being able to speak and understand another language. If it was German I could communicate with relatives that don’t speak English and find out missing bits of family history. I could read ‘Emil and the Detectives’ or Goethe’s poetry in the original. Oskar Kossmann, a German writer and statesman was a relative of my grandmother’s. His works of history, memoir and perspective on post-war Germany would be invaluable in researching that era.

Our choir is doing J.S. Bach’s “St. John’s Passion.” I would love to understand the lyrics as they were written, but I guess the poetic translation will have to do.

Anyways singing another language is the next best thing to speaking it, isn’t it?


November 5, 2013
by Rose Scott

Remembrance and Peace




Next Monday is Remembrance Day here in Canada.

Paper doves will vie for space with poppies decorating school gyms across the country. Inside the doves are messages about peace, written by children. The classic poem  In Flanders Fields will be recited and children will raise treble voices in songs about peace.

The innocence of the children, their songs and cut out doves is all very sweet, but I wonder can peace ever come about because we hold up banners and sing songs?

Other than a few notable despots- the Saddam Husseins, Joseph Konys and Hitlers of this world, who doesn’t want peace? It’s like who doesn’t want ice cream or a trip to Hawaii?

Nobody wants their loved one to come home in box draped with a flag while bagpipes mourn behind them. It’s terrible and tragic. Of course we want peace.

But when injustice rages on, peace has a cost. Chamberlain was wrong to give in to Hitler. “Peace for our time” turned out to be a mere postponement of six years of bloodshed. Peace cannot always be had without conflict. More recent tragedies like Rwanda and Darfur are a shame on all humanity when no-one stepped in.

I skate carefully here.  A clause in our church constitution talks about commitment to peace. I examined this carefully before signing on, but decided that yes, I am committed to peace. Most followers of Jesus are.

The peace that Jesus brought came at great cost and through his death and suffering, we have reconciliation and lasting peace that can spread to others.

I wonder do the children singing the songs understand that peace begins in our hearts and comes about only when we are willing to give up something we want. Do they know the harsh reality that injustice and cruelty cannot always be reasoned with or talked out of existence?  I wish it were so.  But on this broken earth it is not.

So I will wear a poppy and remember those who fought to gain peace.

photo ©Andrew Dunn

October 21, 2013
by Rose Scott

Everything I wanted to learn about flax …


Everything I wanted to learn about flax I learned in The Big Book of Flax, by Christian and Johannes Zinzendorf

The Big Book of FlaxYou are probably thinking of those seeds that we sprinkle on our yoghurt in a fit of healthiness. Flax, however, is much more than what is going rancid in your refrigerator- (try it in meatloaf, it hides quite nicely!)

The Zinzendorf brothers, in this gorgeous and fascinating tome, bring ancient knowledge to a generation who barely knows how to use a needle and thread.

Flax has been used for centuries, not only as a source of food, but as the raw material for linen, the strands having unique properties, for thread both soft and strong. Linen, wrinkling easily, is not as popular a fabric as it once was, but the rough homespun version was everyday work wear for peasants and farmers, while a finer weave showed up on the tables and backs of nobles and royalty. Flax was a large part of the economy in many places, even less than a century ago.


I was enthralled to read this book, because my grandmother spun, wove and sewed linen suits for her boys and I was curious as to how that all happened. I can only imagine how she found the time to spin, weave and sew, in addition to other farm chores and raising children. Oh yeah, no cell phone, TV or computer! Plus, she didn’t have to go to the gym. The production of flax was a workout, rivalling Zumba®, yoga and marathon running rolled into one.

Part of the process involves beating the flax stems senseless, in order to break the outside straw and release the strands inside.  Ever heard of “flagellation?”  That is why the tool used is called a flagell.

A great deal of detail on the various tools used for retting, breaking, scutching and combing is documented in the Big Flax Book. Most of the tools were handmade and unique depending on the stature and preference of the person using it and the style of flagells and spinning wheels also varied by region. If you are an antique buff, these items can occasionally be found in old attics and barns, especially in Pennsylvania  where the authors make their home.

Photographs of neatly twisted bundles of flax strands; called “stricks,” resemble shiny blonde braids and many folks made dolls out of them. Should you wish to make one, instructions are included. My guess is the dolls were bribery to get the girls to do more spinning. I wonder if I could use dolls as bribery?  “Get off your iPad, and I’ll give you a flax doll to play with.”

After that there was the spinning.  For most of us, spinning and spinning wheels is the stuff of fairytales. Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin come to mind and the Zinzendorfs delve into this folklore too.

