“In the cemetery, I found a portal.”
I wrote this in a Saskatoon hotel this past weekend, as I was recounting my experience searching for my grandfather’s past in Lost River.
I thought I was just being fanciful and imaginative.
It was autumn (still is, at the time of writing) — one of the most beautiful autumns, I think. And Lost River is extremely beautiful, at least it is to my mind. And I’ve read enough accounts in Search for Yesteryears to understand that many others have felt that way about the region as well, nestled as it is along the south side of the South Saskatchewan River.
Behind Bethany Cemetery in Lost River, there is a treeline extending back, half a mile, to the middle of the section. It was lit up and glowing brilliantly in the late afternoon October sun. A line of evergreens surrounded the cemetery, and at the very back, in the middle, there was a gap in the evergreens. The treeline along the middle of the section begins here. In that moment, it looked as if there was a mysterious golden portal beckoning beyond the graves.
I approached the portal and stood staring at the trees. Some of them looked old to me. I wondered if my grandpa had ever climbed on those trees. Or were those trees very small when he was a child? He certainly walked among them.
I stepped through the portal. I could hear the wind rustling the brittle long grasses, the remaining leaves on the trees. Was I getting close to seeing and experiencing part of my own family’s story?
In reality, of course, there is no portal. The gap in the trees is simply where the extra soil is kept. (I’ve noticed all cemeteries have piles of soil at the back. It makes sense.)
But then I met Marlene. And she made sure that I knew that if I followed the treeline for half a mile, I’d get to the site where my great-great-grandparents built their log cabin in 1907.