The reference of ‘Courage’ is to his song for Hugh MacLennan, so here’s to all of us whose ‘watch[es] end the night’.
I can think of no greater tribute to Sir Gordon Downie, Member of the the Order of Canada. Than to honour him in the most accurate and expressive irony, that we remember what a strong, inspired, Opus-orial tradition, OF EXPRESSING OURSELVES, with hope and agony, and the sheer mystery that we can become better human beings, he belonged to. The ingenious words we find, as a multi-syntaxual people, if you wanted to say it in French, Multi-syntaxault people, and I know to call that it’s own particular kind of Frenglish, because of Sir Gordon Downie- all these phrases for hundreds on one end, and thousands of years on the other, collide with one another, and the powerful storm of humanity, all of us create, together, collide to replenish the Earth here.
There are sometimes, there is, and can be harmony and opening to sunlight after these impacts, these shocks and jolts, the catharsis unto the good within and without. Hallelujah’s from Leonard Cohen, yeah- that happened, it really took place here- we touched ourselves because we were touched by somebody else, and it was everything being alive is about. Now it’s gone, and we say thank you, and go back to working at the beauty that emerges beyond our comprehension, and still, we hold tight, and hang in there. So that we can say things that make who we are as so many people, striving to be persons, remembering to consider everything you possibly can, about what it truly means, to know, that there is something essential, about Canada to being alive in the world. And refusing to forget about it.
Whether personally, and certainly community, and even the nation, this man, along with many others, preceding him, proceeding him, and surrounding him, have shown us who we are, perhaps more than many others. So, my thing right now, is you go deep inside that reservoir of a country, that he held out to us to notice and receive. You remember as much as possible, EVERYONE who tells you how to look at ourselves, collectively and individually, that speaks to you, right now, about this, and helps you deal with a man- if never few of us ever met, someone we never knew, and yet somehow we did- touched us and confronted us, and let us know how much none of us are alone in our technic-olour homeland.
Here’s mine. They’re on the same wavelength as Mr. Sir Gordon Downie, and this is their single, ‘It Still Hasn’t Hit Me Yet’ (by Blue Rodeo, naturally), which is just about as blunt on the chin as you can get for something that’s still ‘wreckin’ [our] minds’, and rending our hearts. What a thing to point out, how much we depend upon the irony of our existence, we a people who never chose the easy route in life, because it gets damn fucking cold here!
My favourite of their’s is ‘Til I Am Myself Again’, which might have a similar point to make on the same subject. But at the hardest time of my life there they were with the lines ‘I had a dream that my house was on fire, people laughed while it burned, I tried to run but my legs were too tired, I had to wait ’til the feeling returned’. That’s I think a small part of what most of us are going through right now, and it’s passing through all divisions, it’s slicing through all our ideologies, one human being to the other, Mr. Sir Gordon Downie!
I would like to stress, lets play songs by these other artists who come from where we are, because, many of them are those who shook his hand, this knighted man, who took on the motto ‘We Desire A Better Country’. And also, ‘Close, but that’s not why [we’re] so hard done by!’ That taught us that our fight can be energising and delightful, quiet and humble, and that fighting or yourself means fighting for others as well. We depend upon each other, to pull us through across far distances, when we’re falling down in our worst, to celebrate, when the sun is coming up in our chests.
These lines are but a few of the statements that he chose to embody our shared and mutualising lives. Possessed of subtle and precious, uncertain truths that make those lives we have incandescent mysteries. These other musicians and performers, may have looked him in his eye, known the tone of his voice as he spoke, instead of sang, and sat down together in the midst of conversation that led to his many and their many, and our many songs about who we are.
So lets remember, he was our icon, he was our cultural and cathartic leader, for an entire and several generations, along we these guys, who were his colleagues and his friends! Even his family, the people who knew him best. Lets inspire ourselves to day, lets send off Sir Gordon Downie with a rhapsodic and medleyeng symphony in the spirit of that music, those lyrics, the poetry we’ve published straight into our ears, and let it ring there. Written for these very moments, and so many countless others, when the geniuses who make peace among us, the people we live without know how, the very best and most excellent among all of us, will never come about, they wont be coming through that door, they wont be in that stool with their pint, they wont be up on that stage, shootin’ movie in our home towns any more. And so we sing back to them now.
