I have been in Canada for a bit over a month. We rented a car at the airport when we arrived. Since David left for Russia on April 20, I have bee driving around Saskatchewan, Canada visiting friends and relatives.
For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Canadian Prairies, the southern part is FLAT and very lightly populated. Cities and towns are quite far apart. We measure trips by hours rather than kilometers. Two hours is nothing………. a four hour trip to a major city to do some shopping is not uncommon.
I think by now you are beginning to realize the significance of the title of this post. I looked at my rental papers this morning – the odometer reading was 30082 km. This morning it was 35548. I think that is a record, even for me.
While I await my Letter of Invitation from Russia, so that I can apply for a new entry visa and finally go back to my new home in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, I have been driving around in circles, visiting friends and relatives, and cadging bed and board for a few days as I go. As my Mother is now in a seniors’ home, I have been trying to stay fairly close, so that I can spend as much time with her as possible. I have seen Spring trying desperately to push Winter out of the Prairies. Three weeks ago, the Canada geese couldn’t even find open water to land in.
It is as if Mother Nature forgot to turn her calendar from March to April, and even now, with May already a third over, she is balking yet. There is still ice on lakes and ponds, snow banks along the tree rows.
It is great to see the Saskatchewan sun and marvel at the incredible clouds in this vast, open sky; to revisit small towns – some dying a slow death, and some still thriving in spite of diminished population and the tendency to shop in the city because you have to go anyways to see the doctor or pick up parts. The grain elevators that used to mark every small town in the prairies are a thing of the past now. The few left have been bought privately and are used for seed cleaning operations.
Once you knew a town was ahead because of these prairie skyscrapers. Most of them have been moved or torn down……… and if you blink, you will not even notice you have passed Marquis or Duval or Parkbeg. Often the only clue is the trees close to the highway and a few broken down buildings.
It is a bitter-sweet kind of a visit – good to visit friends again, but very conscious of aging – both myself and those around me, as well as the culture of the prairies. Smart phones and internet have brought us haltingly into the new world. No longer can a farm wife go to the city for parts, and return home with only what was on the list when she left home. On the other hand, if they don’t have what she needs, she can call home to see if there is a suitable substitute. Progress has its price.
Before this gets too nostalgic and melancholy, I must hasten to say that I love this land, and I love being back to see it awaken from Winter’s grasp. Good friends – none can compare to Prairie folk in their openness and readiness to lend a hand, or a bed.
Of open skies, and the open hearts of those that inhabit this incredible land.