They pull and they paw me
They’re seeking to draw me
Away from the roundness
of the life
-I Pity the Country, Willie Dunn
I picture a fine, woven web that begins and ends inside a spider. The spider begins and ends in a web of life that has no beginning or end because it is a circle. Our social and blood relationships are intertwined as webs, beginning and ending in each of us, who in turn begin and end in the circle.
When we came here, we encountered peoples whose sense of the world is circular and revolving, always turning and returning to the same places and seasons. Even today, to our science-based, settler minds, the circle is an inconvenient mystery – we can’t find its beginning or end. Circles don’t stretch out across the land as straight lines do, pinning down life with sharp edges.
The circle curls up into itself and spreads out, getting in the way of our complicated systems: our electrical grids, roads and bridges, telecommunications lines strung out over the earth. Our straight lines are hard and flat, pressed down onto mystery and disturbance: onto a land we cannot understand, despite how we try to measure and parcel it out, square it away.
We have a straight, flat gaze that freezes in place tracks of wild animals weaving through forests, running through backyards in the middle of the night, stopping in mid-air all the wings that ride the wind above our houses at dusk. We would hold it all there, tight in our grasp.
This is the place we call Canada, a place of science and industry, connected from Victoria to St John’s by the world’s longest highway, settled by cities and towns. But this place sees Canada and laughs. The very idea. As if. This place stretches out endlessly. Within it, our highways are only fading lines on the landscape, our cities small outposts of flickering light. I am small in this place and can’t see the beginning or the end.
We settlers have drawn our lines, but we’re lost inside the circle. It’s outside of our outer world, beyond our imagination. It makes up the sky that holds our sky. All our rivers and oceans flow within its firmament of waves. It keeps spreading out every time we think we’ve touched it, taking us further into the wild.