Sunday, May 16, 2010

Verbing Canada

Anyone with even a passing interest in winter sports of course knows that a few months ago our fair city was besieged by a kind of manic enthusiasm for all things cold, wet and fast. Yes, Vancouver recently hosted the Winter Olympics – did you hear?

Now I don’t normally care about sports much – I take a book to the cricket and I’ve played golf a few times. That’s about as far as it goes. My interest in winter sports is even lower. Why would I go out of my way to be cold when we have the technology, nay the manifest destiny, to heat our homes and workplaces to tropical temperatures even as a blizzard rages outside? Artificial heat is what separates us from the animals, after all.

Still, in the heat of the moment (well, in the COLD of the moment might be more apt) it was hard not to get caught up in the hype. All those little red mittens finally got to me. Yes, and Miga, Quatchi and the rest – I can’t resist an inscrutable mascot. So I did my part – I wore red, I dressed my daughter in red, despite the fact that it’s the only colour that doesn’t look good on her (why oh why can’t our national color be turquoise?). I even watched a few events.

Finally, and characteristically for me, I commemorated the whole strange experience in a couple of t-shirts.

So the little one is for Lucy of course. What could be clearer than a heart inside a maple leaf? I love Canada and (crucially) Canada loves me. My heart is in the maple leaf and the maple leaf is in my heart. The maple leaf forever…it could be a song…oh wait….

The other one, meanwhile, is a little harder to interpret. The “I *heart* NY” logo is so darn graphic and cool and timeless that I wanted to make an homage to it, but I’m not sure the result is successful. The subject and the object, the “I” and the “BC” (British Columbia to those whose Canadian geography is rusty) are clear enough, but what exactly is happening? What action does the maple leaf symbolize? In short, if Canada was a verb, what would it mean?

“I Canada you” – I fill you with peace and security? “I Canada Haiti” – I give Haiti medical care and a stable government? “I Canada NY” – I remove all the rough edges and dark corners and basically turn New York into Toronto (god forbid!)?

Canada represents many things to many people – peace, opportunity, freedom, security and of course, a certain blandness, mocked by many but secretly desired by all; because ultimately life was meant to be kind of bland. The first peoples of Canada lived a life that changed little from day to day and from season to season(as did my ancestors for thousands upon thousands or years). There were challenges yes, but mostly they were expected, even desired – seasons turned, tides rose and fell, the salmon, buffalo and caribou came and went year after year. There were skirmishes and territorial disputes, but nothing large scale, nothing apocalyptic. There was cultural and biological evolution, but it was slow and gentle. Life was, well, kind of bland. Then, one horrible day, a great ship appeared on the horizon…

And there’s the irony – that such a peaceful, beautiful country should have been built on the ugliest kind of war – quick and dirty and above all, unfair. Deep in our hearts all Canadians wear this wound like a maple leaf shaped hole of regret. Maybe that’s the answer; if Canada was a verb it would be “to apologize”. I apologize BC, I apologize for what my countrymen did to create the most livable city on Earth. I apologize for the sacrifices people were forced to make. I apologize for the imperfections still lurking in this most perfect of places.

I apologize BC, because contrary to popular belief, love means ALWAYS having to say you’re sorry. And I love you BC, I really do.