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Three ways to celebrate Canada with gusto

A guitar, a quilt and a peace centre hold together our stories

By Carolyn Pogue

I am writing a book about a rock. Beats me how this happened — geology isn’t my forté. But my research into the Acasta River gneiss in the Northwest Territories, the oldest rock on the planet, has given me one surprise after another. This one fits with Canada Day.

I learned about a guitar called Voyageur made from different Canadian woods and from more than 60 Canadian artifacts. Out of concern that Quebec and Canada would separate, writer Jowi Taylor asked luthier George Rizsanyi to make a guitar. Taylor believed that if we had a guitar that travelled the country making music and telling stories we’d have a better chance of sticking together. Voyageur made its debut in Ottawa on Canada Day in 2006 and it has been travelling across the country ever since.

On that guitar you’ll find Sudbury (Ont.) nickel, a slice of the Golden Spruce from Haida Gwaii, B.C. and a piece of an original seat from Toronto’s Massey Hall. There is mammoth ivory, a bit of Maurice “Rocket” Richard’s Stanley Cup ring and more. And, there’s a piece of Acasta gneiss outcrop. It’s over four billion years old. Makes you want to sing “O Canada” a bit louder, doesn’t it?

Also, artist Esther Bryan from Williamstown, Ont. has created another icon for Canadians. The Quilt of Belonging is a collaborative work by Canadians celebrating diversity. Like the guitar, it moves around. It’s been viewed by more than a million.

When Bryan thought about her family history — as many people do — she wondered about others. Everyone has family stories that, brought together, make us Canada. She wondered what Canada would look like in fabric. In April 2005, six years after the first stitch, she knew. Quilters from the three ocean shores surrounding Canada and everywhere in between sent their pieces to her, made with everything from sealskin to African mud cloth. That year the quilt was displayed at the Museum of Civilization. 

And, if you’re in the Maritimes this summer, you could visit the Community Peace Centre in Moncton, N.B. You’ll feel fantastic seeing what Rev. Dr. Jim MacDonald and a team at Central United Church dreamed into reality. I wish I’d been at their grand opening last week. The Centre brings together non-profits, government agencies, seniors, peace groups and environmental groups. We talk about transformation inside our churches; here it is.

Sure, I know we live in a country that just passed the “ominous omnibus bill” C-38, but cheer up. Take this trinity of creative Canadians into your heart when you celebrate July 1. Look for surprises. You might just find one, even under a rock. Happy birthday, us!

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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