I’ve been in Calgary for almost two weeks and so far I’ve been to two plays, two movies, two readings (one of which was mine, and another tonight with Ian Williams), three art exhibits, two museums (counting the Glenbow, which is both museum and art gallery).
I’ve eaten gluten-free pizza, Mexican food and pho, found two new gluten-free beers, signed up for a Learn to Knit class and, of course, have talked writing, books, life, art with a bunch of folks at my welcome reading, over cider after a bookstore event, and during consultations with writers at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre, where I’m doing my residency.
I’ve spent time with my beautiful and talented friend, the poet Micheline Maylor, who introduced me to Calgarian Naomi K. Lewis, whose short story collection I Know Who You Remind Me Of is on my list of Alberta writers to read while I’m here (and stay tuned to hear from both of them on future Firelight Interview Series posts). Last night, I finished Fred Stenson’s Who By Fire, the inaugural novel in my intentional Read Alberta two-month course. Others? Suggestions are welcome.
So, you know: phew.
I’ve only just sort-of come, over the last couple of days, to a realization that I don’t need to swallow the city whole, that I can take my time, that I’m actually here for a good long while (several weeks) so, like most humans have now and then, there can be days where I don’t do much but hang around my cozy pad, wrestle with plot-line, read, sip wine on the rooftop patio, maybe walk to the corner store for a treat or take the five-minute stroll to the river or, in the other direction, to the library.
At said library, yesterday, I searched the catalogue for information about a prison incident that happened in 1994, in Ontario, that’s related to my new book. It was just for a lark because, you know, I thought, what could they possibly have about that way out here in Alberta?
Turns out they have IN THEIR COLLECTION a detailed government report about the occurrence (yes, from way back then, 21 years ago).
What are the odds?
I held up the line for the photocopier for a good twenty minutes, printing pages of delicious details, and didn’t even get all that I wanted out of it.
My heart, right then, felt full of love for the city where not only can I find dusty information no one’s yet bothered to put on the Internet, but I can order Vietnamese food on a whim, head to a matinee of an obscure Hungarian film for $7.50 on a Sunday, and jump on the C-Train to the other side of town to see an art exhibit involving a hallway of doors.
There’s all that, but still, as the ever unsatisfied person I am (just ask J.), I miss the ravens’ electronic gargles, the golden hem of reeds along Grace Lake, the walks beside the river as I unravel dialogue in my mind or a character’s internal meanderings, and my cat, my dog, my J.
Life, though, gives us many doorways, doesn’t it? And this is the one I’ve entered right now: a passage into this city I’ve only ever driven through, way back in 1993, pushing for the mountains after days and days of prairie, so I barely even saw it. Turns out, there’s lots to see.
Sending your message to Calgarian Donna Widmer…did I mention she is a poet?
Cool! I’m doing a talk on April 21st, at Owl’s Nest Books, about writing poetry, with Micheline Maylor, if she wants to come.
Well, sounds like a good adventure out west, and I begrudgingly concede Calgary has a lot going for it, but I’m heartened to hear you kinda miss what you have in Manitoba.
Your southern neighbour (at the bottom of our prairie ocean),
Ha, ha! You know it! There’s no place like home, and I guess Manitoba is actually starting to feel like home 🙂