Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Lake Gasoline

I hate giving up in late August, as in summer's almost over and back to school next week. Only at this time of year do we hear people say pencil crayons. What they mean is, back to school, NOW, as if that breeze off the lake--today the smell of gasoline, though usually nothing but blossoms and fresh air--doesn't reach this memorial bench on the east shore. I want to seize these people by the shoulders and cry we live in a place to which the natural world, gasoliney or not, calls for a measure of determination of what we do. To waste the word now on what needn't happen until it needs to happen (which will vary with any one of us) seems opportunity lost. It's the 27th of August. Relax!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Was there a real Val Marie? said a customer at the museum cafe in Val Marie. A nun said the woman handing over his takeout latte. At that she turned back to her story about her friends visiting from Vancouver who had not yet embraced the landscape. In a later story, 12 ball teams came down for a tournament two weeks ago. Good for liquor sales? Oh for sure. They crashed at houses of the single guys from around here. This second story diverted me from the point I was hoping to make with the first, which was that we could try out this statement by Barry Lopez, delivered on page three of "Landscape and Narrative": "The landscape seemed alive because of the stories." We would re-introduce the friends from Vancouver into the Grasslands National Park, let them graze out there for a day and half, then get them talking. Or get them to play ball. Drifting under a fly ball (mosquitoes, raindrops, holes, all that sky) and catching it--that's a story they'll tell.

Friday, 2 August 2013


It was the worst of service and the best of service. I approached the counter of a bookstore in Winnipeg. It was a Saturday afternoon, busyish. I was not in line. When a man appeared more concerned with a stack of papers than me, I interrupted him. "I'm working on these papers," he said to me, with a jab of his head down the counter, where others were working at tills. "And I'm trying to spend money in your store," I said, making sure he read my annoyance. He rushed me to the woman at the till, with a "She'll be glad to help you." And she was. She right away knew how to find what I wanted: Calvino's Invisible Cities, which I'd been praising to my son Tom. She led me straight to it, noting over her shoulder that in fact the Calvino was a Staff Pick this week. "Whose?" I asked. Mine," she said, with a flash of a smile and her black hair (about which, another time, I'll say more). It wasn't the edition I'm used to, but a few days later, from a Vancouver coffee shop close to where he's thinking of moving, Tom sent me this photo: