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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the true north, strong and free


photo taken on a glorious day in early autumn on the banks of a small northern lake near me.

Susan, giver of the beautiful scarf, asked for a commentary on 'the true north, strong and free'. well, firstly, the 'true north' isn't the same as magnetic north or the north pole.... in fact, it's a moving target that changes constantly..... something like wishy-washy canadian opinion.

but north we are. and, speaking for my small rural-ish community, despite my cynicism about humanity in general, we're true in the sense that there's still a sense of community that brings out the good in folks when the bad stuff happens. blatantly mercenary behaviour (note the british/canadian spelling, as in colour and valour) is not tolerated in any but the most wealthy, and i don't travel in them there circles. yes there are still people around here who speak like that.

as for strong, there's a sturdy remnant of the pioneer spirit that built the country still living here. people are self reliant and determined (sometimes known as stubborn.... a small semantic deviation). there are more entrepreneurs per capita in northern alberta than anywhere else in the americas. we have the highest per capita rate of inventions too. we're rist takers. that's a statistical fact, as shown by the high rates of vehicle insurance (and motor vehicle accidents and deaths). it's a good thing the community pitches in when the house burns down or the cows go through the ice on the dugout.... because not many of us can bear to ask for help when we need it. we mostly drive 4 wheel drive pickup trucks, because there's always stuff to haul - from manure to 1/4 million dollar 5th wheel trailers and speedboats in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. we'll do it ourselves, thankyaverymuch. and much as i disagree with the whole concept of war, it's a fact that Canaadian troops distinguised themselves, and were much respected by the world in both world wars, and continue to be held in high esteem in today's peace keeping forces. and all that 'we stand on guard' stuff seems pretty militant and old army to me, but i'm not your typical citizen. it seems every s.u.v. and pickup truck that drives past me as i ride my bicycle around town has a yellow 'support our troops' ribbon sticker on it.

free?! well, maybe as promiscuous as anyone else, but it's a danged expensive place to live, and there's not a lot being given away, that's worth much. political freedom is questionable; alberta is considered one of the great bastions of the canadian conservative party. the conservatives seem to subscribe to the philosophy that it's easier to apologise than to get permission (as in, let your voters have a word in the discussion) they pretty much do as they damn please and let the seeting masses continue to seethe ineffectually. after all, we're too polite to do much about it. but if you made the mistake of telling some cowboy in the line dance next to you in the local pub that he wasn't a free man, you might get your lights punched out, or start a riot.

i think this might have been a rant. sorry su.


susan said...

If that's a rant it's a very erudite one which I enjoyed a lot. There always was a problem with a percentage of Canadians being more like northern Americans than most folks here imagine as typical Canuck. The US is a very large neighbour (I do it too just to spite 'spell check') and I think people tend to have personalities and lifestyles that reflect their region rather than their nationality. Some days I'm very much in favor of the Balkanization of the US so people can develop a deeper understanding of what their land means to them. Cascadia is a thought experiment about a country that would extend from northern California all the way through BC and parts of Alberta to encompass the Rockies, the Cascades and the Pacific shore. It would be very easy to imagine a Great Plains area too.. but maybe I'm just rambling. It won't happen unless something really catastrophic comes along and I'd prefer not to contemplate that. I've lived east and west in both countries and New England does have a lot in common with the Maritimes so I was just extrapolating. One of these days my husband and I may move back to Canada - likely NS to be closer to our son in Providence but only time will tell. Your post was wonderful and I hope you didn't mind writing it because I was being facetious about what a truly strong and talented woman like you could teach the Governor of Alaska.

Thanks for the lesson. The scarf was mailed this morning and I'll look forward to a picture of you wearing it soon. Stay cozy.

gfid said...

su - i've just spent the lunch hour listening to a bunch of redneck women with more money than sense talk about their toys. didn't have much to contribute to the conversation, and got chilly glances when i ventured a comment. so, to come back to my desk and be called erudite, by vous has redeemed the day. many thanks for that, and to hell with 'em. my days at this job are numbered. bring on the ReStore!!!

Zee said...

Where does west becomes east, and north becomes south?
Excellent description GF!

gfid said...

it's all in your point of view, Zee ;0)

lindsaylobe said...

A memorable photo!

From what you have said it seems to me Alberta is like a microcism of the world; a vibrant emerging minority intent on sustainability overwhelmed by a rapacious will to subdue the earth and have dominion over it, whatever the cost.

Even so for the most part it seems to be a beautiful immense pristine wilderness, with a good spirit of community.

Best wishes

clairesgarden said...

theres people who prefer their 'toys and money' the world over. I'm considered weird because I know what 'food in season' means and don't just head of to the supermarket for it.

gfid said...

lindsay - thanks! the autobiography of canadian painter, a.y. jackson i've just read may have had some influence in the picture's style and subject. yes, there's still a lot of untouched wilderness.... so much that we seem to think it's limitless, and give it no value... so we can afford to waste it.

claire - that's it exactly. kindred spirits in the immediate neighborhood are few and far between. fortunately for my sanity there's a vibrant, thinking, responsible blog community that shares my belieifs and keeps my feet on good solid organic gardening dirt. thanks for that.

Gary said...

Very nice! You have a good eye for the world and people around you. And it winks well too...

gfid said...

gary ;0) that's me... gfidwink. it really is a wonderful place, this world we live in. ... pity we're in such a hurry to make it inhosptiable to most life forms - including our own.

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