Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Winter did not go out without a fight this year. There were several times where emails flew back and forth between ourselves and the girls we spent our orientation with, in regards to our poor choice in leaving during one of the mildest winters on record last year. This year certainly would have held us in good stead as the winter just dragged on and on. Finally, late in May, it feels that perhaps the snow has passed but I may have also just jinxed myself by saying such a thing.

I've been spending a lot of time pulling grass and weeds out of my perennial garden these past weeks. Not that I mind, I usually have a chocolate lab for company and sometimes the boys and their pack of friends migrate through the yard and house, foraging as they go. I really should be growing vegetables to feed these insatiable beasts but who am I kidding? Unless I learn to grow Pop-Tarts and Pizza Pops, they're not going to eat what I can produce from the land anyway. Such is life with pre-teen and teenaged boys in the home.

Much of the time in the yard, I spend thinking about my friends in Zambia. They work hard in community gardens that they have planted with much more rudimentary tools than I have access to. They pull weeds that are taller than they are and they hoe the land with large tools that are made of a log with some form of metal hoe at the end. The tools are heavy and the work is hard. At times I find myself wondering how it is that every aspect of life between mine and theirs can be so fundamentally different yet our hearts and hopes and aspirations are the same.

There's a time in the spring where I have to let the weeds grow around the returning perennials because when the snow recedes, it's been so long that I forget what is planted where. I don't want to pull out a plant that has struggled so hard to survive the winter simply because I can't distinguish whether it's a weed or not. I let the green things grow until I recognize the jagged leaf of a dandelion pushing it's way up and then pull it out. I leave the grass to protude amongst the feathery green of the phlox until the phlox takes root and turns colour, signaling me that it is strong enough to withstand the removal of the intertwining grass roots.

I feel that the roots we've put down here in Saskatoon have started to entangle some of the roots we have put down elsewhere. I'm not sure what needs to be pulled or pruned or protected right now. Just this evening, someone in the neighbourhood spread manure on their garden and the smell made me homesick for the Fraser Valley springtimes I spent as a child out on my grandparents' farm. The memories come back and I remember what it is like to spend an entire day in rubber boots running from  the cow pasture, through the woods on paths my grandfather carved out for us, waving our arms or a stick in front of us to clear the cobwebs ahead of us. Last night, the smell of a backyard campfire and the heat from an approaching thunderstorm combined to put me right back in Zambia, with the smell of charcoal in the air and the humid warmth of the African earth rising up to envelope me. I stood on our back deck for about ten minutes just sniffing the air and remembering that just a few months ago, I was sitting on the stairs at Kachele Farm, scratching the farm dog with my shoe for fear of getting ticks on me, and listening to Liz and Norris discussing the days events in the kitchen.  The place I spend the majority of my time now is the place that I probably consider the least. It's home for the most part, and as I've been putting some more effort into what that feels like for us as a family, I realize in many ways, Saskatoon, and certainly our little street, has been a launching pad for many things that we wouldn't have had the chance to experience in this way. I love the deep cold of winter and the blue skies and sunshine that holds no heat as much as I love the Zambian charcoal and red mud stains on my feet. I love the mountains of BC and I can bring myself to tears thinking about how much I miss a day on a chairlift, listening to it rattle over the towers and then disembarking to see the mountain spread out before me with it's buffet of descents to choose from.

I'm beginning to think the only place or time I can reconcile all these things is in the space and time in which the place I want to be collides with the place I am. It's happening more and more and hopefully, I'll get to the place where the place I want to be IS the place I am.
Zambian flower