The Secrets of an Unknown Backyard

By
As an American teenager, I’ve studied the histories of far-away places like France, England, and Germany. I’ve read books that transport me to another time and place in history. I’ve traveled to Japan and spent time the geisha of Kyoto, visited with the Finches in Maycomb County, and even had tea with Fiona Finnegan in East London in 1888. But it seems that one place is missing from our history books and literature: Canada. Looking back, I am surprised at how little I knew about one of the three major countries in North America. Never once have I read a book that took me to the woods of Canada, and I could never tell you when Canada became a free nation. As far as I was concerned, Canada is the quiet child of nations. This is why, when I got a chance to visit Quebec City and Montreal, Canada, I never expected to learn so much from the quiet country up north. Canada was like a backyard I had never explored; it was always there, within reach, but never before had I wanted to know its secrets.
When I went to Paris, France the summer prior to this trip, I had already learned all about the history of Paris in my French class. I knew the basic history up to the French Revolution and I could name major monuments. But when I was preparing for my trip to Canada, I didn’t have any expectations except to have a good time with my friends. That, for me, was the biggest appeal. The only weapon I had against this unknown culture was the basics of the French language and the help of my fabulous teacher. I felt that that was enough.
It wasn’t until I arrived in Montreal that I realized that magic of Canada. We had spent the day in airports, airplanes, and buses, and when we made our first stop of that day, I was surprised. We had driven up and down the streets of Montreal, and it had appeared to be just like any other city; that is, until, we discovered our first glimpse of what Canada really was. The place was called “Dorchester Square” and it seemed so out of place in this lovely urban setting. The square was filled with trees, as if there was a nice little forest inside a city. In the center there was a monument, a man on a horse, but it seemed insignificant. All I wanted to do was sit on a bench and enjoy the trees.
After two days of culture and history, I found myself at Montmorency Falls, which, come to find out, was the largest waterfall in Quebec. It was amazing to hear the waterfall, and how loud something as soothing as water could be. We walked up the steps and to the bridge that crossed the waterfall. It was amazing; the unions of nature and man coming together so I could experience this beautiful moment. As I looked down from the waterfall, I imagined what it would be like to be the first person to walk across this bridge. Who was the first person to see this waterfall? How many explorers had paddled their canoes up to the base of this massive wall of water? And how is it that I get to experience it? Differently than them, maybe, but in my own right: for the first time.

Later that night, for dinner, we visited a restaurant called the “Sugar Shack”, a family-run maple sugar farm. Before dinner, we were taught the proper way to extract sugar from a maple tree, and we learned that they had thousands of trees on the property, each one giving maple sugar year after year. Then we had a little time to relax before dinner, and we went down the swing set down the hill from the restaurant. It was in a small grove of trees and the smells and sounds of nature surrounded me as I swung back and forth. It was a great feeling—the temperature was perfect, and the smells left me with memories of camping trips and lazy summer nights. I again began to realize the magic of Canada.

Our last activity on the itinerary was a trip down the St. Lawrence River on a hydrojet. I had been looking forward to this since I heard about the trip almost a year ago. As we got into the boats, we heard stories from the women driving the boat about what to expect. She told us to get ready to experience something amazing, and don’t be scared. We floated out into the river and then rode down until we were near the rapids. The “captain” steered the boat into what looked like giant rocks and I braced myself for what I thought was going to be giant. As we went down our first bump, a wave of water splashed onto our boat. It was tame compared to what was to come. Giant waves of ice-cold water came and hit us smack in the face. It was a rush and a pain all at once. After the sting wore off, the buzz from the water stayed with us. We were cold, but high off of something much more magical: life. The hydrojet was probably one of the scariest, most exciting things I had ever done in my life, and it confirmed my thoughts on the mystery that was Canada.

On our final morning in Canada, we went back to Dorchester Square for a final visit. I sat on a bench between my two best friends and thought about all that we’d seen in the six days we had called Canada our home. It was then that I finally realized what Canada was all about.

Canada isn’t a country founded on words and famous events. It has something much more rich and true. It has nature. All of its history and culture predates its people by thousands of years. The waterfall that I got the chance to see was there thousands of years before I or anyone else was, and will be there for thousands of years after I am gone. The trees at the Sugar Shack will continue to give maple sugar and the trees will always bring back memories. And Dorchester Square will forever be the one place where the nature of Canada meets the city streets that were influenced by the rest of the world.

Francis Bacon once said:

“We are not to imagine or suppose, but to discover, what nature does or may be made to do.”

In my short trip to Canada, I discovered that nature is what defines the country that I knew nothing about. It doesn’t need a textbook to explain to me what cannot be captured by words alone. It takes a true-life experience with the wonders of Canada to truly understand why there is no need for words because the nature does it all.





Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Becca17 said...
Apr. 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm
amazing! really captures the mix of Urban and natural factors that make up the country (im pround to be in) Canada.
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback