Thursday, 17 September 2015

This Land

I'm home, back from an absolutely wonderful stay down in Waterton. I am so fortunate that Katherine not only loves these adventures as much as I do, but that she also cares so well for me on our travels. I am certain I can still travel solo; I just don't think I want to anymore. I certainly would not enjoy it as much, nor could I do as much. Even the small help she gives me getting in and out of the truck makes a world of difference to my energy level as well as my enthusiasm level.

The drive back from Waterton was as wonderful as the drive there. I am unsure as to which is the prettier; the drive down through the Porcupine Hill to the edge of the Rockies, or the push eastward from Waterton to Cardston then upwards across the prairie to Calgary. Both are the kind of countryside that can at once calm the mind along with stimulating the imagination.

As you move away from Waterton into the rolling hills so close to the Rockies, you move into cattle country. It's easy to look out, changing in the palette of your mind those cattle into buffalo. As the land quickly levels from rolling hills to flat ground it reminds me of a half-made bed, where one side is all rumpled blanket and the other side is a smooth, flat sheet. Once again the easel of my mind repaints the scene in front of me, wiping away the fences, houses, powerlines, barns, all that the white man has put on these plains, replacing them with nothing, converting the cattle to buffalo and the grain bins into teepees.

It's easy to see how this land so attracted our forefathers; they committed such crimes to take it from the natives and I am the benefactor of those crimes. It's also easy to imagine the land when the railroad did not run hard across the plains, cracking into the Rockies in a cultural explosion which would sweep away those who once called this place their home. It's easy to imagine a million buffalo, herds as far as the eye could see. It's easy to imagine mile upon mile of endless sweeping prairie grass, green in the summer, brown in the fall, snow covered in the winter.

It's also important to remember these things, that there was a time when the railroad did not run, when the white man did not shape the land through industry and power, when the wind blew unstoppable from the Rocky Mountain ramparts clear through to the Ontario border, but for a few hillocks and thickets of trees. It's important to remember that, even though seemingly tamed, this remains a wild landscape in so many places, while we, men and women of power and industry, are still creatures in the food chain. Just as we can live off this land, this land can live off of us.

I love this country, what it once was and, for the most part, what we have made of it, cities and wilderness alike. I love the way this land has shaped us as a nation, and the way we as a nation have shaped this land. We have so much to treasure, so much to enjoy, so much to be a part of. I am happy that I have lived here. I will be happy to die here.

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