It’s hard to capture what it is that makes Canada home. There are so many equivalent and similar landscapes that skirt the northern latitudes of the planet. Sometimes when I squint I can mistake a Scottish river for a prairie one, or pretend the North Sea is the Arctic Ocean.
But there is something, perhaps something living and unquantifiable (in western thought), that ties us to the land and to our homes. Canada is vast. Canada is rich and deep and complex. Canada is where my ancestors’ bones are buried and where I can hear the whispers of the Grandmothers on the evening wind.
My heart swells when I see a camera panning across mountains and spruce and open fields and tundra and craggy sea cliffs. Even if it winds up being just another cheesy car commercial, that connection to a landscape so diverse and so sweeping defines me in ways that I am only just coming to understand. There is perhaps a bit of danger in the sublime, in forgetting that the landscape is sentient, populated, breathing, and carries stories of thousands upon thousands of years within its soul.
Those stories that are sung in the morning sky can still make their way to my little heart as I move through the world in my nomadic way, but I think it is important to respect the power of the things that the land has to tell us while we are moving through it. It is so easy to only realize the power of something once we no longer have it or cannot return to it. We are so blessed to be connected to such a powerful landscape, to have it give itself to us to keep us fed, clothed, watered and housed.
I have always been very deeply moved by the land — it is in fields, forests, mountains and other open spaces that I feel my heart finally fall into place. It’s when I am ‘on the land’ that I can finally let go of all of the buzz and anxiety that ricochets around cities and other densely populated spaces. Entering a mall or any other busy space often fills me with a sort of malaise and discomfort that is hard to explain. All those people and their worries and thoughts clinging to them in one place — it is sometimes too much for me to handle. I often find myself picking up on people’s feelings and dispositions, whether you believe in that kind of stuff or not. So, it is with great relief that I escape on long walks in the countryside or river valley or any other place where a soul can linger on its own terms.
They say that the desire to be alone makes one an introvert, but I am never alone on these escapes into quiet spaces. When I lose myself in a forest or on a beach or hilly bike ride, I am intimately connected to the landscape and the life that fills it. The land just has a little more patience than my human compatriots and gives me more space to think and breathe and be.
While I am thankful to the Scottish soil and all that it nurtures for welcoming me and allowing me ways to escape into happy solitude, I am fully aware of all the things it isn’t. It isn’t the place where I learned to fish, or where I allowed my imagination to run wild on summer vacations at our family cabin in northern Alberta. It is a place where I have distant ancestors, and so I think this is why I can live here and feel safe and loved and guided. But I am also intimately aware of the need and the urgent call to come home at some point. Because there are still so many rivers, lakes, trees and vistas that I need to visit and whisper a silent thank you to. I hope that I can find a way, in this hectic life, to make sure I am able to do that.