I spend a silent and solitary day at home: writing, reading, potting flowers, staking tomatoes, and watering plants. But it is that moment when I’m standing barefoot on the grass in the backyard watering the tea garden and breathing in the gentle scent of lilacs that is, perhaps, the sweetest. I drop the hose, walk over to the bush that’s about to burst into full bloom, lift a cluster of purple blossoms to my nose, and am transported home.

Monday, April 22, 2019 – Prairie

We’re almost a third of the way through this year. I’ve slogged my way through most of it, lifting one heavy, mud-caked foot after the other, in a fugue-like state. I can’t say why.

This is life. It’s not always mountain top and it’s not always valley, sometimes it’s mile after mile of flat nothing-to-see prairie. You’d think I’d be comfortable here, for some reason I’m not.

It’s a lie to say that there’s nothing to see on the prairie. On the contrary: some of the greatest gifts are there. I challenge myself to be still, lean in, and listen—the very things I write about in my new book, the things I know I need.

Right now, the April gray isn’t helping anything at all. Early this morning I saw something magical in the red eastern sky that sparked delight. It didn’t linger, and soon the gray overtook it, but it was there for a time nonetheless.

And so, Monday of the last full week of the gray month and an opportunity to do something different, to begin again. Onward.

Monday, June 25, 2018 – Soak Time

Over the course of the millennia, all these multitudes of ancestors, generation upon generation, have come down to this moment in time—to give birth to you. There has never been, nor will ever be, another like you. You have been given a tremendous responsibility. You carry the hopes and dreams of all those who have gone before. Hopes and dreams for a better world.

Laurence Overmire, One Immigrant’s Legacy

The sound of falling rain, gentle and steady, lures me toward wakefulness. For a few minutes I float on awareness and consider ascending toward the surface. Instead, I choose the other way; I sink into a sweet slumber in which I dream of place and people and I stay there long enough to wake later, feeling rested.

We are home. The sky is cloudy and, after an uncomfortably warm night, the morning air is cool coming through the window. I am, and will be for a time, still ruminating on the time spent on the prairie. I felt my roots grew deeper as I stood on the land and sat with people who were mine. I am now tethered. I am more real.

# # #

Some sweet, simple moments:

We are gathered in a large room of a restaurant with family members and spouses—eleven in total—and the conversation is about connection. A woman shows me a photograph of my grandfather and his siblings (“this was your grandfather, this was mine”) and the connection is made clearer. Even among those who have known one another for ages, there is talk of those not here, and connection, and it’s just the kind of talk that happens when family gathers. It’s just the kind of talk I’ve never been privileged to be part of. It’s priceless.

One afternoon my cousin takes me to meet a man she met for the first time not too many years ago, a man whom we are related to. We sit in the home of this ninety-plus-year-old-man and his wife—both sharp and healthy—and talk about the familial connection we share. He, a Letkeman too, has a lifetime of knowledge. I would love to sit here for a good long time and mine some of his memories.

# # #

We are home now and those precious prairie family days are in the past. I choose to believe that they are also in the future. They will be in the future.

I have an appointment this morning, and afterward must tend to my neglected garden. The harvest is plentiful; the weeds are too. There are photos to download and process, a manuscript to return to, and administrative things to tend to. I want to sit with the Letkeman family books and clarify for myself some of that which is still cloudy. A new writing project has been dancing in my mind as we traveled prairie roads; I need to make some notes while the thoughts are still fresh.

There is much to do as we ease back into everyday life, but I do so with a sense of who I am that I didn’t have before. It’s difficult to put into words how deeply impactful it has been to sit with family—the conversation, the laughter, the finding out about one another, the awareness of threads that weave through the Letkeman tapestry, through and into me—all of these things ground and give me strength. I think it must be difficult for those who have always had these gifts to understand how impactful they are on one, like me, who hasn’t.

# # #

Now I enter into soak time.

Like plants in my garden soak in and grow, fed by nutrients in the soil that allow roots to go deeper and fruit to be sweeter; so too I feel myself entering into a time of contemplative growth, nourished through gifts of faith, family, and heritage.

More than once this week conversation has touched on little coincidences and things that make all of what has happened seem magical. “It’s like a miracle,” someone commented. I see the hand of the Creator in all of this and it is, in a sense, something of a miracle.

And so, as I sit and soak and write and remember over the course of the next days and weeks, I do so with profound gratitude and awareness of the wonder of it all.

Soli Deo gloria.

Thursday, June 21, 2018 – Prairie

This—the landscape of home—would lure me back with its winds and desperate clouds and endless expanse . . .

Linda Joy Myers, Song of the Plains, A Memoir of Family, Secrets, and Silence

The map on the navigation system in the car is void of anything. There are no lines indicating roads or railway tracks; no bodies of water or parks; just a whole lot of nothing at all. We’re in the middle of nowhere

Like Navi, we don’t know where we are either. We’re driving down gravel range roads and township roads with no specific destination in mind. Now and then we pass a falling-down barn or a gaggle of shiny silver granaries; sometimes a grove of trees hiding a farmhouse; but for the most part, as far as the eye can see, there is just endless prairie.

Now and then Gerry pulls over and stops the car. The silence is loud in my ears as I step out of the car. I pause, breathe deep and slow in a way I don’t anywhere else, then pull out my camera.

I shoot roads and railway tracks and vast and endless prairie, capturing images that will feed me when we leave this place. Gravel crunches under my feet as I wander around in contented awe. The warmth of the sun embraces me, and the smell of the dust takes me way back even as it anchors me in the here and now. In all of this, I lift my camera to my eye now and then and press the shutter button.

This vastness, this unobstructed view  in which I see past and present and possibility, is the sweetest sight in the world. Here, in the southern part of Saskatchewan, where it’s flat as flat can be, I look into the distance and see truth.  I feel the tug of my roots growing deeper; I know the endless love of my Creator. Here, I am me.

We return to the car and set off again. We turn left, heading south, now and then; then right, heading east, some time later. We’ll end up at Highway 39 eventually, and it will take us north back toward Moose Jaw. We’re in no hurry. For now, we drink prairie and it is more than satisfying.

# # #

Today, we resume the LLF vacation. Colour me excited.

Wednesday, June 20 , 2018 – Home

We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.

Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

We arrive in Moose Jaw, the city I spent my childhood in and, after a potty break, tour the familiar streets of my neighbourhood. No need for the navigation system here, I easily direct Gerry in this city, with a population of about 34,000, to 7th Avenue and the house my dad built before I was born—the house we lived in until, shattering my heart, we moved to BC.

I’m pleased to see the house well maintained and cared for. We drive up the back alley and I can tell by windows moved in the back of the house that it’s been remodeled inside. I wonder how much of the original footprint remains—maybe very little. It’s changed, but parts remain the same. Like me.

We make our meandering way south of the city (and for this I do need the navigation system), past the airport toward the Sukanen Ship Pioneer Village Museum where we’ve decided to spend a few hours walking around in the past—we’re both interested in history and spend a pleasant afternoon here.

After an evening meal, we take a walk through Crescent Park past the beautiful old library, museum, and natatorium swimming pool. I love that these are the same beautiful old buildings my dad used as a boy, and that I did later. There’s so much history in this small city.

Today, we pause the LLF vacation and take a day for ourselves. It’s going to be a beautiful sunshiny prairie day, perfect for pulling out the grown up cameras, spending some time at the Temple Gardens Spa, and whatever else we choose.