David
Carpenter 

 

GEOPIETY


Dave with snake


With some exceptions, Canadian literature as a whole reflects a severely qualified, lukewarm affection for the terrestrial home of its authors. As such, Canadian literature could be described as a literature of abandonment, a literature lacking in a sense of geopiety.
        According to John Wright and Yi-Fu Tuan, geopiety is a religious concept. "'Geo' means earth; earth refers to the planet, the globe or its surface vis-a-vis heaven; it is also the soil and, by extension, land, country, and nation. 'Piety' means reverence and attachment to one's family and homeland, and to the gods who protect them. 'Geopiety' covers a broad range of emotional bonds between man and his terrestrial home" (11-12). The term geopiety derives from an ancient and sometimes primitive world in which ancestor worship and fertility cults were considered normal, in which a sense of awe was felt for a deity who demanded propitiatory rites. Such rites were reciprocal. While the worshippers needed to venerate their gods or their ancestors with sacrifices, the ancestral gods needed this propitiation as a demonstration of loyalty.
        In modern times, these gods have receded and nature has lost her (or should one say its) capital N. But something of this filial piety, this reciprocity between god and worshipper, remains. For as Yi-Fu Tuan and many other scientifically grounded scholars remind us, reciprocity lies at the core of intelligent ecology. We can expect to get from the land only what we put into it. To destroy anything in our natural environment is to destroy a part of ourselves.
        Geopiety, however, is not simply pagan worship recycled into some modern cult of ecology. It also includes human loyalties. As Tuan explains, "Parents give birth to and succor their offspring, who in turn honor their parents and care for them in old age; nature nurtures men and men owe reverence. ...Piety is the compassionate urge to protect the fragile beauty and goodness of life against its enemies... .Patriotism is geopiety; remove its exogenous imperial cloak and patriotism is compassion for the vulnerability of one's native soil" (33-34).
        An interesting early expression of such geopious sentiments is the speech by John of Gaunt in Shakespeare's Richard II (II,v), for one notes here the way in which Gaunt's love of England involves not merely setting, but embraces the people, their rulers, their ancestors and, by implication, the gods themselves.

This royal throne of kings,this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, This England, this nurse,
This teeming womb of royal kings
Fear'd by their breed
And famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son;
This land of such dear souls,
This dear dear land....


        There is in this speech, however, more than just a note of nationalism, that kind which is militaristic and intolerant of people in "less happier lands," presumably part of the "infection" against which England is a "fortress." This vigilant attitude easily becomes distor-ted from a simple, practical, abiding love of place, to an ambition for a mighty empire. Geopiety has nothing to do with territorial ambitions or pride of empire, where conquest rather than compassion for people and place is the ruling ethos.
        In Canada, the most impressive affirmations about place have (understandably) very little to do with imperial conquest or nationalistic utterances. The country is too big and strung-out to be encompassed by an island, a "fortress" or a "blessed plot" metaphor. The sincerest attachments are local, reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne's feeling that "when you try to make it a matter of the heart, everything falls away except one's native state" (456-57). So when Ernest Buckler (The Mountain and the Valley), F.P. Grove (Settlers of the Marsh), and W.O. Mitchell (Who Has Seen the Wind) attempt to make their classic state-ments celebrating the place of their youth, they all return in memory to a small region within their native province. So does Margaret Atwood in Surfacing, an ideal novel for this study because it combines geopiety with a criticism of its absence.
        Much of Atwood's childhood was spent in the woods of Northern Quebec, and in Surfacing her four main characters take a trip there to search for the protagonist's father. The protagonist is nameless, a woman who lost much of her identity during the trauma of an abortion and an ensuing selective amnesia. Midway in the novel she and her three friends encounter a dead heron strung up by its feet on a branch at a portage. The nameless woman asks why they had "strung it up like a lynch victim, why didn't they just throw it away like the trash? To prove they could do it, they had the power to kill. Otherwise it was valueless: beautiful from a distance but it couldn't be tamed or cooked or trained to talk, the only relation they could have to a thing like that was to destroy it. Food, slave or corpse, limited choices; horned and fanged heads sawed off and mounted on the billiard room wall, stuffed fish, trophies" (116-17). She has come to believe, as the ancients did, that each animal corresponds to something inside us. "A part of the body, a dead animal. I wondered what part of them the heron was, that they needed so much to kill it" (119).
        The answer to her question comes, I suspect, from Taoist thought, in which the heron bears some iconographic significance. It is a symbol for a particular mode of seeing known as kuan. As Allan Watts explains, the heron is remarkable for the way in which it "stands stock-still at the edge of the pool, gazing into the water. It does not seem to be looking for fish, and yet the moment a fish moves it dives. Kuan is, then, simply to observe silently, openly, and without seeking any particular result. It signifies a mode of observation in which there is no duality of seer and seen: there is simply the seeing. Watching thus, the heron is all pool" (74).
        The so-called Americans who kill the heron are incapable of responding to that law of ecology which states that everything in the environment is connected to everything else. Equally reflective of this mentality is the view of people and nature as objects to be consumed. The protagonist's fetus is a thing to be discarded, David's wife Anna is a "cunt on four legs," the many victims in the film David is shooting with his friend Joe are mere images for the camera. The frames on a moving picture film generate the lie that each animal or tree is a thing apart from its setting, an object rather than part of a continuous process.
        In her guilt-ridden, hypersensitive state, the protagonist remembers her abortion and temporarily loses possession of her so-called sanity. She has suppressed her feelings for so long that they come back with a vengeance. In an act of atonement she becomes pregnant, or so we are led to suspect. All that is civi-lized, rational, analytical becomes taboo. She has a vision of the natural world of which she is an organic part.

