Fluvialia ≈≈ Mia's blog


April 1st


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Great excitement: the first snow geese passed overhead, in their hundreds. Not stopping down though. Not yet. Soon – and then we may not sleep for a few weeks. They’ll be just right there, three dozen feet away, feeding, bouffing, and jasing, extremely sociably. The great banquet. Today’s white ice floes are tomorrow’s white geese. ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ indeed.

Makes me think about migration, and immigration. Migratory birds and migratory people. Yesterday’s news showed the sorry, sorry fate of those trying so hard to leave Libya on overloaded boats, heading north for Italy and safety. Safety’s not what they got.

Not all emigration or immigration is tragic like that, but we have a song in Québec, ‘Un Canadien errant’ – very lovely, very elegiac, words composed by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie in 1842 and almost immediately adopted by the Acadians as their expressive anthem – well after the fact of their deportation history in the 18th century (by the governor lest they fight on the French side). The attempted break-up of a ‘nation’. We now use the word ‘nation’ of Québec. A nation within a nation.

But this nation came from immigration. We are substantially a land of immigrants. A bit more like the Canada geese, though; we’re stopping – not passing on like the snow geese for northern fields. Me too, I’m stopping, a yet more recent immigrant.

I’ve learnt to trust hybrid vigour; I think it applies to spiritual and cultural things as well as biological. And I think that’s what my Anglican culture does here in Québec, or stands a chance of doing. Am I talking in too much code, here?

I’ve been reading Chantal Hébert’s book French Kiss, and she reminds us of what both Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff have said about immigration with respect to Canada:

 

…The multilingual face of Canada has [become] one of its prized assets. In an interview with the Quebec magazine L’Actualité in June 2006…leading aspirants to the Liberal leadership were asked to…finish a sentence that started with the words “Immigration is….” Michael Ignatieff…answered that immigration was the future of Canada, and Bob Rae added that it was the core reason why he was a Canadian. (p. 143)

 

Can you imagine stopping snow geese at the border?

I wonder if there were border checks in Europe when the transhumance was big – moving sheep up the mountains for summer, taking weeks at a time. Did you know there was a word in Welsh for that? – for the knowledge a sheep has of where the draye or draille is? (a Mediterranean word in map talk) – the path taken by generations of its predecessors, over own ground? This word in Welsh is cynefin. (Don’t pronounce it sin-a-fin; it’s ke-nev-in.) Imagine there being a word for such a thing, let alone there being the thing itself.

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God hath deified our nature, though not by turning it into himself, yet by making it his own inseparable habitation…

Richard Hooker