For a true symbol of Canada we need not look any further than the canoe paddle. The mighty beaver, the maple leaf, the moose, all great and well trodden symbols, but the paddle stands out. The beaver, moose and maple drew us to the lakes and rivers but it was the paddle that got us there. It is central to our history, to our identity as Canadians.
As a symbol the paddle is terrific; it provides direction, forward movement and a measure of control. One can back paddle when necessary, a very Canadian sentiment of self deprecation. We can all pull together, work in tandem; we can paddle against the current or be up the creek without a paddle. The metaphors abound.
The paddle carved our history just as we carved our paddles and we are connected to that past by dint of putting paddle to water. And as such, we all have a story to share that connects us to how this country was first inhabited. From a short trip to a lifetime of travel by canoe, we have stories to share.
Your stories reside in your objects. Each dent in your canoe, each scratch or crack in your paddle, each bruised vertebrae from yolk or tump, tell a story; a story within the continuing story of Canada and the canoe paddle.
So here is where you come in: Send me your objects that are imbued with those stories. They may be connected to history (perhaps you have Samuel Hearn’s paddle, or canvas from Tom Thomson’s canoe- neither of which you would likely want to give up, but please read on, you might!), or they might be part of your own history; either way they tell your story of travel by canoe.
Perhaps it’s a broken yoke, thwart or piece of gunwale, perhaps its a splintered paddle (hope it’s not an Echo!) or tent pole, old Tilley hat or that pair of trip pants you just cannot throw away but add patch after patch. You may have something unrelated to canoeing, but tells a unique story about the settling of Canada, it’s all fair game. Please send the story as well, so there is context for the item and it can be documented.
I, in turn, will use those objects to create the great Canadian paddle- the Paddle Sea to Sea. As a paddle maker, paddler and artist, I will use the material you send me to build a paddle that tells our story. Your objects may be used whole or in part, and may even be altered slightly, but each story will remain intact and be documented with the paddle as it takes shape.
This paddle will grow as submissions come in, and continue to grow just as Canada’s story continues to grow, as a river continues to grow. You are the tributaries- the contributaries.
I will tour this paddle, send it on a canoe trip across country, gathering new submissions, new stories as it travels. It will be the story of Canada as told by Canadians; a history lesson and a living artifact. And, just as rivers continue to flow, the paddle’s story will continue as stories are added.
Be part of Canada’s story!
Send your objects to me at: 111 James St. Kingston, ON. K7K 1Z5
Please pass this along to anyone you suspect would be interested in this project and have an object/story to share, and let’s start this journey!
We are hewers of wood- into paddles, and drawers of water- under our canoes.