Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thoughts about Canada

I have been inclined lately to a celebration of World Day rather than to one that emphasizes borders. These words, "With diversity, the world is like a colourful flower," credited to Azadeh Ramezani of Unesco, make a lot of sense to me, and they are illustrated beautifully by this picture taken from the link given above.
Nevertheless, I have a deep love and appreciation for my country, and that was enriched over the Canada Day weekend by encounters with people from both here and abroad.  Canadians are fortunate to welcome and be inspired by visitors and immigrants who share the best aspects of their own cultures, while also pointing out the beauty we are sometimes in danger of missing right under our noses. 

On June 30th, the students and teachers at the international school where I work gathered together to celebrate Canada's 144th birthday.  The art department displayed the best of some of the students' Canada Day impressions.
Two of our students spoke about what Canada means to them.  I was struck by their maturity and grace as they related their observations and experiences of this country.  Both gave me copies of the talks they had prepared, as well as permission to post their photos and thoughts here.

This is Sierra.  (I took the photo of her a few days later at the Inter-House Track Meet.)  In her words, "My father is First Nations and British.  My mother is Hungarian-Canadian.  And that, by definition makes me multicultural."

Here are a few more quotes from her speech:
The spirit of Canada is an attitude.  Wherever in the world Canadians are they are seen to be welcoming, hard working, and able to overcome adversity.
 It's not that we're better, or more gifted.  It's that we understand our "Strength in Diversity."
My native name Kesuqwaluck means 'created to be something', and also 'creator' or 'creative one'.  Kesu means to carve.  My father is a master carver and he carves sculptures and totem poles for a living.  These poles have an important job to do.  Each symbol carved onto the totem shows the characteristics and virtues of the family being depicted.
Sierra goes on to imagine what a present day Canadian totem pole might look like.  Finally, she muses that Canada may not be best represented by a totem pole.
... we are still young.  Despite all our history we are still in the process of discovering ourselves.  So no ONE thing defines us, no ONE symbol could encompass everything we stand for.  Every individual defines what Canada is.
I loved listening to Sierra speak and believe the world will hear more from her in the future.  Her final words have stayed with me:
What does Canada mean to me?  Canada is part of my identity but at the same time my identity defines Canada.  Happy birthday Canada!  Thank you.
The other student to speak was Arman.  He is from Iran.
His appreciation for the land, the people, and above all, the safety taken for granted here, was heartfelt.   In Arman's words:
I entered Canada on September 11th, 2010.  My first step out of the plane, I was stressed out.  It was the first time that I set foot on North America.  i was stressed out because I'm from Iran (which I'm proud of), but after the first hour I found out there is no reason for the anxiety..  everybody is equal in this country (at least in the airport!)
Arman also talked about Canada's Multiculturalism Policy - something I had never taken the time to examine, but that he had learned about in Mr. Macintosh's class.  I saw my country with a refreshed view after listening to these young people.  

Naomi Yomamata, MLA for North Vancouver - Lonsdale and Minister of Advanced Education, was another of the speakers at our assembly.   
Yamamoto’s parents were both sent from Vancouver to internment camps in the Kootenays—her mother to New Denver and her father to Lemon Creek. The families’ fishing boats, homes, and possessions were seized by the government.  Having watched David Suzuki's eyes fill with tears when he revisited Slocan, the place where he lived as a six-year-old with his parents during their internment, I had recently looked at that story, one inspired by racism, and one that will leave a burning pain in the hearts of those who lived it.  In both cases, these people were Canadian citizens, and born here.  But, although Naomi mentioned her parents' internment, she didn't dwell on it.  The part of her talk that continues to inspire me is just how fervently her father passed on his belief in the value of education to his children.  Clearly, he was successful.  It was pure pleasure to listen to his daughter, and to feel her love for this country and for the precious democracy we must never take for granted. 


