Ruth took this photo of me in the early morning fog, near the mouth of a drowned coulee along the east shore of the Alameda Reservoir, south of the Moose Creek boat launch. Even after the fog lifted, it was a beautiful place, with native grassland cloaking the banks almost to the water's edge.
Who says you have to drive halfway across a province (or a country) before you can enjoy a spirit-lifting paddle?
But I've seen them out there - not right along this highway south of Stoughton, but not far from it, near Lampman. And I've seen them in similar country south of Willmar.
I've heard that they have been seen on that vast bald expanse in southeast Alberta. Why are they venturing afield?
Here on the edge of the Moose Mountains, I hear talk about the timber they are cutting in the Park to try to get the forest to regenerate, and speculation that wildlife is on the move because of that. But moose would appreciate the regrowth in those cutblocks.
I also hear some talk about the old days, when anything leaving the sanctuary of the Park forest would be quickly diverted to somebody's freezer.
Is this sign another side effect of the gun registry?
These guys are the Whistlepigs, and they are four of the most generous spirits I've ever had the privilege to meet. They drove a full turn of the clock to return to the Forget Summer Arts Festival this past weekend, came out and led a fine jam into the wee hours at the campfire Friday night, and then hit the main stage at 10 a.m. the next morning for workshops and played in every one. Then when those workshops were over, they came over to the songwriter circle and did a great job offering a listening ear to budding songwriters, sharing encouragement, experience, and inspiration. I was hosting the circle, but I mostly sat back and let the 'Pigs and the Frontier Gals do all the work. Thanks again, everyone: you made the "Two Ears, One Mouth" workshop everything I had hoped it would be and more.
But wait, that's only the beginning. Saturday evening, when it was thirty-some degrees in the shade (that's ninety for you southerners), these guys got up in the floodlights for an hour and a half and gave their all. I had spent ten minutes on that stage earlier in the afternoon, and it was like a sauna already - I'm sure it had only got hotter since then. But there's no stopping the 'Pigs! I don't know how anybody sat still through that show - I found a spot (in the shade!) at the side of the crowd where I could stamp my feet and clap along, and oh, I wanted to sing. If my dancing partner hadn't been working at the festival gate, I bet we'd'a been up in front of the stage. Hey, Fred, when is the next CD coming out? I have lots of memories of building fences with my dad - I want to hear some more of that fenceline song. And more of all the rest, too!
After all that, Fred and Chris still made it down to the campfire after midnight for a few songs. They finally gave up when they were just about falling asleep sitting up with a tune in their hands. Thanks again, guys. I can only dream of ever playing like you, but I hope and pray that I can learn to welcome a neighbour like you do.
. . . and all that went before. Music, music, for days it has been music, but it is the faces that come back to me, and I try to sort them out. The kindly eyes of a man telling me to think of Tai Chi as a meal - where, when, whom? Tim! At the Calling Lakes Workshop, "Sing and Worship with John Bell," that was Tim speaking, when I told him that I don't practice Tai Chi regularly anymore, but only when I desperately need it.
You're right, Tim. When I desperately needed it the very next day, to settle me down before I headed for the stage, the Tai Chi didn't come like breathing, no, nowhere near like breathing, and so it didn't calm my breathing, and when I saw another friendly face approaching, I gave it up. (For the time being. Tomorrow, it will be like breakfast.)
Heather. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your nerves and easing mine. Every time I saw your eager anxious pretty face, I just felt better, just like that. And laughing with you about bouncing for a minute to improve your memory for the lyrics, or doing the lion pose as first aid for a sore throat - yes, I still see your face, and you are pretty - don't you forget that.
Kathy - so good to see you again, like no time had passed at all since that midnight run to Humpty's - how we ended up there, I have no idea, but it doesn't matter. I'll see you again, somewhere, sometime.
And Michelle, you precious girl, with that searching, welcoming look that makes me the most important, no, the only person in the world - thank you for being.
Lloyd, too: you didn't know it, but it was you who finally settled me for the stage. Heather made me realize that what I needed was not solitude but more company, fun company - the opposite of focus, because focus only sharpened the fear. With company I forgot the fear and remembered what I love: faces turned to me, and that feeling that I am right where I need to be, giving what I came to give.
