Reflections from Common Waters, Common Threads
Last week, I joined a few other locals for a short trip back in time. Along one side of the Grand River to the other, we walked and listened as local artist Joe Lethbridge guided us on a tour in downtown Galt. It was good motivation to hop online afterwards and read, in more detail, about the people and places introduced during our stroll.
Once again, the outing – part of the Common Waters project – reinforced the theme that water literally fuels and connects us.
First Nations peoples were, of course, the first stewards of the local land. The early 1800’s brought Scottish settlers to the area. During our walk, we learned of Galt’s beginnings – the draw of the Grand River and Mill Creek as sources of power for the mills and industries that would grow in its vicinity. We observed some of the architecture that remains (the ruins of Turnbull Mill at Mill Race Park; Dickson Mill in its bright and shiny new life as the Cambridge Mill restaurant; the Presbyterian churches at Queen’s Square whose spires are familiar landmarks in downtown cityscapes).
Settlement and industry led to other community developments: stores, banks and post offices, schools and churches, arts and culture. I was surprised to learn that Galt was once home to an opera house (constructed c. 1899) that once stood where the cenotaph is currently located at Queen’s Square. The beautiful Carnegie library building (constructed c. 1903) can’t be missed along Water Street, and our Farmers’ Market (constructed c. 1887) continues to uphold a community tradition.
As Joe pointed out the sights, he added a few interesting anecdotes and personal observations – including drawing our attention to a stone in the wall of the old Turnbull Mill that looks suspiciously like a rather creepy-looking face. (On a side note, the tendency to do this – to see faces or recognizable shapes in random patterns – has a name: pareidolia. I know this because I have it, too.)
Water, beautiful and practical as it is, remains a wild and powerful thing. Joe recounted the sad story of Mark Gage, a 12-year-old who became trapped in the water at Park Hill Dam in 1998 and drowned, along with police officer David Nicholson, who had been attempting to rescue him.
As living beings, we’ve always been drawn to oceans, lakes and rivers. They feed us, cleanse us, and provide the power to help us develop industry and community. They follow their own rhythms and courses, demanding reverence and respect. As someone who never tires of the sound of waves lapping the shore, or the glint of sunlight on the water’s surface, I also suggest they act as muses for those of us exploring our senses of wonder and creativity.
Let’s dial up the respect, reverence, and wonder. If we expect our waters to continue to sustain us, we need to nurture them the way they’ve nurtured us.
Thanks to Joe for leading us around town and sharing his knowledge and observations, and again to the Common Waters team for providing me the opportunity to participate and reflect.
- Vanessa Pejovic, July 29, 2019