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There is something about Canada that I cannot quite put my finger on. I see it flashing past me through the window of a car, slim branches sprouting tender leaves, as if almost afraid of the sky they will blossom into. The sky opens up ahead of me and my eyes prick—there is a glaringness here that is diffused, but present. At night, a racoon watches me as I type, lit blue by my computer screen as he preens himself. His paw prints turn the light wood dark—the only trace of him when the morning comes.

I have been cocooned in family, both in the time I have spent here, but also in the mental pictures I hold of this place. So many people I know live here that it is hard to step out of their stories or the images you build up over time. Here and there, flashes of the stereotype rise up to meet me. Two blonde women in loose tank tops, hair tied back, canoes strapped to the back of their truck. A relative I haven’t met in years, speaking of going camping over the weekend: a cooler of beer being dragged across mud, until it is placed in a canoe and taken to the next stretch of land. Activities galore: the Tam Tam in Montreal or the casual way people glance at you and say, and of course, you can just bike around there. Canada—or the sliver I have seen—is space: the trees smaller than you would imagine, but the surface rolling out and out, begging to be stepped in.

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