I’m in northern Saskatchewan. I’m at my friend Shelly’s lodge in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. (www.watersedgeecolodge.ca) I was here in early August with David and we had a wonderful time, as always. I wanted to write about it. I wrote about it in my head while I was driving. I wrote about it in the shower. I wrote about it while I was weeding. I never actually wrote about it in real life, though. I took several days to process everything I felt and saw and experienced but I never posted anything here. I determined that when I returned this time, I would write about it.

Saskatchewan is vast and beautiful and desperately under appreciated. Those of us who grew up here know its lakes, its forests, its incredible sunrises and sunsets. There are wheat and canola fields too, perhaps what the average Canadian thinks of when they picture this place. It’s the lakes and forests that speak the loudest to me. Today I heard a loon calling; I assumed they had all flown south already. Evidently I was wrong. I worked in Shelly’s garden all day under the grey skies and listening to the wind. I heard the ravens croaking and calling to each other. I heard the unmistakeable sound of a white tail buck’s antlers colliding with those of another buck; I thought it was a bit early for that but what do I know. I was in the garden picking tomatoes and pumpkins while cold bumblebees tried to forage in the borage and nasturtiums. Frost is coming, they told me. In the woods around me, deer are having turf wars and blue jays were scolding each other and the poplars are exchanging their green summer kimonos for evening gowns of orange and gold. I love fall and I love the north. I stood beside the lake today and the wind was whipping the spray and the mist into my face. I felt like I was in the right place. I felt like the lake and I were one. I am part of the forest, and the land, and the wind and the rain. I am solid and unshakeable as the earth.

The woods are filled with mysterious mushrooms. Some of them I know and others are strangers to me. Some are perfect and beautiful. Others are oozing with filth and slime. I found Indian pipe in the woods yesterday; it’s always an unusual find. Lacking chlorophyll and looking more like fungi than flowers, Indian pipe is both enigmatic and exquisite. On the lake, pond lilies are reclining on the waves and I longed to take a canoe to them so I could examine them for seedpods. I don’t know what I would do with pond lily seeds. Maybe I would put them in a bowl and admire them and nothing more. I gathered some seeds from wild rice. I might try to grow it in a pond sometime. I want to find a way to honour this plant. It fed indigenous people for so long; it continues to do so to this day. Wild rice is graceful and elegant. I wish I could bend and move with the lithe refinement of this aquatic grass. I can’t, so I just stood on the shore and admired it.

In a damp corner of the woods amidst bunchberry and wild lily of the valley, there is a clump of moonworts (Botrychium). These are small ferns that produce their spores in tight, grape-like bunches which has also led to them being called grape ferns. They are peculiar and beautiful. I walked an extra km through damp forest just for the privilege of being in their company. The woods are full of bear scat and the occasional footprint in damp places. I haven’t seen any bears but I feel their presence all around me and it comforts me. I know bears are much like people, except that they’re much nicer. Bears are curious and engaged and totally at home in the woods. I feel a kinship to them; they feel like family to me. It encourages me to know they are out here, going about their lives and getting ready for their big winter sleep. I pray to whoever it is that looks after the forest to watch over them and keep them safe from hunters and those who would harm them.

I am preparing for my big move. I’ve found a new place to live and I will be moving in on October 1st. I am trading my great horned owl (Alberta’s provincial bird) for the great grey owl (Manitoba’s provincial bird). I love both of these birds. While seeing a great horned owl is not all that uncommon, I have only seen a great grey twice in my life. They are inexplicable and shy; rarely observed and nemophilists like myself. I hope in Manitoba I will have opportunity to see one again. They are so magnificent. They inspire me like the north inspires me. I have a couple more days here. If I could just take this feeling of wholeness and peacefulness with me into the rest of my life…

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I am completely exhausted and I’m totally okay with this. I have had an eventful and very satisfying past couple of days and I’ve worked hard, I’ve laughed a lot, and I’ve been on some very beautiful walks enjoying the late summer splendor. September is absolutely my favorite month of the year. I love the trees changing colour and the cooler temperatures. I love the unhurried, casual pace. Spring is frantic and urgent; Autumn is methodical and relaxed. I love digging in the garden and moving stuff around and gathering seeds and harvesting vegetables. It seems a tragedy that September is only 30 days.

On Tuesday my friend James and I went hiking in the Beaver Creek Conservation Area just south of Saskatoon. It’s a stunning place that I don’t get too very often. It’s full of native species like purple prairie clover and scarlet mallow and goldenrods and coneflowers. There are some stunning native grasses there, including the magnificent big bluestem, which I don’t see in Sask. very often. Big bluestem is the official grass of Manitoba, so I took it as a positive sign. When early European explorers wrote about “grass as high as the horse’s belly”, it was big bluestem they were talking about. I started daydreaming about Manitoba’s tallgrass prairie the minute I saw it. It looks great in gardens, great in the wild. I wanted to see what it was growing with (good indications of what to plant it with) and I decided that even all on its own, it is exquisite. There are lots of small, dainty grasses. This is not one of them. Bold and beefy, the big bluestem adds a kind of robust grace to the prairies as it moves in the wind. I think with some large Rudbeckia and some mauve asters (to bring out the blue in its leaves) in a wide space, it would be the very picture of elegance and rustic sophistication. If I should ever own an acreage somewhere, this is a combination I will use on a large scale.

I walked down by the river this week and encountered the marvelous blue ridge carrion flower (Smilax lasioneura). I have no idea where Blue Ridge might be, and carrion flower seems too harsh a name. The flowers have a somewhat off-putting smell for sure, but it isn’t strong enough to be unpleasant in the garden. With beautiful, rounded leaves and stylish, gently climbing and arching stems, the carrion flower produces its male and female flowers on separate plants. They are greenish and interesting, but not showy. Female plants produce clusters of intensely blue-purple to nearly black berries that are loved by songbirds and bears. They are also mysterious and highly attractive. I had never collected seed from it before. It is usually found on the edges of woodlands and partly shady, moist areas where it delicately rambles through shrubs and undergrowth.

Wirth Park

In the wild it grows 3-4 ft. I read once that in cultivation it will grow 6-8 ft. My late friend Claudette called it green briar. Smooth and thornless, it’s a lovely thing. Not flashy at all, but just a very pretty plant. I picked some berries and brought them home. I found them to be full of very large and very beautiful red-brown seeds. I sowed them immediately and I look forward to having them in my new garden. I suspect they will not be hard to germinate. I really miss Claudette- she would have loved to have this plant in her garden and I would have loved to provide her with it.