Lloyd and I talked about grasses.
Speaking of grasses, there was Jeff, too, Jeff at Calling Lakes: I knew his face from somewhere, and then when he showed up the next morning wearing a T-shirt that said "Stipa happens," I had to ask. "Where do I know you from?" And it took us a while to work it out, because each of us knew a different person from the botany crew that came up with that T-shirt, and our direct connection went back much further to my undergrad days and Luther College residence. Jeff didn't realize just exactly how Stipa happens, so I climbed the hill behind the Calling Lakes building and found him a speargrass seed, with the sharp barbed tip that happens to your socks and ankles.
Before Calling Lakes, there was Moose Jaw, and Murray McLauchlan's face, but only from the poster for his workshop (Creativity in Music) because he missed his plane, and I couldn't wait around for the rescheduled workshop next day. So I spent a good chunk of the afternoon slaving my way through the boutiques instead, until I finally found a top to go with the skirt that Garth bought me because Ruth had told him that I looked at it every time I went into King's in Carlyle. I'm wearing it now, and feeling so uncharacteristically lovely, I'm not sure when I will use it. But tonight most everything else is in the laundry. Honestly, now, I'll probably wear it almost every Sunday until it is so threadbare that I'm the only one who knows how pretty it is.
Anyway, after all that hard work in the fitting rooms, I went back to CW StringWorks and listened to Chris sing his fine new song about John Rae. Ah, Chris, it is a fine song, but sadly, after all the other music I heard this week, I can't bring much of it back to mind. But I see your face as clear as if I were back there in your shop. Is there anything greater in this world than the welcome of an old friend?
And thank you, thank you for fixing that buzz. Oh, my guitar was sweet to play this weekend.
Maybe I could remember more of Chris's song if I weren't listening to the Whistlepigs as I write. If my writing has gone downhill in the last few paragraphs, it's because I remembered the CD and had to play it, right now. No more focus. Amazing, I've had this CD for over a year, and I don't think I'd listened to it yet. How does stupid stuff like that happen? I remember starting to listen, and loving it, and getting called away to something, but why didn't I come back to it? How did Unjugged get tucked away in the rack on the wall behind all the mess of living? Well, enough of that - I'm listening now.
Fred, Joel, Chris, Ross - what can I say? I'll try to say it tomorrow. My six or seven hours of sleep since the festival started was not nearly enough for clear thought. I woke in my tent with the light and the birds again this morning, and tried to make myself sleep some more, but then I started hearing a new tune in a bluegrass feel - just look what you've done! I hope your twelve hours of homeward road rolled swiftly, unless the scenery was good. "Y'all come see us now and then!"
My homeward road was a blur. I wish I could remember something, anything, from the miles between the sagging bridge on Moose Mountain Creek and that nice new turn lane for Arcola. Well, I'm here, and the police aren't, so I guess I managed the drive alright.
I made that turn into Arcola, and saw the foxtail barley and the kochia dwarfing the wildflowers at the Who Has Seen the Wind sign. I pulled into my yard and saw the garden looking wilted and the lawn standing tall. Messages on the machine. Exhausted, but some of the stuff must come in from the truck - my guitar, at the very least. Hungry. What will I find in the fridge? Why didn't I stay in Forget for lunch? When will I ever learn to just ask - am I invited? I never have trouble inviting myself to Mom's. And suddenly I am on the phone to her, hurting, weeping, in spite of all the wonder of this week, all the things that went so well: suddenly everything is wrong.
She tells me: you're exhausted. Get some food into you and go to bed. And a few hours later I hear her voice on the answering machine - oh, yes, I should turn the ringer back on. She is inviting me out to the farm for supper.
So I got dressed up in my lovely new skirt and top, and drove my dusty ol' truck out to the hills, and pulled up at the wire gate. Oops. Forgot that the cows were in the home pasture these days.
Found out that I actually can close the gate from the inside, leaning and reaching past the railroad-tie gate post, even in a skirt. It's a funny gate, so awkward to close from the inside that I usually just stay on the outside, and then climb through.
