A week in Winnipeg

I spent a week in Winnipeg this June, for two main reasons. One was the burial of my mother’s ashes, in the plot next to my father’s in Glen Eden Cemetery. All but one of my seven siblings attended, from the various provinces where we live, as well as a sister-in-law, niece, nephew, and several cousins. Standing in a circle, we had a short service of remembrance with a tribute prepared by sister Viola, spontaneously added remarks by the rest of us, and songs. After the burial we went to Kildonan Park for picnic snacks prepared by our cousins. That was a good day.

My three sisters and I spent four nights in an AirBnB — a whole house for ourselves. We walked the area, also drove to various spots to re-visit memories. For example, as in the photo above, my sisters having mini-donuts at The Forks. In the photo of three brothers, you may notice they are holding their knees, and it may be because two are having knee surgery soon; knee problems seem to run in our family. What I also notice is that somewhere along the way we all got a lot older.

A second reason for being in Winnipeg was the launch of Return Stroke: Essays & Memoir. I was nervous the day of, mainly wondering if I would have an audience. I did and it went well and I’m grateful. As a writer, I treasure people’s interest and support and do not take it for granted.. Besides reading, I was privileged to engage in conversation with Mary Ann Loewen, editor of two anthologies with U of Regina Press


Photo capture by Al Doerksen during my reading.

3551E22F-0ADB-4CDE-8B53-75AB5A6A64FCI took advantage of being in Manitoba for a private ceremony as well. I dug a small portion of Helmut’s ashes into the earth between a clump of trees in  Birds Hill Park, a favourite place for both of us over the decades we lived there. Simply a gesture, a tiny remnant, I know, but it gives me great happiness to know that “he” is also there, in that beautiful park.

I was tired after those days, those significant events, and when my siblings left for home, I wondered why I had decided to stay an additional four days and fill my schedule with visits with friends. Every one of those visits turned out to be refreshing and rich in connection, however, even surprising, in that introverts aren’t usually invigorated by a lot of “peopling.” But I was. And the sun shone brilliantly, the trees wore new green, lilacs bloomed abundantly, and there was rhubarb dessert at nearly every meal (and not a single time too many)!

Reading places

I’m a reader of plaques and historical signage.

I love to stop at those pullouts along the highway with boards full of words about what happened at this very spot. Maybe it was a battle or a disaster or a significant way-point for some journey of exploration. Maybe it’s the ancestral home of a people group.

I love to discover words while walking  – words on a plaque that tell me who used to live or work in this building, what happened on this street corner, even the name of a “loved one” to whom a park bench is dedicated.

These various words remind me how deep places are, how much longer-lasting than I am, how in flux they are and yet the same. They remind me of the receptivity of places, allowing me to be here, giving me a kind of love. These found words tug me into the place itself, link me to the deeper meanings it contains. And always by insisting that many belong, and I belong: I’m here, reading. Continue reading

Yearning for Winnipeg

You know how it can be when you’re reading sometimes. You’re following the text but, on a parallel track, you’re glimpsing related stories of your own.

Immigrants in Prairie Cities (see previous post) provoked recollections of my experience with “city,” this in particular reference to Mennonites, and I’m going to try to work out — for myself — what I was seeing. If you’re interested, please come along!

Continue reading