On the promise of a Canadian frontier spirit

On the promise of a Canadian frontier spirit

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.

Reading the first few parts of Adam Shoalts’s account of his adventure in the Hudson lowlands made me ponder the frontier spirit and ask, Is there a distinctly Canadian frontier spirit? I’m going to think on this and publish it here, come what may. I also question whether to explore in order to make a name for yourself and leave a mark is the best motive. Still, the river of Shoalts’s dreams is evocatively named the Again river and brought to mind one of the most amazing verses, which is both a celebration of courageous exploration and a reproach for egotistical striving:

Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall

–T S Eliot, Little Gidding

(well, I’ve since pressed on in the book and Shoalts eventually quotes from the poem)

I’m encouraged to hear from Shoalts that the age of discovery isn’t over. I think that even if the entire earth was walked and recorded, though, there would still be surprises. I agree with Thoreau: a ten mile radius is all you need for discovery- every day it will offer something new and never be quite familiar.


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