For such a time as these past few days, Canadians surely did not ask or seek.
As I flew across this vast and magnificent land, over the mountains, across the prairies to the forests of Ontario, into Toronto, which has been so much the central place in my life, I once again recalled the words of Bruce Hutchison in The Unknown Country. Little did I think during my travels that I would be putting Mr. Hutchison's words into the context of tragedy in my country as well as a great party all in one week.
Mr. Hutchison, who has Cranbrook roots, wrote in 1942, that "No one knows my country ...Who can know our loneliness on the immensity of prairie, in the dark forest and on the windy sea rock? A few lights, a faint glow in our largest city on the vast breast of the night and all around blackness and emptiness and silence. We flee to little towns for moments of fellowship."
He also posed the question: "Who but us can feel our fears and hopes and passions?"
Indeed, who but us? And given the tragedies of the past week with the attacks in Ottawa and Quebec, Canadians from coast to coast to coast vented their fears and hopes and passions as they tried to understand, to make sense of it all.
I won't pretend to have the answers, but I do know one thing for sure: Be not afraid.
As Canadians, let us focus on the positive aspects of living in this still largely unknown country and strive to fulfill our hopes and passions.
I often think of my mother's family who arrived in Canada in 1913 from England to make a new life for themselves. Not here long before my grandfather was badly burned in a fire but he survived. Then it was World War I, then the Great Depression, then World War II, and my father was killed on active service in the RCAF in 1943.
Through it all, my family and I know that yours faced its challenges too, and, never, ever let fear rule their lives.
Let me leave you with two quotes to think about:
"Fear is the only true enemy, born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate." Edward Albert
"The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear." Gandhi
As difficult as it may be, let us focus on those things bringing us together rather than dividing us. Let us certainly not be intimidated, but lead the way to the "promised land" where our greatest hopes and passions will be fulfilled -- Canada!
We are all children of the village in Canada and if need be, it is OK, even today to "flee" for a moment to the little towns for fellowship as Mr. Hutchison suggested in 1942. It is part of the Canadian experience.
I just did, even though the small town was a home in Toronto, and not Chapleau, where we were raised. My email is email@example.com
ABOUT THE PHOTO... The 'girls' in the photo were all students at Chapleau High School between 1950 and 1960, and were members of the Girls Precision Squad and/or the Bugle Band of 1181 CHS Cadet Corps. Neil Ritchie, (front left) is in the photo at request of the girls. He was "our CO" they said. Harry 'Butch' Pellow, centre botton row, was our host at the fabulous party in Toronto.
Back row from left Donna, Betty Ann, Doreen, Ann, Naomi, Gemma, Shirley, Dorothy, Front from left Neil, Diane, Butch, Alison, Joy, Jean.