“A Canadian is someone who knows how to have sex in a canoe” – Pierre Burton
I don’t know anyone personally who has had sex in a canoe. But, according to a survey by the Playtex and Environics Research Group, fully 8 percent of us have tried.
To canoe is Canadian. To sail aboard a catamaran, not so much. Part of what makes sailing intriguing to me is that it is foreign to my experience growing up in Canada’s far North.
With my background, sailing seems alien and challenging. It would be easy to stay at home. But, I love the novelty and sense of adventure that sailing might bring.
Here is a picture of something I fully understand: an iconic picture of the late Pierre Trudeau and former Canadian Prime minister.
You can see from the background that it’s a Fall day. The leaves are changing colors. He is wearing plenty of layers. The picture is timeless.
You can almost feel the chill off the water. But, his buckskin jacket keeps him warm. His jacket is earthy, not factory processed.
Tanned hides have a distinctively earthy smell – a kind of rich-tobacco-meets-the-sweet-decay-of-moss kind of smell.
So, in his jacket, tucked into his canoe, he is at one with his surroundings. He is the quintessential Canadian. But, it would be reductive to paint him as a Canadian cardboard cut-out.
In 1944, Trudeau wrote an essay on the joys of canoeing. I am delighted that he and I seem to share a common bond as it relates to challenging oneself. He writes:
I would not know how to instill a taste for adventure in those who have not acquired it. (Anyway, who can ever prove the necessity for the gypsy life?) And yet there are people who suddenly tear themselves away from their comfortable existence and, using the energy of their bodies as an example to their brains, apply themselves to the discovery of unsuspected pleasures and places.
Fast forward to me, a Canadian whose fondest memories also involve a chill in the air.
Yet, here I am on the first day of Fall still wearing shorts, and no foreseeable prospect of requiring so much as a sweater.
The southern climate seems to fly in the very face of what it means to be Canadian. I know cold, and how to stay warm in winter.
When CBC reporter Stu Mills asked me what I’d miss about Ottawa, the weather was furthest from my mind. But, I have to admit, I miss the cool nights and the warm days of Fall. I miss the leaves.