People & Culture

How do Canadians define beauty?

  • Aug 13, 2012
  • 287 words
  • 2 minutes
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“The Canadian canoe is one of the greatest achievements of mankind,” wrote paddling guru Bill Mason. “There is nothing so aesthetically pleasing and yet so functional and versatile.”
For Bill Mason “beauty” was defined by the single word “canoe” — of which he had 17!

Ever since attending summer camp as an eight-year-old, I’ve found canoes certainly beautiful. The subtle lines and gentle curves project a soothing calmness on my heart.

Yup! Canoes have always made me happy. They also spell “ADVENTURE” in big block letters.

But a paddle well shaped and carved with care by a skilled artist, then gently sanded and finished with several coats of glossy varethane — that’s my definition of beauty!

A well made paddle takes the same creative skill as a fine painting. All of its subtle angles melt together on three dimensions. It’s as much a perfectly balanced airfoil that moves through the air smoothly before dipping gently downwards into the depths, as it is a creature of the water.

In the hands of a master canoeist, a good paddle can carve the most intricate liquid lines through stacked molecules of hydrogen and oxygen supporting a canoe.

Otter tail paddles are my favourite. They’re made long and narrow for deep water. I can hardly keep my hands from running along the smooth grip, shaft and blade as my mind imagines the rhythmic gliding motions that propel a canoe forward with the grace of a ballerina.

A contented “all is well” feeling settles on my soul when I pick one up and slide fingers over the polished cherry wood, feeling the arching grain imbedded in the honey-coloured wood. Now that’s beauty!

I bet Bill Mason would agree.

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