Our True North Strong and Free

We Canadians would rather flag a taxi than fly a flag.

We'll happily put little paper flags in planters and tree stumps on July 1st, but we will rarely be caught hanging a big, real one from the front porch. And for the entire summer?? Unh unh, not gonna happen.
Somewhere in between the War of the Roses and the War of 1812, it got sorted out that those, those.. people...who didn't end up on God's fair isle were fated to go to that vast empty Hinterland  beyond the realm and across the pond  to preserve  His (or Her) Royal Majesty's majesty. And they gave their word to do so  with appropriate decorum and dignified deportment.

It was further decreed that the Masses of the Hinterland  (MoH's) would not bump into people, pets or inanimate objects. And if they did so, they would say, " I'm sorry." And, if the people, pets, or inanimate objects bumped into them, then the MoH's would say, "OH! I'm sorry!"

In the event of  a disagreement with anyone about anything, then the MoH must quickly defer, and say, "Oh.Well then. Of course, you must be right." And if, in the rare circumstance, that it was absolutely certain that the MoH was indeed, right, then the MoH must say, "Oh dear. Well, I am sorry. But, uh, I am right. Sorry!"

We're such a sorry lot. Why people from away even make fun of us for saying sorry so much, for being so friendly,  so polite, so forgiving. Not for us the dropping of a ball at midnight, nor the thunderous ride through tiny towns with a lantern. Nope..too attention-getting. Too dramatic. Too much like  a TV mini-series.

No, we didn't run with bulls anywhere, either. (Rode them, yes, but only when at the Calgary Stampede.)  But we did  name a chocolate shop after a woman who did try to warn HRM's troops about a possible invasion from below the 49th parallel. Laura Secord is sweetly remembered every Easter and Mother's Day in The Hinterland.

And when Nature is your daily guide, over time you learn to take note and you start to see things  a bit differently.

No. We don't do self aggrandisement well.  We may brag from time to time, but it's usually not about the nation as a whole, it's about individual accomplishments..like Terry Fox, Wayne Gretzky, Shania Twain, Guy Lombardo (yes, sorry, he's Canadian), Alexander Graham Bell (ring a ding ding), Dr Banting  (insulin treat for your diabetes), Thomas Edison (light's on), John Hopps (please tell airport security if you have a pacemaker), Peter Robertson (screw this in tight), Gideon Sundbeck (here, zip me up please)..and of course, things like Canada Dry, Canadian Club, Poutine and Beavertails (yum to the last four). And Blackberry (not the one you eat, though, there's a thought)
No, we don't like to show our official colours (red and white) because we are so much more than that.

In 1967 a book was published entitled Call Them Canadians. A table top anthology of poems, prose and pictures that attempted to define a Canadian.
One short poem has always stuck in  my mind by poet Miriam Waddington:
We are not one but two,
We are not two but four.
We are not four but many.
And sometimes,
We are not any.

It's the song my paddle sings, it's my canoe, it's my kayak. And while I ply the waters of this land, it's the songs I hear of the lonesome Loon, the Whip-poor-will,  the howling wolf, and the little Song Sparrow.

This is a land and a place that people have been trying to define and then subjugate for 600 years, but they still haven't quite  managed to..yet. And it's because of the weather.
It's , "It's 40 below, got a heater in my truck, and I don't give a F#*k, and I'm off to the Rodeo!" Who would write a song like that?? unless they've been to Canada in January.

We got used to the Hinterland. Embraced it. Made "Canada's Hinterland Who's Who" a Monday night favourite on TV. It's still running, http://www.hww.ca/index_e.asp and celebrating Canada's  incredible nature. But that 's not all that's uniquely quirky about us...there's also Bob McDonald's Quirks and Quarks..a radio show about science --that people tune in to CBC Radio to listen to! And speaking of CBC...no matter where you are in Canada, you can get CBC. Everyday. Same friendly voices, same earnest commentary, same silly jokes, same breaking world news. Essential in a country that has five time zones and half an hour later in Newfoundland.

                                                     What a place!

                                                       I'm sorry.

I can't define it.
But it is me.
A Place within me.
Shaping how I see the world around me,
and how I wish the world to see me.

This weary old world could use a little more Canada.

Happy Birthday!


We All Need a Little NYC. Really.

Mention New York City and those who have been smile knowingly, and say,  " I love it!! and I am going back as soon as I can."
Some who have never been and are NYC virgins say, " Meh..don't need to go there! Too big, too busy, too expensive..why shoud I do that
when I still haven't been to Biggar, Saskatchewan?
and it's bigger than New York, yucka yucka."
Some who have never been and are NYC virgins too, say " I can't wait to go!! It's big city mecca, the big apple, the whateverwhereverwhenever!"
And everyone is absolutely right.
But...once you go, you know.
It's an ode to urban. A capitalist's dream. An anarchist's orgasm. Sensory overload. Everything you ever wanted...and nothing you can't find.
Be all. End all.
It is the definition of superlative.

