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 Canada Day

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

Happy Canada Day!

Last Canada Day, we weren’t in a frame of mind to celebrate. Discoveries of unmarked graves, thousands of them were appearing across the landscape of the former Residential Schools. Many of us finally woke up to our tragic history of planned cultural genocide that blotted our Canadian story for over a hundred years. How could we celebrate Canada Day? The facts of our past got in the way of being proud to call ourselves Canadian. I have embedded the image of those tiny shoes surrounding the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in my mind forever.

Robert Frost was asked what the most important thing you have learned about life is. Frost said, “It goes on.” Despite all the confusion of today, tempting us to see nothing but pervading darkness, life goes on. The question isn’t whether bad things will happen or will more bad things happen. Good things happen too. What will we do with the time we are given to live in our country? How can we make Canada better? We know life will go on; let’s not let life go on without us. Let’s celebrate life and be thankful for such a beautiful country to live in. Let’s make it better in the many small ways we can.

I divide my love for Canada into two main categories. First, there is a passion for the vast land, with its mountains, rivers, forests, and lakes. We all live close to the abundance of nature surrounding every city.

Second, there are parts of Canada that involve her people. I love our diverse cultural backgrounds, freedom, ability to grow our families in relative safety, desire to preserve our democracy, core values, and willingness to do what’s best for the common good. I believe that we are increasingly open to admitting our mistakes and are getting better at trying to find ways to make things right. Respect for each other, allowing for differing points of view, and seeking compromises are all part of our Canadian values. I love many of our artists, music composers, and those Canadians gifted in writing. Our diversity is our strength.

Many of us have found a place or two in Canada that we love and return to these places like homing pigeons. I recently returned to the home of my birth. I went back to the Elbow River in the early mornings and skipped stones across the river. To me, this is a sacred place. The Elbow River is a place where time is lost between the babbling of the shallow waves and the music of the birds. A place where you dwell in the present and become one with all that is around you, a place where you belong to life.

On this Canada Day, I feel the vastness of the land. Of the 7 billion people we share the planet with, we have a disproportionate amount of natural space. We can all have our versions of sacred places where we belong. Where do you peruse the shoreline seeking the smooth flat stones? We have the promise that we can find new undiscovered places to become one with. We can rediscover what surrounds us. Canada is a wondrous country.

I feel the pull of Canada almost everywhere I go. This close connection to nature grounds me.

Take a moment and allow yourself to float to your favourite place in Canada. Let’s lose the heaviness of gravity and float to the places we love. We all have areas that have touched us in some way. Take the time to feel the gratitude and joy we experience when Canada invites us into her sacred places.

I’m thinking about my sitting with my sister on red chairs overlooking Astotin Lake in Elk Island Park. She packed a healthy lunch, and I’m biting into a cool, crisp apple. Elk Island Park is her sacred place.

Years ago, my bride and I stopped at this same lake while travelling near Edmonton. While splashing each other in the lake, my bride lost her wedding ring. Somewhere at the bottom of that lake is a wedding ring my bride lost while splashing me a year after we were married. I see her young face radiant in the water, laughing as her ring flies off her finger and becomes lost in this moment. Pelicans and cormorants fly lazily across the sky. Bison graze in the distance. I’m still married to that young bride and share a wedding ring with Astotin Lake. I feel married to this country and have grown in a loving relationship with her over the years. She and those around me have made this home.

This is Canada Day, and it’s time to celebrate this beautiful country again.

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