In late October, I drove to Roots and Wings, a regional women’s conference, near Edmonton. There, 150 women were fed — body and soul — through music, friendship and workshops with names like “Living in Right Relations,” “Food for Thought,” and “On the Wings of Owls.” It was a feast.
I billeted with Janette McDonald, a strawberry farmer and agricultural consultant whose land backs onto a small lake. When I arrived in the yard, Janette announced, “The swans are in!” Hundreds of them, en route from the Northwest Territories to places south, rested on the water. All these years on the planet, and I’m still in awe of migration.
At the conference, we sang Carolyn McDade’s beautiful hymn Called by Earth and Sky. I was still singing it when I left the conference and drove to my sister’s farm in Burr, Sask. I stopped twice to marvel at the sight of thousands of snow geese in the fields. These geese migrate about 6,000 km round trip each year. It felt like holy ground just to stand, listen and watch.
For years I’ve told my sister Marie Saretsky and her friend Laurel Merkosky that they should write a cookbook. Their cooking is famous for taste, beauty and health, and for annual Earth Day suppers. So famous, in fact, that a busload of diners from Saskatoon and Regina made their way to Burr last year. The Earth Day Supper is a gathering place for people who want to learn to eat holistically, attuning their bodies with the Earth. We worked for three days writing down their recipes, stories, wisdom, gardening and composting hints, and their particular brand of Prairie-woman humour. While we worked (and ate) inside, it snowed outside.
Eventually, I scraped my windshield and began the seven-hour drive west to Calgary. I set out under a half moon and a red and gold sunrise. A coyote watched me drive away. I’d driven an hour when things changed. The warmer land and cold air created a thick white cloud.
It occurred to me as I entered the mist that I was entering sacred space. The horizon and sun disappeared. Hoar frost clung to every leaf, blade of grass and twig. Traffic slowed. I was held captive by the beauty around me. I stopped a few times and made photographs.
After hours of silence, I turned on the radio and learned that outside this mystical moment in time, Omar Khadr had apologized to the family of the soldier he said he killed. The soldier’s widow had called Khadr a murderer. I have never understood this business. Why is this death called murder, when others are labelled “died in combat”? And what happened to the UN Rights of the Child? Later in the news, I heard a story about bombs addressed to American synagogues. I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten to breathe.
I turned the radio off. I knew I’d be back in that world soon enough. For the rest of the drive, I lingered in this mystical, holy land.
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