A National Treasure has vanished in body, but his mind, and his music, resound, BUT WE ARE NOT POORER FOR IT! Now, lets wink at ourselves, and seek that inspiration, of learning what it means to affect our civilisation, so that we know that many people wide and near, who seem always so viciously and dangerously disagreeing, are grieving the same man and his masterpiece works of art, this night and many before, and the wallop will carry for months- the loss of this man who told us to learn about ourselves, and we’d get over the fear!
The only thing we can do is get ourselves excitedly inspired about everything at once, because Mr. Sir Gordon Downie, was scope and range, seemingly about that necessity before everything else! May be nothing more than power and weakness, elan and grief, love and hate, and how you have to let the truth of the world overwhelm us in a humbling way which surrenders to one’s mighty place in Nature, precisely because it is not above or dominant over all other majesties.
Majesty! which we can of course use as a way of describing the political design-nation of a country, and I can’t run away from it, there’s something in the way this man, Sir Gordon Downie, communicated, that begs me ask the question, can we be a place of beauty- Hyvrajalaic! and Hippocratic at the same time- that we would remain a country that spent its time learning how to ease the pain, find healing, prognosticate, that we will just keep up at this interaction of cultures coming to a wise and Eunanymous understanding, without giving up a shred of themselves, no matter how long it takes to be cured!
That we will never give up on what is more important than living forever, even when our time is called, and the good ones, like him are not spared. Yeah, that rebirth of the soul, into the wet, the dirt, the pressure in the fading loam, and into who we are for le peuple premiere rare, we masters in our own home- that no one in their right minds would manufacture this thing we inhabit and in turn exhibit in their right mind, nothing in the universe would, except those few determined, would create us on purpose, and yet here we are- more complicated than any one thing we ever wanted, and every dead end that never flourished as we efforted, still got us here, suckin’ air.
He Did That. He made that known to ourselves and wouldn’t let us forget it. So Long Portage, Mr. Sir Gordon Downie, I wish, and I hope we might labour out the dream, that not all peaceful rest belongs to the rich or the dead. And may be that day it will be like you never left. That you never launched your soul to sail in that flying Canoe, because your sweet heart was all around you in this wilderness, and you could never find a woman as solid as she was, and how all of us struggle with that, raw love in these our natural Hellements!
Long Portage Mr. Sir Gordon Downie, Long Portage, whatever happens to us when we’re dead, never stop doing what you love! And for just right now, stick around with us through Halloween, and pull up a glass on the house, it’s hard, but you picked the season where you can stay with us a little longer, and we are glad for it. You reached a hand and a heart through the radio, and then those ‘Hands melt into each other, watched you grieve and grow, care alot about one another’. Everywhere that sound has gone, it will never come fresh, new like the first time ever again, as you spoke it. But We’re speaking because of you, and the echo is a proving test!
Like Dance us to the End of Love, kept an Iranian-Canadian Journalist sane while he was trapped inside a concrete box, that even we are barbaric enough to build for our own people, you kept us sane when we were trapped inside ourselves- and we couldn’t always tell, just how, but we related to this, proving, that you knew us so well. New our better selves. May be it was that peculiar knowledge that we’ve all had those feverish dreams brought about by the hornet’s sting, and we rellished in the fray, wherein we were none of us heroes, but my goodness, the Courage of some us, A PEOPLE! That in other times and in other places, likewise told us to keep on kickin’ till we reach daylight. That even the little chipmunk teaches us how to survive here, and some of us leap beyond the beautiful and become some absolutely Gorgeous losers, like each and every one of us, tellin’ us, we can do it, JUST KEEP SLEDDING! JUST KEEP MUSH! LONG PORTAGE!
A national week of mourning, followed by a moment of silence. Then the Same Kind of Last Waltz Treatment, for our such canny Fellow! We are not Bedsheets in the wind, we are not plucky classical brass orchestra bands mumbling anthems, we are not our legislatures, we far more resemble something like this man’s bright shining body recording his cultural’s human experience in art! The snow is going to fall, a meteor shower will pass us by, THERE WILL COME THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! and we’re gonna look up and know it’s all gonna be alright. And eventually we’re gonna all say good bye, and keep our eyes fixed on that one sharp, cold shining star, that hovers over the pole, and imagine that’s where we all go, even though we probably don’t. But it’s a Long Portage to Find Out! It’s fuckin’ hitting me now!
I’m gonna crack a can of Mill Street’s 100th Meridian, pour out a sip and veg.
Written by: Curtis Healy