Blog · Creative Non-Fiction

Goodbye, Northern Ontario

4 of us pack our lives into a car much too small and drive across the country. Last night and the night before we lived at the Howard Johnson, sleeping 4 to a bed and turning side to side to share cuddles. From the far side, a hand reaches over to pat my hair and tuck the blanket in. At Hornepayne we turn off the highway. 5 year old trees he planted straggle through the clearcut corridors that are turning back into forest. Hearst is fresh on the horizon, one of the places we call home, and Winnipeg looms large ahead. We sleep 2 nights on a hardwood floor of an auntie’s house and straggle through markets and restaurants and bars.

Strange to see treeplanters in other contexts- our friends, our family, intimate strangers. ‘I love Farley Mowat,’ fingering the spine of a book. Who knew. Two seasons ago I rolled into Hearst scared sick and heartbroken and yearning and now I drive across the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border with a dry bag ratchet strapped to the roof and the seats occupied by planters. Lifers. People I’ve danced naked with in the middle of Waxatike Rd, driven buses with, cried to, exchanged letters with, confessed to. Mythical creatures. My heart full of love, the car full of sleeping bags that reek of sweat and sex and booze.

You sleep through Saskatchewan and wake to the dawn in a new province. In Banff we drive up into the mountains, an abrupt departure from the flat rolling prairies and their optical illusions. Even in the midnight darkness and our time zone skipping car stupor the mountains loom impressive and giant. 1 a.m, quiet night free of traffic, we roll our sleeping bags out on the grass verge of the highschool parking lot and sleep. “Do not be mistaken- we are, indeed, vagrants.” We are a strange looking bunch still clad in longjohns and shorts, Buffs and pyjama pants and true thrift store gems from small towns where the attendents have been waiting all quiet winter for the life of spring and treeplanters to return. They pull out wool sweaters and ponchos with flourishes; we buy wedding dresses for two dollars and spill red wine on them, cherish Hudson’s Bay blankets bought for .50. My lip is still split from the Companion mosh pit.

We drift into British Columbia without remark. The highway is winding and treacherous switchbacks. Smoke from the forest fires throws a haze over the sun. The mountains are ablaze. We are giddy with confinement and possibility. We have done it. We are free and wild. We are in love, with each other, with life, with the world. We make things happen.

Our scars from plant heal and the blood stains turn to cherry juice as our lives amongst trees continue.  Seas of trees and fruit around us and our friends, as familiar and as strange as a dream.

 

 

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