Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die
-Mary Elizabeth Fyre
Tom Thomson, one of Canada’s most influential painters of the 20th-century, was last seen alive around mid-day, July 8, 1917, when setting out alone across Canoe Lake to begin a fishing trip. He was familiar with the area, having visited there a number of times – while working in the Park as a fire ranger, a guide for fishing parties, and of course, pursuing his painting. Within hours of his departure, his empty canoe was spotted floating not far from the dock he had left from, and more than a week later, his body surfaced in the lake. His untimely death helped transform the aspiring artist into a cultural giant. His paintings are now seen in galleries across Canada, and exhibitions of his work always attract large audiences. In the last few years, paintings by Thomson have fetched over a million dollars at auction.
How Thomson died, who found his body, its condition, and even its final resting place all remain mysteries. Some propose the cause of Thomson’s death was an accident resulting from plain bad luck, while others suggest suicide, and still others point to foul play resulting from a conflict over debt, a love interest, or opinions about the war effort. To add even more mystery to the affair there are serious questions regarding whether Thomson’s body was moved from its first resting place.
Could it be that Algonquin Park, and Canoe Lake, were more dangerous than they appeared in Thomson’s paintings? As investigators began to consider the artist’s mysterious death, popular ideas of a peaceful, harmonious, natural parkland began to evaporate. The region bore the marks of intensive logging – treacherous stumps and logs lurked under the water’s surface. Could one of these have tipped Thomson’s canoe, resulting in his drowning? Could his death have resulted from something even more frightening? The abundant wildlife the Park helped protect presented a tempting target for poachers, who might be willing to go to extreme ends to hide their illegal activities. Could the trains coming through the Park, carrying troops and goods important for the war effort have attracted spies and saboteurs desperate to hide their subversion’s? The isolation of the Park might also have attracted Canadian and American men attempting to avoid fighting in the war. How far might one of these men have gone to maintain their anonymity?
Are hard on prisoners’ hearts, For you bring my mother’s pleading cries From whom I have to part. I hear her weeping lonely sobs Her sorrows sweep me by, And in the dark of prison cell A tear has warmed my eye. Oh! Whistling winds why do you weep
When roaming free you are,
Oh! Is it that your poor heart’s broke
And scattered off afar?
Or is it that you bear the cries
Of people born un-free,
Who like your way have no control
Or sovereign destiny? Oh! Lonely winds that walk the night
To haunt the sinner’s soul
Pray pity me a wretched lad
Who never will grow old.
Pray pity those who lie in pain
The bondsman and the slave,
And whisper sweet the breath of God
Upon my humble grave. Oh! Cold March winds that pierce the dark
You cry in aged tones
For souls of folk you’ve brought to God
But still you bear the moans.
Oh! Weeping wind this lonely night
My mother’s heart is sore,
Oh! Lord of all breathe freedom’s breath
That she may weep no more.
Who is Bobby Sands? Who is willing to die for their beliefs? Or, why does our ‘stance’ outlive our ego? For that matter, when is enough…enough? In the end, does anything but death get accomplished?