There is no end to the litany of descriptors, to the age old icons,
to the visions, the views, the captions and the quotes.
It is simple chaos. 
And all things in between.
Incredibly brilliant architecture.
Breathtaking parks and monuments to greatness.
Endless opportunity and bottomless depravity.
Wit and witless. Charm and ignorance
It's the entire ball of yarn.
Constantly being unravelled and rerolled.
It is Everyman's City.
It is Gotham. It is Camelot.
It is all places betwixt and between.
It may be American on paper..but it's really a Country unto itself. 
The vast majority of visitors find it familiar, and happily, feel at home, once the country bumpkin urge to jay-walk is quelled.
New York is the American dream personified.
Greed capitalized. Culture refined. Cuisine defined.
It is the alpha and omega of western style.
It is empathy. Sympathy. Boredom. Indifference.
And especially Patience and Fortitude.
A lesson to be learned on every corner.
A must see - again and again, and once more with feeling!
This is the City your dreams and your nightmares created.
If you don't feel alive here, you're probably not.
It's New York.

New York is the end game.
If it won't work here, it won't work.
Weird. Wired. Wonderful.
An ode to hope and humanity.
You won't be alone.

Just do it. And do it. And do it again.


Six Decades: Part III - Slightly Sidetracked

I was filled with such great expectations!

By dickens, I was going to explore the pros and cons and ins and outs and ups and downs of how I got to be ME. Here and now.
But what I found happening as I edged ever nearer the precipice of the age that shall not define me is that I didn't really feel like I had a lot to share of earth shaking significance. At least nothing that would change your world. Of course, lots has changed mine, constantly and perpetually, world without end.
But right after the last installment I stalled. (And I went to New York City- we all need a little NYC.)

And after walking for hours in Gotham, my feet begged me to pay attention. I had no choice but to submit. And so now it's time to confess that I have a foot fetish.

Not the kind that makes you think of quirky high heels, slightly sleazy, I feel queazy, let me nibble your toes stuff. No, not the fun stuff.  But the  "at 16 years old I had a bi-lateral bunyon-ectomy" stuff. And yes, it's appropriate for you to think, "What?"
What it means is I had bunyons removed from both sides of both feet because they had impeded my abililty to pedal - and I saw a podiatrist.  He said I needed to have the surgery, or I would be a "cripple" by the time I was 40. Today, and everyday since this operation, the doctor remains politically incorrect and I have been fine, and so have my feet, thank you very much.
The most outstanding outcome of the event (other than a life long love affair with foot rubs) is that it took place 2 weeks before I was due to enrol at university and  check in at the residence at University of Guelph.

And so begins Chapter the Next.

I'm 16 years old. Early acceptance for spring admission to University...time to get there...
My feet are wrapped in cotton bandages, many times around each foot, protecting surgical incisions that excised bone, and were stitched together, a total of 296 times, equally shared left side, right side, left foot, right foot.
Protecting this mass of bio-hazard bandaging, were 2 very attractive green garbage bags. One per foot.
And so I arrived on campus for the very first time and  entered the U of G residence, with my Mom and my sister Jane.
"Hi!" We said to the group of guys standing in the entrance hall.
"Hellllloooo!" Funny Big Guy said, " What floor are you on?"
"Uh, top floor  -6th I think? Is there an elevator? 'Cuz, uh, I can't walk just now..?"
"Well", said FBG, "that's not a problem!" That guy over there will take your trunk up to your room, via the elevator, and YOU, little lady , will just hop on board my back. Hie yup!"
And -there is not one false word in this testimony- he hitched me onto his back, and I rode him up to the 6th floor of U of G residence, with Mom and Jane following behind to catch me if he fell.
Now, THAT's a first day of school.Colour me lucky and rub my feet!


Six Decades: Part B

And so we moved to Canada's capital. I silently sobbed from Lloydminster to Lashburn, my father's birthplace, and a distance of about 25 miles, and then I   just couldn't sustain the sadness for the loss of my first love anymore. I was, after all, moving to Ottawa, the capital of Canada! Totally exotic and beyond any pre-conceived, not conceived, and any other -eived
notions. Ottawa had big department stores  and skyscrapers. For a child of the prairies, this was heady stuff. Oh. Ya. It was also the capital of Canaduh...what-evvv-errr.

We arrived in early summer - time enough to get enroled in school -advancing a year to accommodate the fact that the prairie system only took 12 years, but in Ontario, kids needed an extra year to learn everything . Who knows? And 50 years later? I don't care. I got to skip a  grade.

