Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about Saskatoon. How pretty it is; how artsy. So it was exciting for J. and I to drop Mowat off at the local kennel, arrange a cat-sitter so Griffy could maintain the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed and head south(ish)-west for a few days over the Manitoba March Break.

Understand that I grew up with distances.  To see movies as a family or go shopping in a mall we’d head from Blind River to the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie) at least a couple times a month. That drive is about an hour and a half. This one took six hours – through lakes and forests and finally, into an eerie flat snow-blanketed prairie that struck both J. and I as entirely alien.

But it sure was worth it.

Funny enough, the main exhibit at the river-side Mendel Art Gallery was about home. Volunteers and staff at the gallery were asked what pieces in the permanent collection defined home for them.

This question has, of course, been on my mind a lot lately and has been echoing throughout the various short stories I’ve been working on. What is home? Landscape, relatives, belongings, certain places?

I suppose the image I would pick would be of Four Sands, a Lake Huron beach I walked to a few times a week when I was growing up but even that was a place I struggled to be in and often wanted to leave, longing for the big world I imagined to be somewhere along the ribbon of highway stitched through our town.

You can explore the gallery’s show here. Share your thoughts in the comments: what’s home to you?

After we left the gallery we went on to shoot a few new roots into the prairie soil that’s now part of our (big) backyard. At a poetry reading at McNally Robinson, we met and made friends with Saskatoon writers Andrea Ledding and (one of the evening’s readers) Jeanette Lynes who also gave me names of folks w-a-y up here who are writing, for which I’m grateful.

And we visited the office of Grain which turned out to be on an upper floor of the historic railway hotel, the Delta Bessborough, a Saskatoon landmark that showed up a couple times in pieces at the gallery and where we were lucky enough to stay.

At the end of our visit, we found ourselves on the lower level of the post office, at a music venue called The Bassment. We went there to see Madison Violet, a folk-country duo we both love who just happened to be in town. On our final night in Saskatoon, before embarking on the long drive back to our still new home in The Pas,  I found myself not a little teary eyed when they performed this song: