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This week brought yet another thing I’m afraid to tell Gill about. It’s not that I fear she’ll have a rant — it’s just that I fear she’ll be somewhat heartbroken.

You see, apparently (and I am ashamed to admit I didn’t know about this until after the fact) there was an election of sorts in Canada to decide on our national bird. The choices came down to the Loon, the Canada Goose (although you find them everywhere in the world and they are often considered a nuisance, not our best export!), the Chickadee, the Gray Jay and the Snowy Owl. I know for a fact that the owl would have been Gill’s favorite, wings down. She loves owls — owls of any sort — but the snowy is perhaps her all-time favorite…with honorable mention going to the Pygmy.

Alas, Gill didn’t vote — so the Gray Jay won. And no, Gill, I didn’t, (though you’d love to catch me up since I constantly correct your spelling) misspell ‘Gray’. Since the international ornithologists determined the spelling, they went with the American ‘gray’ instead of Canadian/English ‘grey’. This seems a bit strange since the Jay in question is the only bird up for the accolade that is NEVER found outside Canada. It hides in the boreal forests …odd since it apparently is very friendly and is tame enough to take seed from a human hand, much like the chickadee. My guess is that it hasn’t been exposed enough to humans to learn how dangerous they can be. (Let’s hope a Gray Jay never strays to TrumpLand…it might be put on a ‘do not fly’ list or worse still, a registration list of unwanted immigrants. Maybe we should put up our own wall to keep our beloved new national bird safe.)

The Gray Jay is reportedly very intelligent — in which case, it likely knows enough not to stray into TrumpLand even without the wall. Let’s hope so. In a Globe and Mail column this week, the writer referred to its survival skill of stashing away food for winter. The Jay’s ability to remember where the stashes are was compared to a typical Canadian “being able to drive to a corner store in a blinding blizzard while wearing your pajamas”. I feel certain Gill has done that more than once! To which I say: ‘Only in Canada, eh!’

When I visited Gill recently in Bristol, I was thrilled to see her reminders of Canada throughout her flat: books on Canada, books by Canadians, pictures of Canadian scenery, one of her special Cloisonné china owls, a beaver tea towel, maple syrup. And of course, her most special childhood stuffed owl, ‘Owie’. It was given to her when she was born by my then best friend, a lovely woman who died shortly thereafter. It has always had a special spot in our hearts and may explain Gill’s fixation with owls.

But, being the accepting, nonjudgmental, inclusive person that Gill is, I’m sure she’ll find it in her heart to love and embrace the Gray Jay. But I have a feeling she might revert to the Canadian/British spelling just to make a political point. And I have to say, spelling and grammar fanatic though I am, I wouldn’t scream too loud…

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