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<span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">“No one can hide here.”</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">It isn’t the safest place to stop the van, just off to the side at a crossroads on the prairie. There is no shelter from the impending rain, and nothing but the bulk of the van to shield us from the wind. There is no traffic to speak of, miles from the highway and no sign of the nearest house. We are hungry though, and this place will have to serve as an impromptu picnic spot.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">There’s something ambiguous about crossroads. You’re neither “here” nor “there”, at a transition point where choice is all important and the outcome of decisions can seal your fate.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">They say that the great delta blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in order to get his chops. True or not, he died at a crossroads at the age of 27, and people are unsure of where his body now lies – not to mention the lack of clarity on the disposition of his soul.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">You are exposed and vulnerable at a crossroads, out in the open at the turning point. Even when your choice and direction are known, there is still an element of the unexpected in the outcome. This sense of risk is somehow distilled at a prairie crossroads, where every spot on the face of the earth is a boundary between two worlds, the limitless sky and the vast, seemingly boundless grassland.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">Pretty heady stuff to contemplate at roadside picnic, particularly with lightning stabbing down from leaden skies and the wind kicking up dust devils at one’s feet. With a need for haste, I turn my attention to the incongruity of my lunch, Thai leftovers, and contemplate the sainthood of whoever first concocted Mee Krob.</span></span><br><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">It is the wind that draws me back to the landscape, or rather the sound of it in the telephone wires. I look up at them, and trace their arc from pole to pole to pole into the distance. At that vanishing point on the horizon I come to a place of remembrance, a recollection of one of my dad’s stories of his adventures in flight school.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">Not far from here the young aviators would be taken in two-seater trainers to learn the basics. There being no bothersome obstacles like mountains in the way, what better place to learn how to fly?</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">Although it was not permitted, my Dad’s instructor would often take the controls and dive for the earth, skimming close above the sea of grass to pass under the telephone wires, scattering cattle, deer and antelope without prejudice, and apparently frightening little old ladies to the point of incontinence.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">There’s not much space between the wires and the earth, not much room for error. In the blink of an eye so much could be lost, and only nerves of steel told the difference in the tale.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">There are four ways joined at a crossroads, you can turn back or press on to face, what? Three other choices leading to reward, disaster or more or the same? Choice is the imperative, and at my father’s prairie crossroads he chose to return home without his wings. Some years ago, buried in the news was a story of the crash of a Canadian pilot on a training mission in Northern Québec. My father’s instructor had found the end of his path from here.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">The wind has turned the grassland into an ocean, wild waves and swells lifting towards the horizon. I recall the opening lines of W.O Mitchell’s “Who Has Seen The Wind?”.</span></span> <span style="font-size:medium;"><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="color:#000000;">“Here was the least common denominator of nature, the skeleton requirements simply, of land and sky - Saskatchewan prairie.</span>” It is a minimalist world, paradoxically reminiscent of a monastery. A monastery is a human-made place of enclosure and limits, an environment shaped to create a meeting place – where contemplatives can come face-to-face with their essential human nature and where they hope to encounter the sacred. Here on the prairie, where words have yet to be invented to wrap around the reality of the unbounded, unlimited, immeasurable, there is a natural place of meeting. There truly is nowhere to hide. Perhaps this is what drove so many settlers to the brink of insanity, here at the junction with the least common denominator of nature. I imagine that if I attempted to “run away from it all” into the prairie I would continually stumble upon myself. There is no escaping the crossroads within.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">I walk away from the van, turning and turning around and around like some slow-motion dervish, dancing to the sound of the wind in the grass and the telephone lines. There are some that find this landscape boring, but I doubt that they’ve stopped to really experience it. Here where nature is constrained to a flat stage, creativity abounds in countless subtle variations of colour and shape and texture and sound.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">I recall the story of the Saskatchewan farmer transplanted to Vancouver to live out his retirement years. When asked what he thought of the view, he replied that it would be perfect if there weren’t so many damned mountains in the way. I realize that he wasn’t just referring to the ability to see into the distance, but the ability to see the whole and to know that here at the place where the earth and sky meet you are a part of something far more vast than you dare imagine.</span></span><br><br><span style="font-family:Arial;"><span style="font-size:medium;">I return to my leftovers at the crossroads. It’s time to move on. There is a piece of cutlery that has fallen from the van, it is a fork in the road. I take it.</span></span>
 

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Speaking of crossroads, I recently read in the book below, that folks who committed suicide were buried at crossroads.<br><br><img alt="" src="http://www.booksfirst.co.uk/img/products/046E2331.jpg" style="border:0px solid;">
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
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I have heard that too, and not just suicides but criminals as well. Perhaps because crossroads marked the limits of the communities or hamlets? Or was it to condemn their souls to the confusion of a crossroads?
 

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Nice post.<br><br>
It's the second time in two weeks that I've heard a reference to Robert Johnson selling his soul. It's kinda freaking me out, now.
 

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I wish I could write about my prairie like that. So many of those feelings and ideas are so familiar to me, but I could never put them into that kind of clarity. Simply beautiful, Grizz. Thank you for giving us that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks all. Not quite satisfied with it, but the images were dancing around my brain on the bus ride in and had to be let out.
 

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Grizz, occasionally I'll find myself moved to express myself about something like that, and sometimes I even give it a try, but I always get so hung up on mechanics that I lose the original emotion that inspired me to begin with.<br><br>
I'm glad there are those like you out there who can capture these things and put them out there for the rest of us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't find the prairie boring!
 

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Wow. Extraordinarily pertinent in my life at the moment. You and Torque have a way of writing and posting like that. It's eerie.<br><br>
Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Just posted some pics in another thread.
 
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