Poet Laureate's blog: October 2018

October Thanks-giving
 
When I moved to Canada from the US in 1995, I was surprised to learn that not only do Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, they do so in early October. I grew up in New England, literally descended from those stalwart Pilgrims that landed on the bleak shores of Massachusetts in November of 1620. With faith in the providence of the Almighty and considerable help from the indigenous people they encountered, they made it through the first winter. 
 
A year later, they held a feast to celebrate their survival and to thank their hosts, without whose practical support they would surely have perished. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln declared an official day of Thanksgiving in late November and by the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt established the third Thursday in November as the fixed date in the US.
 
Of course, feasts of thanksgiving are not uniquely American or even North American. By celebrating our gratitude, we are part of a long line of people worldwide. From ancient harvest festival rituals to thanks-giving celebrations referenced in the Judeo-Christian Bible, the Quran and many other holy works, most include prayers, songs– and food!  While the origins of the holiday vary considerably from the American tradition, many of the fundamentals are the same: a time to give thanks and celebrate with family. 
 
Those early Pilgrim ancestors of mine continued to live in peace and harmony with their indigenous neighbours until the colonialization of North America started in full forth, and we all know how the story goes after that. How exciting it is that nearly 400 years later, we have reached the point when we are reconnecting with the indigenous peoples whose presence preceded us by millennia.
 
Last month I had the privilege of attending the opening ceremony for the Awen' Gathering Circle in Harbourview Park. This stunning structure sits on the hill as if it has always been there. It is a tribute to the vision of the crafters of Collingwood’s Waterfront Master Plan in collaboration with a host of others including a team of indigenous architectural designers and volunteers from the visiting Steelworkers Union who pulled off a miracle and got the project finished just in time for the ceremony. 
 
And what a ceremony it was! Participants from local indigenous communities contributed song, dance, words and ritual, to which all present were invited to join in as part of a larger community.  Ancient, old and new Collingwood plus visitors, workers and people of all ages gathered in an inclusive circle. The event not only celebrated a wonderful new addition to our town but marked a tangible contribution to the unfolding truth and reconciliation process of that is knitting us together into a larger shared community. 
 
What’s I’ve always loved about the Thanksgiving holiday is that it is not tied to any particular religion, or to religion at all. So whether you are thanking God, Jaweh, Allah, The Great Spirit, Mother Nature or what poet Dylan Thomas called “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” this post is dedicated to all that we as Canadians have to be thankful for. Something I am personally thankful for every day and in every season is our beautiful lakeshore. Here’s poem about my impressions of what October looks like here in Collingwood. I hope you enjoy it; just as important, I hope you enjoy the month. I wish you a joyous Thanksgiving, a Happy Halloween and a splendid October from start to finish.
October Inc.
 
October is all business down at the lake. 
 
One day, it’s a navy blue suit paired with a freshly pressed sky, 
tied together with the blinding red and white striped lighthouse. 
 
When a board meeting is called, all is sober grey, 
a single burnt orange maple the only pop of colour. 
 
Night brings the corporate gala– 
A sea of little black dresses festooned with ruffles of foam 
dancing with a sky full of tuxes, starched shirtfront clouds offset by diamond stars. 
 
Casual Fridays call for a cerulean blue Polo above the khaki shoreline, 
and a line of leaf-bright tops that signal the weekend. 
 
But at the end of the month, all bets are off.
Time to cut loose as Halloween blows through the harbour, tipping dinghies
and winding lake-surf like toilet paper around the larger boats.  
 
The buoys ring like demonic bells into the night. 
At the head of the harbour, the jack-o-lantern glow of the LCBO 
promises treats to buffer the wind’s tricks. 
 
For a poem about gratitude for the simple things in life submitted by a local writer, check out our Poetry Corner and remember to mark your calendar for 25 Years, the BMFA sponsored event at the Simcoe Street Theatre on October 13th featuring poems written by Collingwood poet/graphic artist David Conning (who is also the co-owner of Clerkson’s). This unique theatre event will pair poems David wrote for his daughter over 25 years with music by the subject of those poems, Laura Conning and her partner in the band Honeymoon Phase. Something more to be thankful for.