Saskatchewan Sage

I liked my wedding.  Robert and I eloped, quite properly, to the fine town of Reno, Nevada.  I didn’t have any flowers and that’s the one thing I would change about how I was married if I could do it again — I would carry a sage bouquet bound with bale twine.

 Simple, fragrant and earthy.


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Of The Prairie

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I’m not talking about a valley between two mountain ranges or regions that are punctuated by flat patches of earth.

I mean prairie — interior lowlands, wide, weather conducing swaths of land that roar with silence when the wind isn’t ripping through bunchgrass, willow and scrubby poplar bluffs.

For years now, I’ve referred to the great northern plains as a caesura;
a wide breath of space that robs the mountains of the true meaning of grace,
a hard and undulating passage of land between the jutting lobes of the coasts,
the place the heartbeat of the wild is traced out

in the staccato of
star spangle

in the gleam of
old bones in the gloaming

in the conductivity of
tall grass and pungent sage

in the way the soil clasps hands with the wind.

It’s a place that gives and steals in both a merciful and merciless manner; bringing forth new life in steady arcs while old life fades to rust and bone split in two by wavering gold. It’s a hard place for anything to do its living and dying, but there’s a comfort in knowing the prairie always takes back her own.

You know me. And if you don’t, I’ll be the first to inform you of the fact that I spend a lot of time out on the land and it’s my great honor to be able to live off of it, to take from it what I need exist on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels — and to give back, when I can, what I can. Not a day goes by when I don’t step out into the wide arms of the world here and notice, firsthand, the cycle of energy between the living and the dead, the bones and the wildflowers, the trees and the mountain springs, the pronghorn and the sage. I’m connected, I’m plugged in, and I’m grateful to be so.

It’s a perfect system out there; left on it’s own, there is no beginning or end to it — just like the One that created it all — I’m talking about Alpha and Omega.

The mountains, the plains, the great oceans, they are the beginning, they are the end. There’s simply a smooth line, the birth and decay of wildness and beauty, the tall grasses splitting bone in two, the heave of the flowers and sage, the eruption of the sun each morning and the going down of the same.

How blessed am I to see it in full dimension as often as I do.  To be almost blinded by the simplicity and perfection of the great feast, of the great unbroken circle of energy between the elements, between the coming and going of spirit, between the bloom and frost of the seasons and to exist there, wholly, belonging because I choose to belong in a deeper way.

The difference between the living and the dead is breath. Caesura. A great and quiet plain. The space between the dead and the living is an inhalation, an exhalation, a great pause, a long rest in the holy of holies. I see it all the time, at my own hands or the fangs and claws of others; the short rest before the bones and flesh are thrust into use once more; the timeless moment when the spirit departs and the body begins its transition into something new.

Ashes to ashes. Stardust to stardust, baby.


Out At The Ranch

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Land of Living Skies

IMG_2392 IMG_2394 IMG_2398 IMG_2400We cross the border, ride out of Montana and into Saskatchewan.  I can feel the change — in my very foundations I can feel the difference in the nature of the land here, like the bones of an old farmhouse can feel the wind change directions.  I brace myself and almost cry out at the glorious width of sky that presses out in all directions, reducing the land to a thin scrap of bristling green laying flat and low as far a distance as I can imagine.  The only relief to be seen for miles now is the pronghorn bedded down in their tawny pools of hide and horn, cozy in tall grass prairie.

What a prairie.  Oh, holy definition of space, time, stone and wind.  Black earth, clear heavens, a warm green body beneath a living sky.  Dust, breeze, dirt and aurora borealis; a swaddling of star and cloud.

Draw me in.  Hold me close.

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We cross the border, ride out of Montana and into Saskatchewan.  The border crossing guard reminds me why Canadians are beloved all the world over.  He is sweet.  I make him laugh!  We forgot our papers for the dog and he says he’ll turn a blind eye…this time.  We confuse him when he asks who is a resident of which country.  We laugh again and eventually roll away North, telling Tater Tot he’s lucky he didn’t have to stay in Montana.IMG_2492

We cross the border, ride out of Montana and into Saskatchewan.  The sky changes.  I remember everything I love about my home province, everything that makes it feel like home to me, my roots realign — draw themselves up out of Idaho and creep along behind us, down the highway, counting the dashes of yellow line until home.  I try to find words for some of my feelings and fall short because on occasion, home is an abstract thing, a notion, a feeling, a willow wisp we chase down to the broad flat rivers that carry us to the place that owns us.  I’m coming home.  On the road there, to home, my heart travels everywhere, looking for the one anchor, the one strong tether that encumbers the drift of the human spirit, the terra firma that roots the soul.

It is the sky that holds me.  That infinite thing that changes from cloud to blue to night sky to milky way to galaxy — the thing to root my very soul.  And oh, what a sky.


We cross the border, ride out of Montana and into Saskatchewan.  We cross that glimmering ribbon of international agreement, civility between nations, invisible line-of-democracy-hand-shaking-truce that makes me something different than my husband, and he, something different than me.  I am from here.  He is from there.  I am Canadian.  He is American.  Someone, a long time ago, reached out and drew a line in the dirt between him and I and our families and now, no matter where we are, we straddle that line.  The border runs from East to West with a few wobbles in-between; it runs right over me, it cuts me in two, cleaves my heart right down the center as though my bones form the structure for a rickety continental divide — these rivers of the heart run in two mighty directions.  Everything is in two pieces.  My tongue is split.  The barometric pressures of my mind are confused.  Is this up or down, or is everything sideways?IMG_2624

We cross the border, ride out of Montana and into Saskatchewan.  The sky changes, as I have come to expect it will, on these long drives home while we draw Norther and Norther, as though the toes of our boots are magnetized, pulling us up like the moonrise.  I quit looking for deer, antelope, fox, hawk, owl and coyote.  I begin to watch the clouds.  This is the land of living skies!  Alleluia!  Amen!  I could weep for the wide open of the sky here.  There is no place like this in all the world.    The sky can be cut into the four great quadrants of a compass — North, South East and West.  In each quadrant, the light splits the sky differently, as light will.  The land is given four different faces, a myriad of hue, a range of contrast, four different faces in four different moods built of two basic features:  earth and sky.


We cross the border, ride out of Montana and into Saskatchewan.  The sky changes, as I have come to expect.  Saskatchewan is for dreamers.  This dreamer has come home.

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