I have just returned from a delightful first visit to Canada, besides the quick drives through Vancouver as the start-stop of Alaskan cruises. Today, July 1, is Canada Day, celebrating not the independence of Canada from Britain (peacefully on March 25, 1982) but the joining in 1867 of the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada (now Ontario & Quebec) to form a more united front in case of any attack. I am ready to celebrate Canada – in summer, at least – as a respite from Midwestern heat and humidity.
My dream has been to return to the Colorado Rockies, where I have fond childhood camping memories, including the one of chipmunks reaching into our hamster’s cage to steal his food, but I was happy to check out the Canadian Rockies instead, thanks to my husband attending a conference in Calgary nearby. We flew to Calgary and drove to the mountains by way of the Trans-Canada Highway which runs alongside the historic Canadian Pacific Railway. The imposing mountains, many cradling glaciers, are glorious even when moody with rain clouds. We did not see any animals but a few chipmunks and ravens, but bears were sighted by others during our stay. With so few roads and such expanse of wilderness, animals can easily stay far from humans.
My Dutch great-grandfather and his two sons came to North America on a freighter that landed in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. The younger son, my grandfather, was almost washed overboard during a storm. He was able to keep hold of the railing as his feet were pulled out from under him. Immigrants were crammed below deck, many from Poland. My uncle said it cost $40 to get to North America, and no permits were needed back in 1913.
My great-grandfather thought about settling in Winnipeg, thanks to an agent friend trying to persuade him to take up Canada’s offer to farm there for seven years and then get sixty acres free. But it was all wild land, and the agent mentioned winter snow was so high people had to dig tunnels to get out of their houses. No thanks – they knew people in Chicago so they would go there. There was a “Dutch Chicago” in those days. So my father – and eventually I – were born in Chicago instead of refreshing Canada.
My weather forecast today is 95 degrees, heat index up to 107. Canada, O Canada, I miss your wild mountains and the cool, fresh air scented with pine. Thanks for the great memories!