Prairie Lessons

On Friday morning Ted and I drove up to Saskatoon to cram as much as we could into one day, one night and one morning and make it home in time for supper and a sleepover with our granddaughters in Regina.  The weather was wretched – visibility on the highway was poor and there were patches of black ice on the road. There was a large sign on the highway warning that driving conditions were not good, so we should drive with caution.  We did, but cars just whizzed by us. When we were about an hour from home, we saw a semi that had just jackknifed onto the median. The cab was intact, and no one appeared to be hurt but I called 911, was shunted to the Mounties, who said the accident had not yet been reported but they would check and let me know, so we carried on.  Lesson #1:  READ THE SIGNS.

We arrived in Saskatoon in time for lunch and I made it to McNally Robinson’s – an independent bookseller that I have celebrated before and will celebrate again in time for my event: a signing (between 3:00 and 5:00) of “One Fine Day You’re Gonna Die”, my Rapid Reads book for Orca.  Others had received different messages.  The handsome display that greeted me at the door had a sign announcing that I would be signing at 4:00.  No harm done, I settled in and chatted with some very pleasant customers who took pity on me and even bought books. At 4:00 a group of women arrived for ‘the reading’. 

“There is no reading,” I said. “Just a signing.”

“But the McNally website said you’d be reading,” one of the ladies said. She was clearly disappointed. A young woman named Bev took charge of the situation. “Gail’s here.  We’re here,” she said. “There’s a space in the restaurant.  No reason we can’t have a reading.”

And so we did. The good folk at McNally’s were flexible.  They set us up in the corner of their restaurant, Prairie Ink for us. We ordered our beverages of choice and chatted about books and visited. When it was time to order a second latte, I read from “One Fine Day”. Outside the wind howled and the snow blew, but inside we were warm; we were together, and we were doing something we all enjoyed immensely.   Lesson#2: SOME TIMES YOU HAVE TO RE-WRITE THE SIGNS.

That night we had dinner with our dear friends Sue and Don.  In part the dinner was intended as an introduction to their dog Buddy, whom we hadn’t yet met. Buddy is a rescue dog from the shelter in Prince Albert.   Buddy has a few medical problems, but Sue and Don are caring for him with infinite love and common sense. I was rubbing Buddy’s head and saying ‘good dog’, as I tend to do.  When Sue pointed out that Buddy isn’t always good, I said “but he is lucky.” At that point the four of us agreed on Lesson #3:  IN LIFE IT’S BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD.

I am passionate about the art of Scott Plear, an abstract artist who uses stunning colours, textured surfaces and layering of paint to make art that will knock your socks. Sock-removing art does not come cheap. At the end of summer, we owned two Scott Plears, but when we dropped by the Darrell Bell Gallery in Saskatoon, I saw a new painting of Scott’s that I fell in love with. It’s called Electric Core, and I knew exactly where it would hang in our house.  Luckily, my Writer In Residence job in Calgary was on the horizon, so we agreed to buy Electric Core on time in three easy payments. On Saturday, Electric Core became the Bowen’s painting and we brought it home.  It’s even more beautiful than I thought it would be, and it’s absolutely perfect for our bedroom.

The lesson here is a little more complex.  While we were in Calgary, our house had one of those phases that all houses have.  Our basement flooded; our toilet leaked through the ceiling and all our appliances revolted. For the foreseeable future, we are going to be spending a bunch of money on stuff that is no fun at all.  When I look at our new Scott Plear, I think of all the Saskatchewan farm wives I knew when we moved to rural Saskatchewan 43 years ago.  Every year these women deferred their dreams of a nice kitchen or a better bathroom, so that a new combine or the new tractor could be purchased. Most of those good ladies died without every realizing their dream.   Lesson #4: CARPE DIEM, AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, BUY THE PAINTING.

Addendum:  On our way home from Saskatoon yesterday, the Mounties called. The driver of the semi was absolutely fine, but they were grateful I’d taken an interest.

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