Gord Downie’s memory is fading. The two craniotomies, the chemo and the cancer are all making it difficult for him to remember certain things. He needs to write notes to himself to keep things straight, especially in conversations. He even has trouble remembering his favourite Tragically Hip song (In case he ever asks, it’s “Springtime in Vienna.”)
No one has any idea how much time he has left, but Gord isn’t letting a second go to waste. Now that the Hip is done (at least it seems to be), Gord can focus his energies to help reconcile the relationship between Canada and its First Nations peoples.
His current solo project, Secret Path, is the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old boy who escaped from a residential school near Kenora and tried to walk 400 miles home. He never made it. (Read a review of Friday night’s performance in Toronto here.)
In an in-depth interview with the Globe and Mail’s Ian Brown, Gord explains how Secret Path came together, including the friendship he built with Chanie’s family, who are now living in Ogoki Post in Northern Ontario.
Gord has made it known that he and his brother Mike want to build a log cabin next to where Pearl Wenjack, one of Chanie’s relatives, lives.
“That’s where Gord wants to spend his last days, up there,” Mike said. “You and I are gonna take care of Gord.” Pearl is okay with that. She’s taken care of dying people lots of times, and her brother-in-law is the local builder. He’ll be cutting the logs in the spring.
And if the house becomes a visiting artist’s residence after Gord dies, one of a future string of such houses on indigenous lands across the country financed by the fund, well, Mike Downie is a guy with a lot of ideas. Until then, Gord says, “I need to see my kids, so I’ll go back and forth. I dream about it, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Because of the feeling you get when you go up there. The people I’ve met, they’re so beautiful.” Which is another way of saying they don’t judge you, because they too know what it’s like to face extinction.
Read the whole article here.