Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Imagine overlooking a lake with a vista of rocky, pine-tufted islands adrift along miles of shimmering blue water that stretches invitingly before you. What could be better than that?
Well, combine it with two full days of stimulating intellectual conversations, insightful ideas, and thought-provoking discussions among some of Canada’s top authors and journalists - Linden MacIntyre, Steve Paiken, Jay Ingram, Carol Off, and John Ibbitson - throw in a friendly BBQ and informative evening boat cruise, and you have a fabulous Muskoka Chautauqua weekend, such as we just had at the J.W. Marriott’s Rosseau Resort. We certainly felt that we were also included in the “Friends”.
In 2010, some visionary members of Muskoka’s arts community decided to revive the spirit of the original Muskoka Assembly from the 1920s, which sought to provide a restorative holiday for body, mind, and soul in a magnificent setting. (For some historical background, see my previous blog, Naked Poets, Freethinking Clergymen, and an “Enchanted Island”.) Promoting Canadian literature was also a mandate, and led to the Muskoka Assembly being known as the Literary Summer Capital of Canada by 1928. The modern Chautauqua has also reinstated the Reading Circle, which recommends six must-read books each year. I am thrilled and honoured that my novel, The Summer Before the Storm, was one of last year’s winners.
Kudos to the organizers of the revived Muskoka Chautauqua, which indeed encourages renewal, enrichment, and personal growth amid the inspirational beauty of Muskoka.
Perhaps Wilson MacDonald, one of the poets who was popular at the original Muskoka Assembly, expressed this ideology best in his poem, “Out of the Wilderness”:
I, a vagabond, gypsy, lover of freedom,
Come to you who are arrogant, proud, and fevered with civilization -
Come with a tonic of sunlight, bottled in wild, careless acres,
To cure you with secrets as old as the breathing of men;
Come with the clean north wind in my nostrils,
To blow out the dust and the smoke of your lives in a great blast of beauty;
Come with a chaos of wildflowers, grouped in a lovely disorder,
To shame all your gardens of maddening, cloying perfection.
I have in my veins all the sweet unrest of the wild places….
For more information about the Muskoka Chautauqua and future events, visit their website.