I’m not from here. To some, this may seem like a peculiar place. An ambiguous land entombed by ice and snow — we, the initiated know this to be fallacy (at least, for the most part).
I was born in the U.K., my family and I immigrated to this vast land cradled by two seas when I was only five. I don’t recall most of the journey, and the first few years here are a little muddied by time; but there are a few stand-outs. To speak to how different the world was back then, when we were flying some thirty-thousand feet above an expansive blue ocean, I, a five-year-old zealous child was invited up to sit in the cockpit with two Air Canada pilots. They showed me the gizmos and gadgets, bleeps and bops, and I was enthralled. Hypnotized by untamed joy. A feeling as good as any drug, I’m sure.
My siblings are all older than I am; they informed me of how my whole family was stricken with shock at the size of the roads and vehicles here in Canada. I acclimated rather quickly, being five comes with some advantages — malleability being one.
This is not a peculiar place. It’s not ambiguous nor generic. This place — Canada — the land of mountains, prairies, grains and cowboys, indigenous beauty and a humble people is… home. It’s where I learned to be a boy, skinning my knees on gravel roads. The swaths of never-ending forests are where I first learned to hold a stick and shoot it like a rifle. The chilled waters of our lakes taught me to swim and skate. Laying on my back and glaring up toward that prodigious baby blue sky and drawing shapes in the clouds is what honed my imagination.
This land, our land, the one nestled between one ocean and another holds a mesmeric beauty that only we truly enjoy. From caramelized skies at sunset, to golden fields of wheat gently swaying in a crawling wind, to mountain peaks and desert lands, this place is unquestionably a magical place. A Narnia of tangibility.
I learned of truth, duty and valour while on these lands, signing up to serve as a soldier of Canada. To stand guard for thee, the true, North, strong and free.
In recent times there has been much unrest, truculence and skepticism. Perhaps rightfully so, or perhaps not, that’s not for me to say. What I can say is this; we live in rugged luxury each and every day, and each and every day lived within these lands is a gift. We have access to the past right here at our fingertips — the bark of a tree acts as braille, it croons a somber song of generations lived, sights seen and sadness observed. Indigenous elders speak softly of how things once were, and if we listen, and forgo hubris and political talking points, we can learn and feel a deeper connection with this land we call, home.
Our terrain changes and shifts as swiftly as the whether, from forested pines that roll on into forever, to flat-lands where the horizon melts into the heavens, glaciers, hot-springs and desiccated bad-lands — and that’s just describing B.C.! I may not be from around here, but I’ve traveled the world, seen many things, and I’ve never tasted air the way it tastes here — crisp and untainted. Close your eyes and try it some time…
Canada is my home. It’s not only where I first learned to be a boy, but it’s where I became a man, too. My first (awkward) kiss was shared beneath the twinkle of a breathless night sky. I scored my first hockey goal at fourteen, got into my first fight at twelve, and served this nation from eighteen to thirty-four. I’ve lived in cities, towns, places unincorporated, and areas known as, villages, and my takeaway is this — each of those places holds a slice of the Canadian maple. A charm and an experience belonging to only Canada.
We are an amazing people. Conflated often with the south, or the British, yet we are unarguably different in our own right. Different due to our young age, Canada is relatively new on the world stage of countries. Our population is small for our size, but our impact on the world and what it has become is immeasurable. Peacekeepers and polite, two descriptors often used to identify Canadians; a true embodiment of the Canadian spirit.
As mentioned, I may not be from around here, but I am damn sure proud to be living on this land — I am Canadian!
Happy Canada Day, everyone.