Tuesday, September 4, 2007
...comes to meet you from a long way off. It’s not pretentious like the traffic laden expressways of southern Ontario or conniving like the mountain switchbacks of BC. You can actually see the patch of asphalt you’ll travel a good 5 or 6 minutes before you get there. There is something reassuring about that.
“Boring,” most would say as we whir by the undulating landscape.
To be sure it is quite forgettable. Not a length of the long ribbon of highway stands out over the other save the meager remnants of human activity in far too occasional hamlet. I say, “far too occasional” precisely because the human desire to excrete waste in a private smelling room – aka a service station washroom – increases in frequency the more children you add to your journey.
There’s Moosomin, Broadview, Grenfell (where you should really watch out for the cops), Wolseley, Sintaluta, and Indian Head. Then there’s Balgonie, White City and then Regina. You’ve got Moose Jaw, Caronport (where you should really stop for gas cause it’s cheaper), Mortlach, Parkbeg, and Secretan (my Grandpa always used to make fun of this town cause he put made the second “e” a long sound so it sounded like secreting). There’s Valjean and Chaplin (look for the white salt sands and the stench of a thousand rotten eggs in your vehicle). And then after that you’re in Uren – he he! Herbert and Waldeck, and Swift Current, then Gull Lake and Piapot (which is a lying son of a b#$% of a town that promises all services 23 kms out and then as it turns out does not even exist. My bowels hold a terrible rage against that town. I had needs that Pee – A – Pot never satisfied.). You pass Maple Creek and you’re done. Its all actually quite painless.
That stretch of highway has carried my carcass over and over again without so much as a whimper. Although, thanks to the lackadaisical attitude toward infrastructure of the Saskatchewan government, my carcASS has whimpered from time to time.
It’s a shame really that you can pass through the mighty prairies with so little ado. Yeah that’s right I said, ‘mighty’. I know that word is reserved for the mountains – but really how mighty are they. They sit there like mossy covered behemoths that beg us to ogle over the parts of them that they choose to keep unclothed with trees or snow. But the prairies, now there is power. The electric earth pulsating food to life – and death – in a fabulous self sacrificing placidity. Unimposing, avoiding the spotlight save to let you catch the deep breath of the open sky. And horizon to horizon you breath in your own smallness – and the tender care this land takes to give you that breath. The breath that you can lose yourself in - your thoughts chasing each other like voracious dragonflies chasing mosquitoes in a wheat field low spot. And you grip the steering wheel and wonder what you’re missing.
You know I winced each time I dumped fuel into my ASStro. I hate that gas sucking pig – but it serves my family well. It drank a whole 70 liters worth of fuel from Caronport to Moosomin (2.5 hours of driving). I spent a shocking amount of money on fuel. It made me mad. I’m still mad. But I realized something.
I got a pretty amazing show for the cash. Barley, Timothy, and Rapeseed, a million bugs lost their lives on my hood. A coyote, and a stallion making colts, and an inexplicable connection to this land – this humble forgettable, powerful land.