Fabric Of The Nation
As much of our country shivered through record setting temperatures over a Valentines / Family Day Weekend, the warmth of our national fabric embraced us in a mid-winter hug. On February 15th, our country’s beautiful and much admired flag celebrated fifty years of symbolizing a land and people respected and envied around the globe. Whether you were skiing, hiking, playing shinny, shovelling or relaxing by the fire, there were many reasons to celebrate the season that so defines our land. Dominating our calendar, literally and metaphorically, the oft times mythical narrative of winter seems a birthright most Canadians at least stoically accept if they can’t fully embrace! Somehow our flag seems to fly highest over the backdrop of an eternal winter blue sky. In the scene’s background … an endless horizon framing snow draped forests and the gleaming ice of frozen ponds and rivers at the flanks of glacier capped peaks.
Last week our sr. students and staff enjoyed a wonderful visit to Camp Wanakita in Haliburton, where they celebrated winter…outdoors where it can be most appreciated. Snowshoe hikes, cross country skiing and evening campfires with hot chocolate on the shores of a frozen lake are a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty of a season most of us hope our children will learn to love. We need them to take time to discover the joys of standing under silent pines bathed in moonlight and learn with amazement how the creatures of the boreal forest adapt to life in an environment so beautiful yet unforgiving. Identifying tracks through the snow and recognizing the birds and animals of the Haliburton/ Algonquin highlands is a delight for the senses and stimulates the power of observation. While at Wanakita, our students also enjoyed an evening workshop illuminating First Nation culture led by long time friend of Dearcroft/West Wind, Doug Pawis an Anishnabe (Ojibway) elder.
As famed Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman has stated, today’s youth need to spend more time outside immersed in nature, connecting to the environment and building life skills… benefitting from the confidence such opportunities provide. Iconic advocates of outdoor environmental education including Dr. David Suzuki and American author Richard Louv (who coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder), have long warned us that adolescents need such a connection with the earth in order to develop productive and healthy adult behaviours.
For over twenty years we have run a very ambitious Winter Trip program in the month of February rotating among destinations in Ontario and Quebec. From winter camping in Temagami or a snowbound Algonquin Park to skating on the Rideau Canal… ces’t l’hiver! From admiring stunning ice sculptures in the shadows of our Parliament buildings during winterlude… to marveling at Quebec City‘s frozen ramparts and dogsledding on trails flanking the mighty St. Lawrence, there’s no place more magnificent than Canada in winter.
As mentioned previously, this year we’ve been learning more about the historic and contemporary role of Canada’s First Nation communities in the cultural narrative of our country. In addition to the evening led by Doug Pawis at Camp Wanakita, we’ve been involved with exciting initiatives such as helping organize the visit to Oakville earlier this month by award winning Canadian author Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda, Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce. In a world screaming for peace, tolerance and constructive dialogue (important values and skills we strive to instill in our students), we were thrilled to have a voice as powerful and thought provoking as Joseph Boyden visit our community. Through workshops, book readings and lectures attended by members of our staff and Dearcroft parents, we are now positioned to join the conversation and be a part of the dialogue affecting an important aspect of Canada’s future. Native rights, mental health and wellness environmental awareness and stewardship of our natural resources are all important aspects of curriculum development under the umbrella of Canadian cultural studies.
In closing, I’d like to share some observations by Ron MacLean, a long time supporter and wonderful friend who joined us for Joseph Boyden’s visit. I encourage you to read the link (below) to his Hockey Day In Canada blog penned this week from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, home of another Canadian icon, Sidney Crosby. http://www.hometownhockey.com/news/memories-‐of-‐nova-‐scotia-‐music-‐hockey-‐happiness/
In addition to Ron’s insight regarding the power of Joseph Boyden’s words, it seems fitting to end with the theme of winter… where when skating on a frozen pond with friends, anything seems possible and all is good! Whether or not you play shinny or appreciate the joys of hockey in its purest form… outdoors on natural ice, I’m sure you’ll enjoy these further observations from a remarkable Canadian. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it is with great eloquence that Ron elaborates upon themes from the very fabric of our nation… themes we are so privileged to discuss. All the while in a country that embraces us with the warmth of decency, respect, community and eternal hope for a bold and bright future under our beautifully welcoming and inclusive flag.
To borrow a uniquely Canadian Olympian phrase…We Are Winter!
To that I’ll add… we are blessed!