The Canadian sublime

There is a profound sense of the sublime in biodiversity- from the seasons to the yellow lady slipper and the giant redwoods to phytoplankton and the sperm whale.

Kant split up the sublime into the mathematical (infinity overwhelms the imagination but not our intellect) and the dynamic (terrifying physical phenomena).

Walt Whitman expresses a very American kind of sublime that is similar to what Gerald Manley Hopkins described as ‘pied beauty’: that all of the strange and beautiful and wild and tame, high and low, country and cosmopolitan culture, trout, mountains, farm fields, trains, screwdrivers, trowels and all the rest are part of a sublime harmony.

I regret this mild winter in southern ontario because the seasons and the great bird migrations are very much a part of that sublimity for me. I took the ferry to amherst island and saw a snowy owl, majestic, in the only snow drift in a field and a rough legged hawk, birds of the north, the tundra. It was raining the last time I was ice fishing. I haven’t seen any redpolls this year. The Canadian sublime is the harmony in the seasons and in cultural diversity.


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