And all of a sudden I was a big city kid, knowing absolutely no one  and in high school. I learned very quickly how absolutely alone one can feel in the middle of 1000 people.  And immediately on the heels of that lesson, I learned that the creepy term "Peeping Tom" was rooted in reality. As in someone was in our backyard, staring at me sleeping, night after night. CrapandshitI'mscared!

So big city living meant that this whack job (WJ) liked to look through the bedroom windows of teen-aged girls. I discovered this thanks to the next door neighbour's dog, whose barking woke me one night. In the morning we discovered that pervert WJ had dragged cement cinder blocks under my window.  The next time it was huge sawed off tree stump,  and then later a cement sewer conduit...all under my bedroom window, so he could stand on the peeping aide and watch. Me. Sleep. I was 13. 

I won't drag this particularly tawdry incident out. The police were called, stake outs were set up...did I say I had to act as bait one night?  I did.
But he was in fact caught just down the road from our home, on a ladder, peeping into the 2nd story window of a blonde 14  year old.
I don't know if he ever went to jail, or court, or even received much more than a reprimand. I hope so.

I know when I hit "publish" I will be sharing this incident with friends, acquaintances, and a few strangers. I've decided, after much consideration,  that I'm okay with that.

So, my first year in Ottawa was interesting to be sure,and  I think that experience may have influenced me in some ways.

Ed...to be continued


Six Decades: Part I

This particular birthday has been bothering me a lot over the past while. Ever since other friends, acquaintances, colleagues, et “all” have been hitting this milestone, and many in spectacular ways.
Some have sailed gracefully into the seventh realm...taking pictures of themselves dancing; sitting on mountain tops; eating unpronounceable foods in faraway places; building new homes on remote islands; walking ancient trails; being with original friends from long, long ago; setting new standards, new rules, new lives.
I survived. And I’m alive. Not famous in the big magazine sense of the word, but the local newspaper has  reported alot of stuff I’ve said and done over the past 12 years  in an official capacity for the City for which I work. And I printed one copy of my blog, http://www.susansgonetothebirds.blogspot.com when I achieved 5000 readers status. So now I own a 476 page soft-bound book that I did, indeed, write. One book.   One copy. No sales yet.  
At 60, (well, 59 yrs, 355 days) I can say with certainty, that I have never really fit in. I have very early memories, at less than 2 years old where my Mom was handing me to the sitter, arm cradle to arm cradle and I didn’t want to be passed off.  Collectively, they almost dropped the struggling Susan, but, again, collectively, they managed not to.
I remember potty training too. Amazing really...sitting on a little robin’s egg blue, tin-enamel pot in my parent’s bedroom, when the sitter came barging in and insisted that I stop, and put my diaper back on! I clearly understood that  she didn’t want to have to deal with baby Sue’s shit poo, and really? Who can blame her?
In grade 7, at Lloydminster Junior High School, several things happened all at once on a sultry June night in 1963. I was awarded a whack of medals for scholarly aptitude, and athletic aptitude, and dramatic aptitude..clean sweep and heady stuff for a 12 year old girl who really just wanted to kiss a guy and Lynn Brown in particular.
First Kiss: 12 years old, in the back of a car (that his older brother was driving), flying 80 miles an hour towards Sandy Beach, with the moonlight casting shadows from behind. I watched as his head leaned towards my head, and we both turned, and my knees melted, and ... is  it any wonder that my parents decided it was time to get their 3 pubescent daughters out of this small town?!
I think, re-reading what I’ve just written, that this is as good a place to pause as any. Not sure where this journey is leading me, but most assuredly, we’re on a little journey.
...to be continued


Just Singin' the Loonie Tunes

If you live in Canada, you will know the call of the Loon
and you will likely have been told by scolding old school marm-aladies
not to mimic their call especially in the spring
when they are calling for their marm-amates.
Like this."ohhhhhwaaaaallaahooahhhhhh" or something remotely similar.
Loons are right up there in Canadian iconism with beavers 
and Mounties
and Justin Bieber.
How a 16 year old kid from Stratford can take the teenage world by storm
is beyond me. (Obviously, as I never did it.)
But, gasp, I just don't get it.
(Sorry, Justin.)
So now I know that I have crossed the line.
I'm old.
And you're not.
That your handlers want you to sound like an American ghetto kid from wherever it is your newly acquired accent comes from,
in order to attract more and more teenage angsters is,
of course, their right.
And yours, too.
I just happen to think it's all a tad loonie.
A bit of a scam...the art of persuasion,
the machine in motion and the tail wagging the dog  puppy.
 This just in.
I just shared.
Just like you're doing
 on all the tv talk shows.

And to quote a wood burnt sign that used to hang at the ye old family cottage,
"Ve get too soon oldt, and too late schmart.
Just in time
for y'all  to think about.