A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 234: MosaiCanada 150


Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday as a nation this year. The capital city of Ottawa, Ontario is my home and in many ways the center (or centre) of the birthday celebrations. But of all the amazing things that have gone on so far in Ottawa in 2017 to mark the occasion, from my perspective the most impressive one is happening right across the river in Gatineau, Quebec.

I had a chance to walk through the wonder that is MosaiCanada 150 in Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau about a week ago. Here is a description from the City of Gatineau’s website:

For 107 days, Jacques-Cartier Park will host the biggest horticultural event in Canada, with MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017. Mosaiculture is a most spectacular horticultural technique that combines the following different art forms:

  • sculpture for the structure,
  • paint for the palette of colours, and
  • horticulture as the means of creating living and changing artworks with plants.

The theme of the Gatineau exhibit will reflect 150 years of history, values, culture and arts in Canada, represented by some 40 different arrangements. 


All the provinces are represented in different sculptures, as are key elements of history and culture, of the indigenous people and the impact of the arrival of the first Europeans and the waves of immigrants, creating the mosaic known as Canada. The beauty of the wilderness and the unique things that define this country are also on display. There are also contributions from China as an expression of goodwill and friendship for Canada’s 150th.

I was overwhelmed by the skill and artistry and the sheer scope of this project. It was beautiful and instructive and inspiring. If you are anywhere near Ottawa or planning to be here soon, I cannot recommend a visit more highly – It is free and on until October 15, 2017.

Here are more photos I took during my visit:

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 182: Resilience and Resistance


Haida Dog Salmon, Bill Reid, 1974

Today is Canada’s 150th birthday, a day of celebration for most in the country. But lately I have been reminded that for many, many thousands of indigenous Canadians there is very little to celebrate. The past 150 years for them has been filled with horrific events that are only just beginning to be addressed and admitted on a national scale. Whether it is the shameful history of residential schools or the shameful impoverished conditions so many live with today, their story both past and present should not be ignored, especially on a day like today.

Over the course of my year of discovering creativity in myself and around me, I have encountered the powerful, gracious and elegant art of Native Canadians. In their expressions the spirit remains strong and the story endures. They are a crucial part of the nation and we are blessed that this people continue to shine despite the wounds inflicted on them.

I went searching for Canadian Aboriginal poetry and came upon a poet who resides in my city, Ottawa. Her name is Vera Wabegijig and she is from the Unceded Reserve of Wikwemikong, Ontario in Georgian Bay. Her poem “Hunting” is the art I want to share with you today. In her own words, Vera Wabegijig says this:

“‘Hunting’ has a lot to do with resilience and resistance and the reason why I wrote it was because I was thinking a lot about salmon how the salmon will teach, will give us teaching to help us, will give us insights or give us a way to overcome and to persevere, to live.

No matter what comes your way, no matter what the obstacles are, the salmon will teach me to just overcome, and to keep on going no matter what the obstacles are and to also learn from those obstacles and to integrate them into my life and to just move forward.”



A raven flies, wings with long blue-black feathers drifting on the wind

Currents under body and hovers in the air

Raven dives into the creek below that brims with sockeye.

A salmon leaps out of the water, with reds and silver arcs

Back fins wag and build a momentum, ascending further upstream

Bears with pigeon-pawed trot over with a swaying, heavy head, climb on top of rocks

Where the water flows and falls with mouth wide open

They bite the springing salmon, canine teeth pierce into the silver belly

Eagles swoop, massive wings slow the body down with talons wide open

Preying in the creek, rising with salmon in its golden grip

Yet the salmon move, push, and endure, through broken skin and hanging entrails

This gathering place is encoded in memory, bringing salmon home

This long journey that nothing can stop, not even eagles, ravens or bears

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 181: An Ode to Canada


“Sea to sea to sea and there and back again,
Draws from each soul a simple, “It’s a beauty, eh?”
And in truth beauty, beauty truth
C, A, N, A, D, and A”

Tomorrow is a momentous Canada Day, deserving of a take on a momentous poem. Three years ago I took John Keats’ masterpiece “Ode on a Grecian Urn” as a template and wrote my Ode to my adopted country. Here ’tis:

An American Ode on Canada Day

Thou still unravished bride of whiteness,
Thou foster-child of Britain and of France,
Mowat and Atwood likely could express
A better ode than this American putz:
What maple leafed –fringed legend haunts thy shape
Of Gretzky and mortals or both
In Toronto or the dales of Burnaby?
What men or Mufferaws are these? What Acadians loth?
What Trivial Pursuit? What pass from tape-to-tape?
What fiddles and bagpipes ? What tepid Red Rose tea?

Shaped dough of Tim’s is sweet, but flowing syrup
Sweeter, therefore, trees tap on;
Not just for sensual tongue but, more endear’d,
Feed our spirits with thy rich tone.
Fair youth on outdoor rinks cannot yet go
Home though supper-time be called
No winning shot has yet been tallied
Skate on despite wind and cold
Warmth will flood when, arms upraised,
Is heard, “He shoots! He scores!”

