Somehow, living in the North – specifically, north of the 49th parallel along with the geographical majority of Canada – has made me feel a little more… well… Canadian.
For years, I have listened to the Canadian comedic musical group The Arrogant Worms sing about Canada about a place that’s filled with “rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks… and water.” This is not really the Canada that I have known for most of my life – that’s the Canada you had to take a special trip to go see. Sure, there were rocks and trees – heck, even water – in my hometown, but that’s not how I would have described the predominant landscape. That, my friends, would be more like “fields and fields and barns and fields and barns and fields and fields… and a rubber tire that’s been laying at the side of the highway for at least a decade.”
The Canada that they sang about – the Canada that is romanticized and featured in calendars – that was somewhere else. Probably in British Columbia, because those hippies have everything cool.
But you know where there are a lot of trees now? In my backyard. And along my street. And everywhere. Rocks, too. And even some water. Mostly trees, though. So many trees.
Somehow, the sheer number of trees everywhere didn’t really strike me as different at first. My old neighbourhood had lots of trees, sure. And there were a few forested areas nearby. I had never really felt like there was a lack of trees in my life.
But then, I was talking to someone from the North and she mentioned she was sad that so many trees were being cut down – you could really see it if you drove through the country.
Wait. The country? Like… where farmers live?
That is when it really hit me; every street here besides the downtown area is tree-lined – and not for aesthetic reasons. In most rural areas, depending on the importance of the road, the tree line is anywhere from fifty feet to five feet from the side of the road. And it’s not like in the South where trees are planted in a single-file line as a courtesy to help block drifting snow. No, these trees exist because they’re meant to be there – this is the North, damn it! And they’re thick, too. That vegetation is denser than the silence after Grandma goes on another one of her anti-Semitic rants.
The woods and forests and marshes literally fill in all the empty space between the roads here. And in any patch, you could realistically expect to find all the other things Canadian – moose, bears, and foxes, especially.
I like all the trees, but in principle only. If I had to shout it from a roof top, I would say that it’s fantastic and refreshing and so Canadian that my blood turns to maple syrup every time I drive (although, ironically, mapped distributions suggest we’re actually north of the sugar maple’s territory). But here, on this private forum that’s just between me and the Internet, I will say this: It’s kind of spooky.
It turns out I kind of like fields. I like seeing farmers out in their big machines. I like knowing what’s going on around me.
But with nothing but trees coming at me from either side, who knows what’s going on. I don’t know who – or what – is lurking behind all those birch and pine. Those moose that I am so enamoured with seeing from a safe distance could just as easily pop out in front of my car at any second and end up on my lap.
“Nice to meet you too, Pete. We’re probably both dead now.”
Of course, I’m sure this is the kind of thing I’ll get used to. Maybe some day, I’ll even embrace it. It makes sense that I would, given my affinity for both nature and my home and native land.
But for now, I can’t really see the woods for the trees.