Andrew and I have been watching the Amazing Race Canada, and every time I’m blown away by how it completely overlooks Manitoba. It truly is “amazing”.
I guess that’s because there’s not much to see here? Or so they somehow think.
Perhaps it’s our lack of mountains. (It’s definitely not for a lack of lakes.)
The farm where I grew up was nestled in the bush. It was a thick collection of poplars that went on deeper and deeper and darker until, when I dreamed of it, I felt like it must be the edge of the world, buried there in that forest of mystery.
But, we were on the edge of this dense bush. Across the road and down a little way was one of my dad’s fields. A full quarter section of alfalfa, corn, barley, or fallow, depending on the year. Winter evenings after chores, I would take the long way home. Following the path from the barn to the house couldn’t have taken more than a minute, but I wasn’t ready to get home so quickly.
There was something happening in the sky. I had to get beyond the trees.
Drawn to the field and its unobstructed view of the western sky, I followed the road west. As the winter days lengthened, the snow began to smell of soil and leaves, and the sky was an epic riot of colour and story.
Standing at the edge of the woods, with a full field drifted over with snow before me, I’d stare at the sunset, feeling like it was trying to tell me something. That life is terrible and beautiful like the open sky and the wind and the breathtaking cold sharp like a knife that stabs right into your heart.
I watched the sky like that every night after milking cows until one day, I left the farm. I moved to join some of my friends in Banff, Alberta. Right there in the middle of the most stunning mountains Canada has to offer.
I fully appreciated gazing up at Cascade Mountain every day, imagining what route I would take if I were to attempt a climb, and what I would see if I were to reach its peak. (For the record, true to my prairie girl status and my fear of heights, I only ever hiked the comparatively diminutive Tunnel and Sulphur mountains.)
There was plenty to engage and distract me in Banff. Obviously. However, as the days turned into weeks turned into months, a strange sort of new grief welled up inside me.
I couldn’t put my finger on it until one day one of my roommates announced that the sunset was incredible — we had to come see. I was so excited to see a gorgeous sunset again. It had been too long. I rushed outside, asking, “Where is it? Where’s the sunset?”
Apparently, we were looking at it.
This is how I learned a crushing new truth: when you live in the mountains, an “incredible sunset” is pretty much just when the tops of the tallest peaks turn pink for a bit.
A tear slid down my cheek. I had lost my sky.
I knew there was so much more. How could I explain? I knew the pink peaks were a mere fleeting hint of the drama unfolding in the sky. I knew I’d never see a genuine sunset again unless I’d jump in the car and drive frantically east, east, east until I was free of the suffocating mountain range.
I had to go back to Manitoba.
Black-and-white feature photo of what was once my home, taken on a Canon something-or-other that belonged to the SRSS when I was a 17-year-old taking photography. I developed the film and image myself. I loved that class.