On the Range

Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
Home on the Range

I saw no deer.  I saw no antelope.  But I did see home.

Prairie in afternoon lightOur zoom-zoom trip through Western Canada for Christmas — Winnipeg, Selkirk, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Calgary — ended with this vista on the western outskirts of Calgary. On a clear day, you can see the mountains from this vantage point.

Of my 66 years, I’ve lived in Calgary for only a total of 10 years in three stints.  I always lived well within the city limits, never in the country. Yet this scene says “home” to me in a way that other places, where I lived much longer, do not.  I don’t know why I bonded with Calgary, but I’m pretty sure that the trigger for the feeling is the quality of the light and the angle of the light, which is right for the time of year.

Will I ever live here again?  I don’t know. But it holds a place in my heart, in my life, that I can never lose.  Even when there is seen a slightly discouraging word.

No Trespassing sign in foreground, with Prairie in background

 

10 Comments

  1. Alison Uhrbach

    I think it’s true that there are certain places that just speak to your soul – for me – it’s Saskatchewan – the wide open flat parts. Not sure why? but I feel like sighing when I see them. And we only lived in Saskatchewan for 5 years. Good you headed South when you did – it’s been snowy and blowing.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Alison – I’ve read some science-y stuff that suggests we like landscapes similar to where humans evolved — so the savannah of Africa, I guess. Spotty trees (for quick retreat to cover?), rolling plains, scrubby grasses, that sort of thing. I don’t know if there’s anything to it. But although I love mountains and beaches and forests and deserts, I don’t feel as at-home in any of them.

  2. Your feelings about the prairie are fascinating, partly because to me and to many the prairie is “featureless” and presents few contrasts. I felt that way traversing the prairies by train but that was the superficial view of someone who has not seen it closely or with reasons for empathy. I have other kinds of barbed wire blocking my sensitivity to something important you see and feel.

    I wonder if you will find similar associations with that “angle of the light” in different contexts? Evidently, a sense of “home” is not limited to “rootedness.”

    I am pondering this notion again, first, from the standpoint of a shattered sense of “home,” such as Daphne du Maurier achieves from many angles in her novel Rebecca. They are evoked again whenever I recall the haunting first line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” I know something about a different type of shattering and I expect my former sense of “home” to be rebuilt in the coming year. I want to be alert to that “angle of the light” that is not tied to superficial features.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – I can always count on you to muse a little more deeply. As I took a few photos with my phone — the first in a week or more, with our travel and the winter weather — I had another sense of coming home to something I love.

  3. Jim Taylor

    I imagine that about 95% of the world is flat — prairie, veldt, savanna, whatever. Share some of that sense of “home” — when we lived in Prince Rupert and travelled via Prince George into the Cariboo, I had that sense of coming to a place where I felt at home… And yet I know that I don’t feel at home in flat land. In Africa, in India, here in Canada, I feel at home only where “I can see the mountains rise.” Or, in the Rhine Valley, for example, where I can see the valleys fall. I need a yang to go with (and in contrast to) the flat-land yin.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – I sometimes toy with the notion of doing a geography unit for grade-schoolers, to give them some perspective on how much of the world is what. I think I heard in a nature documentary that 3/4 of the world (the non-ocean part, anyway) is prairie or grasslands, but I have no real feel for it. But whatever it is, I understand your preference for the variety or yin/yang. I prefer my prairie with a mountain backdrop, too.

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