Resilience Reimagined: 2: Woodsmoke and Oranges (Ian Tamblyn)

North Shore, Lake Superior. Source: Kevin Burns.

In the past few months, several pieces of music that I thought I knew well began speaking to me in a decidedly different voice. The more I paid attention, the more I realised that what I was hearing was a voice of resilience.

We’re still living in a flood and this little ark that carries us continues to toss and turn every aspect of our daily life, our hopes and dreams. We are surrounded by multiple agitations: pandemic, social unrest, economic uncertainty, difficult “neighbours”, and all the point/counterpoint “isms” that cause us to stumble daily.

The first article in this series looked at early Baroque music as a form of resistance. Today it’s the music of place.Ian Tamblyn. Courtesy of ""

One day in 1992, the musician Ian Tamblyn reached for his guitar and brushed his fingers against is strings. The unplanned sound surprised him. “I heard the sound of Lake Superior,” he often explains when he performs his now-classic Canadian song.

To live in the rugged landscape of Canada demands resilience.

This harsh landscape demands that we adapt to it. And we do. Because we must.

To live in the Canadian landscape is, for most of is, to live the life of a settler.

To live in the Canadian landscape calls for each of us to seek generous ways to live together in this difficult geography that we share.Eric Sorensen

This landscape is not a metaphor. We don’t dream it. We live in it, together.

This demands courage, respect, real work, and ever-changing patterns of behaviour.

“I’ve turned by back upon these things,” writes Tamblyn in this song, “tried to deny the coastline of my dreams.” And he found this impossible to even consider.

Why? Because, as he sings in the chorus of this song, “There’s something about this country, it’s a part of me and you.”

To acknowledge this changes my relationship to this land and to all the people who live on it now, and centuries ago. All those “yous” when there’s just one “me.”

Step by step, paddle-stroke by paddle stroke, we can edge closer to reconciliation. And that’s another word for resilience. And after listening to the song by clicking on the link below, please come back because there’s another section to this article.

Andrew Starblanket, Kristan Bowman, Erik Sorensen, SJIn 2017, Erik Sorensen, a young Canadian Jesuit, organized The Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage as a component of Canada’s 150th Anniversary celebrations and as a way for today’s Jesuits to respond to the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. From Georgian Bay to Montreal. Twenty-six gruelling days of paddle strokes. And listening.

Here is a 10-minute documentary about that journey, prepared by the CBC’s Havard Gould for The National.

In part three of Resilience Reimagined: making time stand still.


“The links in the series are to external sites and were accurate when posted, and igNation has no responsibility for their persistence or accuracy and does not guarantee that any content on them is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.”

Ottawa-based author and editor, Kevin Burns is a frequent contributor to igNation. His latest book, Impressively Free – Henri Nouwen as a Model for a Reformed Priesthood and co-authored with Michael W. Higgins, has just been released by Paulist Press in the United States and by Novalis in Canada.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 12:34h, 26 August Reply

    Thank you Kevin!

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