The forest leaps upward, enormous, the way it was before they cut it, columns of sunlight frozen; the boulders float, melt, everything is made of water, even the rocks. In one of the languages there are no nouns, only verbs held for a longer moment.

The animals have no need for speech, why talk when you are a word
I lean against a tree, I am a tree leaning
I break out again into the bright sun and crumple, head against the ground
I am not an animal or a tree, I am the thing in which the trees and animals move and grow, I am a place (181)

Shortly after this vision, her atonement is complete and her rational faculties restored.
        Her problem and its solution are mainstream in Canadian literature. She joins hands with Susanna Moodie, Charles G.D. Roberts' Miranda, Marion Engel's Lou, Martha Ostenso's Judith and many other women whose isolation in nature evolves into a vigilance over things earthly and a suspicion, as we shall see, of things worldly. In fact this tension between earth and world takes us to the crux of geopiety's central debate, as it manifests itself in Canadian literature. Geopiety is reverence for place and all that that implies. In Canadian literature, however, place has more to do with earth than world, to use Dennis Lee's terms. Earth is often feminine in literature. It is that aspect of the planet which we consign to nature. It is "powered by instinct." World, on the other hand, is usually masculine in literature. It is that aspect of the planet that we associate with civilization. Its language is conscious, often scientific. It acts to control nature.
        This cosmology has become a massive metaphor in Canadian literature. If the writer extols the city, he is apt to do so at the expense of the town or the farm he has fled. More often it is the other way around. The city is villainized. Archibald Lampman's "Freedom" is a good example, as the first three stanzas illustrate.

Out of the heart of the city begotten
Of the labour of men and their manifold hands,
Whose souls, that were sprung
From the earth in her morning,
No longer regard or remember her warning,
Whose hearts in the furnace of care have forgotten
For ever the scent and the hue of her lands;
Out of the heat of the usurer's hold,
From the horrible crash of the strong man's feet;
Out of the shadow where pity is dying;
Out of the clamour where beauty is lying,
Dead in the depth of the struggle for gold;
Out of the din and the glare of the street;
Into the arms of our mother we come,
Our broad strong mother, the innocent earth,
Mother of all things beautiful, blameless,
Mother of hopes that her strength makes tameless,
Where the voices of grief and of battle are dumb,
And the whole world laughs with the light of her mirth. (63-64)

