Saturday, July 28, 2007

Trip to Ottawa: Overview

The last time I was in Ottawa, the capital of my country, I was 17 years old. That was over twenty years ago now. A time before cell phones, digital cameras, Windows, and the internet you're now reading this on. CDs were cutting edge and too expensive for me; I was still buying hits on 45s, playing them on a turn table and recording them on cassettes to listen to in a Walkman that actually had moving parts. Yeah, okay, you get the picture, right? It's been a while.

At various moments sober and drunk in the past few years I've wistfully remarked to friends that someday, invariably "soon", I meant to go back. I've always felt "Canadian", but when I was there in my youth, it gained a real substance. Standing on Parliament Hill as the Peace Tower's carillon played that day long ago, I realized, palpably, that I was standing in places that I shared with millions of other people I'd never meet... some because they lived far away, but -- and this was what really took hold of me -- many more because they had already lived and died, or would be born after I was dead. It was the first time in my life I got a real sense of the nation as a river, something in which I was embedded for a moment, but that had existed before me and would (I certainly hope) exist long after me. That I was a moment in that, and instance of it. From childhood I had always known Canada belonged to me; suddenly there was a sense that I belonged to it. And that was a revelation to me; a moment in growing up and stepping just a bit outside of myself.

I don't really think I can ever quite recapture that moment but I did want to revisit its circumstances. I never took it upon myself to do so. Both Toronto and Ottawa are in Ontario, but, Ontario's a big place. Ottawa's at least a four hour drive away, and effectively that means it's not a day trip... unless your idea of a day trip is to drive till you get within sight of a place, glimpse it, do a U-turn and go home. Ottawa meant planning, hotels, expenses. No reason I couldn't have done it, but all that is very lonely if you're going by yourself. Wonder is meant to be shared.


Update: Nov. 24, 2007. I have added the following video, which is a ten-minute vignette of some of the things I recorded during the trip. Hope you enjoy.

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