OH CANADA … forgive me


Canada Canoeing

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!!! 

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About JT Winik

A Canadian visual artist whose figurative paintings are psychological explorations of isolation, interpersonal relationships, gender analysis and female sexuality.
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2 Responses to OH CANADA … forgive me

  1. MashyGoGo says:

    You’re post has left me asking myself…

    AM I CANADIAN?

    The day after reflections on my sense of national pride… on Canada my home and native land? It’s rather a funny feeling I get when I’m asked, if I am proud to be a Canadian considering that, for most of my life, I’ve been the truly Baudelaire-esq, outpatient… “Life is a hospital where every patient is obsessed by the desire of changing beds.” A fella that couldn’t wait to leave where he was to live somewhere else… and then did.

    Am I proud of our shared Canadian history? A country not fought for or over, but as more recently perceived was simply born of an act of Victorian barbarism in the purpose of preventing it’s consumption by the “Manifest Destiny” of its neighbour to the south. We “cleared our plains” to define a border and ironically enough hired a US firm to build the railroad that did this for us. I guess one can say indeed, we are a clever bunch. And of Canada’s histrionics upon the world stage? I suppose one can allow themselves be stirred in reading of our fighting prowess at Vimy Ridge, or that glorious victory over the communists at the 1972 Ice Hockey Summit Series… the latter still causes a thrill to swirl my heart, a little bit.

    What of my pride in our good nature? Certainly our (is it) mythological politeness, friendliness, our nice to see you attitude; surely our sit for a while, have a beer and some poutine welcoming attitude is preferable to “don’t tread on me”; but how many times did we scold folks to stay “off our lawn” under cover of ol’ mother England then behind the threatening fist of that “bully buddy pal” below us? – And what of our culture? Absolutely, Canadian artists can hold there own in any creative arena, but ask most anyone from another nation where our better artists are from, most of these artist’s of ours agents will have assured that this question be side stepped, pronto.

    Canada is indeed a gorgeous country to look at, but can one hold any more pride in god’s work on this land than say, a Norwegian could show pride in the work Slartibartfast did on the design of their fjords? Especially if one considers how our stewardship of this natural beauty is now so easily seen to lay waste (I say these days, pointing you in the direction Fort McMurray). Does man really hold any providence over the land on which he stands. I could ask, how much of ownership do we Canadians maintain over these lands after NAFTA and soon, after the the TPP unfolds total globalisation over us: I could ask, but I won’t as like so many of us, I just don’t know, it’s a secret and today of all days, It seems rather un-civic of me to speculate on how hard we’ve raped her as we now invite ALL our friends to “join in”… seemingly, for free…

    So… of my want to celebrate pride in nation?

    This morning I considered this as I took my usual head cleansing walk about my neighbourhood. As I said hello to six or so of my fellow Kingstonians here at the Celtic-ly-mystical juncture of these three waterways. I live on a nice block, in a pretty little limestone town in land far too vast to ever comprehend all at once when watching the fireworks under a full moon… But yes, even after having said all this and having really no clue as to why, I am indeed subtly (and politely) proud of my birthplace, and it’s name being on my passport… Perhaps more importantly… it is very easy enough for me to say… after all those years away, after all this nonsense, YES I am happy to be here and it is a really good to feeling to feel at home here in Canada, my home and native land.

    :-)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Happy Canada Day JT!

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