I did SO MUCH work in my Mom’s garden this week. I weeded, I watered, I divided, I relocated, and hauled rocks around. I had fun and I was also completely wiped out at the end of the day. Daylilies have been scaled back. Lilies have been divided. Irises broken up and relocated. It was exhausting and rewarding. Mom had many a clump of lilies that BADLY needed to be divided. They didn’t flower well this year and were way too congested. It took me 30 minutes to pull one particular clump apart! There were 47 tightly packed bulbs underneath there and it was like trying to break up a coral reef! Basically, when everything was divided and sorted out, I discovered that my mother is the proprietor of basically the fourth largest private collection of perennials in the world.

Some spireas and a rose that I have never liked were shown the door. A fabulous non-climbing clematis went home with my friend Judy. Irises and lilies went to live with Sylvia. Ruth brought me a Forsythia cutting that she had rooted and I actually was able to create space for it. It was really nice to engage with other gardeners and share plants with them! Nadine brought me a bag of composted poo from the zoo. I gave Josh many seeds and he brought me a pie and made a mysterious promise about the possibility of more pies to come. Today I spent some time with my friend Leslie and we had pretty much the most fun ever. We have been friends for nearly 20 years. We went perennial shopping and we both bought some beautiful purple fall asters. She’s in a good place in her life right now and I’m super happy for her. She has the cutest baby I’ve ever seen and we laughed like we’d never grow old or get sick ever again. It’s important to have friends like that.

My schedule is full for the next few days and I’m at peace with this. I’m eating things with Cherise. I’m having coffee with Kristin soon. I got to see Lori today. Tomorrow I get to see Nancy and also John. On Sunday, I am going north to my friend Shelly’s lodge in Meadow Lake Provincial Park. I will be doing some garden work for her too- digging, weeding, planting, etc. I’ll also walk in the woods early in the morning and inhale the beautiful fragrance of trees and marvel at the outrageous and wonderful fall colour. I’ll drink my coffee by the lake in the morning and listen to the loons calling to one another, calling to me.

I am filling out rental applications and attempting to find myself a new home in a new town in a new neighborhood where I don’t know anyone. It’s exciting. It’s a little scary. Someone shared with me a quote this week from the film ‘Hope Floats’- “beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, it’s what’s in the middle that counts.”

Well, here I am at my mom and dad’s house…and I am not having the day I envisioned. I totally forgot that today was a holiday, so my mom and dad are at the lake. All of my “worldly goods” are upstairs in the spare bedroom in boxes, eagerly waiting to be moved in a generally east direction. I was going to spend today working in my mom’s garden. I have spent the last 10 days of my life basically saying goodbye to gardens instead of actually working in them. I am desperately needing to do some actual WORK. I need to put my hands in the earth and I need to be digging and dividing and mulching and spreading compost and weeding. I need this like normal people need to watch television or drink wine or whatever it is that normal people do- I wouldn’t know.

Anyway, last night it rained and the garden is soaking, dripping wet today and it’s only about 12 degrees. Not a good day to be out there doing stuff. I’m annoyed about this because I always get annoyed when things do not go according to plan. (We are control freaks, we Capricorns.) I do have a new book to read that my friend Lisa gave me and I DO have other stuff I could be working on…but instead I’m listening to the new Trisha Yearwood album and drinking coffee and writing.

Yesterday morning I left Lethbridge and I basically felt sad all day. Today I was going to get into the garden and therefore purge myself of all negative emotions and feelings because that is what gardening does for me. It recalibrates and renews me. Everything will be fine once I get into mom’s garden because I know mom’s garden will be a MESS and it needs me… or so I told myself. Despite the cold and the wet, I just went outside to investigate what needs doing. Lord have mercy. I was unprepared for the massive shit storm that is my mother’s perennial border. “We’ve been at the lake all summer and when we’ve been home, the grandkids have been here so the garden hasn’t been a priority”, mom told me. “I’m glad you filled it with so many plants that can take care of themselves.” She has a point. Her delphiniums were spectacular this year with no help from anyone. Daylilies, lilies, hostas, peonies, clematis, various grasses, lots of different native plants, spirea, and roses have all gone bravely forward and done their very best with no assistance. So have the weeds, I have to say. Dandelions and quack grass were veritably growling at me as I walked past them. The showy milkweed I planted for the butterflies (one of the few milkweeds that is legitimately weedy) has gone BANANAS and has claimed an unreasonable amount of territory. Absolutely nothing was deadheaded last year or this year so Maltese cross and soapwort and harebells are literally everywhere. I was going to spend today “taking back control”, both of the garden and of myself. Sometimes life has other plans though. I wondered if I should collect seeds from the colombines and the morning glories and the larkspur and then convinced myself I didn’t need any of those seeds. This required the self-control and the patience of a monk! It is almost impossible for me NOT to collect seeds.

I have been obsessively, uncontrollably collecting seeds. Every seed. ALL the seeds! As I type this, I am eyeing the massive nannyberry in the neighbour’s yard and watching the cedar waxwings greedily devour the small, blue-black fruits. I am thinking about shooing them away and saving some seed for myself. I don’t need a nannyberry- God knows what I would do with two dozen baby ones. Somewhere in my ancestry, somebody went without. Somebody didn’t have enough. I must have inherited this gene; a sub-conscious conviction that I must gather and store things for the lean times that are surely coming. My grandmother has a burning urge to can and preserve everything (I routinely remind her that the depression is over and grocery stores are abundant) but I can’t pass something with ripe seeds and not collect the seeds. If only I saved money as well as I save seeds! I am collecting seeds from things I don’t even need. Things I don’t even necessarily want. I don’t know why. Perhaps I was a squirrel or a Clark’s nutcracker in a previous life. I was almost frantically seed collecting in the Lethbridge area last week. I went through every coulee, every trail I knew desperately seeking seeds. Was it anxiety about moving? Was it a fear that I’d be sorry if I didn’t? Am I unknowingly gathering seeds for people I will garden for in the future? I really don’t know but I am self-aware enough to be curious about my own behavior.

