Category Archives: Non classé

We are all Tragically Hip

As I begin writing this article I am sitting on my balcony in a small town not too far from Geneva, with a beautiful view of the Swiss alps. I am listening to The Hip – Ahead by a Century, probably too loud. I don’t care , I am feeling rebellious. Rebellious and nostalgic.

Rebellious and nostalgic and another feeling I can’t quite place.


This may come as a surprise to most Canadians, other than those who live or have many friends outside of Canada. Most people in the “rest of the world” don’t actually know the Tragically Hip.

As a Canadian living over here in Europe, I was surprised by the announcement that Gord Downie had terminal cancer. But the second biggest surprise was when I started talking about it around me –  “Did you hear about the lead singer of the Tragically Hip?!?!” I said,  shocked.

“Who?” was the reply.

“The Tragically Hip! You know! Ahead by a Century? Wheat Kings? Bobcaygeon? New Orleans is Sinking…?”

Blank faces.

Yes my fellow Canadians, I know this will come as a shock to you too: it turns out, many things we consider sacred, obvious and significant in Canada are actually not that well-known outside of the country. But in a way, that makes it so much more important to us, because we own them.

Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip are ours.

Their summer tour  was an amazing gift to us all. Canadians across the world were able to tune in to CBC and watch their last concert in Kingston.

I just watched this amazing compilation by Maclean’s magazine, of fans singing the last song of the evening… (Hold on a sec, just have to turn the volume up here a bit.)

Watch the video and you’ll notice something amazing.



Did you spot it?

Watch again, carefully… It’s not the fact that people are smiling while crying, singing and hugging… It’s not even the sheer number of people who turned out everywhere across the country…

Do you see any phones or cameras, filming, taking photos? Nope, almost none. Any other concert, event, major celebrity moment, famous person’s public appearance, important event – the phones come out to record the moment and share it with the world later.

Not here.

Everyone is right there, in the moment.

Every person is 100% present at that very second in time, with the band, with the music, in the experience, together, alone, and nowhere else. Some people dance, but most are just standing, facing the music, swaying a bit maybe, eyes and heart wide open, listening. Recording it with their souls.

We like to think we’ll live forever, don’t we? We like to believe that we’ll live forever, or at least until well into our 90s, and “pass away” in our sleep after having spent a fun day rock climbing or windsurfing or something like that.

53  years old, to be told your days are numbered – that just feels wrong. Unfair.

But the truth is, we’re all just here temporarily. I want to write that maybe the reason Gord Downie’s diagnosis and death hits so hard is because he’s one of us. But that’s not quite right. The truth is, we are one of them. The Hip is our band, a part of our country, our heritage, our generation, and dammit I am so glad we didn’t share them outside our borders.

I saw them in Halifax in 1990, at the Misty Moon. I was 21 years old. Gord Downie is just a few years older than I am now.

Seeing him on that stage, singing through tears, has brought our own mortality crashing down on us as we all realize we are all on a road with the same destination. Suddenly, some of the lines from their songs feel like they were written for this moment.

No dress rehearsal, this is our life.

There’s no simple explanation
For anything important any of us do
And, yeah, the human tragedy
Consists in the necessity
Of living with the consequences
Under pressure

If I had a wish
I’d wish for more of this





After Paris, Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Mister Rogers


The feeling of anxious dread mixed with a horrible need to know.

It starts with a message from someone telling you something has happened, and a link the news story. This time it was my son who sent me a message at 1am, which I only saw when I noticed my phone blinking at 3am.

Paris under attack.

Heart sinking. Not again.

By the next morning it’s the only topic in the news and on social media. People are changing their profile pictures in support, or in anger, or conversely criticising those who do. Some write out in detail their opinion on why this happened, who is to blame, what needs to change.

Virtual arguments flare up in comment-form under people’s posts. I feel the anger wafting out from facebook like the computer is on fire.

Stop. Some people are in mourning today. Some people didn’t make it home last night.

As a mom, my first thought in moments like this is for the moms who were given the bad news that their child is dead. And the moms who are panicking, sending out endless messages searching for their child who hasn’t come home yet…

Our social media, the very one we cling to when we look for information, is partly to blame for our overwhelming feelings of personal tragedy – we live vicariously through the people actually present on the scene.

And yet, overwhelmingly, in the face of terrorism, people are not terrorized. Shocked, saddened, horrified, outraged, yes.

Angry. Worried.

Defiant. Resistant.

Because, ultimately, there will always be more good guys than bad guys.

Remember Boston? The horrific scenes of the marathon, the chilling tales of people recounting their experiences that day?

On some of those photos, you can see people running TO the scene.

To help.

I was in London in 2005, one day after 7/7, when 56 people died and over 700 were injured by bombs on the underground and a bus. The mood of the city was electric and tense, the sun kept trying to break through the heavy steel clouds, but gloom pushed down on us. People were in shock, people were scared. But also… People were kind.  Everyone seemed to be going out of their way to show kindness and patience to others. People held doors, waited patiently instead of grumping, said thank you, let others cut ahead in line, smiled at each other, made eye contact. There seemed to be a subconscious current of niceness having struck the city. Engaging in small acts of care towards other strangers was therapeutic.

Friday night in Paris one of the hashtags that quickly went viral was #porteouverte. Because of the sudden police-imposed curfew, many found themselves in the city, far from their home or hotel, and unable to get back.


In an amazing show of solidarity, the people of Paris opened their doors to anyone needing shelter. Hundreds of connections were made online between people needing shelter and those opening their doors to them. Taxis also turned off their meters to help out when the public transit was shut down.

It was a moment of light in a night of darkness.

Let’s hold onto that.

There will always be more good guys than bad.