Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Barometer of a Nation ... Canada

What is a nation? Is it a place bounded by unseen lines upon a land or the twining path of a river or the sea? Or is it one people, though they be scattered far and wide?

Were suddenly all U.S. citizens to be called home from wherever they live in the world, a flood of millions would pour across the borders. Some would hardly seem American, having been away so long. Some of them would be deeply resentful.

What is a nation? Is it a unity of purpose in spite of differences, like the Roman citizenship that once bound men from Britain to Libya, from Spain to Anatolia?

I enjoy my little hobby of studying the nations of the world, one at a time, month by month. In December, I have been contemplating my great northern neighbor, Canada. Though I have yet to sample a beavertail pastry or learn the words to "O Canada," perhaps what I have studied has been more significant. I have read Canadian Hugh MacLennan's "Barometer Rising." Authored in the 1950's, it is the tale of a terrible tragedy in Halifax during WWI: the collision of two ships in Halifax Harbor, one laden with munitions, that killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, and leveled nearly the entire city. MacLennan's tale begins quietly, swelling like a wave upon a darkened sea,finally rising to terrible climax.

May I be forgiven for having learned nothing about this horrible event in my life until now, nothing in school, though I certainly should have.

MacLennan also throughout the book contemplates what it means to be Canadian: Neither a (U.S.) American nor British. But must a Canadian define himself only by what he is not? And what is Canada's destiny in the world? A bridge between its southern neighbor and the Old World, perhaps. He ponders whether Canada would rise to be one of the great nations of the world after Europe exhausted itself in war.

"...Neither a colony nor an independent nation, neither English nor American ... Canada must remain noncommital, until the day she becomes the keystone to hold the world together."

"... This nation undiscovered by the rest of the world and unknown to itself ... this unborn mightiness, this question mark, this future ... for God knew how many millions of mankind."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Australia to create marine reserve

"When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way ..." -- Crosby, Stills and Nash So much of the world I have not seen ... the vast Eurasian steppes; sun-baked Africa; ancient Asia ... and the islands of the Southern Hemisphere. I read today that Australia is proposing to designate nearly 400,000 square miles in the Coral Sea as a marine reserve. Splendid! I may never see it myself but I am happy to know it will be there, a place free of exploitation, full of beauty. Just one more thing to love about the Land Down Under.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not alone

Venturing deeper into the woods today, into parts once familiar to me, where I once felt myself quite alone, I found it not so today. Someone has built walls of scrap wood, hung black plastic tarps, created some kind of a campsite. It was uncomfortable, wondering who did so, and for what purpose. I did not linger today but I will have to go back.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Too long away from the woods

For too long, I have not visited you, my woods, not explored beyond the ruined fenceline. Massive trees, storm-toppled, sprawl across the wispy threads of old, familiar trails. A loblolly pine that once stood strong on the slope's edge now lies lifeless, its needles dry and brown. I feel a pang of sorrow, for it was always a welcome brushstroke of green amongst the dull oaks. But clinging to a boulder nearby, a new pine stands, as tall as me -- truly, how long has it been since I visited you, my woods? I pull away a tendril of honeysuckle that seeks to climb and choke the tender tree, and vow to become a friend of this place again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Job lead

Got a FB message from a friend yesterday, may be an editor's job opening up. Tiny hometown paper. But it would be full-time, with benefits. We shall see.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gentle autumn

Soft mist sifts down through the Virginia sky, as our autumn slowly fades into winter. This is a beautiful place to live. My thoughts are random today; I have applied for an editor's job; a friend has offered a slab of venison; I am watching happily as a tender tropical tree grows taller on my window sill; I cleaned out the recipe book cabinet in the kitchen and piled up all the loose recipes, from magazines and such, into a box until I can buy some folders into which to organize them. Life goes on. Life is good. Life, though hard and often painful, is precious. What is the alternative? The dead insensibility of nothingness, a universe unaware of itself.