There was so much seed on the smooth camas (Zigadenus elegans) this year. Oh, it’s such a beautiful plant, with it’s creamy white blooms with the unusual green markings inside. It’s also violently poisonous. It isn’t difficult to germinate, but it takes a long time to reach flowering size. (Around five years.) I only barely prevented myself from collecting it. You don’t NEED it, I scolded myself. One of the cardinal rules of seed collecting from native plants is that you never take more seeds than you actually need. The unrelated blue camas (Camassia quamash) was the only plant I took with me from my own garden. I did not dig up my hostas that I grew from seeds, I did not take the fairy bells or the corydalis or the ferns. I left all of it behind. I did not take the lady’s slipper orchid that I paid 100 dollars for and I did not take the martagon lilies or the false Solomon’s seal. I took only the sleeping bulbs of the blue camas, because they are easily transported and camas tells stories. Those bulbs fed indigenous people for thousands of years and their fleeting, almost unrealistic beauty speaks to me of times long ago. Blue camas is not something I can buy locally. I have collected my own seeds and grown my own bulbs. I just had to take those bulbs with me, and so I did. I traveled with camas bulbs in my backpack as those on the Lewis and Clark expedition did and as indigenous peoples did for so long before them. I will plant them (carefully) in my mother’s garden and in several years, those clumps will hopefully have multiplied and I will have a storehouse from which I can propagate them again.

The ball cactus (Escobaria vivipara) grows only an inch or two tall, but produces a dazzling flower that can be purple or pink or fuchsia or magenta. They flowered incredibly this year on the sunny, dry slopes of southern Alberta. Good flowering meant good pollination, and they were full of their small, plump, seed-filled berries. They taste of kiwifruit and I ate more than one while I was picking. Where I failed at collecting the prickly pear, I will succeed with collecting seeds from the ball cactus. What I plan to do with a ridiculous amount of cactus seed I do not know.

I went to collect seeds from some huge black walnut trees in Medicine Hat on the way here but they are not quite ready to go yet. Instead I gathered seed from an immense river grape (Vitis riparia) scrambling over someone’s fence that looks like it was planted 100 years ago. It may well have been; the neighbourhood is of that vintage. In a moist place in a coulee last week I found abundant seeds from grass of Parnassus; a curious name for a plant that is not remotely grass-like nor is it from Parnassus (a mountain in Greece). It has small, starry white flowers in high summer that are marked with the most exquisite veining. It is finicky and difficult to cultivate but never the less, seeds went home with me. Maybe I’ll succeed and maybe I won’t. I will certainly try.

As I type this, I am eating a tomato sandwich. Mom’s tomatoes were outstanding this year as were her cucumbers, two items that were not neglected. Fresh tomatoes from the garden are delicious. Mom has to move the tomatoes further and further out every year because my dad has a pear tree that is starting to seriously shade them. My dad is totally mental about that pear tree. Every year it is loaded with fruit, and every year he tells me about it multiple times. It is very important to him for some reason to convey to me how much fruit the pear is producing and everything else it might be doing. If it’s blooming or not blooming I hear about it. And how much it’s blooming. And how much fruit it has. Does he need to prune it? Does it need fertilizer? What if he already did fertilize it? Was that enough? Should he try and move it? What if he planted another kind of pear to go with it? Every year he needs to give me an update and ask me 30 million questions, mostly things I’ve already advised him about. At least four times in the course of the summer, my dad will tell me about what his pear tree is or isn’t doing. I couldn’t possibly care less about my dad’s pear tree. The number of shits I give about it is absolute zero. You have a pear tree? Great. Congratulations. I don’t care. The minute I walked in the door last night, dad was telling me about how much fruit his pear tree has on it. I don’t think I had even put my keys down yet. I said “Dad, one more word about your stupid pear tree and I swear I will shove every one of those fruits right up your ass!!” No one was more surprised to hear those words come out of my mouth than I was. I immediately realized what an insane thing this is to say to someone and burst out laughing. My dad also laughed. So did my mom. I apologized and said I was just emotional and grouchy because of moving (which is entirely true) and we sat around the firepit in the back yard for a while and drank decaf coffee (because we are old and can’t handle caffeine at night.) My parents provided a soft place for me to land as I am transitioning out of Alberta and into Manitoba. That’s a nice thing. I’m really lucky. Not everyone has good parents. I have to remind myself about that sometimes.

This week is about gardening, visiting Saskatchewan friends, and dividing the ever loving shit out of my mother’s multiple daylilies, irises, and lilies that are totally out of control. If you live in the Saskatoon area and you need perennials of any kind, let me know. I can probably bring you a big black garbage bag full of whatever it is your heart desires.

I’m not feeling well today. The night before last, I went out seed collecting and felt really stuffy when I got home. All the farmers are out on the fields right now and that agricultural dust blowing through always makes my allergies go bananas so I assumed that’s what it was. However, it lasted all through the day yesterday and no amount of anti-histamines or decongestants seemed to be working. I felt exhausted for no reason after dividing a clump of tiger lilies and then last night I went and did some weeding and felt like I was going to die. So I just went home, turned off my phone and went to bed. I woke up with my throat so scratchy I was fairly sure I must have fallen asleep eating steel wool. Anyway, there will be no packing or gardening or working of any kind today. I am going to listen to my body and spend today reading a mystery novel, drinking hot tea, and not exerting myself. I have too much going on right now to just “push through it” and I need to be at my best this week in order to accomplish all those things on my plate. I have a friend who talks about “HALT”- when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired you need to STOP and address those things. This seems like a similar situation.

I have been obsessively gathering seeds this week for no other reason than it’s the time of year for it. I am not sure why this is so important to me. I’m not sure if I’m collecting seeds for me or for future clients or my own garden or if perhaps I was a squirrel or a Clark’s nutcracker in a previous life. I don’t know what sort of garden I will be dealing with at my next address so I like to be prepared. There’s also the fact that most seeds last a looong time so it’s good to have some of these things on hand just in case you ever need them. It’s never a bad idea to be prepared.

I started with the boringly named but very lovely white penstemon (Penstemon albidus). It is a small species well suited to dry, sunny sites with poor soil. It’s not a very large plant and as many penstemons do, it looks shabby when it’s done blooming. It also flowers only briefly. It has never achieved any kind of popularity as a garden plant but I like it and I think it would be wonderful in a rock garden. I like most penstemons, actually.

I brought home many seeds for needle and thread grass (Stipa comata) and I did this deliberately instead of accidentally in my socks, which is usually how those seeds come home with me. Needle and thread (which my Grandma used to call speargrass) is the official grass of Saskatchewan and grows 1-2 ft. tall. An important grass of the prairie and very drought resistant, this rather beautiful grass often grows in large groups where conditions suit, waving seductively in the wind and catching the light in a way that is both gorgeous and very difficult to capture on film. It is not frequently grown in gardens but is easy from seed and looks lovely with other prairie natives. The common name is an allusion to the very sharp-tipped seeds that are attached to long, curling awns. It is a perfect description, and the seeds are designed to catch in the fur (or socks) of passing animals and thus be transported to new places. Needle and thread grows very quickly in early summer but quickly dries up and goes dormant by mid to late summer, making it somewhat difficult to place in a garden setting. It should pair well with the white penstemon; they often grow together in the wild.

Prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) should not be confused with the true coneflowers (Echinacea) although they are related. This very pretty plant forms a small to medium sized, tidy clump that produces golden flowers with very long brown cones. It looks somewhat similar to brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) which it is also related to. On rare occasions, you may find a specimen with dark red or brown-red flowers instead of the usual gold.

Prairie coneflower is short-lived even under ideal conditions but produces loads of seed that is very easy to collect. It doesn’t like transplanting but if you just sow the seeds where they are to bloom it’s pretty straight forward. Bees and butterflies love it, and it blooms mid to late summer at just such a time when you need something lovely to look at. I find it prone to fungal issues in the garden if it gets compost and love and too much water so it might be better for farm and acreage gardeners than people in the city.

For the first time ever, I decided to collect seeds from our native prickly pear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha). Prickly pear roots so easily from a cutting that I had never considered growing them from seed, even though my friend Arden has and once showed me a tray of newly germinated baby cactus and they were completely adorable. “I’ll just bring home one fruit for the sake of trying”, I told myself.

The gorgeous flowers of this cactus are followed by a soft, berry-like fruit. These are protected with short, sharp spines. These spines are apparently not off-putting because the fruits are quickly eaten by birds and small animals. The fruit is also edible for people (said to be sweet and spicy) but having to peel them to remove the spines, and the fact that they are so small…I’ve never bothered. The fruit also seems to be either unripe or gone- they really do get eaten right away! A friend who spends a lot of time in Arizona (where they have much larger prickly pear species than we do) describes the flavor as being “somewhere between plum and fig.” Well, that certainly sounds worth tasting. I picked (very carefully) a single ripe fruit and brought it home in a container. When I hacked it open with a large, sharp knife I was immediately repulsed. The fruit had rotted from the inside while still looking sound on the outside. No wonder nothing had eaten it! The smell was horrific. The fruit when straight into the garbage and the knife went to soak in the sink for the rest of the evening and that was that. So it turns out I will NOT be trying cactus from seed after all.

We have a native species of four o clock (Mirabilis) that is very pretty but not at all showy. It has violet flowers and I noticed some very nice specimens blooming along one of the slopes. Do I need it? No, I do not. Would it be flashy in a garden? No, not at all. Am I trying very hard to resist the urge to go and collect seeds from it? Yes. Yes, I am.

There isn’t an easy way to announce this, but I have to tell you all something important. Here it is…are you ready? I am going to be moving away from Alberta very soon.

The time has come for me to move on. For the last year or so, I’ve been feeling a strong desire to go somewhere new and discover a new place. Canada is very big and very wide and there’s so much of my country that I haven’t visited or discovered yet. I have never been the sort of person who felt he could stay in one place his whole life.

In 2007, I moved from Saskatchewan to Alberta. “You won’t last three months!” my Grandpa told me. Calgary was too big, too busy, too far away. I would never be happy there, he said. I didn’t know if I would be or wouldn’t be, but I wanted to give it a try. As it turned out, Alberta was a really good fit for me. All kinds of wonderful and awful things have happened here. It has been 12 years of life unfolding exactly as it was meant to. I am very grateful to Alberta.

Alberta has been incredibly good for my career. I loved doing the garden column for CBC Radio in the afternoons. I got my publishing deal here, I got to teach at Olds College and the Calgary Zoo, and I became involved with the Waterton wildflower festival and the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. Alberta was where I first took that leap of faith and decided to try and make an attempt at being self-employed. As scary as that was (and still is sometimes), I would not do things any differently. I would not have had those opportunities if I had stayed where I was.

I made so many wonderful friends here- people who are generous and kind and care about me and about the environment. I fell in love here (more than once, actually) and also got my heart broken. I suffered through bereavement and depression and loneliness and I came out at the end of the tunnel stronger and more compassionate and hopefully a better person. I had incredible wildlife and wildflower experiences here that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I discovered the Rocky Mountains in a way that I could not have if I had been merely visiting. Alberta has been a terrific place to learn and grow and challenge myself and I’ll always be glad I took the risk and moved out here. So why move away at all?

It wasn’t just one thing or another that convinced me it was time to move. It was a lot of things coming together and saying gently and quietly that maybe the timing was right to go and try something new. If I’m really honest, I was deeply disappointed and depressed after our provincial election this spring. It was really a catalyst for me to sit down and say to myself seriously “Am I going to stay here or am I going to pursue new flowers and new plants in new regions?” I really don’t like the direction that Alberta is going in politically. I had been considering a move for a while but the election really motivated me to look for opportunities elsewhere. Our new premier has made a number of statements in the past few months that do not represent me and do not fit at all with my philosophies and ideals. Jason Kenney is not the person I want making decisions on my behalf. I think taking into consideration who is in charge is an important factor in considering where you want to live.

I also returned often to the fact that Charlie and John Russell, two men that I both adored and learned an enormous amount from, have both passed away and are no longer here to teach me. Waterton, my favorite place in the world, burned to the ground and most of the trails remain closed. There were other things that I examined and filed away in my heart too. Sometimes a series of events forces you to consider why you live where you live and sometimes these things illuminate new paths for you. It is important to have mentors and teachers in your life, no matter your age or your station. Sometimes we have to go to new places to find new teachers. The pursuit of wisdom and all that. I started looking at my options and looking for work opportunities in places that appeal to me and that speak to my heart. This was both scary and exciting.

In September I’ll be heading east. I’m going to spend some time in Saskatchewan with my family (and maybe do some gardening work) and then I’m moving to the Dauphin area of Manitoba. I’m going to be spending a LOT more time in Riding Mountain National Park and you’ll be hearing quite a bit more about that from me over the next year as that unfolds but I can’t provide too many details just yet.

Manitoba is quiet and largely unpopulated and absolutely full of beautiful lakes and forests. This speaks powerfully to my soul. It’s a province where I always have a good time, and about which I’ve often said “I’d like to spend more time here…” and now I’m going to. This doesn’t mean I won’t be back to Alberta to visit (of course I will) or that I’m “done” with all my friends and connections here- of course not! It just means that I’m going to go somewhere new, and meet new people, and try new things. When my next book comes out (Spring of 2021) I’ll most likely be doing press and promotion so that means I’ll be back to see everyone really very soon. I’m sure I’ll be back to visit before then, too.

