Weekly photo challenge: Peaceful

On the tall grass plains of Saskatchewan.

A few summers ago I spent six weeks in North Dakota and Saskatchewan studying the literature of the Great Plains, including the work of Wallace Stegner and Willa Cather. It was a wonderful experience to have so much time to devote to these writers who put their love of the land into their writing. Here is just one poem that came out of that summer.

“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.”
                           Willa Cather, gravestone inscription, Jaffrey Center,NH

Chasing Cather

Her chiseled words gouge readers who edge too close.
But she didn’t linger long among white mountain pines.

Her ink still rents rooms in a scrabbling prairie town.
But she doesn’t haunt lanes humming dance tunes

Her desire scatters in grass, sky, wind, earth, tongues.
But she doesn’t watch pious suns kneel down in canyons.

Today a back door wandered open in a barren farmhouse.
Inside, she fingered cobwebs like strings on a foreign fiddle.

Common Ground Review, Spring/Summer 2008

Weekly photo challenge: Sky

Looking down on a valley scooped out by big sky near Eastend, Saskatchewan.

This photo was taken near Eastend, a tiny town in Saskatchewan, where (on first glance) you might think absolutely nothing of any importance has happened. Here, it feels as if the sky could pick you right up off the land if it felt like it — if it even noticed you were down there.

As small and as off the beaten track Eastend is, it is famous for a few things. Here, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex, known as “Scotty,” was discovered in 1991, and even more bones were unearthed in 2001. While here with a group of teachers, we visited the T. Rex Discovery Centre in Eastend, that’s carved into the side of a hill. Visitors can actually tour the excavation site, participate in fossil digs and see the complete skeleton of a prehistoric mammal called a brontothere.

Of course, the real reason we were in Eastend was to visit the home of Wallace Stegner, an amazing writer who founded Stanford’s creative writing program, and who wrote some of my all-time favorite books, including Angle of Repose. Stegner wrote about his life in Eastend in one of his memoirs, called Wolf Willow. It was interesting to visit the places that Stegner talked about in his book and to consider how a writer like Stegner discovered a love of reading and then of writing in spite of such a sparse and hard-scrabble world. Or did he become a writer because of this experience?

Here is a quote from the book that sticks with me:

“The plain spreads southward, an ocean of wind-troubled grass and grain. It has its remembered textures: winter wheat heavily headed, scoured and shadowed as if schools of fish move in it; spring wheat with its young seed-rows as precise as combings in a boy’s wet hair; gray-brown summer fallow with the weeds disked under; and grass, the marvelous curly prairie wool, tight to the earth’s skin, straining the wind as the wheat does, but in its own way, secretly.”

If you’ve read anything by Stegner, please consider responding to this post below. Thanks!