More and more people these days are learning to love poetry. Poets tell their stories by painting a series of vivid pictures with words. They stir our souls, our memories, our imaginations, challenging us to new thoughts and ideas.
This past week, I bought Sylvia Fiorita Smith‘s new and first poetry book. I value Sylvia and want to support her. So far, I’ve read the introduction. Already, I am captivated.
In her introduction, Sylvia paints the picture of her immigrant parents carefully burying a fig tree beneath soil every fall, in order to shelter it from the snow and frigid temperatures of our Canadian winter. Why? Its luscious, home-grown fruit brought more than sustenance. It brought memories of home and childhood, loving relationships, the best of their lives in Italy.
As I read Sylvia’s story, my mind turned to the immigrants and refugees from Europe, Asia, Africa, all over the world, who have brought life to Canada. My grandmother, a British child immigrant, arrived in 1903. Today, I play with my great grandson, whose Japanese mother awaits landed immigrant status. She is one of thousands transplanted to Canada, all needing loving shelter from our Canadian winter, both literally and figuratively.
Our beautiful Canada offers love, opportunity and new life – spring and summer for the fig tree. Canada also offers contempt, anger, prejudice – winter’s cold and ice for the fig tree. Like the Fiorita’s fig tree, immigrants come with the ability to produce luscious fruit. Unlike the fig tree of Sylvia’s parents, many have not received the loving shelter they needed. It has taken all their strength, determination and resilience to survive and bring forth fruit. Our wonderful country has been built by immigrants and refugees such as these.
Sylvia’s story reminds me that immigrants and refugees today need our love and shelter sometimes even more than in the past. Today, we think we’re paving the way. We live in the illusion that prejudice is gone. In our hearts, we know that is not true. Buried under our façade of “Canadian niceness,”there is still far too much hatred, contempt, and anger that leak out and bring winter to the unprotected souls of many of our needed transplants from other countries.
“Needed” is the operative word. Just as Canada needed my grandmother in 1908, Canada needs our new Canadians. They bring their gifts, their willingness to work, their ability to live their dreams. We have much to learn from them. Sylvia named her book, “Figs Beneath the Snow.” We need to remember that the gifts our immigrants bring can and do produce luscious fruit.