yukon canadas grand synesthesia

Yukon is “larger than life” due to its synesthesia. This is nothing to sneeze at. We have the Greeks to thank for the word: Syn in…

Yukon is “larger than life” due to its synesthesia.

This is nothing to sneeze at.

We have the Greeks to thank for the word: Syn in Greek means together, aisthanesthai to perceive. Over time this combo arrived on our lingual doorstep as synthesis: the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a larger whole.

So all things being equal, my vote for a new Yukon brand would have gone for, Yukon: Canada’s Grand Synesthesia.

Now that would have made for some focus group. I can just hear Barbara Chamberlin’s lyrical wheels turning:

“Its synesthesia

Clean and clear synesthesia

Wet and wild synesthesia

Da da … da da da

La la … la la la.”

But it’s too late to change it now. The branding is a done deal. Yukon is now officially larger than life, and you know what, it is.

Yukon is larger than life and its vast landscape, its diverse cultures come together to form a whole like none other.

Several days ago on CBC’s Lunch Break a caller ranted on about how “nothing could be larger than life.” Here was a man in denial of his own imagination.

Art, dance, song and story are expressions of “stuff” much larger than life. Yet this “stuff” has its humble beginnings as little more than some bit of natural fact.

We all, it seems to me, look for meaning behind what we experience. It is as if we know that what we see, hear, smell, and taste is not enough, is not the full-meal deal.

Our evolution history is a record of this remarkable ability to imagine, to see beyond the usual, hear other than the ordinary, grasp more than is there.

“Life,” wrote Erwin Chargaff, “ is the continual intervention of the inexplicable.”

In my mind, there is nowhere on Earth more suited to confer on us the full range of the inexplicable than the Yukon.

Sitting alone on the banks of the Blackstone River one afternoon several years ago, I was joined by a solitary goose clearly blown off course. She was old and sick and set down perhaps for the last time.

There, right on the spot, I learned one of humanity’s most useful tools: compassionate intelligence.

And, on one spring morning somewhere smack up against the face of Mt. Archibald, I discovered wilderness looks a lot like God.

The sense of awe that comes upon us in big places enriches and deepens our own voice, enticing us to take our own thoughts seriously, if only for some brief but useful moment.

Writers and painters, in their search for a vision of paradise, always seem to give us back our wild places.

In order to paint paradise, or to describe the garden, we almost always fall back on the wild, the large, and the “untouched.”

Given this, nature and culture are two-way streets: Both appear and appease in ways that are, if truth be told, much larger than life.

Science, particularly ecology, has recently demonstrated to its students that human activities make sense only if understood as components of larger natural systems.

Writers, artists, singers and dancers have always known this.

By gently reminding “outsiders” that the Yukon is larger than life, we are giving them every incentive to sit and reflect, to listen, to wait. Humans are perfectly suited to understand nature’s complexity and her simplicity. We are well equipped for synesthesia.

To ask our visitors to take the time to notice that all is not what it first appears is smart. It encourages them to dig beyond the usual, to recognize and celebrate the uncanny.

No one expresses this any better than Barry Lopez.

In Arctic Dreams he writes, “When you open yourself up to a phenomenon like the northern lights, or to watching a hundred thousand caribou move across a valley in front of you, you are being reminded to forget yourself. The landscape is doing it, pulling you up and out of yourself, and you feel yourself extending into the landscape.”

And Peter Matthiessen, describing our affinity for birds, writes, “One has only to consider the life force packed tight into that puff of feathers to lay the mind wide open to the mysteries — the order of things, the why and the beginning … All questions come full circle to the questioner, paused momentarily in his own journey under the sun and sky.”

The Yukon is larger than life. It has little choice in the matter. That’s nature’s way.

We humans are quite capable of understanding and appreciating this. That’s culture’s way.

So, my hat is off to tourism and marketing, high praise to Barbara Chamberlin.