In a recent conversation the song my wife will be singing with her choir came up for discussion - “ Little Rivers of Canada” ( 'All the Little Rivers' by Larry Nickel *). We listened to it once more but in truth this song has been invading my mind for the last few months as Heather practices and tries to memorize all those RIVERS. I love it though, as I love so many songs about the Canadian experience of our relationship with the land.
Now, I was born in England, emigrating as a child of four to the Canadian West Coast with my family just after the Second World War, and some part of myself remains British. In that relationship is a love of that half imagined landscape experienced mostly through the creative works of poets, artists and writers, but I have also been grafted onto my new home. I imagine that this is the common experience of so many of us who now proudly identify as Canadian.
We have had an influx over the past few months of many people from war torn Syria and oh, how they must be missing their familiar hills, streets and rivers even as they bless the roof over their heads and freedom from the sword of immediate death and destruction hanging over their heads. But the feel of Canada, this vast landscape, will slowly seep in and provide a strong bond.
Songs like Ian Tamblyn's “Woodsmoke and Oranges “ ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvTpQAfwDUM )evoke the spirit of the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior, or of course the music of Gordon Lightfoot or Stan Rogers...., there is a long list of musicians, writers, painters and poets. Our mind-image of the landscape has been shaped by all of them over the years so that it is impossible to separate the real from the imagined. It is a joint enterprise, the land and it peoples, and for those of us who travel or live abroad these are the images that we identify as home.
*The song was adapted from the poem by Bliss Carmen
“Rivers of Canada”
All the little rivers that run to Hudson's Bay,
They call me and call me to follow them away.
Missinaibi, Abitibi, Little Current--where they run
Dancing and sparkling I see them in the sun.
hear the brawling rapid, the thunder of the fall,
And when I think upon them I cannot stay at all.
And many verses more.