For reasons beyond my capacity to understand and explain as I begin to write this, I crave fish this morning. I’d like a filet of fresh cod, heavily salted, grilled over some smoky mesquite shavings and drizzled with lemon juice. The fish would pair well with a baked potato dressed with Greek yoghurt mixed with fresh-ground black pepper, horseradish, and a touch of vinegar. Slices of ripe tomato and cucumber spears would almost finish the meal, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolute requisite: slices of peaches so ripe they’re nearly over-ripe.

I do not know why, but this menu takes me a hundred years into the future, when I am a middle-aged Canadian man living alone in a small but comfortable home in Vermilion Bay on Eagle Lake in the township of Machin, Kenora District in northwestern Ontario. I suppose that’s the reason the menu is on my mind. See, it didn’t take long for me to understand the genesis of my hunger, did it?

This is a typical breakfast meal for me in my future incarnation. It’s not a common breakfast for other Vermilion Bay residents, mind you. Most of my neighbors enjoy breakfast cereals before heading out to guide visitors from Duluth and Thunder Bay on fishing and hunting expeditions. I, though, relish my fish and potatoes and so forth. When I have visitors, a rarity, I surprise them with my breakfasts. Perhaps that’s why visitors are so rare for me.

I’m as much of an oddity a hundred years hence as I am today. It’s not just my appetite, it’s my attitude. Unlike my very pleasant neighbors, I’m more interested in the evolution of Canadian English than I am in hunting and fishing. I’ve just completed a dictionary of Canadian lingo, defining and recording for posterity, terms like chesterfield and pogey and all-dressed and give’r and parkade and hoser. They’re all terms my neighbors use, but they are unaware they’re uniquely Canadian. Ever since I was a boy, in that other life, I’ve coveted the state of Canadianship. In spite of the growing number of incidents in which Canadians behave like their southern neighbors, Canadian decency still courses through my veins. I’m afraid the coarseness of the Dakotas and Texas and the rest of the fifty U.S. states is flooding northward, though. One day, and it won’t be long, Canada will be just another notch in the belt of swashbuckling indecency and arrogance. That’s when I’ll have to leave, bound for the outskirts of Kvaløyvågen, Norway. I’ve always admired Norwegian decency, too. Would that I would have been born Norwegian. My parents would have lived a far better life than they did as struggling Americans, two hundred years earlier. I might write a book about the benefits of citizenshifting. But, then again, I might not. But I’ll coin the word, by God. I will coin the word and claim it as my own. Citizenshift. Citizenshifting. I am a Citizenshifter. That’s not to be confused with being Citizenshiftless, which is not to be coveted in any sense of the word.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Citizenshifting

  1. I should have known. Citizenshift is not my word, after all. There’s even a website and a Facebook page for citizenshift. Dammit.

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