When our plan to drive east across Canada was hatched I was so excited to finally see Eastern Canada – I dreamed of big seafood feasts, rousing sing a longs, campfires, light houses and long blue waters. But I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t give Ottawa a thought – maybe because it’s always been described as being similar to Edmonton (which by the way the legislative grounds in Edmonton are similar to the legislative grounds in Ottawa only in the fact that they both house government). Ottawa is a spectacular city. The Rideau canal winding along beside houses and offices, the monumental buildings along Sussex Drive framed by the turning leaves and powerful against the clear blue fall sky. I could have walked around all day if wasn’t with children who consider walking to be a violation of their human rights.
The other fabulous surprise that Ottawa offered was the National Gallery with the exhibit Anthropocene featuring new works from the collective of Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier. It opened the day we were scheduled to leave but we had to delay to explore it. This is why we are always late.
Through a variety of techniques, the three Canadian artists have created an arresting experience inviting reflection upon the environmental and ethical issues surrounding the effects of humans on this planet. I always find Burtynsky images compelling, brain twisting and heart hurting but this series really tied in what we have been exploring on the eastern coast, the Earth’s mantle, the layers of rock, mining and how humans have been affecting the rock we are spinning around the sun on.
The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change. I think, proposed, to have begun in the middle of the last century.
The exhibit was photographs and high definition murals blended with interactive 3 d technology (which was very compelling for Anderson) and short films brutally showing how human activity is irrevocably changing the planet from the inside (mining) out (logging and landfills). I loved it.
We spent the morning exploring a park called Hog’s Back – it was recommended by cousin Rupert so we couldn’t miss it. Chris and I made ourselves inconspicuous by attempting to “work out” while the kids played. I was captured watching a quintet of women, all in hijab and dark dresses, laughing uproariously around a golden long spouted tea pot and a small hibachi. They were in a semi circle on camp chairs ringed with smoke. I could not stop staring – one – their laughter was compelling – deep and honest – two – the smells from the hibachi – smokey, vegetal and umami. Chris encouraged me to walk over and say hi. But I was too shy. Clearly they were connecting and I felt like I didn’t want to interfere or to make them feel like they were conspicuous. Finally one of the women rose from the group with a plate and a cup and walked towards me in the playground. She was bringing some food to their kids. So I smiled my biggest – I’m not a crazy lady – smile and said hi. She was confused. I plowed ahead saying I was a cook and I wanted to know what they were making because it smelled so good. She looked concerned and asked, “hungry?” Oh uh. “No No No No Not hungry just curious? What are you cooking?” She responded, “Yes I make it all – EAT please EAT” and pushed the paper plate and styrofoam cup to me with her eyes downcast and her head held low at an angle slowly moving side to side. I tried to insist that I was not in fact hungry but she just pushed the plate into my hands and said please and turned away. So that’s how I got my lunch – a piping hot flatbread tinged with smoked and slathered with z’atar. Sesame seeds blended with herbs, garlic and lemon. So good – the styrofoam cup filled with a sickly fruit punch – what about the golden tea pot? – we will never know.
We pushed on to Kingston to have dinner with cousin James and then “home” to Toronto to fix some more electrical issues (fingers crossed). It seems we will carry on Westward just in time for the unusually early snowstorms.