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  • Rebecca Drew

Contemplating Québec

Why Québec? Why the fascination with French-Canadian culture and history? Why the interest in Acadia's past and persistent presence? My reply: why not?

pensive black cat

The Floramont Journal has been highly focused on Québec and French-Canadians, along with Acadia. Even when the journal has tried to steer itself into topics outside Québec, there is always a tug on the heart strings, right back to all things French-Canadian. So, Floramont Journal is going all-heart on this one. The ship is steering itself back along the shores of Le Fleuve Saint-Laurent, also known as the St. Lawrence River.


Going back to the question of why, I am still not entirely sure, but I just finished reading Hélène's World, Hélène Desportes of Seventeenth-Century Québec by Susan McNelley. Like the author and some other French-Canadians, I descend from Hélène Desportes, the first recorded birth of a French child in New France. The story goes beyond the main character, though, revealing much about life in New France during the early 1600's. I was struck by this excerpt in the last paragraph of Chapter Eighteen, page 243:

...down through the centuries to the present day, the French-Canadians have held fast to their language, their culture, their traditions...

Susan McNelley is right, because this is indeed true for Québec, but what about the ones in the United States? This question has emerged in some communities. The question has even appeared in a few of my dreams, and it was just my great-grandfather who was fully French-Canadian. Of course, I embrace my Midwestern heritage, and I love the Virginia and North Carolina Piedmont from the other half of my ancestry. However, there are times when living in the South feels like I am wearing an ill-fitting jacket, even though I identify with the accents, and I totally understand the necessity of sweet tea and biscuits! After short stints of a childhood in the Midwest, I adore the people, but I was still a bit out of place. I am under no illusions, for I would be totally out of place in Québec, I'm sure. Yet, that's the side of the family I knew virtually nothing about, and the more I learn, the more I want to know, good or bad.


Where does this lead Floramont? Well, the name was derived from Florimonde Rableau, the Paris girl who went to the wilderness of North America as one of the Filles du Roi. As an ancestor of French-Canadians, it seems fitting to devote Floramont to the culture of a place she helped create despite passing away at a young age. The original intent of Floramont will still hold true, which is to explore nature and the botanical history of those who came before us. We will still look at maps and recipes involving the botanical bounty of Québec, and perhaps a few other areas known to settlers of French descent.


However, a crucial component of culture is language. Yes, we can still celebrate traditions and learn history without knowing the French language, but how much richer are our lives when we know the words of our ancestors? We can use French to communicate with distant family members who kept the mother tongue. We can visit other countries and put others at ease by knowing their language. We can read books in their original words, thereby ascertaining the original intent of the authors. We can potentially ward off dementia and other health conditions by keeping our brains nimble with language acquisition.


Yeah, so why not delve into all things French-Canadian? The Floramont Journal will include more translations as a way to help people regain the French language, mostly within the context of natural and botanical history. Let's start with this short passage about the oh-so-handsome cat seen in the picture above, the one contemplating French-Canadian culture whilst resting within the canopy of a southern boxwood shrub:


C'est mon beau chat, Zack. Il porte le nom de l'ancêtre méridional de mon mari, Zachariah Sullins. Cependant, je l'appelle Zacharie Cloutier quand il se sent canadien-français.


Translation:

This is my beautiful cat, Zack. He is named after my husband's southern ancestor, Zachariah Sullins. However, I call him Zacharie Cloutier when he is feeling French-Canadian.


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