We broke camp shortly after I opened my eyes. The cows up on the hills were making their loud mooing sounds…my bare back felt chilled and there was a real dampness in the air. When I told my son that there was no way I would get back to sleep, he told me that he HADN’T been to sleep…I smiled.
The night before we had had magical chit chat at our campfire. It was nice to relax with him and to be aware of things around us and how the light was gradually changing on the trees and how darkness was creeping in ever-so-slowly. He told me that he wonders about friends of his who have never camped. He doesn’t understand why they all wouldn’t have had that experience. He told me he thought that they are missing out. He also told me that he wants me to take him on a REAL tenting sleepover sometime. I asked, "You mean the sort where you go into the backwoods, with your tent tied to your backpack? With freeze-dried food? Up into the mountains where you listen for bears through your light light sleep?" He answered, "Yes." So now…this is something I will have to do and I have added it to my list of a-hundred-things-to-do-before-I-die-list. I hadn’t imagined that I’d revisit my youth and do this yet again. I had happily ‘hung that hat on a hook’ and was prepared to do civilized stuff for the rest of my life…maybe even buy a small trailer like Emily.
There was discussion about the colour of the sky as light disappears….then the pelicans flew over and I told him, as I do about all birds flying over, that it was a sign.
He looked at my face, still softly lit, and smiled widely asking, "What is a sign??"
"The pelicans…the pelicans flying in a perfect V over our heads….so close…it is a sign."
"A sign of what?"
"I couldn’t tell you…but it’s a wondrous thing really!"
He laughed and said, with all of his cynicism, "And what sort of sign would it be if one pooped on your head as it flew over?"
We both laughed.
Sometimes the children are sceptics. I like to read their tea leaves at the end of our dinners at the Dragon Pearl. I like to tell them of all of the promise their lives hold…and to tell them that they are traveling to distant places. I go at it with great confidence. My daughter is a believer. And I believe that people manifest ideas. We have that power. Do you believe that??
We broke camp like troopers. Gosh, my son is a good camper! Silently, without any lists or demands or instructions, the bedding was rolled, the campground put back to rights, the pegs pulled…tent shook out, rolled….van packed. Before we knew it, dog and supplies were back in their places and the heat was blasting our wet fingers and cold toes. I looked over at him and his nose was red…a beautiful healthy sign of life and wonder!
We headed up the hill to Speargrass where our girlfriends were waiting with a feast. Fresh fruit and dates and yogurt and flax seed….over-easy eggs and grainy bread….a big pot of coffee and english muffins with ginger marmalade.
My little 89 year old girlfriend was packed and ready to go on an adventure…a drive south to pick up my strawberry plants from Mary’s garden. She was loaded down with a big bag of cheesies and a bag of hard candies (what lady her age goes without hard wrapped candies?) a bag of licorice and her granola bars. She had her camera and was ready for picture-snapping and adventure!
Our first stop was just south of Vulcan…Kirkcaldy. We stopped at the very little spot where I picked up my Laurie-dog almost fourteen years ago. I let him out of the van and he bounded for the little shed where he was born from Sandy, his beautiful collie mother. Is it possible that dogs remember somehow their rolly-poly-pink-belly-beginnings? He sniffed and ran about…and had such a twinkle in his eye! I think he remembered. I was glad to be the one to bring him home to visit his birthplace, before something happens and we lose our precious dog, forever.
Then…off to Lethbridge, but not without a few sidetrips….heading down into a valley to Standoff, on the Blood Reserve….and then on a dusty gravel ride along the ridge. Out we got for photographs…and when I can publish them here next month, please do enjoy! "An awesome view!" At least that’s what little E said.
Finding that my dearest cousin was driving a friend north to a Calgary-airport-pick-up, we traveled into Raymond (but after a special dining-experience…popcorn chicken for E at the KFC)….the site of our annual family reunions…and much history. We found one of my aunties at home and she kindly giggled with us and chatted and showed us so many wonderful black-and-whites of relatives. It was magical, as was the walkabout in the old campground site where I remember my Uncle and Dad drinking coffee and the tables where we sat together and dug into summer salads and hamburgers. I could look at the large yard opening up and remember chasing for candies and I had flashes of family programs…children singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, performing kata….it all seems that it was just yesterday!
From there, we headed for Magrath so that I could revisit the shell of the old woolen mill The Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill. My Auntie R wasn’t home, but I took my travelers to all of the spots that gave me a sense of nostalgia and roots. We went to the Trading Company for an icecream cone. The same stools and lunch counter…it seemed the same men chatting over grilled cheese. Moments and places, caught in time….only years later!
We could not leave without driving slightly south of town and into the cemetery where we visited my Gramma, Grampa, two cousins and my Uncle…I told my friend and son about the day that my Gramma was buried there. It was a blustery day….and it was quite a picture to see the family circled by Hutterite women…all holding out their polka-dot finery, their skirts…in a huge protective wall, so that inside the circle, we were in a calm. I won’t forget that day.
Returning to Lethbridge, E sat under an apple tree loaded with apples…in the shade, on a cinderbrick (is that how you spell that? who cares). My son made us big dagwood sandwiches with things I had brought in the cooler…cheese buns and mixed meats, cucumbers and tomato, cheese and lettuce. We ate in the shade and drank water from Mary’s hose. I miss her. At this time of year, she would be offering us carrots from the garden…and beets to take home…she would have been showing us the size of her potatoes.
I dug up four beautiful strawberry plants, some dill, chinese lanterns and a bit of iris…transfered them into the icecream pails I had brought from home and loaded them into the van. The entire scene became more ‘magical’ given the addition of plants.
The drive home opened up more of the beautiful southern Alberta landscape…farm machinery out and busy in the evening light. Fields and fields of rich golden grain…miles stretching out and touching the blue sky at the horizon. There is nothing that touches my heart more than gold up against blue. It’s what I know best…and so I paint it again and again.
In dwindling light at home and while being attacked by dive-bombing mosquitoes, I got the plants into the backyard soil and headed into the house for a relax-bath.
It was a good thing to travel back to my roots…I know that I come from beautiful places and beautiful people.