In Saskatchewan I learned to look more carefully; make my steps more deliberate. I had expected the Prairies to be all flat plains and blue sky. It wasn’t, but you had to pay attention to see the beauty in subtle colours, train your eye to the nuances of cloud shadow.
The rainforest in which I live is garish by comparison; an abstract crush of moss-covered trees and ocean. Saskatchewan, on the other hand, is a painting style of delicate precision, the contours of every fish and reed in the water, every wildflower in the grass, defined.
Julian Day writes of Saskatchewan with the same type of landscape realism. In just a few short lines, he gives you crisp details:
“in the sloughs along the roadside
herbs among the weeds
sage and mint, parsley
I admire Day’s healthy respect for the natural history of a province carved out by glaciers:
“…Take the turnoff to Cypress Hills,
and once the farmland ends
you’ll see cliffs and ridgelines, stands of poplar,
and it’s here, they say, that the glaciers stopped
briefly, exhausted, to survey their work…”
Each place has its seasons, memories, and folklore. In Saskatoon: Devil’s Dip, Day describes:
“A ravine, really, shaded by aspen
and elm, a former ski jump
and murder site.
Near where the weir tumbles white water.
Where pelicans nest in summer.”
I know it – just downriver from the old Bessborough hotel. Yes, it really is just a ravine, but Day shares the significance of the place, the things that happened there. Place of sport and suicide. Place of celebration.
They call Saskatoon the “Paris of the Prairies” for its many bridges, and I remember the railway bridge of which Day writes, and the bride we saw climbing to the top for wedding pictures, her tulle skirt and high top sneakers.