Canada Around the Corner – Chats of Discovery in the Neighborhood

Posted on July 12, 2011

In the 1960s, I followed a draft dodger to Canada and soon learned I loved the country as much or more than I did him.  At that time, Toronto exuded much more of a sense of place because it had not yet become the glass-hung more than human scale north American city it is today.  It was artful and charming and full of unique places within places.  Only my father’s terminal illness and the end of that special Viet Nam era relationship brought me back to the states.

Happily for me when I retired (or so I had thought) back to western New York to a small village, I met Catherine, wife of a local educator and mother of three outstanding children.  She is a native Canadian.  She and I have a passion for gardening, literature, art and music.  In short, she and her family are treasured friends.

Today Catherine and I were about to launch on a tour of my garden’s newest installations when she mentioned that one of her sisters, still living in Canada,  was and artist involved in a fascinating project.  She and her fellow artists in the Windsor, Ontario area together with several well-known Canadian literary figures had created a world on wheels – a project known as  “A Sense of Place.” The effort that is currently traveling across Canada and is here described by  Nino Ricci, author”

Dawson, Y.T., is like no place on
Earth — part ghost town, part
frontier outpost, part imitation
of both. Its population swelled to 40,000
during the Klondike gold rush and has
been declining ever since. Yet even
reduced to its current 1,800-odd inhabitants
— some of them very odd, indeed,
whether native-born or part of the
unlikely collection of artists, wayfarers
and outcasts who have somehow landed
here and never left — the place exudes
an almost mystical presence, staking its
claim at the confluence of the Klondike
and Yukon rivers as if it belongs here
every bit as much as the local grizzlies or
the northern lights.
What better location, then, for a discussion
of how the places we live help
shape who we are. That is what has
brought me, along with writer Alistair
MacLeod and visual artist Iain Baxter&,
to Dawson’s Dänojà Zho Cultural
Centre, dedicated to the area’s First
Nations, as part of a road show examining
the role that place plays in the arts
and in our lives. Launched in Windsor,
Ont., in 2007, the Sense of Place project
is the brainchild of Windsor Printmaker’s
Forum president Patricia Coates. The
show has travelled to Chatham, Ont.,
Toronto, London and Whitehorse, with
further stops planned for Sudbury,
Thunder Bay, Corner Brook, N.L., and
Cape Breton, N.S. Combining presentations
and public discussions with an exhibition
of print works on the theme of
place that range from the literal to the
esoteric, from traditional lithographs to
actual deer prints encased in earth, Sense
of Place shines a spotlight on how our
environments imprint themselves on us,
remaking us as much as we remake them.

…………………………………………………….This is a place, if ever
there was one. Like no place on Earth.
One afternoon is all it takes[for Dawson] to leave its
indelible imprint on us.
Nino Ricci
Discovery [read more at Canada Geographic

Below is “Quarry” an installation of carefully selected sections of earth that contain animal tracks, moss, stones – all manner of arrangements Patricia Coates sees and captures in multiple frames for our enjoyment and edification.  “I love them” I said to Catherine.  With a smile she replied “she has more installed in her home, crumbling in her living room.”  Sisters!  I am so glad for our frequent chats that take us everywhere from this place.

"Quarry" by Patricia Coates

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