Saturday, September 6, 2008


For as long as you were to stay in Saskatchewan, one thing would never, never, happen. You would never get vertigo.

That assurance has always been somewhat absent in the sheer, sheer, sheer, undulating chorus of primal rock and pine and fir that reaches to the floors of the clouds in British Columbia. The beauty of those mountains borders on the realm of nightmare. For myself, a B.C. native (not aboriginal), the awe of our mountains (when driving along them) has always gone with a modicum of unconscious vertigo.

This mild vertigo comes especially when you come at a curve, and it's not the actual sheerness or drop-off of the curve you are driving on so much as the sight of the neighbouring mountain on the other side of the valley: you are looking straight at its midway face (which is at such an odd distance as to be distant but not distant enough to render a full overview of the mountain), with its multitude of timber-spires, and you realize you yourself are on a "midway" face. Then the feeling comes. This sense of not fully knowing your grounding, that it could all come down, and you will only know falling and falling and falling. To look up at the naked summits does not help in this regard; it really does take your breath away.

While I would rank the beauty of British Columbia as my personal first love before any other province, Saskatchewan surprises me. She is a province of essences.

There is not one corner of the world that could forever refute the begging of the painter. Everywhere and any place, were it given the time, could be begged by the painter to beg him to paint it. This is a roundabout way of saying: there is no corner of the world that can for long withhold "inspiration" from the artist.

If the entire world is a "studio" for the artist/painter, then Saskatchewan is the artist's retreat center. It's too easy a temptation to say that it is boring and monotonous. (Canadian jokes abound in this matter)

No. This seeming blankness, to eyes that persist, will suddenly give huge glimpses of a hyper-light - the light that sustains things in every passing second. The landscape is pregnant with it. It suddenly blushes at high pitch way yonder at the last gentle curvature in the fields before the haziness beyond. There will be a bordered plain raised ever so subtly at an angle towards you, and all over it is the repetition of pristine hay bales that, accumulatively, have that slightly disturbing exactitude of Faerieland.

Indeed, Faerieland is everywhere in Saskatchewan. You know it when one robust round tree comes at you in early evening, and there are no other trees around. And the textures in the mere grasses and wildflowers and wayside shrubs. The way the varying kinds of flowers grow along the sides of the roads like a purposeful lining. The all-white but weathered, fungied look of some large bull, like monumental stone resting in the grass. O, all those desiccated little barn shacks or storage sheds and keeling leftovers of fences! A painter's haven.

An artist's electrical haven - for danger is here too, just when you think all that space would free you from it. That is, in point of fact, when it becomes most dangerous. A place of essences does not bide one's forgetfulness with a lot of patience.

I was cruising in the late sunny morning around a curve along those plains. And in the dipping, wide, grassy middle section between the two main roads that run east and west, there was a semi-truck, flipped fully on its side. The long box trailer was still attached and also flipped on its side. Around the truck at various points were three or so parked vehicles. As I came round the curve there was a man with a straw hat, who had mounted on to the side of the semi-truck, and he was opening the door like the hatch of a trunk, and looking down inside.

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