Tomorrow is Canada Day. And with all the wonderful Canadian musicians we’re blessed with, here I am listening to the music of Silvio Rodriguez … a Cuban. When Spanish is sung I don’t hear the words … unless I make great efforts to, and Rodriguez’ voice, like a delicate instrument, blends seamlessly with the strings of his guitar. Later I may listen to Eric Satie (French) or Philip Glass (American) or my favourite of favourites – Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel (Estonian). I need music this night without the distraction of words that take my heart and other than Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Canada’s dear Glenn Gould, my Canadian collection – sadly small as it is – doesn’t work with writing.
Despite my admiration of Canadian musicians, writers, artists, architects and filmmakers, I’ve been known to be a poor diplomat for my country, especially in my early years. Then, dipping my toes into the ponds of travels, I was forever surprised when the widely-worldly explorers – those who had been everywhere – expressed a cherished dream of visiting Canada one day. In reaction, my skeptical anti-Canada mind thought: ok, you’ve been everywhere, so, if you haven’t been to Canada and you so really wanted to go there and want to, still, then… why haven’t you?
Being Canadian, I could only assume they were being polite.
Politeness is something Canadians are known for. While the Dutch pride themselves in being rude (frank, they call it ) – piercing your pupil and calling you ‘bitch’ if you don’t reciprocate eye to eye while raising your glass, Canadians are by contrast … humble. To put it simply, we are known to break our backs bending backwards with apologies.
Indeed, Canada has a reputation for being many good things —- polite, clean, fair, trustworthy and trusting. There’s a naivety about us. A quietness. Rarely known to hog the stage, we are people who dress for comfort versus fashion (let’s exclude Montreal here) and being reserved, we don’t make a big deal of things. Reasonable and soft spoken we dance a quiet two step in our crepe soled shoes and sweat pants. We sing folk songs around a campfire while gently patting our mosquitoes (to death) …. And if we want to be wild we’ll play a little blues banjo and go hunting for moose. Boring? — who said that?
Of course, we have extraordinarily beautiful landscapes … but … so what? Doesn’t every country have its geographical wonders? True, we are known for our wealth of wide open spaces … but, in fact, most of those vast spaces are inhabitable – it’s not a matter of who would want to live there but …Who could live there?
You see, when viewed through the eyes of someone (moi) who so naively thinks the grass is greener beyond the sea, I confess to having had a bleak and dismal view of my homeland. I admit to having grown to love this country only through the eyes of strangers. The positive note here is … I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that there’s a great deal to be said for our geographical wonders, whether it’s Niagara Falls or one of our zillions of lakes (2 million, roughly) – for there is nothing quite like gliding over our pristine waters in a kayak or canoe, hearing the haunting voices of loons or the slap of a beaver’s tail. All that said, though – in truth, it’s not landscapes that make countries – people do. Values do. Human rights do. As do our musicians, writers, artists and others who speak without fear of losing their pens, their hands, their tongues … or their heads, for that matter. Indeed, we are a civilized people here and despite our reputation for being on the dull side, we are also a people of passion – but we know how to direct those passions positively.
It’s not all a bowl of blueberries though… Our current government has at times been an embarrassment, surely. Even so, a stroll through the news each morning tells me that we are among the best of places to live. This little planet – and not for the first time – is in a dark phase right now. … As Canadians, let’s applaud that we are on the brighter part of this world. Let’s bombard the skies with fireworks – not bombs – and rejoice that we are exciting the dark night with colour.
The world is wide and full with adventure, it’s true, but nothing is as spectacular as a place one calls home.
To see my Canada poem, click here: O Canada
Happy Canada Day!!!