I have said it many times: The west coast is my home but when they spread my ashes over the Pacific it will be prairie dust. I will always be at home on the prairies no matter how long I live here. There is a unique culture and spirituality of the Canadian prairies. When I was in Winnipeg a few weeks ago I picked up a collection of essays about Canadian prairie literature entitled West of Eden, edited by Sue Sorenson. She writes in the introduction: “To be west of Eden is to be in a space both apart from the main action and inherently attached to it… Time and again, writers about the Canadian prairies have pondered the ambiguous sanctity of the place… It could be said about prairie Christians that they countered tough times with dreams of a Genesis garden, and subsequently that prelapsarian vision became a treacherously solidified component of their identity.” With that introduction I post a poem my daughter wrote on a 72 hour [round trip] bus ride across the prairies. She gave it to me on Father’s day, accompanied by a beautiful sunrise photo snapped at 4:30 AM near Whitewood, SK. It is her perspective as one born on the prairies who moved away during her childhood but it is true for anyone, like me, who is from the prairies and has moved on. The rest of you won’t understand.
Post partum Prairie mother, you have birthed so many prodigal sons How your skies ache with their loss, Crying with the giant womb of your open spaces You mothered so many, suckled some, Watched all our new colt-legs stumble-run for the horizon. It is your nature, prairie mother, your wide fields are open not in embrace but freedom (in gift-giving) Mother, how can your love be so great that you set us free to roam? Mountains captivate our hearts City lights seduce our spirits And we leave our prairie mother– We leave you barren, though you are plentiful. Did your children ever truly love you? You have no way to hold them close. But prodigals, as pilgrims, return to nurse at your peaceful bosom. We clutch with small wild arms at your ever-open ones. Though the quiet coastline rains will never leave my skin, Though awe of mountaintop and roar of forest wind ring forever loudly in my ears, I feel at home here. Prairie mother, let me kiss your soil and play in your sunflower hair, Let me cry into your expanse and feel the caress of your summer sun. I don’t know if I ever truly loved you, prairie mother, but I have no doubt that you love me. You set me free And still you welcome me.