Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Visiting Dad

 In mid-March my youngest brother Dick and I visited my Dad in Winnipeg. The get together was mostly road trip - an attempt by my nostalgic brother to visit every hockey arena in rural Manitoba that he ever played in. And as it was his birthday we headed north to Gimli where we could get a big basket of fried pickerel cheeks, the traditional Lake Winnipeg birthday meal.
The post-season holy sanctuary of the Teulon hockey arena. The ghostly sounds of skates, clashing sticks and cheering crowds echo silently in the rink. Quite a different story from the shouting and excitement in front of the playoff games on television at Dad's place in the evening.

Mid-March is fishing season on the lake, though the boats are stacked up in the snowy yards and all the fishermen use Bombardiers to get to the nets. The road out onto the lake from town, not really closed. But on rounding the first corner we decided that staying on the beach wasn't such a bad idea.

Curiously the next day when we headed south into southeastern Manitoba we couldn't really tell the difference between Lake Winnipeg and the prairies, both previously the bottom of glacial Lake Agassiz.

And instead of pickerel, we found a pig setting sail in a dumpster on the snow waves as in a rather dysfunctional children's book.

In Vita, just north of the US boundary line, we visited the cultural icons of the tidy little community. Decades ago a friend and I dallied with the notion of buying a farm south of Vita. The farm, buried deep in the poplar woods and almost on the border, was for sale by an older Ukrainian couple and their grown children. They'd decided it was time to sell up and move to the city. An ancient poplar log barn slouched on the edge of the field behind the house, itself small, cozy and hospitable. Over some thick borscht and home made bread, we had a lovely conversation about dreams of different places - us in their's and theirs in our's. My buddy and I didn't actually have near enough money to buy even this isolated place, but I hope they found a buyer and were satisfied with their new urban home.
After a wide swing through the border lands we arrived in Steinbach - Mennonite central - in the southeast. We all ordered farmer sausage and verenikha with cream gravy. Settled, we launched into our tasty meal strongly reminding us of the lunches made by our Groszma and Mother when we were all younger. Opa, nearly 92, kept right up with us, both in appetite and memories.

This winter has been long, cold (as usual) and snowy (way more than usual) in Winnipeg. As we left and returned to town we noticed the eruption of new mountain ranges. At regular intervals around the perimeter of the city there are enormous mounds of snow, some twenty or more metres high. These continuously growing ridges, each several kilometres long, are especially dramatic at night when the snow haul trucks in long lines drop ever more snow along the bottom slopes. Below florid pinkish and yellow flood lamps, bulldozers, like giant dung beetles, push the snow ever higher up the slope, recreating the tectonic forces raising the prairie's own "seasonally adjusted" Rocky Mountains. I must have lived too long in the Yukon - I couldn't figure out why the Manitoba Alpine Club hadn't started a climbing frenzy to see who could scale and "bag" all of these new mountain ranges before they disappear into the mosquito-laden flood waters of a prairie spring.

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