So that’s the long and the short of it. I’m closing some windows and opening some new doors. I know this news is going to make some people sad and I’m sad about it too in many ways- but I’m also optimistic and excited and I feel strongly that this is the right choice for me. I’ll continue blogging and writing and gardening for sure. It’s just going to be from a new region with new things to discover. I hope you will all stay in touch and that you will all come and visit me. (*Just maybe not everybody all at once.)

Is there a reason that people don’t plant Gladioli more than they do? It seems strange to me that they went from being one of the most popular garden flowers in the world to relative obscurity in a fairly short period of time.

Although most of the ones we grow are hybrids, there are nearly 300 known species. They are related to irises and while most are African in origin, there are about a dozen European species as well. It is important to note that the word Gladioli is plural; when referred to in the singular the correct term is Gladiolus.

“Glads” are one of the most popular cutflowers in the world, familiar to both florists and gardeners. They are easy to grow, gorgeous, and inexpensive. They can also last a long time in a vase. They come in almost every imaginable colour and range from dwarf forms only 14-18” tall all the way up to giants of 4 ft. So called “exhibition” glads have very large flowers and good, strong stems that make them ideal for cutting or for entering in a show at your local fair. Most glads begin to flower in July or August and they will often flower right into September. Each bulb will generally produce a single stem.

Glads are good choices for those who want lots of colour in the garden but have a limited budget. They can last up to 12 days as a cutflower and enjoy full sun with fertile soil and good drainage and ample moisture. They will appreciate some compost and love. Performance is best if they are sheltered from the wind, and it is possible you will need to stake them. If they are planted in dense clumps rather than long rows they will look nicer and provide each other with some support. The bulbs can be lifted in the fall and wintered indoors in a cold but frost-free place. Some gardeners (like me) skip this step and are happy to grow them as annuals. The blooms are very attractive to hummingbirds. The name Gladiolus comes from the Latin word gladius, meaning sword. It is a reference to the shape and length of their leaves. The word gladiator is also from the same source.

There are literally hundreds of gladioli cultivars that you could pick from. Some are so similar to each other that even experts would have a hard time telling them apart. Some are sold under a variety of different names. Don’t be put off by gladioli with generic names or tags- a bag of ordinary mixed colours is often just as good as fancy, expensive named varieties. A bag of “jumbo red glads” from a big box store will likely yield as much satisfaction as a fancy named one you ordered over the internet. Glads give you what you give them- ensure they are well fed and well loved and they will flower gloriously the following year. Glads that are left to their own devices in terms of water and nutrients will be unable to form decently sized bulbs for next year’s flowering. Always buy the biggest bulbs you can- the bigger the bulb, the better the flowering. Keep in mind also that gladioli photos are often extremely touched up in catalogues and magazines- colour patterns are heavily photoshopped to appear far more vibrant than they actually are.

While it is primarily the hybrids that are grown, it should be noted that there are some really lovely species gladioli that are available if you have the inclination to try them. They are easily raised from seed and usually will flower in their second year. I really wanted to introduce you to some of them and so I chose half a dozen or so of what I think are the most amazing. Let me know if you’re growing any of these.

Gladiolus cardinalis is unimaginably stunning. It comes from damp places in South Africa and often grows on ledges near waterfalls. It prefers a cool, mild climate and in mid to late summer, it produces wiry stems of shockingly brilliant scarlet blooms heavily marked in white. Hardy in the UK and sometimes found in gardens there, this species has been cultivated since 1789.

Gladiolus communis is a widespread species that can be found in many nations through the northern parts of Africa and also in Spain, Italy, and a few other places in the Mediterranean. Growing about 2 ft. tall, this is a very vigorous plant that blooms in late spring to early summer (unusual timing for gladioli) and has gorgeous, hot pink to deep rose or fuchsia coloured flowers. Gladiolus communis var. byzantinus is the most northerly ranging strain and is said to be hardy to zone 4. It is often found in gardens in climates less harsh than our own. I have tried it a few times hoping it would overwinter but even in the most protected locations, no such luck.

Gladiolus kotschyanus comes from high elevations in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. This is a lovely species with narrow foliage and rich purple or violet flowers in early summer. It grows in damp or even wet locations in open meadows and on the edges of forests and is very likely hardy on the prairies, though I’ve not had the pleasure of growing it.

Gladiolus palustris is perhaps the most northerly ranging of all the gladioli. This species from central Europe is fully hardy but definitely needs a moist, cool location. It reaches up to 2 ft. tall and has grassy foliage with bright magenta flowers. Imagine that- a glad you could have as a perennial in your garden even in a very cold climate.

Gladiolus imbricatus is widely regarded as being one of the hardiest known species. This is quite a beauty and found throughout many Mediterranean countries. It is actually fairly rare in the wild, and thus not widely known. Blooms are bright pinkish purple to rose. It likes fertile, moist soil and has proven absolutely hardy in Calgary. I’ll give you a minute to let that information sink in and then what you should feel next is a sense of hysteria and euphoric joy.

Gladiolus tristis is from high elevations in South Africa. This is a superb plant growing to 2 ft. tall. It has much narrower leaves than other species and spectacular ivory to butter yellow blooms that have a delicious fragrance. The scent is strongest on warm evenings. Blooms appear right at the end of summer and sometimes into early autumn as well. It is a vigorous grower and a profuse bloomer. This would be a terrific plant for a cool greenhouse. I raised it from seed and the plants were about a year away from blooming…and the last summer that I lived in Calgary, the bulbs were dug out and eaten by a squirrel. (*I hope he choked to death or got eaten by a hawk.)

Previously classified as Acidanthera bicolor (and sometimes still sold under that name) is a plant usually known as peacock gladiolus. (It is now classified as Gladiolus murielae.) From the eastern parts of Africa, this is a plant that is finally becoming more widely known. Reaching about 2 ft. tall, it usually flowers in August and produces unusual, fan-shaped flowers of milky white with a prominent maroon blotch in the interior. The blooms are produced over a long period although perhaps not as profusely as one would wish. The blooms are richly fragrant on warm, still afternoons and smell of chocolate. Sphinx moths are very fond of them. They are good as cutflowers and perform well in containers. Bulbs will also multiply freely. I bought my original bulbs at Costco, of all places.

In conclusion, it should be noted that gladioli are not without their problems. Slugs and snails can be very troublesome, and while deer will usually not eat the foliage (too tough) they are very happy to demolish the buds and flowers. Earwigs can also spoil the blooms, but probably the worst problems are thrips. These are tiny, gnat-like insects that appear in great multitudes and obliterate the flowers in a matter of days. I have tried planting things that attract beneficial insects in the vicinity of glads in order to help keep down their numbers. This has helped. Some varieties are more resistant than others. Crop rotation will help, and some years thrips are worse than others. Plants with badly damaged flowers should be removed.

