I had never been on the prairies before - not really. Only on the westernmost part of it, in Alberta; and while I was impressed with them then, they're nothing to the immense, astonishing, enormous vastness that is Saskatchewan. The immense, astonishing, enormous, FLAT vastness. There is, as Connie Kaldor sings, "Sky With Nothing To Get In The Way". And that nothing that doesn't get in the way, it goes on for miles, and miles, and miles -for a whole quarter of a continent, in fact. Steve isn't the only one who felt a little agoraphobic out there.
Really, there is no reason why I should be so astonished at what the prairies are. I heard them talked about for most of my adult life, not least by the friend whose wedding was the reason for our quick weekend trip. But immensity like this, it has to be seen to be imagined. I had no idea that there is a landscape like this, so wide, so flat, so endless, with just a few clumps of trees, sheltering farmhouses from the wind, seemingly randomly dotted across the plains, far, far away from each other across the fields. And then occasionally, equally randomly, the houses cluster together into little towns, by the side of the arrow-straight road which could take you on, and on, across the vast flatness, until it dips over the horizon.
Our friend took us out to see his family's old farm, where his brother, his father and his grandfather tended the land for nearly a hundred years. It's been sold now, and his family's home, heartbreakingly, stands abandoned. But the land around it is still being farmed, still used to grow food. Right next to the house, there are some granaries (our friend nearly snapped our heads off when we called them "silos") which are in use by the people who farm the land now, and spilled on the ground in front of them there were some lentils, just sitting on the dirt like so much gravel. I could have scooped them up and cooked soup out of them right there (after a little help from Cinderella's doves with sorting out the grass and dirt from the lentils themselves). Of course I knew legumes grow on plants, but somehow I had never really pictured where they would come from - those vast acres of plants, translating into food just like that. There were the bronze and ochre fields, and here the lentils lying on the ground.
I have conceived an enormous respect for the source of our food, for the people who dwell on those vast open plains and work this tremendous, beautiful wide land. I have also come to a new appreciation for the mountains, the lakes and the trees that I see every day when I look out my window. Beauty comes in so many forms - some awe-inspiring, some intimate. Here, back at home, in the orchards down the street the peaches are ripening, and the pears and apples won't be far behind. But now, when I dip my measuring cup into the flour bucket to make the pie crust to go on the fruit, I can picture those wide open prairies where the wheat blows in the wind, and I can see the farms and little towns where the people live who plant, tend and harvest.
Life, the Universe, and the Immensity of the Prairies. It has to be seen to be imagined.