By Jowi Taylor
My back is broad and muscular – taken from the beams of the Convent of the Grey Nuns in St. Boniface Manitoba, where a young Louis Riel went to school following his first trip to Montreal.
Two of my seven neck bones are from the deck of the Bluenose II – made from salvage from the first Bluenose Schooner that sank in obscurity after a blazing racing career.
In my waist, appropriately, a paddle used to stir the Finnish soup from the Hoito Cafe that fortified the lumbermen not only in their work but in their struggle for fair wages and better conditions for their labours.
The bones of my shoulder were part of the gate that closed off Fan Tan Alley in Victoria, BC where the lonely and isolated Chinese Canadian immigrants sought some relief from their daily hardships away from the prying eyes of an unwelcoming community.
Support for my spine comes from the home where Lucy Maud Montgomery imagined herself out from under the stern and watchful eyes of her grandparents and began to paint a world safe enough for her poems and wide enough to accommodate the irrepressible character of Anne Shirley and the 50 million books in 20 languages she would inspire from her Green Gables.
My ribs sheltered over a million people from around the world at Pier 21 in Halifax as they arrived not just to escape the old world but to help create a whole new kind of place in Canada and go on to weave their stories into the thread of history.
My face was once the body of a small boy of Haida legend – Kiidk’yaas, the Golden Spruce – rare and beautiful and taken too soon but redeemed by memory and story, legend, love and a respect for the land that sustains us.
I comprise so many stories that are the stories of all of us. Each of my bones and freckles and ornaments – a Fairmount bagel bakery shibba, Nancy Greene’s racing ski, Joe Labobe’s oyster shucking knife, Rocket Richard’s Stanley Cup Ring, John Ware’s cabin, Jack Uppal’s mill and so many more – tell a story.
All of these bones and muscles and marks are merely the body I inhabit. It is music and memory, story and song that bring me to life. Whenever someone holds me, I feel that some part of me resonates uniquely with them. And once that resonance begins to hum it never stops. So that for another person who holds me, that vibration they feel in themselves might be from some piece of me or the pieces that adorn my strap or my case or they might be the echoes from some other traveler’s song, from a strum made by a songwriter or a student or a spaceman.
This is a quality we all share. Who among us is not simply flesh and blood but the embodiment of our experience with our family, friends and communities and with the times in which we live? Who among us doesn’t ache to feel some part of ourselves reflected in others – not so much as a glorification of the individual but as an acknowledgement that we all have a place in the world that matters? That we are part of something greater than ourselves.
A musical quilt, this unique guitar becomes a passionate metaphor for Canada. Six String Nation chronicles the journey of one special guitar, from conception through construction to the road it still travels across our land.