Many years ago in Australia I went with my sweetheart to see Dame Edna Everage. She was as fabulous as we hoped that she would be, and everyone was given a gladiolus at the door. What a wonderful evening that was.

I’ve really enjoyed myself over the last couple of days. My parents were here visiting and the fern garden I planted in Waterton was very well received! I took my parents hiking in Castle Provincial Park and we spent some time in the Crowsnest Pass and I came home and cut myself a huge bouquet of incredibly stunning hot pink gladiolus. They are sitting here on my kitchen table as I type this. Why doesn’t everyone plant these? They are great!

Everything was going just fine and then things got even better because I had a hummingbird in my garden and that made me just a little bit euphoric. While hummingbirds are routine visitors in many of the gardens I look after, this is the first time I’ve had one here in Lethbridge in MY back yard. It was very exciting.

I’ve also been seed collecting this week. This has been incredibly enjoyable not only because gathering seeds is one of my favorite activities, but because I was doing this exclusively for me. These are not seeds for clients or gardening friends or colleagues. I went out and collected seeds from plants that I like for no other reason than the fact that I want to grow them. There is something to be said for that. I started with the creeping Oregon grape (Mahonia repens) because they have a good crop of fruit on them this year and they are easy to germinate and I feel like I need more of these in my life.

Next I moved on to two plants that I’ve never gathered seed from before. The first was one of the biscuit roots, also sometimes called desert parsley (for no reason that I can discern.) There are about 75 species of biscuit root (Lomatium) and they are all native to western North America. Members of the carrot family, I think everyone can agree that “biscuit root” is easily one of the cutest names for a perennial ever.

The roots of these graceful perennials are very starchy and highly edible, and they were a major food source for First Nations people. There were eaten cooked or dried or sometimes ground into flour and made into small cakes or biscuits (hence the name), and then stored away for later use. The flavor has been compared to parsley, and some of them were also used medicinally for infections and respiratory issues. Biscuit roots are very common in southern Alberta and most of them have yellow, gold, or white flowers.

Emerging from the ground very early in spring, they are quick to flower and often grow in large numbers where conditions suit them. Butterflies and other small insects love the blossoms and songbirds like eating the seeds. Humans were not the only ones to notice the edibility of these small taproots- they are also a favorite food for bears. Biscuit roots usually like open, sunny places that are moist in spring and baking dry in summer. Immediately after they have set seed they dry up and go dormant, vanishing as quickly as they appeared. This rapid disappearing act coupled with the fact that their large taproots prevent them from growing well in containers has ensured that biscuit roots are virtually unheard of by gardeners. They are better known by hikers and wildflower enthusiasts.

I had never considered cultivating biscuit roots because their sudden dormancy after flowering meant they would surely leave a bare gap in the border. Perhaps for a meadow they might be nice, or maybe a rock garden, but I had never given them any serious thought. My friend Valerie is a botanist who lives in Nelson, BC. She is extremely fond of biscuit roots. Earlier this year, she got me really excited about them. Isn’t it great when a gardening friend has an enthusiasm for a plant you’ve never given much attention to? “They’re so diverse!” Valerie exclaimed with passion. “They have such a graceful form and pollinators love them.” I agreed those were esteemed virtues. “And the foliage!” she continued. “I mean, every species just has something different to offer! Some are finely dissected and some have larger leaves and some are almost grassy. Very interesting for carrot family.” I agreed. I mentioned their almost immediate (or so it seems) dormancy after flowering. “Oh yes but their seed heads are so decorative!” she exclaimed. “They hold their shape and hang on to their seeds even after flowering. They have great presence in an informal garden even after they’ve gone dry for the year. Couldn’t be easier to grow, either. Seeds germinate readily and they’re super low maintenance.” The conversation continued in this regard for a little while until Valerie concluded with “and practically nobody is growing them. Talk about lack of appreciation! One of our prettiest and most varied wildflowers and hardly anyone even knows they exist!” By the time we were done, Valerie had successfully converted me to the way of the biscuit roots. It was because of her that I went out of my way to collect seed from the bright golden flowered species Lomatium triternatum. One year in Waterton, they flowered with the blue flowered low larkspur (Delphinium) and even though primary colours together can be horrific, in this particular meadow it was a bold and striking combination. (Christopher Lloyd always said you can make any two colours look good together if the blossoms were the right size and the right shape.)

I was lucky enough to also be able to collect (just a few) seeds from the very beautiful golden flowered species of corydalis (Corydalis aurea) as well. That’s another plant I’ve never tried to gather seeds from but I have in fact, grown it before. Many years ago, when I used to live in Saskatoon, there was a gentleman by the name of Mack Miller who had a small native plant nursery. I used to buy plants from him and he was very wise and very excited about using indigenous plants in contemporary garden designs. He sold me many plants including scarlet mallow, leadwort, and this golden corydalis- all plants that native plant nurseries seem to have trouble propagating only I didn’t know that at the time. I also found out recently that Mack Miller passed away this spring at the age of 83.

Golden corydalis is one of the few plants in the bleeding heart family (Fumaraceae) that is native to the Canadian prairies. It tends to occupy disturbed or burned ground often in areas with sandy soil. It can be an annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial and it came up everywhere in Waterton after the fire. This spring it flowered gloriously on all the slopes and I was totally smitten with it- I hadn’t seen it in so many years and I remembered buying it from Mr. Miller. It also grows in the Castle wilderness and a few other places that I know so I made it a point to go and get some seeds this season. I realized I had missed this plant. I want to be re-acquainted with it. In the garden it wants a sunny, well drained site and it will self sow modestly. It eventually died out in our garden on the farm but I always adored its lacy foliage and its profusion of golden, spur-shaped blossoms early in the season.

Golden corydalis gets only a few inches tall but 12-18” wide. It blooms primarily in June but it can be in flower at almost any time during the summer, after which it either dies, goes dormant, or becomes overtaken by more robust neighbours. Highly adaptable and favoring open areas (unusual for a corydalis), it is happy on forest edges, road cuts, and sometimes even in ditches. Smoke from this plant was inhaled by certain indigenous tribes of North America in order to treat colds and congestion. The seeds require light to germinate and they will germinate cold- eight or ten degrees is perfect for them. I will start them early (outdoors in April, most likely) and I look forward to having these little golden teardrops in my garden once more.