        Here the narrator is fleeing "men" and the world they have created and moving toward the arms of his "mother," the earth. The way world and earth are polarized in this poem into evil, mechanized logos (the archetypal masculine) and good, fertile eros (the archetypal feminine) is extremely black and white. When we leave the city we are also leaving Tartarus, or Lampman's version of it, and falling into an embrace with "all things beautiful." That which is worldly is masculinized and villainized; that which is earthly is feminized and glorified.
        In a very important sense, Atwood draws upon this conventional dichotomy to present the dilemma of her surfacer. The young woman's problem seems to have been that she relied too thoroughly on her powers of rationalization (which she associates with her dead father) and too little on inarticulate, intuitive feeling (which she associates with her dead mother). To put it in Jungian terms, the archetypal masculine within her (logos, the horned god) has held sway over the feminine (eros, the woman with the round-moon stomach). In this novel, as in much of Canadian literature, logos is associated with the sun, eros with the moon. When the surfacer conceives her child, eros returns with a vengeance, and with it, the rhetoric of geopiety. The sun sets and the moon rises (161-62). The woman's feelings for other creatures surface. She feels respon-sible toward them and therefore toward the place that they come from.
        Like almost all of her counterparts in Canadian literature, from Susanna Moodie onward, she returns to so-called reality. She cannot retain her own version of a nature-girl/animal-victim and remain alive, so she puts on her human wrappings and, equipped with a new vision which I would call geopious, she re-enters her own time. This new vision has come about through an act of propitiation. In a state of necessary healing insanity, she has re-invoked her parents in order to atone for separation from them and from all the things that mattered to her. Her parents become phys-ical incarnations of the gods. They are, after all, her source of life, her connection to the cosmic sources of life.
        Whether one categorizes them as mothers vs. men, eros vs. logos, earth vs. world, or nature vs. civilization, these distinct and separate versions of our place are at war in Canadian literature. Dennis Lee describes it as follows:

Viewed from the vantage-point of world, there is nothing but world. The bullets, bulldozers, mental structures, rigid moral assumptions and will to power which define the stance of the world...are infinitely extensible. Everything on earth is already coloured, charged, configured by the lines of force of world. To be sure, there is still a great deal of raw material strewn about, most of it recalcitrant. But it is all there to be processed into world....Yet at the same time, viewed from the vantage-point of earth, there is nothing but earth. A man is himself flesh and blood. Buildings, bodies, brainwaves--everything of world is wholly continuous with the substance of earth. World may be a special case of earth, but it is not in principle different from it. Earth sets about reclaiming its aberrant, hubris-driven civil offspring with an implacable calm, for all the world is earth. The victory is assured.... Everything that is, is world; everything that is, is earth. Yet at the same time world and earth are trying to destroy each other. (7-8)

