Today. Today I took a photo of three red maple leaves, prepared the garden for winter, went to our local Farmer’s Market, visited a friend who is recovering from surgery, went to a fun community sing-a-long of the Mary Poppins movie, and voted in our local elections.
Today was a day like many others. And yet it was different. It was different because (as well as being blessed by all of the other things I did), I was blessed by living in this country where I am free … free to garden … free to shop … free to visit friends … free to join in community activities … and free to vote. Free to vote without fear – fear … of harassment … of recrimination … of violence … of interference. Free to research the issues and the candidates. Free to vote the way I choose. Not everyone can do that.
Some may say that it was co-incidental that today was the day I ‘happened’ to see the red maple leaves on the ground, ‘happened’ to take their photo, and that it all ‘happened’ on the day of our municipal elections. Nope – nothing ‘happenstance’ about it. There aren’t many maple trees with bright red leaves where I live, and seldom have I seen them up close, still vibrant in colour. As I bent down to see the three red maple leaves, and take their photo, I remembered something I’d learned a long time ago … a history lesson which told about a time (long before the first European settlers arrived in Canada) when Canada’s aboriginal people (our First Nations people) had discovered the food properties of maple sap which they gathered every spring and how that discovery of the importance of the maple leaf deeply affected Canadian history.
While many historians trace the maple leaf’s service as a Canadian national symbol as early as 1700, its first official recognition was 1867 when Alexander Muir composed the unofficial anthem in English-speaking Canada, ‘The Maple Leaf Forever.’ Not surprisingly, the Canadian flag has a lovely bright red maple leaf in its centre. Raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the first time on February 15, 1965, the red maple leaf has since become the most-recognized symbol of Canada, symbolizing unity, tolerance and peace. Voting today, and all that the privilege, responsibility and blessing of voting means to me, was graphically illustrated in those three bright red maple leaves I ‘happened’ to see.