I can’t believe it’s already six years since I visited Windscape Kite Festival in Swift Current. I was thinking about that earlier today, because the festival takes place on a weekend as close as possible to the longest day of the year, part of the Long Day’s Night Music Festival. This year, Windscape is June 24 and 25. Long Day’s Night is June 22 to 25.
I’d like to go back, but it won’t be this year, I’m afraid. Next weekend is already spoken for.
Windscape had been running annually for six years when I was there in 2011, but its roots go back to 1998, when the Art Gallery of Swift Current curated an exhibition of art by Canadian kite builders.
To describe the midsummer day as sweltering would be an understatement. The thermometer had soared past 35° C shortly after noon. At 5:30 p.m. I’m slouched in one of two big wicker chairs on the porch of a 100-year-old log cabin. The porch, covered by a broad tin roof, faces away from the afternoon sun, and a southwest breeze gently curling around the cabin fans away the day’s heat while I take sips from a tall, dewy glass of water.
The crickets love the heat. They’re chirping frantically, all around. I waggle my wrist and the ice in my drink tinkles against the side of the glass. A few crickets nearby go silent, but only to take a deep breath it seems, because they quickly resume their chorus with renewed ferocity. With a slight chuckle, I lean back in the chair to listen to nature.
There are a few things I’ve always loved about Saskatchewan: the bright, wide open skies; the friendly, welcoming hospitality of the cities, towns and out-of-the way places; and the fiercely inventive spirit of the people. When you combine all those attributes, you get some marvelously creative and energetic activity.
It’s too bad we couldn’t be at the Western Magazine Awards gala in Vancouver this evening. I had been to two awards banquets previously. Each was a marvellous affair, an opportunity to socialize with some of Western Canada’s excellent and dedicated writers, photographers, editors, art directors and others who contribute to the success of publishing.
But, we couldn’t get away. So, instead, we were following along on the WMA’s Twitter feed, when this appeared:
Cottonwood Falls Park, Nelson, BC. (Darrell Noakes)
Deep in the recesses of my mind is a distant memory of a place my parents took me to once. It was a beautiful place, a canyon with groomed pathways, a lush garden, and a long waterfall that saturated the air with a cool mist. The water seemed to flow out of the sky. It splashed over rocks into a creek and then ran under a bridge and out into a wide, deep, slow moving river that shimmered with hues of green and blue.
I doubt I could have been more than two or three years old at the time, and we spent barely an afternoon there on a hot summer day, and we never went back. The memory of that place has persisted all my life. Whenever I think of the home where I grew up, I think of that place. Sometimes it enters my dreams, where I can still see myself running up and down the pathways of the canyon.
Whenever I asked my parents where that place was, they always shrugged. Continue reading →
Hemingway famously spent a lot of time at La Bodeguita Del Medio Empedrado, a popular restaurant-bar in Havana, Cuba. (Darrell Noakes)
At Saskatoon’s latitude, February 15 is the date when the sun reaches above the horizon high enough to chase away my winter blues. Every year, it’s like someone waves a magic wand over the landscape. That’s the date when you can really feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Before that, from the beginning of November, the sun shines a cold, blue light — bright enough to need sunglasses, to be sure, but lacking in warmth and colour. Each year, I look forward to February 15 the way a kid looks forward to the day after the last day of school.
Winter can be a lovely time of year. I love the way freshly fallen snow sparkles under a full moon. I love the bright, clear night skies with so many brilliant stars. Looking out on a winter landscape is like living in a sentimental Christmas card. But I hate what the darkness of the long night does to me. Continue reading →
I love a strong cup of Dark French roast to start the day, especially when I’m travelling. That first sip of Joe breathes an air of familiarity into whatever corner of the world that you might find yourself. It grounds you.
Mmm. . . . first coffee of the day, a rare treat on this tour. Binscarth Regional Park, Manitoba. (Darrell Noakes)
Camp coffee is my favourite. The aroma wafting through the morning air starts the day off right. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or if it’s minus 40 degrees Celsius. Coffee makes every day warm and sunny.
I don’t mean cowboy coffee, either, although that’s pretty good — coarsely ground beans dropped into a tall enamel coffee pot that has been brought to a boil, then left to cool slightly (a dash of cold water helps settle the grounds just before serving).
I prefer to travel with one of my little macchinetta coffee makers, setting the pot on a compact alcohol stove to heat and brew while I go about other camp chores or preparing breakfast. Whether I’m bike camping or car camping, it’s always possible to find someplace to tuck the coffee supplies. Continue reading →
A broken spoke can really wreck your day, especially if it’s an outside spoke on the sprocket side of your rear wheel. Fortunately, someone had a spare “S” spoke for such emergencies, and we got our cycling colleague back on the road in fairly short order. GASP 2013, Lake of the Prairies (Darrell Noakes)
“So, what does ‘SAG’ mean, anyway?” someone asked.
Well, as long as I can remember, cyclists where I grew up referred to the support vehicle that accompanied them on trips as the “sag wagon”. Where the name came from, nobody really knew. What the term meant, everybody had their own opinion.
On the club tours that characterized my early tour experiences, the sag wagon was there to offer support and encouragement to tired riders, besides carry gear. We referred to the driver as “mom”, regardless of her or his gender or age, knowing that whoever was in charge of the van would look out for us and take care of whatever we needed. Continue reading →