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“May the blessing of God rest upon the land! and her people ever prosper under a religious, liberal, and free government!” – Life in the Clearings

Susanna Moodie continues chronicling her experience of mid-19th century Canadian life in Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush, the sequel to Roughing it in the Bush. After her husband obtains a job as a sheriff in Belleville, a small Ontario town, the family leaves behind their backwoods homestead north of Peterborough, where they battled the harsh elements of unforgiving nature but also felt the blessings of a providential and caring Creator God, with mixed feelings.

In Life in the Clearings, Moodie turns from personal matters to sketch little vignettes of Canadian society and culture in the towns, although “vignettes” perhaps suggest a more impartial tone than Moodie projects. Rather, her discussions of Canadian customs and traditions are usually either hypercritical or gushingly enthusiastic. It’s helpful to consider who her audience is: middle class readers in Victorian England, where her book was published. This is why she spends so much time analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of class structure in Canada and how it differs from her native shores, England.

The British expat’s story is framed by a trip to the great Niagara Falls, a wonder of nature Moodie has longed to see her whole life and is sure her British readers will be curious about too. Her awestruck wonder at the mighty, thunderous waterfall and the subsequent adoration and veneration she pays to her even mightier Creator cast her visit to the natural wonder almost like a pilgrimage to an altar of worship to God. I have seen Niagara Falls a hundred times myself but I know I will never look at them the same after Moodie’s rightful praise of them and their Maker:

“You feel a thrilling, triumphant joy, whilst contemplating this master-piece of nature – this sublime idea of the Eternal – this wonderful symbol of the power and strength of the divine Architect of the universe….

The human being who could stand unmoved before the great cataract, and feel no quickening of the pulse, no silent adoration of the heart towards the Creator of this wondrous scene, would remain as indifferent and uninspired before the throne of God!”

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