I need to pack up some stuff and bring it to the thrift store. There are clothes that I no longer wear and books that I no longer read and dishes that are taking up space in my cupboard that someone else could be using. I have too many coffee mugs but I like all of them and don’t want to part with any. Some tough decisions should really be made here by someone.

As much as I try not to accumulate too much “stuff”, I own a ridiculous number of books. I also give a lot of books away. Most of my books are about gardening. I own a lot of plant books. There are a lot of gardening writers that I look up to and admire. David Tarrant, Christopher Lloyd, Anna Pavord, Lorraine Johnson, Thomas Pakenham, and so many others. Some of those books I remember reading in Australia. Some I read when my heart was broken, and some I read when I was so full of optimism and hope it was practically dripping down the front of my shirt. There’s books I bought when I lived in Saskatoon and books I bought in Calgary and books I acquired while traveling. There are books that were given to me and books that I inherited. Books probably make up about 40% of all the “stuff” that I own. I remember a friend saying to me once that if I ever went home with someone and they didn’t have any books in their house, there was no point in sleeping with them. I decided that was excellent advice. Behold a person’s book shelf and you behold their heart.

Sometimes you have to give books away. Sometimes you say to someone “here’s a book that will save your life…” or change your life. Or heal your heart. Or illuminate your path. That’s a power that books have. If you have ever had a conversation with me at any point in your life, it’s very likely that I recommended one or more books to you. Books can change your mind about things or give you a new point of view or help you start over. You can tell a lot about a person by what they read. We all have that one friend who is constantly reading self-help books. We all know someone who is constantly reading biographies of famous people. We all know someone who loves obscure history books or cookbooks or fantasy novels.

Many years ago when I worked in a book store, we judged harshly (and mostly accurately) what people were going to read based on how they dressed and how they carried themselves. Sometimes we made a game of it. A teenage boy with long, unkempt hair and a bad attempt at a first moustache came in one day and I turned to my co-worker Nikoline and said “bet he goes straight for the manga and graphic novels.” I was right. An overweight, middle-aged woman with long fake acrylic nails and a hairstyle that was doing her no favors came in right after and Nikoline turned to me and said “harlequin romance” and she was absolutely right. People who work in bookstores see what you are reading, and they judge.

Someone gave me a book about snakes recently. In ancient times, snakes were often placed in the temples of various gods. There was an enormous fascination for the way that snakes become dull-coloured and shabby looking over time, and then miraculously, like a sock turned inside out, they shed their old skins and reappeared glistening and shining and new once more. The serpent is reborn. Youth is restored. A snake that has just shed its old skin is a thing of enormous beauty. Their scales shine like stars and their dark, unblinking eyes glimmer with an inner fire. Perhaps this book came to me at the right time with a message for me to decipher.

Snakes do not think like we do. As they are reptiles, they sort most situations out into one of two categories. The two things a snake is asking itself about the world are is that something I can eat or is that something that can eat me? If it’s the latter, the response is flee! Like humans, I know that snakes can experience fear. I have rescued more than one snake in my life and far from being revered as they once were, snakes are now mostly reviled and persecuted. I once caught four young school boys with sticks tormenting a terrified garter snake. I put a stop to that in very short order; I am a thundercloud and not to be trifled with when an animal’s life is in danger. I am confident those boys will never bother a snake again.

I carefully gathered up that terrified snake and held it close to me until it was calm and its sides were no longer pulsing rapidly in and out. I placed him carefully in the pocket of my backpack, which I then zipped shut and gently laid on the passenger seat of my truck. I drove him to a lightly wooded spot and released him into the tall grass. He was calm and elegantly coiled as I opened the pocket. He flicked his tongue a few times and tasted the air. Then he flowed out and over my hands like water. I know snakes are deaf but I never the less apologized to him for the fear he had suffered. When he realized he was free he flew like an arrow shot from a bow. I hope he found somewhere safe and secure to make his living. I think about him sometimes.

I know if I had not happened upon him when I did, those boys would have killed him. I’m not sorry that I yelled at them and demanded they stop what they were doing. I’m not sorry I called them savages and said “what is WRONG with you!?!? How dare you attack a creature so much smaller and more fragile than you!!” I hope they think about that for the rest of their lives. I hope they will behave differently next time. I feel badly that they didn’t have parents that taught them how to be kind to lesser creatures. I hope somewhere down in the coulees, this beautiful little snake outgrew his tired and worn out skin and slid out of it to begin anew. There is a lesson in there somewhere, one that I am considering more and more these days.

There are things that I have grown out of and things I have grown up from. There are things I need to shed. I am plotting and planning new phases of my life (details coming soon) and I will take a page out of the book of the snakes. Like them, I am going to step out of my old life and my old skin and from underneath it I will once again emerge shining and new. My scales will be gleaming.

Tomorrow I will be planting ferns for a friend who lives just outside the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park. The wildflower festival that Waterton hosts every June was Beth’s idea and she was the founder and organizer of that event from the beginning. I owe her a great deal as a result of this, and so when she asked if she could commission me to design a fern garden for her at the front of her newly renovated house, I didn’t hesitate. I don’t remember when I first became obsessed with ferns but they have fascinated me for a long time now. Beth was intrigued with a garden she saw on the west coast, where sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) planted in a curving path lead up to an entryway. “It was so simple but so beautiful”, Beth said to me. “I like the idea of this welcoming, very green planting that leads to an open door.” She asked if she could do something similar in Waterton. “Well, not with sword ferns”, I told her. Those are for climates much more moderate than hers.

Beth lives in a region with a very, very short growing season with an average of 100 to 105 frost-free days per year. This is not the yard for experimentation. This is not the place to play with different species and hope for the best. She needs hardy and she needs bullet-proof. Fortunately, there are options. Alberta is home to many species of ferns and in fact Waterton itself is home to a great many of them. Since Waterton is cold and windy and severe, many of the ferns that grow in the park are very small and have learned to live crouched down in the rocks or in mossy glades adjacent to running water and streams. There are tiny moonworts (Botrychium) and several species of Cystopteris and dainty little species of Woodsia that often grow in large numbers. Oak ferns (Gymnocarpium) occasionally form thick but very low-growing carpets where the soil is suitable for them. Most of these take advantage of spring moisture and then rapidly go dormant. This is not what Beth needs. She needs something big and beefy that won’t vanish by the middle of July.

The northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum aleuticum) is common on the west side of the Rockies but rare on the east. It is the very picture of elegance, with black stems and palm-like leaves that reach out to touch you with their delicate green fingers. It requires shelter and ample moisture, however, and I fear it would not do well at Beth’s house. The only places I know where it grows are literally beside waterfalls in wet, mossy seeps. This means it has been ruled out as an option.

