“Dip, Dip, and Swing”


Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada. Dreamstime photo.

Whenever I think of the song Land of the Silver Birch, I think of Ontario, not where I grew up, which was in the southwestern portion near the Great Lakes beaches, but of Tobermory and Halfway (Log) Dump along the Bruce Peninsula, part of the Niagara Escarpment. Maybe it’s the lines “High on a rocky ledge / I’ll build my wigwam” that elicit these images and memories.

The song often combined with My Paddle’s Keen and Bright.

My Paddle’s Keen and Bright
Written by Margaret Embers McGee (1889-1975) in 1918

My paddle’s keen and bright,
Flashing with silver;
Follow the wild goose flight,
Dip, dip, and swing.
Dip, dip and swing her back,
Flashing with silver;
Swift as the wild goose flies,
Dip, dip, and swing.

Land of the Silver Birch
Canadian folk song, author unknown

Land of the silver birch,
Home of the beaver,
Where still the mighty moose
Wanders at will.
Blue lake and rocky shore;
I will return once more.
Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, bo-oo-oom.

High on a rocky ledge
I’ll build my wigwam,
Close to the water’s edge,
Silent and still.
Blue lake and rocky shore;
I will return once more.
Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, bo-oo-oom.

My heart grows sick for thee
Here in the lowlands.
I will return to thee, hills of the north.
Blue lake and rocky shore;
I will return once more.
Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, bo-oo-oom.

Land of the silver birch,
Home of the beaver,
Where still the mighty moose
Wanders at will.
Blue lake and rocky shore;
I will return once more.
Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, Boom-diddy-ah-da, bo-oo-oom.

Or, the way we were taught as schoolkids: “Boom-diddy-boom-boom, Boom-diddy-boom-boom, Boom-diddy-boom-boom-booom.”

This song, especially the first part, My Paddle’s Keen and Bright, is sung to keep time when paddling. I’ve tried it myself, and the rhythm really works. In Ontario, one of the skills I learned in childhood was some quite advanced canoeing. In fact, I had considered becoming a canoe instructor, or at least owning my own cedar strip canoe, neither of which came to pass.

Canoe rescue

However, at the Inter-Provincial Music Camp in 1977, which I attended at age 13 for orchestral music, I had a chance to both instruct and show my canoe skills when two campers swamped a canoe a good distance from shore and weren’t sure how to get back to land. I had the opportunity to pull alongside in my own canoe and guide them and my canoeing partner through the “canoe-over-canoe” rescue. In short, if you have the benefit of a second canoe nearby, the swamped canoe is pulled across the middle upside down at a 90-degree angle, lifting it completely out of the water and allowing it to drain. The canoe is then flipped and returned to the water, although there is a special technique for the people in the lake to re-board without tipping and swamping it all over again. I quite impressed the campers and the counsellors with that stunt, one of my very few, shining moments as a child.

In advanced canoe classes, I paddled a cedar strip and was proficient at soloing and docking (approaching at dock at high speed at a 90-degree angle and turning at the last moment to come parallel with the dock edge, almost exactly an inch away). A little of this technique is described in Beyond the Precipice at the Willoughbys’ acreage. In Alberta, I was able to share my love of canoeing with my two oldest children in Jasper National Park, albeit in a flat-bottomed aluminum or fibreglass rental canoe rather than the more delicate and sophisticated, rounder-bottomed cedar strip.


Cedar strip canoe. Dreamstime photo.

Ontario nostalgia

Although I have considered Edmonton home for the last 28 years, I have been nostalgic for Ontario of late, the land of Great Lakes and sandy beaches, maple syrup, the Niagara Escarpment, glacial moraines, and fruit orchards.

Perhaps it is because my long-time Ontario friend (40 Years and Counting) and, for many childhood years, neighbour, has recently visited Alberta. Maybe it’s because I took that birch bark photo for my 7-Day Photo Challenge, which spun me into a reverie of Land of the Silver Birch, canoeing in Algonquin Park and on the Thames River in London (Ontario), hiking in the Bruce Peninsula and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Halfway (Log) Dump, and camping in Tobermory and Goderich.

Two of the best school fieldtrips I ever attended, and which I still remember vividly and fondly, were the process of how maple syrup and sugar were made, which took place one March in grade one not long after I arrived in Canada, so this new perspective was quite a thrill (I’ve been a lover of 100% maple products ever since), and a geography trip in high school to a site that contained trilobites, organisms that flourished in the Cambrian Period and Paleozoic Era.

Perhaps it is time to return to Ontario for a visit and make a circuit of the special places. One of my goals in life was to hike the Niagara Escarpment from Tobermory to Niagara Falls. I never achieved it for lack of resources and funds. I also did not expect to be leaving Ontario a mere six years later. Clearly, I have some unfinished business.


Interior of Algonquin Park, Ontario

Trips to Algonquin Park and the Bruce Peninsula were rare, which is perhaps why they are memorable. I spent more of my time as a youth along the shores and in the campgrounds of Lake Erie, including Long Point Provincial Park, a site of beautiful sandy beaches, shipwrecks, and storms, where we survived a seven-hour doozie with high winds that overturned trailers while we just had a flooded tent and falling poles to contend with (but that’s another story).

The north shore of Lake Huron, the Bruce Peninsula, Georgian Bay, and even Algonquin Park farther to the east have a distinctly different flavour from the southwestern portion of Ontario. The land, water, and weather are different. These places are not only farther north, but are part of the rocky, forested land of the Canadian Shield instead of the fertile farmland and sandy beaches of the south.

Many wonderful pictures of the Bruce Peninsula

Paradise at Bruce Peninsula National Park (a blog post by True North Nomad)

Learn more

Bruce Peninsula National Park photographs

Bruce Peninsula

Niagara Escarpment

Bruce Trail interactive map


Land of the Silver Birch lyrics (Canadian folk song, author unknown)

Land of the Silver Birch extended lyrics and background

You might also like

Visit to Ontario: A Photo Story

About Eva Blaskovic

I am a multi-genre author of literary fiction, fantasy, and paranormal, and writer of non-fiction articles on parenting, writing, education, health, and travel. My background encompasses both the sciences and the arts. I teach at a specialized clinic for learning disorders and mentor young authors. In addition to writing and teaching, my passions are weather, Indian food, gardening, and music. I have played eight musical instruments and spent many years immersed in taekwondo and karate. In my youth, I was an avid canoeist. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in the Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada, and moved to Alberta in 1988, where I raised four children.
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9 Responses to “Dip, Dip, and Swing”

  1. Pingback: 7-Day Photo Challenge | Beyond the Precipice

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  3. You could have written that same post from my past! Funny how similar our past. Great post! You’d be surprised I think to see how busy the parks on your list are now. Some, like the Bruce, are so busy you can’t get parking!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: June 2017 Roundup: Outdoors, Travel, and Photography | Beyond the Precipice

  5. Pingback: Canada’s 150th Anniversary — A Special July 1st | Beyond the Precipice

  6. Pingback: Bucket List: Hiking the Bruce Trail | Beyond the Precipice

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