Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Banks O'Doon

Grand River at Doon, Ontario

Ye flowery banks o' bonie Doon,
How can ye blume sae fair!
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
An I sae fu' o' care!
Thou'll break my heart, thou bonie bird,
That sings upon the bough;
Thou minds me o' the happy days
When my fause luve was true...

Robert Burns

We said goodbye to my mother yesterday and our daughter today as they both returned to Mexico after spending a couple of weeks in Canada. Mom came here to say goodbye to her only brother whose health is failing rapidly. It seems probable that she will not see him again on this earth. Saying goodbye is difficult and doesn't get easier in my experience.

Our area of Ontario was settled by people of many different backgrounds, people who travelled thousands of miles with little chance of ever returning "home" again. They brought their history and culture with them and little remembrances of their birthplaces. There are many communities with familiar names of British, German, Scottish, French and other European origins...

Paris, London, Thames Centre, Stratford, Scotland, Ayr, New Dundee, Baden, New Hamburg, Fergus, Birr, Heidelberg... I could go on and on. Our own city was called Berlin before World War I.

One of my favourite trails along the river is near the community of Doon. Scottish immigrant Adam Ferrie Jr, built a flour mill here in 1839 along the Grand River, the ruins of which still stand at the trail head. I often contemplate the challenges faced by those who worked hard to start new communities, building new lives for their families in a strange land. Were the Ferrie family members homesick for the banks of the Doon River in Scotland? In one or two generations, they were undoubtedly well integrated with other immigrants in the area.

Upstream from the mill ruins, aging stone walls are hidden by the bushes and vines that are overtaking the foundations of these old buildings.

Life goes on.

Each generation forges a life for themselves with some members staying close to home, while others take home and tradition far away with them.

My daughter just phoned to say she had arrived safely in Mexico. It is hard to believe she left Toronto mid afternoon and is already in her room 3000 miles away in less than eight hours. The phone conversation was instantaneous and a web cam could have sent her image here just as quickly. Communication is easier that ever before, but feelings of homesickness and separation can still be felt in this day and age.

My family is scattered around the world yet shared experiences help keep us part of one another.

And my family is not unusual in this regard, are they?


  1. Love the flour mill ruins. Can just imagine that family there in years past. Glad you had your own family to enjoy there for the holidays and that they returned home safe and sound. No matter how far away we are, we certainly all keep one another close in our hearts.

  2. I knew about the name change but thought it was after WW2. So, I learned something new today ... or at least had it clarified. Happy New Year!

  3. You are so right about family and connections... Technology has made this planet a whole different place than when I was a kid! Interesting stuff about the mill!

  4. Happy new year to you and yours, Ruth. I understand about families being separated by many miles.

  5. Jayne- You are right...distance doesn't displace affection.

    AC- Berlin became Kitchener in 1916. The Kaiser's bust was thrown in the lake downtown and Queen Victoria now reigns over the park. Happy New Year to you and yours.

    Jennifer- It is mind-boggling how technology has changed our generation. I couldn't have imagined communicating in a blog even 5 years ago.

    Jean- Yes, you have family separated by distance...bittersweet, isn't it?


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