Road trip diary (# 7)

On the Coquihalla Highway

This will be our longest day of driving, and our last, and this the 7th and last diary post too. (Seven being a perfect number and all.) We decided to drive the Water Valley (near Calgary) to Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) stretch in a day; we two old horses are smelling the taste of home (sweet home)!

In terms of All That Belongs, yesterday was a great day. We drove from Red Deer to Linden for an early afternoon coffee and reading. There were fourteen of us around a long table at Country Cousins restaurant, enjoying pie and conversation. I grew up in Linden and remain connected to a few people there, as well as in nearby Three Hills. Eunice, my longest friend (with mutual Linden origins) and a dedicatee of the novel, drove down from the Edmonton area.

We went around the circle and everyone introduced themselves and said why they were there — connections in other words. This was fun, for the memories it provoked. Then I talked about the book a little and read a few pages, and of course I just happened to have some along to sign and sell.

In the evening, I was privileged to participate in the Flywheel reading series at Pages on Kensington in Calgary. A good crowd assembled. I was impressed with the energy in the room. I think it’s wonderful when bookstores partner with writers in this way. The other readers were Kate Flaherty, Laura Swart, Jacqueline Turner, and fellow Turnstone author, Su Croll, with her new book of poetry, Cold Metal Stairs, about her father and lewy body dementia.

Then it was on to my brother John’s, where we stayed early in the trip. We talked till midnight or so and in the morning Barb sent us off with a hearty breakfast of bacon and Ruehrei, which is a kind of scrambled egg but with flour in it. Like cut-up pancake. We all grew up with it. She said her mom paired Ruehrei with sardines, but even as a child she thought this a bad match!

Now here we are, curving through rock and pines, and soon we’ll emerge to Hope and the Fraser Valley, and we’ll stop for a sandwich, and then drive the final kilometres. My heart and mind are full of gratitude for the past two weeks, and also for all of you who have read along.IMG_7342

Road trip diary (# 6)

Today we continued west along some of the very narrow red lines on our paper map, meaning the road was paved but minor and narrow. At least at the beginning. We wanted the straightest route west from Saskatoon to Red Deer, where we’re staying this night with my brother Victor and wife Doris. It took us through farm country, the landscape slightly rolling. The sky was cloud filled and it was the clouds that seemed to draw us forward. I wish I had words for clouds. There’s so much variety in them, so many different shades of white and grey, so many effects

72218160_2363571110573825_4445136876134727680_n (1)

(l-r) Katherine, Dora, Sarah (photo courtesy Turnstone at Facebook)

Last evening in Saskatoon, I read with Sarah Ens and Katherine Lawrence in an event Turnstone Press billed “an evening with memory seekers.” We’re all Turnstone authors, Sarah with a book of poetry (The World is Mostly Sky) to be released next spring, and Katherine with a book of poetry (Never Mind) a couple of years back. We read from our work, they graciously giving me the longest time because my book is the newest, and then, with Sarah moderating, we discussed a series of questions about memory. It was a good discussion, in my opinion, and the preparation for it was interesting to me too. I haven’t thought about memory as idea in relation to All That Belongs, though it’s a big piece of it. I suppose I thought more to remembrance as activity and to the content of what Catherine remembers, which came to me as the “story” being told.

Memory is fraught with partiality and unreliability. And yet within it, we three agreed, lies potential for authenticity and even transformation. We also talked about the value of documents and objects, as well as the impact of technology upon memory seeking/keeping.

Leaving Saskatoon I couldn’t help thinking of memory fragments of the short period we lived in that beautiful city of bridges back in the early 1980s. We moved there on account of work and planned to stay, but work took us away again. We had two young sons at the time. In the busyness of life with preschoolers, I signed up for an evening course in Canadian literature at the University of Saskatoon. I remember driving down 22nd Street in our leased Grand Marquis (actually the nicest car we’ve ever had) on my way to the university, the boys safely in the care of their father and me free of them for the evening, listening to CBC-FM which at that time played mostly classical music, a memory which remains with me as a sensation of luxurious happiness.

Driving into Red Deer late afternoon we managed to get rather hilariously lost, but eventually we got to my brother Victor and Doris’s place, where we enjoyed a delicious supper and visit with them and some of their grown children.

Road trip diary (# 5)

Tuesday, October 8, Hague, Saskatchewan

In B.C., I defend Winnipeg weather, which tends to be misunderstood, and usually I do so in terms of its sunshine. According to this comparison of Canadian cities, Winnipeg tops the chart in annual sunshine. The four days we just spent there, however, failed to reward my fond defence. It was grey and moist throughout. But Sunday evening, the sky cleared somewhat, and yesterday (Monday) we were on the road again under bright sun and summery warmth. All day we enjoyed that light and the beauty of the prairies, a modest beauty, but beauty for sure, mostly flat but valleys and waves of land here and there, stands of trees turning yellow (with occasional hints of red), grazing cattle, geese in long lines overhead, stubble in rows and dotted with bales.

We took the Yellowhead highway to Saskatoon, which took us through Neepawa, which I don’t drive through without thinking of Margaret Laurence. I’ve been re-reading her work this year, as well as reading the Africa books, which I hadn’t read before. She was an enormous inspiration and influence in my reading/writing coming of age. (About an earlier visit to Neepawa here.) We passed through numerous other towns, some large, some small, many with truck and implement dealerships, gleaming vehicles and machines on display. And always the vast sky, set back and cloudless, insisting that we focus on the landscape.

We arrived in Hague, where my sister Linda lives, in time for supper, and spent the evening visiting with her. A bit of panic ensued when I saw my MacBook was almost out of power but I couldn’t find my charger. I figured I must have forgotten it in the last bedroom we occupied. How dependent we get on these instruments of information and communication! This morning I found it, packed in the place it wasn’t supposed to be packed, and all is well, it’s juicing up while I write this and H. and I are drinking our daily morning yerba mate.

We’ll spend this day with my elderly mother (97) at the Mennonite Nursing Home in Rosthern, and the evening at a reading event in Saskatoon. More on that after it happens!