Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The light-house top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree?
– S.T. Coleridge: Rime of the Ancient Mariner
I have an odd relationship with ‘mine own countree’ in that I have seen very little of it. Visitors from abroad have tramped more highways and byways in Canada than I ever have.
I am neither proud nor ashamed of this. It is what it is. But I’ve reached the stage of my life in which I’d like to figure the matter out.
I mean, I’m well-traveled and feel blessed that I am. I have lived abroad and have tramped the well-trodden streets of European cities and towns. London remains my favorite big city and I know it well enough that I don’t ever get lost.
A dream of my childhood was to go to the South Seas and I have done that and it was all that I expected and hoped it would be. In a related part of the world the Hawaiian Islands have been like a second home to me and I always long to go back.
I’m familiar with and have journeyed along the Pacific coast from Vancouver Island to the tip of Baja and love it all the way. I’m a Pacfiic Ocean-oriented individual is what becomes obvious to me.
Yet, what of Canada? My record really reeks. I’m not entirely sure why. Even my own province is a place that puts me at a loss. British Columbia is extremely beautiful. Arguably has the prettiest face in the country. You know, magnificent mountains, forests, waterfalls a riveting shoreline that spreads forever through islands, islets, inlets and more. And I admit I have seen a goodly chunk of the coast and love it. See, that Pacific thing again.
The hinterland, heartland, boonies? Not quite so much. Haven’t been to the Interior in years, despite the fact I have been enchanted by the Okanagan, and the desert area down near the US border – well, I could live there quite comfortably. And the Rockies are, of course, unexcelled. I’ve been to the Rockies – on my first honeymoon my bride and I stayed at Banff; that was back when Christ was just finishing his carpentry apprenticeship – but since then I have only passed through, once, on the train.
The farthest north I have been was Quesnel. I was 12 at the time.
And I have traveled right through to Montreal on the train. Loved the trip, though scenically the place delighted yes once the Rockies were done. I am sure the Prairies have their virtues but I mainly found them flat and farmy. Northern Ontario is a protracted Russian novel of birches, lakes and rocks. Kind of scenes that gave the Group of Seven dudes orgasms. For me it produced a certain ennui.
Toronto was big and very Toronto-ish. Not necessarily a compliment, but we did see the original stage show of Hair there. Hair of the tonsorial and pubic sort when we saw it.
I liked Montreal much better. But, you see, it has a European flavor rather than a Canadian one. That, to my bias, is a good thing. As for Ottawa, it’s a good thing it’s the capital because I could see little other reason for it to exist.
I regret never having been to the Maritimes and I do hope to do something about that at some point.
On the other hand, I don’t regret having never been to the Arctic and don’t plan to do a thing about that neglect. I don’t like cold. Anyway, I’ve flown across it about a dozen times going to and from Europe. Doesn’t look bad from 30,000 feet. I’d like to leave it at that.
At the end of the day, I’m not unpatriotic at all. Just kind of neglectful. I mean, a person can only go so many places, after all. “So, hon’, London England or London Ontario?”