Three days in Canada

 ... two days on the bus

by Natalie Thomson

Melrose residents: ( r.) Sandy Hamilton, Natalie Thomson, Beverly Schluntz (man from Peabody) Betty Jackson, Bertha Jackson, Jessie Freda

I just "did" Canada at tulip time in Ottawa.

I heard the history of the tulips about 30 years ago when my older sister made the trip. It seems that during WW II, the Queen of Holland, along with many, many children from the same country, were sent to Canada for the war's duration. In 1945 when they were returned safely to their home country, Dutch royalty sent thousands and thousands of tulip bulbs to this North American province as a beautiful way of showing their undying gratitude. I could hardly believe that I was about to actually see the fulfillment of this moving story from my high school era.

I snapped pictures throughout the trip, but failed to keep a memo about which cities contained the spires and towers and arches built during the past two centuries. Also, the others - the modern, mirrored structural beauties - remain towering but locationless in my collection. Ottawa? Toronto?

The pictures which are still clear in my mind are the quilts of dandelions in the grass at the edge of the sidewalks, and also frosting a few feet of the residents' lawns, like a blanket of green sprinkled with golden sunshine.

Then there's the snapshot, where the grass was covered with dandelions-turned-white and people were sitting at picnic tables in the shade created by the foliage arms of maple trees. My motivation was to submit its optical story to the Back Home Photography Group as a winner.

My camera was absent when I had a delicious supper at the Indian Reservation on the river. Along with everyone else (and the help of a beautiful Indian maiden) I made a "dream catcher" to hang on my wall at home, then found a seat on a split tree trunk bench in the huge barn. We watched, enrapt, as our former hosts became our entertainers doing authentic, and sometimes frantic, Indian dances to recorded drum beats and meaningful chants. I had learned earlier that they wore self-made authentic costumes and had their names changed several times as they mastered important growth stages.

Another time I was camera-less, it was also an important evening where we learned about non-Indian Canadians. We enjoyed a delicious, typical meal served on platters in a huge log cabin dining room with a stage. The performers acted as waiters and waitresses when they were not making us cry, laugh and applaud at their talented delivery of songs, dances and humor. They told their story of Canada. They mingled with their new friends...the departing audience.

But the tulips...ah, the tulips! Each hundreds-of-bulbs planting was of the same color and was sidled up to the next plot of a different color. Then, another color. Then another. It was a rainbow of prim, nodding, delicate, painted cups. Individually and as a garden, the show was, for lack of better words, simply elegant.

Niagara Falls were the dramatic closing of the trip. The photos that I took on the Canadian side created such a cloud of vapor that day, my pictures deserve only a disinterested "Eh". But my snapshot of Maid of the Mist on turbulent water and protected by a brilliant overhead rainbow? Now, that's a prizewinner as it portrays the end of an outstanding neighborly visit.

June 4, 2004

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