        In Surfacing, the earthly feminine must temporarily assert itself over the worldly masculine before a harmony between the two (the Mother and the Father) can be restored in the surfacer's psyche. Consistent with this assertion of the feminine in the mind of the surfacer is a vigilant, passionate love of nature. Going, then, from Surfacing to Hugh MacLennan's Each Man's Son is not such a big leap.                             MacLennan's novel is about Daniel Ainslie, a physician who, in his quest for psychic wholeness, must learn to admire his father less and love his mother more. As in the case of Surfacing's protagonist, this psychic readjustment is complicated by the fact that both his parents are dead. And like Surfacing, this novel is also about people's attachment to place. The place is Cape Breton, and men love it as though it were a woman. The novel begins as follows: "Continents are much alike, and a man can no more love a continent than he can love a hundred million people. But all the islands of the world are different. They are small enough to be known, they are vulnerable, and men come to feel about them as they do about women" (193-94). Three women sustain the woman/island metaphor throughout this novel: Daniel's wife Margaret, who by name alone is associated with the Margaree Valley, the idyllic home of Daniel's youth; Daniel's mother, who lived and died on the island; and Mollie MacNeil, who reminds Daniel of his mother.
        Daniel Ainslie is the very embodiment of life-denying logos uninformed by and suspicious of the life-affirming wisdom of eros. He must learn some kind of love for his dead mother before he can love either his wife in a meaningful way or the orphan who will become his son. His mentor Dougald MacKenzie tells him, "You would do well to honour your father less and your mother more" (194). As the novel's climax and denouement seem to demonstrate, Daniel succeeds in learning his lesson in love.
        Here, in summary, is what happens at the end of the novel. Mollie's boxer husband comes home. By now he is a punchdrunk ruined man, blind in one eye from too much punishment in the ring. He catches his wife with a lover (Camire, the French revolutionary) murdering them both before falling into a coma himself. This leaves the traumatized little Alan free to be adopted by Margaret and Daniel. The boy cowers from Daniel. Dougald MacKenzie, mentor to the end, assures Daniel that the boy is merely in a state of shock. " 'But I love the boy,' " Ainslie says, and MacKenzie replies, "'Yes, Dan. Now I think you do'" (246).
        As MacLennan's introduction suggests, this novel purports to be about man's love of islands. The island is a woman; the woman is an island. The novel, in the spirit of geopiety, urges upon us a love of the island and its people. But Each Man's Son has a serious flaw that goes right to the heart of the book. For lack of a better term I would call this flaw the genteel fallacy; it is most obvious when we look at the book's two Penelope figures, Mollie and Margaret. They both await the return of their Odysseus. Mollie's husband, however, is literally gone; Margaret's is merely preoccupied. Mollie is poor and struggling to raise a child. Margaret is a doctor's wife; her biggest problem is loneliness within marriage. Mollie lives in a slum, the 'real' Cape Breton Island; Margaret lives on an estate with a stream flowing through. The Ainslies worry that the mine will pollute their stream. This is a laudible sentiment, perhaps, but a long way from geopiety.
        The genteel fallacy puts picturesque scenery before people; the most vital works in the geopiety tradition, however, would argue that people and place are inseparable. But in Each Man's Son, genteel sentiment abounds. MacLennan has made this novel Daniel and Margaret's story even though the suffering of the boxer, Archie MacNeil, and that of Mollie and Alan, are so much more compelling. We see Archie as the old order Odysseus, a warrior of legendary physical strength. We see Daniel as the modern day Odysseus. He has a genius for healing. His lonely quest for knowledge is truly heroic. Yet the extent of his suffering, when compared to the plight of the people of the island, is dubious; the quality of his love is suspect, even at the end of the novel. Surely the plight of the people served by Dr. Ainslie, whether they live or die, is more momentous than Margaret and Daniel's search for oneness. Surely Mollie's yearning for a husband who is sold to the meat market of prize fighting is more tragic than Margaret's frustrations over her flower arrangements or, indeed, over her loneliness.
        There is in fact no viable advocate in this novel for the island and its people. There is, of course, Camire, the French revolutionary. But he is relegated to a minor role and verbally drubbed by Daniel Ainslie every time they meet. His defense of the plight of the workers is robot-like and doctrinaire. He is at best an ideological voice, and when he is murdered, there is little sense of loss. Ainslie himself is no advocate for the people of this island. He seems to care for them, but in the end he decides he must leave them for the betterment of his career. He seems to love little Alan, but his vision of a father-son relationship is disturbingly tied up with his self-important vision of himself. "A man's son is the boy he himself might have been, the future he can no longer attain. For [Daniel], Alan was that boy....He saw Alan as a young man crossing the grass of an Oxford quadrangle with young Englishmen as his friends, sitting in the college hall under the portraits of great men who had sat there before him" (187-88).
        As for the Cape Bretoners, Mrs. McCuish is an embittered crone. Big Annie McPhee (as a wronged and raped Brunhilde) and Judge McKeegan are figures of pure comic relief (42). Neither is taken seriously. Nor are Red Willie Mclsaac and Angus the Barraman. The latter is a charming storyteller when he is not brawl-ing, the big hearted bruiser-racounteur. He is everything a wealthy tourist wishes to see in a Maritime fishing village. The orderly who rushes the ambulance to the hospital with three dead or dying victims is a mere child (241). So are the fellow hospital workers Ainslie puts down in his temperamental out-burst (185, 242). When the wise old Dr. MacKenzie and Ainslie make their pronouncement, "'They're such fools'" (56), we can see what they mean.
        Ainslie and MacKenzie address each other, not as man to man, but as seigneur to seig-neur. The problem the novel creates for us is that MacLennan has not successfully divorced himself from this same attitude. He addresses us seigneur to seigneur. His elitism has prevented him from discovering the true humanity of his islanders. They are abandoned by their doctor and betrayed by MacLennan.
