Reading: Richard T. Wright and Stan Garrod, Canada: The Scenic Land, North Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books Ltd.: a Review

Flag of Canada over country contour
Flag of Canada over country contour | Source

An elusive but essential, determined unity

Richard T. Wright and Stan Garrod, Canada: The Scenic Land, North Vancouver, BC: Whitecap Books Ltd., 1983, ISBN 0-920620-28-0, p.p. 96

...

This collection of scenic views of Canada is complemented — even crowned — by four very thought-provoking essays about the country.

Maybe unusually for a book of photo scenes, there is no particular geographic order to their placing. Superficially I was at first disconcerted to find my attention diverted constantly from one province or territory of Canada to another.

But actually the ordering of the photos makes a lot of sense, when one reads the accompanying essays.

The essays are: the Introduction, 'Canada: The Land', 'Canada: The History', and 'Canada: The People'.

The Introduction emphasizes the Canadian landscape's vastness and diversity.

In 'Canada: The Land', the rugged, often harsh and inhospitable nature of the various regions is described. The reader may savour some of the careful, verbal imagery about this vast country's intriguing landscape: 'a land which is always an unknown quantity, where mystery lies just over the rim of the hills or beyond the bend in the river' — 'a land as elusive as the fading cry of a wolf in the still Arctic night air, or the call of a loon vanishing into the mist of a wilderness lake' (1).

The writers actually use musical analogies to describe the various contrasting landscapes: 'the endless wide-horizoned prairies pictures as Bach fugues, the Rockies as colossal symphonies of Wagnerian proportions, the rivers as laughing, dancing melodies'. Tellingly, they then affirm: 'No one description ever captures the essence of Canada in all its complexity' (2).

In 'Canada: The History', the many faceted backgrounds to the country's development are discussed, but finds that Sir Wilfred Laurier's vision of a Canada that is prosperous and strong has indeed been realized.

'Canada: The People' recognizes the ostensible lack of unity of the country from various perspectives: culturally, linguistically, religiously, economically and geographically (3). From all these analytical paradigms, Canada is extraodinarily diverse, and yet the essay asserts also that the country's real and essential unity is derived from the people of Canada.

I am reminded of commentators as distinct as former Prime Minister John N. Turner and historian Desmond Morton when they have spoken of the essential sense of unity of, and attachment to, this vast, sometimes harsh and even illogical land as coming from the determination of Canadians.

The clear colour photos remain impressive and varied.

Some readers might see this book as somewhat dated; but I think its four essays around different perspectives of Canada are of enduring value.

April 24, 2013

Notes

(1) Wright and Garrod, p. 26.

(2) op. cit., p. 26.

(3) The writers make a point of stressing how, albeit in its varied nature, religion has played a very strong part in the identities of many Canadian communities.

MJFenn is an independent writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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