Yesterday was Canada’s 145th birthday.
While you’re away, I wonder what you will say when people ask you about Canada. You sure know your way around a map. You can pronounce Iqaluit and name the provinces and their capitals in both languages. But, how will you define what it means to be Canadian? Will you have the words (in any language) to explain?
Canadian is hard to pin down. Often, “Canadian” is explained by what it is not (meaning – we are not American). When I ask a classroom full of college students the question, “What is ‘Canadian’?” the answers flounder, presenting a mixed collage. Multiculturalism, respect for diversity. Distance, regionalism. Maple Syrup. Hockey. Beer.
I became most aware of my own Canadian-ness when I was in Australia. In that beautiful country, the leaves on the trees were all the wrong shapes; the air was too hot, the seasons too similar. The birds were too brash, the insects too enormous. Don’t get me wrong, Oz is a fantastic place, but I woke up every day feeling disoriented. (Or, if to orient is to find your place in relation to the east, perhaps I was dis-northernated). It wasn’t until I was sure that I would be able to return to Canada that I was able to enjoy Australia.
Even now (after a Master’s Degree in literature and teaching a course in Canadian writings) I have a hard time coming up with the exact words to define Canada.
I hope you and I will always share one word for this place: Home.