Saskatchewan has a bad reputation for geography. People make jokes about driving through it at night because there is nothing to see anyway. People think of it as merely miles and miles of flat grassland now turned into wheat and now canola fields. Thus, many people do not get off the Trans-Canada highway to explore this diverse province. Even if staying on this legendary highway there is diversity from the aspen forests, ponds, swamps, and valleys in the east to the open prairie around Regina—which fits the stereotype—to the salt lakes and flats, and then the grand rolling hills growing bigger and grander from Moose Jaw to the Alberta border. And this is only a small slice of the south! We have not yet mentioned the absolutely stunning Saskatchewan or Qu’Appelle River valleys or the top half of the province that is lake and forest country. So give Saskatchewan a chance! This summer we had to fly over it in our annual trip to Manitoba and I missed it.

My sacred place in the province is hills overlooking the Saskatchewan River at Saskatchewan Landing, a few minutes’ drive north of Swift Current where we lived. They have since made a national park out of similar terrain south of Swift Current: Grasslands National Park. This geography has a haunting beauty all its own. From a distance they are but dry hills and rolling prairies, which have a haunting beauty all their own, but if you look closely at the right time of year you can see blooming cacti the colour of the most glorious sunshine. That is the juxtaposition of life: sometimes the times of suffering make us more beautiful people. This place became sacred for me because it corresponded with a particular geography of my soul that I was experiencing at the time. It was a time of transition, confusion, and lack of clear direction. I often went to these hills for solace and to cry out my longing for redemption and healing. The depth of my experience in these hills inspired more poetry than all of the other provinces combined. Sometimes people have chuckled when I read this poem because all they know are the Saskatchewan stereotypes but they don’t know my soul or the sacred beauty of the place.

Saskatchewan,

a naked barren land

and domineering sky—

heat, dust, wind, smoke sweeping

over ridged and rugged yellow grayish skin

stretching on endlessly.

Is there anywhere to go here?

Is there any destination?

It’s all so open-ended,

seeing forever

yet seeing nothing.

 

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