What land is this that freezes and boils,
Where deep snow yet blistering sun is seen?
Toques, Mukluks and tanks of heating oils
Exist with swimming trunks, AC and sunscreen.
In span of but weeks the snowshoers tread
On waters now solid and still;
Only now calm from the cottagers play,
From Ski-dos, canoes, loons and kabooms.
From evergreen to seemingly dead,
A cycle no death can kill.

O Canuck land, fair and free, doth teem
Of men authentic, maidens fair overwrought,
With forests, lakes, rivers and trodden paths,
Your vast form dost tease us out of thought.
Cities rumble, roll and flow; highways stretch beyond
Imaginings; people red and white and black and tan
Make a tapestry draped in full humanity.
Sea to sea to sea and there and back again,
Draws from each soul a simple, “It’s a beauty, eh?”
And in truth beauty, beauty truth
C, A, N, A, D, and A

by Ronald Kok, Ottawa, ON, July 1, 2014

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 180: Tragically Hippin’ Canadiana


They are the quintessential Canadian band, unapologetic in their Canuck references and consistently constant in seeking out the Great White North source for material: The Tragically Hip. Their songwriter and front-man, Gord Downie has been his country’s unofficial poet laureate for the past 30 years. In the land of the Loonie it is said, “In Gord We Trust”.

tragically hip logo

As we inch closer to Canada’s 150th birthday, I thought I’d share some of the Tragically Hip’s most Canadian lyrics. I cannot take credit for this as my source for material was an article on the website The Loop (You can take a look at the entire article yourself at http://www.theloop.ca/the-19-most-canadian-tragically-hip-lyrics). The Loop article listed 19 song lyrics of which I gleaned a tidy 10. The Canadiana listed and the comments come from the author of the article, Amber Dowling.

10. “38 Years Old”

Twelve men broke loose in seventy three
From Millhaven Maximum Security
Twelve pictures lined up across the front page
Seems the Mounties had a summertime war to wage

Canadiana: Millhaven Maximum Security, located in Bath, Ont. 

9. “Bear”

I think it was Algonquin park
It was so cold and winter dark
A promised hibernation high
Took me across the great black plate of ice

Canadiana: Bears + Algonquin Park + plate of ice. 


8. “Bobcaygeon”

‘Cause it was in Bobcaygeon, where I saw the constellations
Reveal themselves one star at a time

Canadiana: The song that put Bobcaygeon on the map. 

7. “The Lonely End of the Rink”

I hear your voice cross a frozen lake
A voice from the end of a leaf
Saying, “You won’t die of a thousand fakes
Or be beaten by the sweetest of dekes”

Canadiana: Few other artists would get away with using the word deke in a love song. 

6. “Skeleton Park”

In Skeleton Park
One fine summer evening
The sun teased the dark
Like the last strawberry
I could hear them on the breeze
Hear them moving through the trees
The ghosts of the Rideau Canal start to sing
And patting the grass you said
“Come sit next to me, be my sweetheart”
Over in Skeleton Park
Over in Skeleton Park

Canadiana: Most may now recognize the supposedly haunted Kingston, Ont. park (and former burial ground) under its new name, McBurney Park. 


5. “Fifty-Mission Cap”

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer
He was on a fishing trip
The last goal he ever scored
Won the Leafs the cup
They didn’t win another till nineteen sixty two
The year he was discovered
I stole this from a hockey card
I keeped tucked up under

Canadiana: These lyrics are the only way most Leafs fans remember the last time they won a cup. 

4. “Fireworks”

If there’s a goal that everyone remembers
It was back in old seventy two
We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
And all I remember is sitting beside youYou said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey
And I never saw someone say that before
You held my hand and we walked home the long way
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr

Canadiana: Again, hockey + love song = only The Hip.

3. “At the Hundredth Meridian” 

Me debunk an american myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the great plains begin
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin

Canadiana: The 100th meridian west, aka the line of longitude that separates Western Canada from Central and Atlantic regions of Canada. Naturally, this is one of The Hip’s biggest hits. 


2. “Wheat Kings”

Late breaking story on the CBC
A nation whispers, “We always knew that he’d go free”
They add, “You can’t be fond of living in the past
‘Cause if you are then there’s no way that you’re going to last”

Canadian: What’s more Canadian than the CBC?

1. “Looking for a Place to Happen”

Jacques Cartier, right this way
I’ll put your coat up on the bed
Hey, man, you’ve got the real bum’s eye for clothes
And come on in, sit right down
No, you’re not the first to show
We’ve all been here since, God, who knows?

Canadiana: This song traces Jacques Cartier and his journey to claim Canada for the French back in the day. That’s pretty darn Canadian.