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

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(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!

Road trip diary (#4)

I’m still “keyed up,” which is a word I remember my parents using for excitable children, because tonight was the book launch, and I was nervous, but it went well, and it’s done, so here I am to put it down. Feeling grateful. About 120 people attended, which is a terrific number. It touched me to see people from many parts of my earlier life: fellow writers, friends, cousins, former work colleagues, and some friends of friends. It’s no small thing when people come out in support and then take the time to read one’s work. (It’s not as if there isn’t plenty of other reading material in the world.) And the carrot cake was delicious too!

35503-PbN-75-fall-winter19-20-cover-web_600_757_90Mid-afternoon I learned that All That Belongs is featured on the cover of the current issue of Prairie Books Now and that a review of the book had appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press today. Both were lovely surprises. I haven’t seen the PBN article yet or read the review but my sources told me it was good, which was enough to get me through the evening without worrying about it. Some writers don’t read reviews, either good or critical ones. I’ll read this one eventually, but today was not the day. I needed to focus on the evening event.

H. and I had a great visit with long time friends over breakfast in the morning, and yesterday we had excellent visits too, with my elderly aunt, a cousin and some of her children, and a niece and her family. This afternoon I attended Faith in Form where friends Sarah Klassen, Angeline Schellenberg, Joanne Epp, and Sally Ito were among the presenters. These women have been writerly companions for me. So these days have been filled with goodness and tomorrow we’ll go to our former church and do more visiting with friends. But truth be told, the main deal in this diary entry is that the first and biggest launch is over and on account of that I’m relaxed and relieved and happy in equal measure.