three dots …

The Rideau Canal

As of , the Rideau Canal in Ottawa is the nearest body of water to where I live. Previously it was the Atlantic Ocean; before that, the Assiniboine River—both natural bodies of water:——but the Rideau Canal is an artificial one. In some respects, however, the canal seems to want to imitate the riverhood of its namesake, yet it is patently a different kind of being entirely. I want to say, for instance, that I have had picnics with my friends on the bank of the canal, but in truth the canal has no banks to speak of—just concrete walls bounding it on both sides, each with a railing on top, and a paved path flush with the top of the wall. The water is hardly a few inches below the top of the wall—and the soles of one's feet. The canal therefore makes no pretense at having come into being in concert with its surrounding landscape, as rivers do, e.g. by gradually carving out a valley for itself.1 On the other hand, it is lined on each side along much of its length with a sloping strip of narrow forest, and beyond this, another paved path, and then a lawn several metres wide (this is what I have in mind when I want to say “we picnicked on the bank of the canal”):——to me this tree-èd slope suggests aspirations towards riverhood.2 It might even engender an illusion of riverhood, if one remains on the grassy area near the upper path, on the other side of the trees. If, however, one descends through the trees, down the concrete steps, to the canal-side pathway, and sees the eerily flat water of the canal, then the illusion is dissolved.

  1. I am not especially familiar with the growth-patterns of rivers. I believe some river valleys were created by glaciers. ↩︎

  2. By way of constrast, one may imagine a canal the tops of whose walls are level with the adjacent streets and buildings, and without a bufffer of trees—like those of Venice or Amsterdam. ↩︎