Lesson learned: post early in the month or Cat and Scott will steal the words right out of your mouth (or fingers, I suppose, considering that this is typed and not dictated). I was going to write about how important I think it is for all of us to respect each other's strengths and weaknesses in this province, and I was even going to bring up the zombie apocalypse. So back to square one.
Instead I think I'll go the very Can Lit route of discussing place.
St. Denis, anyone?). One of my grade five field trips was a bike ride to my teacher's farm not far from the city. The urban to rural border is extremely easy to cross. Not to mention the crops, cows, sheep, etc. that are literally right in the middle of the province's largest city thanks to the university's agriculture program.
My mom is a small town girl and my dad is a farm boy, and both sets of grandparents are still living in two towns a few kilometres away from each other on the same highway. I have several aunts and uncles who are still farming, and my dad actually still owned land up until about five years ago. All this to say that when I think of rural Saskatchewan, I think of family. I spent a lot of school breaks staying with relatives when I was younger, and I have a lot of amazing memories from those visits.
There was a decaying park across the street from my grandparents' house, where I played with my cousins for hours, always avoiding the shiny steel slide because it was skin-meltingly hot in the sun. Other times we played in my grandparents' yard, dry grass on our bare feet, with the smell of baked dust blowing over from the dirt road. Then in the evenings after supper, we'd go out to check crops and maybe spot wildlife of some kind, standing on the bench seat of the truck because we were small enough and that was the only way to see over the dash, hopefully clutching binoculars. I spent hours eating oreos, or sleeping in the back, or standing beside my grandpa while he combined at harvest time. My cousins always had kittens, and usually they were tame. One summer I watched my oldest cousin hoist an old couch into the two-storey fort he'd built, and another summer got covered in burrs, and another, worst of all, went through a patch of stinging nettles. We dodged cowpies on most of our walks, shelled peas, had water fights, built snow forts, went sledding. I babysat ten kids once while the adults went snowmobiling. Speaking of snowmobiling, I started several poker rallies and always ended up waiting out the end of them at one of the checkpoint houses because I was pretty much the wimpiest kid. During swimming lessons at the lake one year, we circumnavigated the lake in a pedalboat. And it seemed like every day we caught hair snakes, minnows, and frogs. Every Christmas we played the kind of epic hide and seek games that you can only have in basements while the adults are all talking upstairs (boring). And best of all, straw bales in the wintertime.
Luckily I never had to help with any of the chores.
I know my childhood experiences are romanticized now. Sometimes it rained, or it was boring, or we went to church, or my cousins almost certainly thought I was a huge tool and I'm not really very close with any of them now. I have good city-centric memories, too. But I think the difference is that those country memories have a solidity and portability that the others don't. When you leave a city, you feel displaced. But it's not hard to get back to the country. You just find a grid road and stand on the edge of it. And it's the same gravel, and the same weeds and grasses growing in the ditch, the same cloud of tiny flies hovering a few feet away, so that even if you're far away from the place you're thinking of, you still feel connected to it, because somewhere the grid road you're standing on meets up with the one you're thinking of. It's not all sunshine and wild roses, for sure, but it's pretty special, a feeling you can't separate yourself from without leaving the continent.