Spinning was work, cleverly disguised as entertainment. What was the spindle, but an early handheld device? You couldn’t text on it, but you didn’t need to, because your mother, sisters and grandmother were right across the room, spinning and weaving too and you could actually talk to them, or even better, sing with them.  A number of spinning tunes and lyrics are in the book, proving that it was possible to live without youtube and itunes.

After  the Second World War this domestic servitude scene changed, as manufactured clothing and fabric came into wide use.  Flax has only recently regained prominence as a crop.

If you are even a little interested in the history, production and overall amazingness of the flax plant, I would highly recommend this book!

October 15, 2013
by Rose Scott
1 Comment

Reminisces before the New Westminster Fire


Much of the setting of my childhood has been lost in a frenzy of redevelopment. By the time I have grandchildren, nothing much will be left to show them of the places I grew up. The home my family moved to when I was 17 was recently bulldozed. My grandparent’s homestead, my uncle’s houses, the corner store, all gone. The home I lived in as a child, though now over a century old, will be flattened in favour of generic Georgian style condos, their old-fashioned facades mocking the absence of their predecessors.

My sentimentality at the loss of history is amplified by the recent New Westminster fire, which consumed half a city block of historic buildings, housing some businesses that had been there for generations. With an inferno rivalling a Hollywood blockbuster, heritage buildings exploded in a roaring blaze with flames pouring out the windows. On the evening news, small business owners watched in shock, their occupations, inventories and memories consumed in flames.

I hardly ever go to New West anymore. My side of the river now has all the stores and services I could ever need, but when I was a child, it was predominantly a farming community and suburb and so our shopping and errand destination was frequently the ‘Royal City,’ aka New Westminster.

My mother, being wisely suspect of the local medical care, which years later has only gotten worse due to an ever-expanding population and lagging infrastructure, took us to a kindly and old-fashioned physician in New Westminster. After a check-up, we usually made a day of it- a trip to the Metropolitan department store for a milkshake and fries at the lunch counter, followed by a visit to the Army and Navy store across Columbia Street to purchase clothes for my brothers and myself.  Though the A & N boutique, as we used to call it, was also known for affordable shoes, my shoes were rarely purchased there.

Badly pronated arches and ankles confined my feet to sensible oxfords, in a day when shiny patent leather shoes were the fashion for little girls. In spite of budgetary constraints, my Mom splurged on good footwear for me, purchased at a more traditional establishment around the corner, where personal service was a tradition. We opened the door under the awning and were greeted by the smell of leather and a gentleman proprietor, who attentively measured my feet for the appropriate lace up footwear.

On our way back to the station wagon, we dawdled past the antique stores, a hat shop and a bridal store, stopping briefly to admire some curio or a dreamy dress in the windows behind the false brick storefronts.

Some of what I remember is a heap of ashes now, but the charm of what they used to call the “Golden Mile” is part of my history and will rise like a dream from the smoke and embers, of another time and place.


October 9, 2013
by Rose Scott

Another History



940.5318.  I stand gazing at the library stacks. Two shelves are stuffed full of books about the Holocaust. The tragedies inflicted upon human beings are too much to contemplate and I am compelled to denounce the evils of Hitler and his followers.

It is these images of the Second World War that have dominated twentieth century history and memories, especially here, a continent, a language and a generation or two away from the conflict.

But relatives that lived through this time told me things I did not hear in history class or read anywhere else. Placing their war and post-war experiences, into the context of history has been a puzzling challenge.

Expulsion of the Germans should also be found somewhere in 940.53 but the bookshelves do not reveal their secrets so easily.  Hints of this other genocide are consigned to the odd paragraph or footnotes in larger works.  Full books on the subject can only be accessed through inter-library loan or in German, which I don’t read well enough to understand.

In part this information is not available because the victors write the history and a close examination of the events surrounding the end of war reveal  that the Allies were not always the heroes that popular history portrays.  Dirty laundry, a few skeletons. It is complicated. There is sometimes misunderstanding when telling this story. After all, the Germans were the cause of the war and deserved what they got. Didn’t they? Further, as I reveal this story to others, I do not want to be lumped in with Holocaust deniers who diminish the suffering of the Jews and twist history to their own myopic ends.

In her book “Inside the Parrot’s Cage,”  Gerda Wever Rabehl explains some of the difficulties and shame encountered by survivors from the “other side,” when history was overshadowed by that greater evil. The subject of her story is a man named Joachim, a German prisoner-of-war unable to properly share his memories, for no-one really wanted to hear or try to understand.

She states, “…suffering anywhere needs to be heard and learned from … these stories can live side by side one another without diminishing their legitimacy, power, or their own claims to truth.”

I want to tell the truth, to make sure we are not ignorant of history. Capacity for evil is not exclusive to any one group and suffering does not recognize race or creed. It is a universal human problem.