“Ship’s logs, myths, stories of quiet exaltation and wrenching lamentations can all become poetry when the experience resonates deeply with the rhythm of the human heart…”— Anita Hadley in the introduction to Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea.
The sea, in Anita Hadley’s view, may not be a tangible part of your everyday, but if you’re a resident of Canada, its very existence is personal because of its influence on our community at large — the country we live in.
“Whether we live close to the sea, or far from its shores, it is the oceans that bind our destiny and inform who and what we are as a nation,” she wrote.
Spindrift: A Canadian Book of the Sea, recently released this summer by Douglas and McIntyre, is an anthology of sea-related stories, poems, anecdotes and imaginings that are as varied as our country’s coastline.
With it, Canadian authors and editors Anita Hadley and Michael L. Hadley have created an ode to the sea, bringing together some extraordinary Canadian writers to showcase the mosaic of oceanic experiences that unite us.
The voices in this anthology include Pierre Berton, Emily Carr, Lawrence Hill, Farley Mowat, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje and Stan Rogers.
Five years in the making, the editors’ criteria for the anthology was pieces that were “brief, representative and engaging.”
And indeed the choice of memoirs, excerpts and passages from fiction and nonfiction are fascinating in both their wit and their diversity.
While some critics claim anthologies neglect the nitty gritty of a story by only offering a thematic bird’s-eye view, in Spindrift the panoramic perspective is a good fit.
The broad overview allows for so many versions of ocean experiences to live together in one space and becomes a metaphor for the numerous Canadian identities across the country.
As a huge nation with populations far-removed from one another, it’s sometimes surprising we consider ourselves under one umbrella. It’s recognizable by Benedict Anderson’s standards: the Irish scholar and author of the book Imagined Communities (1983), coined the title term and corresponding theory about nationhood.
In this idea he said that, while most people who consider themselves part of the same nation will never meet one another, they share the idea of a collective entity; this “imagined community” creates the nation. So, by his explanation, Canada comes into existence because we imagine it to be so.
In Spindrift, Hadley and Hadley make the imagined tangible. Our relationships with the sea are ethereal, although the ocean is a physical reality.
Our relationships with the sea are ethereal, the ocean a physical reality.
Via our personal experiences with it — though widely varied — the ocean becomes a concrete medium and a connective tissue for the country. The sea makes our nation more visible.
As Michael L. Hadley notes, “Always poignant, sometimes passionate — and even pacific — the sea emerges in these witnesses to Canadian experience as a key to understanding this vast three-ocean land.”
While the ocean is a place of solitude and rest for some, for others it represents danger, challenge or hard labour. It is both friend and foe, foreign and home. All these versions of ocean are brought together in Spindrift, and each one is celebrated as independent pieces in the patchwork of a national quilt.
Exploring many sides of joy and sorrow, Spindrift is an inspirational portrait and both of the anthology’s tailors should be congratulated on this wonderful piece of work.
Indeed, I should note, their well-articulated and poetic preambles to the book are well worth the read themselves.