I woke up happy to have a holiday.  One would think I might want to avoid the area of my workplace on a holiday, but I'm fortunate to work in one of the most beautiful spots anyone could ever ask for.  We headed to North Vancouver and walked along the shore beside my school.  New blooms had appeared since the last walk.
A heron fished.
Bill and Black Jack explored.
Olivia worked on the "art project," as Bill now calls it.
Lawrence, a seagull and an eagle bickered in the sky,
until the eagle departed.  A fellow with a shocking pink mohawk haircut was watching nearby, and I enjoyed telling him a little of the history of Lawrence and Olivia.  He in turn told me that his name was John and that he was visiting from Las Vegas.  He suggested as he watched me trying to capture Lawrence that I use my lens hood and while I first said I doubted it made much difference in the grey light, something in his quiet comment, "I take pictures for a living" (loosely quoted) told me I really should pay attention to his words.  (I'm using it more and more these days.) 
Lawrence put on a bit of a show, I guess as a way of showing his courage to Olivia, and perhaps of impressing John.
A cormorant had great success with its hunt for breakfast.
The heron didn't appear to be doing quite as well.
A crow hopped from rock to rock.
The heron left and John said a friendly "good-bye" as he headed back to his van.
As I watched the action over the water, Bill spotted this hummingbird in the garden behind us.
Every hummingbird sighting is a big deal.  We watched it..
for quite a while.
I could see why it liked that colourful garden.
Lawrence seemed to say, "Watch me...
I'm much more interesting than that tiny hummingbird."
The crow told him to stop showing off.
I noticed that John and his friend were still nearby, and was sorry I hadn't taken a photo.  Bill went over to ask permission for me to snap a quick non-posed one with my long lens.
Not only did they agree, but they gave me their card and a beautiful pair of shocking pink socks. I love them!
Bill learned that John and his friend (Rob?) were in BC to take part in a bicycle race known as BCBR.  Although I hadn't heard of that race before, I've since checked out the web site, and realize it's a huge deal.  Their bikes were worth a small (or in my book, enormous) fortune!   I have since checked out the card John gave Bill, and think I am correct in saying he and his wife, Annie, specialize in luxury resort, casino, hotel and spa photography.  Here is their website.  I had great fun exploring it, and will never forget this truly enjoyable Canada Day interaction.  Thanks, John, for colouring the day bright pink:)    
We left North Vancouver and headed to Jericho Park where we checked on the two eaglets (just one shown here).  They appeared to be doing well.
Bill kept Black Jack entertained in the grassy area near the nest.  We were both watchful for her safety.  It is not unheard of for an adult eagle to pick up a small dog.
Then we walked across the field, past the hostel.  At first I couldn't quite figure out what I was seeing here.  Poor moose - rather an undignified position, I thought.
A-ah, that's better.
Even the flowers seemed to be getting into the Canada Day spirit.
More fun for Black Jack - her smile said it all.
We have passed by this plaque many times, but for some reason, stopped to check it out on Canada Day.  Mr. Wallace served in WW1 and his 4 sons in WW11.   My thoughts went to Mrs. Wallace.  How did she bear the grief and worry?   
Walking back to the truck, we stopped this time so that I could touch the fur of the moose.  I was happy to discover that it was some sort of synthetic.  No stuffed animal here.  I thought back to Sierra's words and have to agree that it would be very hard for one totem pole to express all that is Canada.
Writing this portion of the post almost six weeks later, I can't believe the day we experienced.  We may be seniors, but we sure do get around:)  After a stop at The Wicked Cafe (no link for now as they have changed owners) for their delicious porridge and a latte, we continued on to Vanier Park!  The eagle nest there also had two eaglets that appeared to be doing well.  One is shown here,
and I think this is proud father doing sentry duty.

Home for a nap, and then we were off again!  This time, we took the aquabus over to Granville Island, to see the show, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline.  When we arrived at Granville Island, we were surprised to see so many people gathered in one place before the show.  Then we realized that we had happened upon another show that was conveniently playing on the waterfront, right in front of the theatre.  It was just about to start, took place on a sailboat, and lasted only 30 minutes so we had just enough time to see it before Patsy Cline.  I felt very fortunate to have come across it.    
Frank and Delphine have sailed over 20,000 nautical miles with their two young children and are talented gymnasts/dancers with both comical and poetic sides to their personalities. They will be at Granville Island doing 5:30 (comical) and 7:30 (poetic) shows each day from today until Sunday, the14th. They also will do shows at Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend (August 19, 20), and Port Ludlow Marina (August 23-25). 
This link will take you to an article about them.  If you click on "video" at the top of the article, you can listen to them speak about their lives and about following their dream and you can also see excerpts from their performances. They also have their own web site (mostly in French) with photos of their two children and more information about the various shows.  
I loved this lady's red handbag, vest and hat, and by her rapt attention, I would say she appreciated Frank and Delphine's show as much as I did. If you have thirty spare minutes between now and Sunday, I do think you would enjoy it as well.
As we headed into the theatre for Patsy Cline, this party boat came by with what appeared to be 100's of guests celebrating Canada Day.  We almost felt like part of it.  I don't think I can ever remember celebrating Canada Day quite so thoroughly as Bill and I did this year. 