The bracken fern (Pteridium) is big and robust and beautiful but almost never available in the nursery trade. It would be just fine here, but bracken is pushy and aggressive and therefore unsuitable.

The lustrous and shining northern holly fern (Polystichum lonchitis) is, as far as I know, the only evergreen fern found in the province. I have never seen it for sale and it too, would prefer different conditions than what Beth’s yard has to offer.

So which ferns to choose? I will rely on the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) and the ostrich fern (Matteucia struthiopteris). Lady ferns are found across the northern hemisphere, and though in the wild they often grow in very wet locations they are rather more adaptable in a garden setting. Growing 2-4 ft. tall, lady ferns form luxurious clumps of stylish and sophisticated bright green leaves that unfurl slowly and magically. It is a magnificently beautiful plant.

The ostrich fern grows up to 3 ft. tall and has a distinct, vase-like growth habit. The very long fronds resemble the ostrich feathers that fashionable ladies once wore in their hats. It is one of the most northerly ranging ferns in the world (found in the forests of Alaska and Canada’s northern territories) and can handle a much wider range of growing conditions than many other species. It grows slowly and spreads where it is happy, both by rhizomes and spores.

Together, I think these two ferns will spread out and lounge luxuriously and comfortably along Beth’s pathway. I think we will incorporate a fallen log (which always looks good in a fern planting) and perhaps some large and attractive stones as well.

My parents are visiting this week and so I will meet them in Waterton after my fern extravaganza with Beth. I am going to take them on a hike and try for the one millionth time to convince my mother that bears are not going to kill and eat us if we venture down very forested mountain paths. It will be nice to spend some time with them and spend some time in the mountains.

I just got back from several days in northern Saskatchewan and I could probably write sixteen pages about how wonderful and sublime and transcendent it was. The forests were as amazing as I had hoped they would be and I loved sitting beside the lake at sunrise every day listening to very Canadian sounds. There is something about the haunting, lyrical crying of loons that makes my heart quiver. Every time they throw their heads back and utter that long, distinctive call that is part laugh and part lament it stops me in my tracks. The loon says perfectly what I feel but can never say.

I spent the last half hour just sitting quietly in the back yard. The neighbourhood bats were flitting about and the delicious fragrance from half a dozen evening scented stocks is perfuming the back yard. If there were only one flower I could grow for their smell alone, it would be these. My Grandma always just referred to them as “night scent” and they always take me back to warm summer nights as a child in Saskatchewan. A few years ago I introduced my friend Kelly to these and she was absolutely astounded that such a small, seemingly inconsequential plant could deliver a scent so potent.

Evening scented stocks (Matthiola bicornis) are native to meadows and fields in a number of countries in Europe and Asia and there isn’t much to them. It’s a small annual in the cabbage family and grows 8-12” tall with a rather spindly form to it. The violet to pale lilac flowers are blended with cream and mostly look wilted during the day. Don’t be fooled. As soon as the sun begins to set they release a fragrance so powerful it’s almost incomprehensible. Only a few are needed to scent a large garden.

Easy in almost any soil with good drainage, evening scented stocks like a sunny site but prefer cooler temperatures. If they are kept well-watered and deadheaded they can bloom all summer and will sometimes self-sow modestly if you miss a spent flower here or there. Although often available as started plants from a nursery, they are better and more vigorous if direct sown precisely where they are to bloom. I am unaware of anyone who has grown this plant and not fallen in love with it. The strong scent lures their chief pollinators- small, night-flying moths. I’ve gone out with a flashlight and found up to a dozen small, very busy little moths with furry legs and feathery antennae all busy having lunch and doing important, secret moth things in the dark. What would it be like to emerge at dusk and sip the honeyed perfume from these unusual blossoms, all while hovering in front of them? It must be an interesting life, to be a moth.

Tomorrow is a full day. When I get up (almost always around sunrise, which is coming incrementally later every day…) I have some watering and weeding to do and as soon as that’s done, I have to hit the road. I’m all packed and everything! I have to go and pick up some native plants from a grower and then I’m going to Black Diamond. This is a small town about 40 minutes south of Calgary and that’s where Vale’s Greenhouse is. It’s one of my favorite places to shop because they have (A) outstanding selection (B) high quality, very healthy plants and (C) reasonable prices. I’m hoping to find some woodlanders for Miss Ashley and some shade tolerant conifers for Miss Jan! I may or may not be successful because it’s pretty late in the season but we’ll see.

After that I have to go up to Springbank for a garden consultation and then it’s dinner with my dear friends Mary Lynn and Andy and their wonderful family. David will be joining us because I think most things in life are better if David is involved. Tuesday David and I are leaving on another adventure. Despite the fact that we now live 200 km (125 miles) apart, David and I find ways to spend time together and we set our various obligations on hold so that we can go do very important summer things like relaxing beside northern lakes. We are going to go up to Edmonton because apparently there’s a botanical garden in St. Albert and I only just heard about it a month ago. That needs to be investigated.

From there we head east into Saskatchewan to once again visit Shelly’s lodge. (https://www.watersedgeecolodge.ca/) We’ll be there for a few days. It’s going to be serene and peaceful and full of light. The lodge is in Meadow Lake Provincial Park, and for those who think Saskatchewan is only wheat fields and canola, you have been grossly misinformed. There is nothing like those Saskatchewan lakes with loons calling and dragonflies hovering all around you. I want to hear fish jumping and I want to smell the duff of the forest floor. I want the fragrance of spruce and pine and the silver trunks of birch trees in the woods. David and I are going to walk in the woods a lot. I am going to look for some different species of ferns to photograph. We are going to stand on the dock at sunrise and drink coffee together and we will smile at each other in that way that’s only possible when you’re far from anywhere with someone that you adore. Maybe we’ll go pick berries. We’ll sit by the fire in the evening. We’ll go looking for wildlife. Bears and moose and owls are all abundant where we’re going. Shelly and Carolyn will be there and they treat us like we’re family. There will be wine and lots of laughs. Last time we went I made a casual comment about something I would have to do when we got back and David said “we’re not going back. We’re lodge people. We live here now.” Oh, if only that were true…

When I get home I should have just enough time to get my shit together and then I have to take a group of people on a tour through Lethbridge’s stunning Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. (https://www.nikkayuko.com/) This particular week of summer does not sing the way that June does, but rather it hums low and resonant and is felt more than heard. I am leaning into the summer and nodding in agreement with it. I am reaching for David’s hand and telling him that everything is absolutely all right. I am giving myself permission to dissolve into the shimmering green of Saskatchewan’s forests.