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.

 

Road trip diary (#3)

After a third day of driving eastward through the prairie landscape, now clothed in the warm colours of autumn, and under endlessly interesting clouds, we arrived in Winnipeg late afternoon Wednesday to a warm welcome at friend Bonnie Isaak’s house. This will be our base while here. We’ve known Bonnie since the beginning of both our marriages, and even earlier for H. and Bonnie’s late husband John. We settled our things into our room and then went to other friends for a delicious supper and catch-up. Life is packed with stories, and many get told in reunion visits!

Thursday, H. spent the day with his cousin, whom he calls his adopted brother, since they’re the only two of their respective Paraguay families who live in Canada. He made chipa — a cheesy Paraguayan biscuit  — with the cousin’s wife. From my sampling later, I can state that they turned out well. (H. is the chipa maker in our household.)

In the meanwhile, I had tea with friend Ruth and then headed to the MB Study Centre, needing to check the archives for several items related to another writing project I’m doing. I managed to get confused at Osborne’s Confusion Corner, but eventually got out of it and down Pembina, only to find Taylor blocked off by road repair. The streets are full of it. The old saw about Winnipeg having only two seasons — winter and road construction — obviously still holds. I found what I was looking for, or better said, the archivist/director found the papers, and thank goodness for copy machines, because conversations with former colleagues prevented my studying the page closely; I’ll do it later, at home.

Then it was off to the Turnstone Press offices. I remembered my way into the maze of one-way streets that is the Exchange District and managed to find a parking spot close by the Artspace building. Hugs and business chat with Jamis and Melissa. Publishing is a tough business nowadays — do we value books as much as we used to? — but Turnstone keeps at it, enticing readers with several new enticements every publishing season.

Another delicious supper, at the cousin’s, and that wrapped the day! Before shutting my  eyes, I read at Sacred Space and the text was the one in which Jesus sends his disciples out to tell good news. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” Peace to the houses we entered today, and will enter tomorrow and following!