        This, then, is the central problem of his novel. We are led in various ways to value MacLennan's hero for the depth of his human response to Cape Breton's people and to the island. Each man's son is Everyman. Daniel Ainslie is Everyman's savior. He heals physical suffering with remarkable skill. But at the same time we are led to believe that Daniel and Margaret's suffering is more noble than that of the people around them. We are urged to accept the superiority of the Ainslies' quality of angst when the impoverished, often jobless, despairing islanders have infinitely more to endure and accept. MacLennan is therefore arguing at cross-purposes with the spirit of his own book. He argues from the perspective of elitism at the expense of each man's son. To this end, Mollie MacNeil's life is sacrificed. Each Man's Son, for all its Iyrical and loving response to the island, is a failed expression of geopiety. The depth and sincerity of MacLennan's response to the place and its people (especially the women) comes closer to romantic nostalgia than love. His voice is that of the outsider. His arguments for leaving Cape Breton Island are far more compelling than those for staying there.
        I should not be too severe with MacLennan on this point, however, for his novel typifies a disconcertingly large number of Canadian novels in which the main characters, just like the novelists who created them, feel compelled to abandon their region for one of greater sophistication. For every Ernest Buckler or Rudy Wiebe, there are many more writers of genuine talent who decide that home is a place that finally compels flight.
        This is particularly obvious in the fiction of the prairies. F.P. Grove's work provides a good example. In the early books, especially Over Prairie Trails (1922) and Settlers of the Marsh (1925), we have what appears to be a deep, sensuous affection and fascination for the prairie, its seasons and its people. Love is not too strong a word. But in later books, dating approximately from the death in 1927 of his daughter, this sense of fascination for and loyalty to the prairies gives way to something coldly materialistic and merely intellectual (again, logos uninformed by the wisdom of eros). In Fruits of the Earth, for example, we go through the tedium of counting Abe Spalding's fence posts, watching his house crumble, watching his wife grow fatter, read-ing his school act verbatim, photographing his farm machinery. Grove's prose is tedious; his response to the land is barren. This sense of wonder at the "brief, saturnalian summer of the north" or the "cannonading, sculpting wind of winter" is all but gone. The new settlers are portrayed as coarse and unruly, not gen-teel enough for the likes of Abe Spalding. (See my essay in Writing Home on F.P. Grove and Martha Ostenso entitled "Patrified Mummies and Mummified Daddies.")
        In Martha Ostenso's Wild Geese, on the other hand, we have some strong evidence for the geopious in Judith Gare who lies naked on the warm earth and loves it not as her father Caleb does, for what it can earn him, but for its capacity to renew her as it renews itself after the long winter. To Judith the earth is alive. She lies on it, she makes love on it. And it reciprocates. But Ostenso concludes her novel by sending Judith, this magnificent amazon, off to the city to be Sven Sandbo's wife. By domesticating Judith, Ostenso divests her of the energy that made her such an interesting character thoughout most of the novel. This ending amounts to an act of aggression against Judith and an abandonment of her ter-restrial home.
        As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross is another story of flight from the land, as Philip and Mrs. Bentley flee from one country church to another, from Horizon to Horizon, and finally move to a city. Witnessing their existence as minister and minister's wife in a series of Saskatchewan villages, we get a powerful sense of the numinous, whispering through the land, but its voice is the wind announcing a "blind and uncaring universe" and the "indifference on the part of the deity." Against this force the people appear to be asserting themselves, not worshipping it, not fleeing it either, but intently, toughly enduring it. So when Doc Hunter, in Sinclair Ross's last novel, Sawbones Memorial, speculates on God on the night of his retirement, one is not surprised to see Him envisioned as a departed intelligence, a young fellow, still learning, still experimenting, not here but somewhere else, and who has at least momentarily forgotten about us. In His place is "The Great Mother and the Evil Mother, maybe one and the same, creating life only to destroy it" (126). It is little wonder that Mrs. Bentley and Philip leave Horizon and its people, that Doc Hunter leaves Upward to die. These characters seem to be following their Creator's own instincts for flight.
        In contrast to Ross's powerful, bleak stories, we find in the best work of W.O. Mitchell a Iyrical response to the land; it is evident that the prairie has the power to move him deeply. He even embodies a sort of geo-pious, ecological morality in the persons of Uncle Sean and his protégé Brian in Who Has Seen the Wind. Mitchell's wind in this novel, however, is not the same one that blows through a Ross novel. It is a moral wind, disturbingly moral. When it is roused, it attacks the evil and preserves the good. The Abercrombies' porch is wrecked, Bent Candy's barn is leveled, but St. Sammy's piano box is untouched. One suspects Mitchell's love of his terrestrial home depends upon morally grounded illusions about nature and that the book falls short of a scrupulous engagement with what Mitchell calls "the realities of birth, hung-er, satiety, eternity, death." He defends the land eloquently, but to do so, he cheats.
        Not so far from Mitchell's Crocus is Wallace Stegner's Whitemud. What Mitchell calls silver willow, Stegner calls wolf willow. These shrubs are Stegner's madeleines soaked in the decoction of limeflowers; they evoke for him and us his entire boyhood in the Cypress Hills. They bring him home spiritually. Stegner's response to this part of the prairie is no less moving than that of W.O. Mitchell, with whom he shares a strong kinship. But after sharing some rather horrifying scenes of nature's capacity to destroy life in "Genesis" and "Carrion Spring," one is not surprised when this latter day Proust admits, "By most estimates, including the estimates of memory, Saskatchewan can be a pretty depressing country....Let it be," he says, "a seedbed, as good a place to be a boy and as unsatisfactory a place to be a man as one could well imagine" (306).
