All in Geography

The Mystery of a Mountain Trail - Women Who Run

Last year, I stumbled upon a photograph of a woman running along a rocky edge. Her skin was stained with mud. Her red pony tail whipped back in the wind. The Rockies rolled and peaked in the background. Her smile was big and bright, but it was the kind of smile that doesn’t hide the grit. The woman seemed to be running for the joy and for the pain. Last summer, Ashley Sarauer stared death in the face, taking on the Canadian Death Race, one of the world’s toughest ultra marathons set in the Canadian Rockies. The 125 kilometre course starts and finishes on a 4200-foot plateau, passing over three mountain summits, and crossing the confluence of the Smoky and Sulphur Rivers. What kind of mental and physical stamina — pure grit — would it take to summon the strength to run such a wild path? And why would she, or anyone for that matter, do it?

The Coyote

The coyote hunts, unbeknownst to my presence on the other side of the window, according to old instinct. It’s a warm, sunny day in September. The field mice are out hunting, too, caching seeds in their expansive cheeks. I am here, more by choice, than necessity. Although, perhaps, my own instinct has led me here, to a place where birch forest meets grassland, where there is more observing than posturing. A place where I can forget myself and pretend to be a coyote. Here, says Annie Dillard in her essay The Weasel, “I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive.”

Travelling near and far

The rain on the cabin's tin roof reminds me of all of the places I've traveled where rain is both a season of longing and flooding. During the season of the flood, I can see us there, chased by the sudden downpour, huddled beneath a sheet of corrugated metal. This roof belongs to campesinos, farmers, who live beside the creek where our fishing lines were cast, waiting. A husband and wife beckon us into plastic chairs. The mujer stirs a pot of coffee on a wood stove. She adds spoon after spoon of sugar into the pot. Coffee so sweet you can taste it in your skull. 

Dreaming of fire season

The feeling finds me in late February: a haunting for a place that is entirely unlike any other place in the world. I try to shake off the feeling. It’s irritable, and irrational, really, to long for a geography that’s tied to a season that isn’t yet in season.

Postcards from Haida Gwaii

“Calm waters today,” says the old woman sitting behind me. I turn around and look into a pair of watery blue eyes. The woman introduces herself as Marge. She’s in her eighties. She and her husband are traveling to the island to spend the holidays with her daughter’s family. Marge has taken the eight-hour ferry ride from Prince Rupert to Skidegate, and back again, more times than she can recall. 

Off grid writing

I sit in a dark cabin, propped up on an old, mildew covered sofa, with my bare feet inches from a blazing wood stove. The world outside is still dark although it’s nearly 9 o’ clock in the morning. There’s no electricity here, no running water.