Thursday, September 29, 2005

Nature and Nature

This morning when wind and rain took down dead branches and little bird's nests I wondered as the power flickered if this was the remnant of Rita.
I wondered, too, about a question Robyn posed in the comments below: if Canada was like the US - only not as much.
Some of the divergences are subtle enough and some are defined by our approach to things.
One might define the US as a people overflowing a country, a geographic pot; and Canada as a country only sparsely filled with people who sometimes worry if the tesserae will fragment.
I have read that one of the currents in the American psyche is a vital and vigorous sense of having conquered and controlled the landscape, mastered the land, with giants dams and levees, amazing bridges, highways and vast cities...I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans.... My father always spoke of his Winchester 30-30 as the gun that won the West.
Perhaps that explains why there seems to be an element of disbelief, bewilderment, really, in some of the reaction to the flotsam and jetsam, the rack and wash of bodies and brick following Katrina and Rita. As if in some, a certain Canute certainty was upset.
Generalizations such as these are suspect, but I would suggest that one of our differences is that in Canada we view nature differently, that the wilderness, the wildness, at least in our literature and our imagination, is something we co-exist with, a presence we have not forgotten to respect and are still acutely aware of human fraility and death in the face of ancient power. Desolation does not surprise us. Perhaps we are more inclined to deify the land, rather than those on the Oregon Trail.
If anyone mentions Survival I may puke. No I won't - her name atte wode is enough to validate her approach.
The difference in population is a factor. Another is that until fighter pilots became bush pilots after WWII, much of the North was not truly mapped...The deep green forest was too silent to be real....
Cousinkin, yes.
But we are different.

15 comments:

Robyn said...

Interesting post. My husband has been trying for years to find a reason we absolutely have to move to Alaska. A log cabin on a mountain, surrounded by forest, is his idea of heaven. Judging from your column, he must have some Canadian blood.

I could take it if they had pizza delivery. ;)

Stephen Newton said...

Thanks for your insights, Bernita. I agree completely.
Ain't language wunnerful?

Bernita said...

To steal from "Greensleeves"...all our joy and our delight...

ali said...

It's strange that you say, 'One might define the US as a people overflowing a country', when here in Britain, most people seem to think of the US as being very empty and wild - like you describe Canada.

Bernita said...

Population wise, the US is heading for 300 million people. Canada has a little over 30 million.
Geographically, Canada is a little larger.
These statistics affect the mental landscape.
Nevertheless, the US is not a concrete jungle of wall-to-wall cities.
One of the biggest disconnects between Europe and the New World is the internal understanding of space and distance.

Sela Carsen said...

You got that right, Bernita. When I lived in England, I know my friends had a hard time understanding that I could drive from one end of the UK to another and not have crossed Texas yet, or even the length of California.

Remodeling Repartee said...

Bernita,

Was sent here by Miss Snark. Simply beautiful blog.

'bout America. Not only is there a disconnect with nature here, but with downsizing and the inability of most middle-class (oops, there hardly is a middle class anymore) to survive in an urban area, where the best jobs are, there is a corresponding disconnect with an actual "hometown" and the cultural and familial ties to land, architecture and history.

As Americans move from place to place, exchanging unstable benefit-less jobs, marital parnters, step-children and drywall "production housing," their only constant is American media; i.e Survivor, Desperate Housewives, American Idol, and the state propaganda news channel, Fox (Faux) News.

This explains much, doesn't it.

I am a third-generation Californian and have not yet left the city of my grandparents. I am an oddity. Yet it's hard for me to think what my mindset would be without the small sense of a hundred-years-worth of roots in a particular landscape gives me.

Bernita said...

And what a perfectly beautiful compliment. Thank you. I'm glad you came.

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