Oh Canada …you’re in my blood like holy wine ~ Joni Mitchell
Four years ago this past week I landed in Canada. Stepping onto the shore of my new home, “landed” took on a whole new circumference of meaning. Before that early spring day when I became a permanent resident, I had equated the word with catching a contentious fish or securing a plum job or safe touchdown at an airport. Here I was a landed immigrant, much like a grand explorer or someone lost at sea who finds their footing at last on terra firma. Perhaps I was even like that spry fish, caught in the net of destiny or whatever it is that brings us to where we are meant to be in our lives.
The first time I came to Canada I knew I had found home. The warmth of the people, the cleanliness of the streets, the respect and responsibility I encountered with everyone I met was beyond anything I had known before. Despite the cliché of apologies running rampant north of the 49th Parallel, I’ve found when “I’m sorry” is extended it is more times than not a genuine and authentic gesture of compassion and kindness.
There is so much here that brings me joy, so much that fits me like a warm cape draped in soft, suppleness, moving with me at every turn in my life. I love that we take off our shoes when coming into a home. I love the drivers who stop for those of us on foot before we even step into a crosswalk. I love when an aria of “thank yous” nestles into our bus driver’s ear as we riders disembark and head towards our next pieces of life. And I can still hardly believe it when I see gloves and hats and shirts and house keys left on fences or dangling from a branch on walking paths and sidewalks, all so their owners may reclaim their lost possessions and feel their hearts swell in the presence of the remarkable kindness of strangers.
The cold that I once resisted is now a familiar companion, comforting me in its brisk embrace and reminding me of all that protects me in life. Colours seem more visceral here; maybe it’s the constancy of rain that washes away the grit in the air and in my clouded perceptions. The riotous gardens flaunting themselves on every street in town are worthy of centerfold status. Even the sun and I seem to have a keener relationship than I remembered it to be, eliciting a near rapturous state in me at the sight of its countenance.
In the last four years I’ve encountered so many new ways of being. For the first time in my life I feel truly safe walking home alone at night. I’ve rediscovered the simple brilliance of potluck dinners. Near strangers have offered to help me move and my building manager takes oh such good care of my cats when I go on holiday without asking for a single penny in return (I do leave him cash as well as a card for which he always thanks me profusely.) I now say “bum” instead of “butt” and “Mum” instead of “Mom”. The letter “z” is pronounced “zed” and Loonies are money, not crazy people. Every night I listen to CBC Radio and melt into the luscious music of such geniuses as Oscar Peterson, Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, k.d.lang, Bruce Cockburn, Rufus Wainwright, Jane Siberry, Feist and so many more gifted beings who claim this country as their place of birth.
I still don’t get curling and I’m no hockey fan, but I’ve savored the taste and subtle nuances of the salmon that call our waters their home. I’ve lived in a rainforest and seen eagles dance on the air currents outside my bedroom window. I heard wolves howl on a tiny island and joined buskers drumming on an urban street. My community of friends has become my family and with each passing day I feel the roots of my place in the world sink more deeply into the soil of Canada.
Now if I can just get up the courage to try poutine.
K.D. Lang sings Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah
Cortes Sunrise © Tess Wixted – All Rights Reserved
K.D. Lang sings Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Uploaded to YouTube by oneandonlyck – Standard YouTube License
Excerpt from “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell, copyright 1970.