Supper was delicious. Plain brown rice tasted so good, I had to ask what was in it. Just the rice. We had a bit of tasty pork, and peas in the pod, and fresh raspberries with milk for dessert. We lingered a little, but I kept catching myself nodding at Mom as she spoke, and then realizing that she was coming up to a question and I had not the vaguest idea what she had been talking about. Dad rode with me down to the gate so I didn't have to open it again.
And then I was driving south from the hills, and there was a doe in the rich green crop just outside the ditch, with the late-day sun glowing red-gold on the supple curves of her neck and flanks. Her huge dark eyes followed me past.
Later, on the outskirts of town, I caught a glimpse of red-gold again, and slowed the truck as the little fox came bounding over the crop rows, right up to the edge of the road. He stopped, and I stopped, and we gazed at each other a moment. Then his ear flicked back and he looked sharply over his shoulder at another vehicle approaching, turned with a bound into the shelterbelt and was gone.
And I am remembering one more face: the incredible intense blue-eyed gaze of John Bell as he tells his stories seemingly just for me. I wonder if everyone in that room felt that gaze the same way. And Anita's face, too - thank you, Anita, for coaxing me to squeeze in a bit of singing and worshipping with John Bell before Forget. I fear it will all be lost to me, lost in the midst of everything else that has happened too fast for my conscious grasp. But then I remember John teaching us the three parts of the Duncan Alleluia, and then telling us to forget it, so that we would know it.
He told a story then, and at the end of the story, we sang the Alleluia as if we had known it forever.
Then I went out to the farm to air out the house trailer we used to live in, in preparation for a prospective buyer's visit, and found inside: nineteen dead tree swallows.
The impending arrival of the buyer kept me moving, running up the hill to the farmyard and rounding up cleaning supplies, and then Mom came with me so it wasn't so bad. We gathered the bodies, and swept and mopped and wiped droppings off the fridge, the floor, the counters, the walls. Mom said it was a good thing it was a guy coming, and I agreed, as long as he didn't bring a fiancé along. Could be a life-direction-changing experience, you know. "Oh, honey, we can fix it up, can't we?" (Door slams, his truck tears off with him staring after it.)
But the guy came alone, and he was quite a good sport about the little feathered bodies scattered on the grass and the pails of mucky water that he helped us dump out. I hope the trailer serves him well.
the Arcola Community Band marching into the grounds to open the festival;
the "Two Ears, One Mouth" songwriters' circle where we will deliberately listen to those whose songs have not been heard before;
and a certain "tweener" act on the main stage at 4:15 p.m. Saturday. Right now I'm trying to decide whether to change my guitar strings for that lively sound, or stick with the old ones and play in tune . . .
I'm sure others might draw a very different web; I know there are places where the arrows go both ways, and there are numerous other influences and outcomes. But this highlights my own pet peeves about the way the world is.
And for all you quick-on-your-feet bloggers who attended the SaskBloggers BBQ/picnic, this is what I wanted to say when I had all your attention and then had to say I lost my train of thought.
Now that I look at it, I guess I've probably said it before.
Now that the dimensions of the building addition are cast in concrete, I am getting down to the design details. A little late, no? Yep. Trying to make a vestibule fit in the corner, and still have room between it and the basement stairs for a utility sink, I got looking on the 'Net for ideas about minimum dimensions for the vestibule.
"Vestibule dimensions" turns up some interesting international building code stuff, but that's aimed at public buildings with high traffic. Then there are a couple of scientific articles, one having to do with ions and mouse lymphocytes (cool, but I don't have time to begin to understand it) and another with floral morphology and pollination (oh, yes, I vaguely remember something about a "vestibule" in a flower - again, no time for that). Scrolling on down, I find more building design stuff, but I also start to see product specs and reviews for backpacker's tents. Nope, no time for backpacking, definitely not.
Soon I start to see more scientific articles, this time about the inner ear. Makes sense. Scroll on, scroll on.
The link that startles me is "Ezekiel 40." Well, sure, now that I think of it, there are some vestibule dimensions in there.
Okay, I think I've pursued this wild google chase long enough. Time for common sense. Make the doors swing out of the vestibule, not into it, and remember to leave enough room for all four of us bending over to take boots off all at once. Then again, we could take turns...