        Perhaps Margaret Laurence shares some of this ambivalence. Her protagonists certainly do. Though her observations of prairie land-scape are authentic, she is less an observer of the natural world than the other writers considered here. She spends much more detail on townscapes, houses, interiors, stores, funeral parlors than on the natural landscape. When she does focus closely on the land, however, there is often a sense of awe and desolation in her response. A good example of this kind of response is in the story "Horses of the Night." When Vanessa looks at the flat, gray, unpeopled shores of her cousin Chris's lake, its reaches passing beyond human sight, "it was like the view of God which [she] had held since [her] father's death. Distant, indestructable, totally indifferent" (148).
        An interesting difference between Laurence's characters and those of most of her predecessors is that Laurence's prairie communities, like her characters, are portrayed from the inside rather than from the point of view of the genteel tourist to small town prairie life. Therefore she does not deal in colorful eccentrics, diamonds in the rough, and the many local color prototypes one associates with Canadian rural fiction. Her characters, especially her women, are memorably, unromantically real. They leave their prairie, but like so many other writers and protagonists, they take it with them, just as their Scottish ancestors did who brought their native Highlands with them to the new world.
        The Indian stories of Rudy Wiebe are even better examples of geopiety in action. The old voices speak through his pages. In The Temptations of Big Bear these are the voices of the first prairie people and the river people who lived amid the holiness of Sun and Earth and Horse, Coyote and Bear. Perhaps to his discredit, Wiebe has locked his Indians inside the temporal reservation of pedantic whiteman history, the prison of profane rather than mythic time. They are the inevitable victims of historical determinism, what some people might call progress. But when Big Bear assumes the center of this novel, dances in the sun, chants the holiness of the immortal Earth, something sane and powerful escapes the prison of history to touch Wiebe's modern, primarily white audience. I was very touched by Big Bear's laments and loyalties in a way that engages my own love and reverence for the earth and its abandoned creatures. In other words, Wiebe responds to the sanctity of earth and sun because he actually believes in it. And Rudy Wiebe, who has never been an exile from the prairie, stands almost alone among prairie writers in his reverence.
        The writer's exile from his or her birthplace need not be a rejection of home. In the case of James Joyce, leaving Dublin seems to have been the best way to come to terms with it. This can also be said of Margaret Laurence, Robert Kroetsch, and many other prairie writers. Still, there is a preponderance of stories in Canadian literature in which the main characters discover that the only sen-sible thing to do in the end is leave home. In Margaret Laurence's The Diviners, Morag thinks about leaving home: "You Can't Go Home Again, said Thomas Wolfe. Morag wonders now if it may be the reverse which is true. You have to go home again, in some way or other"(302). Perhaps Morag's return to Canada, but to a place that only reminds her of her prairie home, illustrates something about Canadians'national ambivalence about their native place, their many native places.
        The farm or rural community's loss is the city's gain. The Ainslies, Bentleys, Judiths, Rachels and Hagars leave their terrestrial home (with their creators)for a worldly one. The main characters in Surfacing go back to the city. Indeed, much of what I have documented here indicates the movement in Canada from an agrarian to an urban society. So writers like Sinclair Ross, Margaret Laurence and Hugh MacLennan are, by their characters' movements, in a sense, registering social change.
        But what of those Cape Bretoners who remain in the mines, those men and women who remain on the land, those non-tourists to the rural reality? Their story is usually not told, or told as a background to the more genteel and upwardly mobile quests of the adventurous ones who leave.
        Sanguine viewers of the Canadian literary scene will no doubt point to the urban writers of the last half century or so, and demonstrate how the city has become the Promised Land. Montreal is a good example. Some of A.M. Klein's and Leonard Cohen's best panegyrics (in verse and poetic prose respectively) have been in praise of Montreal. And Mordecai Richler has created a squalid but affectionate monument out of St. Urbain Street. But praising these urban writers (as they deserve to be praised) does nothing to erase the vision we have received from so many writers of our rural past: a series of regions too threatening for proper civilization and culture to survive, wilderness too terrifying to be understood clearly. Atwood's pioneer in "Progressive Insantities of a Pioneer" and Earle Birney's cabin dweller in "Bushed" are not destroyed by the Canadian wilderness; they are destroyed because of the inadequacies of their own vision of it.
        I keep returning to the conviction that there is another side to these desolate stories, however skillfully they have been narrated. Reverence for that first place, be it ever so wild; reverence for those first people, be they ever so ungenteel: this takes us close to the heart of geopiety. Wiebe has taken us there in the voice of Big Bear; Buckler, through the eyes of David Canaan; Atwood, with the surfacer's plunge into her own atavistic origins; Lowry, in Dollarton, with his vision of the redeemed world vis-a-vis the inferno; Jack Hodgins argues it implicitly in his stories; Howard O'Hagan sings and rages geopiety throughout Tay John. There are other impressive narratives in Canada's recent past that one could mention, but it would take a very long book indeed to document the number of stories whose response to the terrestrial home is desperately inadequate. What are Canadians to learn about their origins, their place, from a terminally genteel literature which argues for the abandonment of that place? What are they to learn about themselves from books impoverished by their pale affection or downright loathing for their authors' terrestrial home?
        Canada derives from the Iroquois Kanata, which means village or community. To return to the Kanata means to return home. Another rumor persists, however, that Canada comes from the Portuguese Ca (here) nada (nothing). Nothing here. I believe Canadians still need to learn how to love their place, their many places. Perhaps, beneath the looming specters of acid rain and global warming, this need has ac-quired an international urgency. I am not talking about flagwaving nationalism or indis-criminate, uncritical self-adoration. And I want to avoid worshipping the rural at the expense of the urban. I am certainly opposed to those attitudes which see Canada as a colony or a place to test foreign weapons or a place where a lot of money can be wrung from the land in a hurry so that one can rush back to wherever home is. My plea is for an intelligent, abiding way of calling this place--these places--we inhabit, home.