Sara-Jeanne Hosie sang the well-known Patsy Cline songs so beautifully, we had the almost sacrilegious feeling of wondering if her voice might even be better than the original.  You can watch a trailer of the show here.  It is definitely one worth seeing and I believe it ends this coming Saturday. As enjoyable as it was, it did not turn out to be quite what I was expecting.  There were snippets of information about the events of her life, but it wasn't a drama taking you through those times.  It was more like a concert, with humorous interludes to fill you in on a bit of the background for each song. 
On Saturday, July 2nd, Bill and I were off again, this time to Fraser River Park.
There were some lovely trees and open spaces,
but what I really loved were the long grasses alongside the boardwalk.  Black Jack is completely hidden in this photo, but she is there with Bill - honestly.
I was impressed by the load these tugboats managed to maneuverer down (or up?) the river.
There were flowers,
little islands,
more flowers,
swaying reeds and shapely rocks,
and places to stop and take in the surroundings.  Black Jack discovered a very interesting man on this dock (no photo of him) who gave her a massage that went on for a very long time. What a connection they had, and afterwards, Bill and I enjoyed a very pleasant conversation with "Willy, the poet" as well.  Sadly, I've forgotten many of his words of wisdom, but I don't think I will ever forget the interaction.  
One of his theories was that we often see the world on one plane.  He reminded us not only to look straight in front of us, but to remember to look up and to look down as well.  Heeding his advice, I saw this lovely butterfly, almost at our feet.
Bill looked down, and found this clay man, a little the worse for wear, but surviving on top of a pylon. 
Looking up has never been a problem for me:)  At least, not in the years since I began this blog.  We left the Fraser River that day, and drove over to Vanier Park again to check on the eaglets.  This time, I managed to find the two of them, side by side, and getting along very well.
Both parents were also in the tree, perhaps proud of their fourth consecutive year to raise two healthy eaglets.
We walked along the seawall, past this totem pole, and I again thought of Sierra and her master carver father.  I have not been able to discover the name or artist for this welcoming totem, but I surely do appreciate its spirit.

Again thinking of Willy's advice, we admired this chalk drawing in the pavement,
and this toy lizard (alligator?) resting on a lily pad.
Bill and I both enjoyed the many lily pads on that pond.
We also enjoyed the Inukshuks  by the seawall.  
I love the many different perspectives of the Burrard Bridge that appear as I bike, walk, and drive around Vancouver.  
That evening, we saw the movie Beginners and enjoyed it.  Here's another link with a good video clip, if you are curious to know a little more about it.  Still remembering Willy's words, we looked up in the 5th Avenue Theatre and saw a view we hadn't noticed previously.
It has really been fun remembering our Canada Day weekend, and the many people who made it special.  I think my new pink socks will always bring it back to me,
and I think Black Jack agrees.  She checked out every inch of the sole of my new socks the first time I wore them, and seemed to approve.  A late but heartfelt "Happy Birthday" to Canada, and a huge "thank you" to the people who celebrated with us.
Please, dear Blogspot, do not make my post disappear.  I am about to publish and really don't want to lose it.  Thank you!


  1. I enjoyed every word and image of this post. Your holidays seem to benefit all of us who follow your blog. BTW, because of the link I followed on your blog, I found Penelope Puddles and bought one of her books. I look forward to its arrival today.


  2. What a marvelous post, Carol. It is so animated and full of life. I love the socks as they remind me of the Wizard Of Oz shoes that Dorothy wore … except that you already ARE home in what looks like the best place on the planet. Thanks as always for sharing your adventures and spreading your joy of life. :)

  3. Hi Carol,
    love your pictures and your story. when do you rest?

  4. Carol, just FYI, this post seems to have more photos and more commentary that when I first viewed it last week--and blogger isn't showing me a couple that I know were there then (Jon in his pink mohawk is the one easiest to spot as missing). Blogger also doesn't seem to recognize your titles (see the blog roll on my page)...not sure what that's about.
    Just so you know, however, it and the following one are lovely! Take care, and enjoy our last few weeks of summer break!

  5. Okay, now that I click back, I see the "missing" pictures, so maybe it was just too early for my computer the first time...

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