Thursday, January 28, 2016

Prairie Free Fall

I didn’t “go home” for Christmas, no, because now the western plains are my “home.” On my wall art at home the scenes are prairie scenes. No wonder in my weekly Friday Free Fall writing group, over the new year, I did prairie pieces. Here are three. As I’ve posted before, Free Fall writing is where the group has a prompt, and then we write swiftly without much thinking or editing. Then we read aloud to each other. Such fun.

When I was a boy, and even now, people use “pretty” as an intensifier, meaning “very.”

Prompt- the thinker

Dear Mom and Dad,
Hi! I’m here in marvelous Moose Jaw, on the pretty great plains. Bit of a joke there, eh? The plains are great, and they’re pretty.

I woke up this morning and lingered in my carpeted hotel room, because I just had to catch the end of the movie. James Bond, in a tuxedo, was in a casino watching a bad guy. And out in the casino lobby were guys in suits like gangsters. Well they were gangsters, they were the henchmen of the bad guy. His minions.

After I put on my Hudson’s Bay Company parka I left the room and exited through the hotel lobby. Nobody had a suit on, just dull blue windbreakers or dull jackets.

I walked down the street going, “Wow, I’m really in Moose Jaw!” The streets are paved with salt, that’s what someone told me. He said this far from the sea, salt is as expensive as gold. The sides of the street have these quaint little berms—no, not salt or gold, but snow. And not a boring pure white, but lots of shades of grey and brown and black. I walked along wondering: If I were a secret agent, where would I go? If I were a glamorous millionaire, what would I do? I walked along and I was stumped. Grey walls of old buildings. Oh, a casino.

There I met the thinker who told me about salt. So that’s what people do for fun here: They think.

Prompt- ice sculptures

If you go to the town of Edmonton, in the middle of January, there they are: ice sculptures. In Churchill square, overlooked by a statue of Sir Winnie, is a number of statues, set in beautiful randomness, glistening and glittering, elves and gnomes, wolves and foxes, and what ever else the local artisans can come up with.

There are lots of artists in this town on the Yellowhead highway, atop the Queen Elizabeth the Second Highway, straddling the Canadian Pacific Railway, surrounded in summer by gorgeous yellow canola fields, where the land dips and sways to wheat fields and cattle grass far away. But here in town the sons of the soil have a talent for art. Some are born left handed, and some are born artistic, here under the northern lights.

Artists can be seen cheerfully crafting their ice blocks with chisels and chain saws, sandpaper and squirts of coloured dye. Artists can be very creative. Not purists but artists.
The artists are watched by passers by, by grad students with beards, children with light sabers in their mittens, and strolling parents. The weather is sub-zero, but no one notices.

At one corner is the ticket center and gift shop. Enter here for an idea of how folks endure the cold: a set of stairs leads the ground hogs down and under the street to a mall, or, the other way, to a subway that will soon emerge to run along tracks to the fair grounds and beyond. Enjoy winter, enjoy sculpture, and art your heart away.

Prompt- wild is the wind
On the prairie, that great inland sea of grass, where the plains stretch out for miles, and the farmers squint, and their colorful children see into infinity, oh, how wild is the wind.
Nature is not a lap dog, not here. Children walk to school bent over wrapping their mufflers or holding their scarves in one hand and watching them ripple in the wind. Childish shouts of glee are grabbed and carried for miles by the rippling wind.

On the Great Plains, where farmers work in sun and hail, where cowboys ride in rain and sleet, nature is a big galumping black dog. Either play with intensity, or have the dog leave you behind. The children who grow up on this land, bracing against the wind, are never left behind. They all wear a toque, a knit cap, a ski mask, or a watch cap—where they watch the wind come rushing over the grass like a mariner on the bridge watches the wind tearing at the waves. Soft eastern dudes once said, “This land is hell on women and horses.” Not if you grow up out here. Children grow to roam like tumbleweed, to be as flexible as willow, as strong as cottonwood. The land abides, under a wild wind.

And when the school is surrounded by cold snow at night, and the gymnasium is an oasis of light and warmth, and the parents are home bundled up, the kids are off to the gym. No one wants to miss the dance! Under the wind.

Sean Crawford
Between the TransCanada Highway and the 1A,
Between International Avenue and the Stoney Trail,
West of Lake Chestermere

~At the Tim Hortons cafe in Chestermere some young men asked me the way to the Stoney Trail. They were from the lower mainland of British Columbia, where the Fraser Valley is cramped by mountains, and the roads are cramped too. How cramped? The TransCanada is so crowded they have to have a special lane, marked HOV, for hovercraft and High Occupancy Vehicles.  And so the boys were really looking forward to being allowed to roar at high speed along a broad clear trail.

~According to a blog analytics, my site has a "strong global presence" so while local readers may take the plains for granted, I hope my far away readers enjoy today's blog post.

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