A few weeks ago, J. and I went to the boreal. We traveled east, out of the Prairies, until we hit shield country, then drove north to Black Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park. The landscape was perfect: just like home with rocky granite outcrops, water tinted a tannic red, red pines twisted in the wind.
All weekend, as we canoed, swam, hiked, and sat by the campfire, we referred to the place as our holodeck program. I realize now that this is because it seemed somehow nostalgic, like Jean-Luc Picard programming Parisian cafés, a place we needed to create because it’s no longer ever-present. The large slope of granite at our camp site reminded me of the spot my friends and I hung out at when I was a kid growing up in Northern Ontario. The Big Rock, we called it, because what else?
Place is so intrinsically rooted in us, isn’t it? When we first moved to Manitoba, I felt my body relaxing whenever I stepped back into familiar landscapes: ones with hills, trees, stone jutting out of the soil. Whenever my imagination rolls off on its own, it often takes me to scenes of shield country and the endless horizons of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Both of my new books detail that terrain, although the last poem in Following Sea links me to my new home province, with pelicans and plains.
It’s true: I think I’m becoming a prairie girl. And more so now that J. and I live in the south. The past few times I’ve gone home to visit my mom and sister in central Ontario, I’ve actually found myself getting car sick on those twisty roads. My body has adjusted to straight corridors, clear trajectories, landscapes without curves and corners.
I’ve also come to appreciate big sky. Far-reaching fields of glowing sunflowers. The fringy purple lace of big blue stem. Pelicans crowding the Red’s mud banks. Magpies. Sunsets to die for.
J’s grandmother was a prairie girl. She moved from a Saskatchewan farm to a mining community in Northern Ontario, near Kirkland Lake. My father-in-law tells a story about how she’d climb through thick pine and poplar to the tops of the high rocky hills to escape claustrophia. For a long time I didn’t understand that, not viscerally. Now I do.
Still, there’s nothing like going home…
And home – in a way – is where I’ll be going in November. Together with writer Donna Besel (also boreal-rooted), I’ll be leading a weekend writing workshop at the gorgeous Falcon Trails Resort, on the eastern edge of the province!
It promises to be a rich and busy weekend with lots of discussion and putting pen to paper and working through plot elements during walks in the woods (or, you know, hot tub soaks…). I’ll also be providing a limited number of personal critiques.
Needless to say, I’d love-love-love to see you there!
Shoot me an email or add a comment if you’d like to find out more or click the pic to get all the details and book.