Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Few Thoughts On Canada Day: July 1, 2015

My own private (not exactly Idaho, but in that vein) Canada Day, what with my wife out west, where it's the best, visiting her mother et al, and my kids and their families hither and yon, and me hanging back to water flowers and to keep my house safe from tigers. 

Thoreau said, I paraphrase, "Why travel far afield, when we don't know fully our own backyards?" Well, in the spirit of that notion, I thought I'd take a long, meditative walk around and about my own neighbourhood and think and then say something about  my country. 

I've lucked out in any number of ways, without being exhaustive and in no particular order: who I married, who I've made friends with, who taught me, what and who have influenced and guided me, the experiences I've had, the good fortune of hard effort bringing to me and mine reasonable return and reward, who my parents and brother and cousins and uncles and aunts were and are, what abilities I have, my health--knock on wood, my kids, their kids.

And not least in this trove of treasured contingencies, where I was born and have lived my whole life, this massive, beautiful geographically and culturally diverse country, so cosmopolitan here, so down to earth and close to the land there, with forests and rivers and lakes and oceans and mountains and prairies and big busy cites and towns and villages. So much land, so few people. 

I was born in Winnipeg and lived chunks of my life there, in Vancouver--such an astonishingly beautiful city, and, for the longest part, in Toronto. I worked a big part of my way through school as a waiter and assistant cook on the trains running between Vancouver and Winnipeg, Winnipeg and Toronto, and Toronto and Montreal. And as a kid I traveled by train almost every summer from Winnipeg to Toronto and back. And later a few two-three times between Vancouver and Toronto and back. I've driven more than once through the magnificent Rockies. I've driven through Quebec, the Maritime  provinces and around Newfoundland, where people are particularly salt of the earth. Which is a long way to say I have a concrete sense of the breadth and diversity of this great country. (The north still awaits me.) 

Why, given all that travel, I mention Thoreau, is that on my 6 mile, almost two hour unhurried walk around and about where I'm lucky to live, what I saw and felt seemed to me like my country writ small. I passed and took in the mix of tall, population-dense apartments contrasting with houses, some more modest, some large and lavish on considerable pieces of land, all set among forested parks, ravines, and valleys and a small river, filled with bike and walking trails, and dotted here and there with shopping malls, places of business and restaurants, where people from all over the world live and work and, for the great most part, get along. 

And I thought as I walked that for all my country's many problems and issues, her poor, her mistreated and her disadvantaged, for all her riven politics, for all of that, compared to most places in the world, including our southern neighbour, we have it so relatively good, where our mainstream sensibility constrains a Tory federal government to by and large respect the rule of law, to leave essentially in tact our decent, however imperfect, social safety net, our old age benefits, our single payer health care, our sane gun laws, and our socio-cultural liberal policies on abortion and same sex marriage, which are so explosive to the south of us.

A small country population of about 35,000,000 living comparatively peaceably in the second largest land mass of any country in the world: I say again how blessed I am to have been born and to live in Canada.