The very next day, we were met in Saskatoon by the poet, Louise Halfe. We were driven out to the home built with her husband, Peter, who teaches medicine and is still engaged in working to help people suffering from various addictions. This is a round house, with thick walls holding the efficient insulating material of straw – a plentiful material on these prairies. The span of windows looks out over a lake in gently undulating terrain. We watched sun burn gaps in the ice while heavy-bodied Canada geese became suddenly weightless. We walked and listened to an owl.
This is very close to sites where human ways of hunting and of plotting astronomic observations are proven to 1600 years. But there is further evidence of ways of life and culture which suggest a span of time as dizzying as the scale of this landscape. A poem was brewing. This time I didn’t form it by typing. I walked some more and thought it out. Pen and ink on a lined slim notebook. Maybe it’s enough to suggest the comparisons, allowing the reader’s own associations to be nudged by a few tangible details, derived from scrutiny.
Louise was curious and I shared the language, indicated by scrawl. In turn I’m reading through her collections and the collected poems of a mentor of hers, Patrick Lane. I think the residency began the minute I was on the ferry, feet off my home island. But we’re in the heart of it now.
We sit, looking out, as the gaps in the ice mend themselves. The wind is like a welding torch. There is a sweep of dark wings. Two pairs, with flashes of white at the tail and head. But these are not Canada geese. They settle to a glide with unmistakable silhouettes. They come to rest in a tree, across this lake and we can study them through binoculars. We are seeing a pair of mature bald eagles.