WORKS CITED

Atwood, Margaret. Surfacing. Don Mills, 1973.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Volume X, Ed., George Parsons Lathrop (Boston, 1899).
Lampman, Archibald. "Freedom." In Poets of'the Contederation, ed., Malcolm Ross (Toronto, 1960).
Laurence, Margaret. A Bird in the House . Toronto, 1974.
Laurence, Margaret. The Diviners. Toronto, 1974.
Lee, Dennis. Savage Fields. Toronto, 1977. Although I use the terms "earth" and world" in a slightly broader sense, I am indebted to Lee for several insights into these two contending versions of our planet.
MacLennan, Hugh. Each Man's Son. Toronto, 1971.
Mitchell, W. O. Who Has Seen the Wind. Toronto, 1947.
Ross, Sinclair. Sawbones Memorial. Toronto, 1974.
Stegner, Wallace. Wolf Willow. New York, 1955.
Tuan, Yi-Fu. "Geopiety: A Theme in Man's Attachment to Nature and to Place." In Geographies of the Mind, ed. David Lowenthal and Martyn Bowden (New York, 1976). Man and his home may be an unfortunate choice of words, because in novels by writers of both sexes, writers as various as Charles G. D. Roberts and Marian Engel, the feminine perspective on geopiety seems more enlightening than the masculine. For a fuller treatment of Yi-Fu Tuan's ideas on geopiety, see topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values (New Jersey, 1974), 59-149.
Watts, Alan. Nature, Man, and Woman. New York, 1958.

WORKS CONSULTED

Hinz, Evelyn J., and John J. Teunissen. ''Surfacing : Margaret Atwood's 'Nymph Complaining.'' Contemporary Literature 20 (Spring 1979), 221-36.

 


 


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