The Wind Through Empty Spaces

abandoned farm house

This morning I awoke to such a heavy dew on the tent that it took almost 45 minutes in the morning sun to clear the tent of moisture. But that was the last time in the day that too much moisture was a problem. We set out and about an hour into the walking realized what was different: for the first time in three days we were not walking into a stiff westerly breeze. The last two days, it’s been difficult even to hear one another over the constant, buffeting, hot wind. I borrowed some earplugs from a local SK author at our community event, just so I could keep my ears from ringing in the wind. So, of course, today there was almost no wind.

By the afternoon we were praying for even just a slight breeze to cool us off. The lark buntings and kildeers were prancing up and down ahead of us on the dirt road, and in the mud we could see tracks of coyote and deer. We stopped in an abandoned farmhouse, chasing the reluctant cattle away so we could find the only shade for miles, where I conducted a phone interview with a Saskatoon Talk Show, the John Gormley show. The wind had been active there too, bleaching boards and wearing away at the lathe and plaster walls. The four of us walkers peered through the windows, and tried to decipher the clues that might tell the history of who had lived there, what they liked, their thoughts and dreams, and why they left.

Tonight at our second community event someone asked me what animals we’ve seen. When I mentioned that we had watched a badger lumbering away from us two days ago, she clucked her tongue: “that means there’s going to be rain,” she said. “That would be too bad for your walk.” Then she smiled. “But good for the rest of us!”

Jellied Salads and Howling Coyotes

jellied salad McCord

I’m writing this from a tent behind the museum in McCord SK, listening to the howling of what sounds like a hundred coyotes. They’re making quite a joyous racket to the south and east of town. Our tents are pitched just behind the old railroad station which is the museum….I had a sponge bath in what must once have been the platform for departing passengers, since this is day three with no running water or electricity close for us. Wondered if someone on that platform could travel in time, what they would think of what they saw, and of this town.

McCord may not have a cafe or more than one main street, but it has palpable community spirit. They took us in and gave us a wonderful potluck supper, and then came out in numbers (50 people) for our presentation on the North West Mounted Police Patrol trail walk. Thelma Poirier, a poet from neighboring Glentworth, talked about how lovely it was to think of this as pilgrimage. Many others loved the slides Hugh showed from the 50s and 60s, people from this area, even one sitting in the audience.

After another day of walking (today only having to cross 4 barbed wire fences and not over 20 like yesterday), we actually got here early today. There was much less walking through waist high hay fields or over bog. Today much of our path was on a lovely dirt road and we had lunch in the lee of an old farmyard’s trees, while the grasshoppers blew around in biblical proportions.

People here, when I ask them on camera, are far too polite to say that they think we’re crazy to be walking. They even brought out the best: jellied salads, potato salad, sweet and sour meatballs, and Saskatoon pie for dessert! And sent us home with our lunch for tomorrow….