Oh Canada! Happy Birthday to you

Today is Canada Day, the yearly holiday to mark the anniversary of Canada becoming a country. This year, Canada celebrates 150 years. However, 150 years is only Canada’s official age, and does not take into account the centuries of trade and exploration before that, including the founding of the world’s oldest department store, the Hudson’s Bay Company(where both my mother and I worked, though at different stores). It also does not include the rich history of the indigenous peoples, whose culture was almost destroyed by white settlement, millennia of art and language and living with the land dismissed by our more ignorant forebears.

I lived in Canada for fourteen years. It’s where I attended high school and university, where I learned to drive, where many of life’s milestones happened to me. It’s a country I love dearly, where I still have friends, and where I met my husband. I also hold citizenship, so am proud to call myself Canadian on this day.

It is a place of wonders, of glimmering mountain peaks, vast prairies and tumbling waterfalls. Of wildlife fierce, tooth and claw, of people kind and welcoming. Its cities are bright and clean and vibrantly multicultural, and regularly place high on the list of best places to live. Canada has spawned authors and dancers and musicians, actors and directors and doctors and scientists.

It’s not a perfect country – nowhere is. But it’s pretty damn close.

And so today, on its 150th birthday, I would like to say Oh Canada! Happy Birthday to you 🙂


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Wednesday Wander – Pacific Northwest Totem Poles

totem-1These tall, beautifully carved objects are totem poles, part of the culture and artistry of the First Nations people, specifically those of the Pacific Northwest. The great forests that once covered the misty Pacific shores were home to vast red cedar trees, traditionally used to make the poles. Now only pockets of that forest remain, glimpses of the long-ago.

totem-2The top photo was taken in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a piece of the old forest preserved on the very tip of the gleaming city. I used to live across the road from where the park began, and often walked there with my dog, taking trails past hidden lakes and tangled undergrowth. Once you’re among the trees, it’s easy to forget you’re in a city. It’s a marvellous place.

totem-3The second photo was taken in Vancouver as well, at Capilano Valley, and the above image was taken at Victoria, on Vancouver Island. The figures on the poles are stylistic representations of known ancestors, natural objects and animals, and supernatural beings, and they were used by different families or clans as storytelling devices, funerary containers, and even as shaming devices, only removed once the wrong was righted or the debt paid.

totempolehenryhunt
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This final totem pole, randomly enough, is in Berkhamsted, an historic town quite close to where I live. And how did a totem pole find its way into the heart of England? Apparently, during the 1960’s, Berkhamsted resident Roger Alsford worked at the Tahsis Lumber Mill on Vancouver Island. During strike action he was saved from starvation by the local Kwakiutl community, who looked after him. In gratitude his family, who owned a lumber mill in Berkhamsted, commissioned the totem pole to be carved by First Nations artist, Henry Hunt. In 1968 the completed pole was shipped to England and erected at the lumber yard. It’s now private apartments, so you can’t get close to the totem any more, but it is still visible from the canal.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!

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You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, and check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest Page for book info, photos, blogs and more.

Plus check out my latest release, A Thousand Rooms, now available on Amazon.