“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures.” -Geronimo

Leaving home always reminds me what a special place I come from. For most of my youth I didn’t appreciate Saskatchewan – flat fields, flat river, flat lakes. It seemed so small, like nothing was happening there. But I realise more and more that this is one of the qualities that make it great. It’s an enormous province, almost twice the size of Germany with about 1/80th the population. It’s a place where there’s not a lot of voices so you have to listen, and where nature doesn’t shock, but unfolds secrets continuously, free to see by anyone wiling to stop and really look.

I haven’t been home in September for years and years. I’d forgotten how beautiful it is to sit in the car, watching combines in the fields, making paths in gold, speeding along a highway that runs in a perfectly straight line, without a bend or hill, for the next 30km. Our license plates call this “Land of the Living Skies”, the most perfect tag line for a place I know of, evidenced by endless blue, puffy white cumulus, rolling grey and magic northern lights when it is cold and dark. There’s not a lot going on, but everything is happening all the time.

Dane (my brother) was returning for the first time from Pakistan and since he and I have been away my parents have both retired, my dad turned 65, and they marked 35 years of marriage. It seemed like a good time to surprise them with all of us being home at once, so a couple weeks before Dane’s return I booked my flight back, unbeknownst to my mom or dad. (Which is also why I  haven’t updated my blog at regular intervals, not wanting them to know I was in North America at Burning Man in case it raised suspicions I may be working my way farther north). It was really great to be together as a family again, and to do something stupid with my brother (this time thankfully it didn’t involve champagne or cell phones, but instead swimming 3.5km across the lake in 7C weather, 18C water temp and splayed, cramped fingers which made totally useless swimming paddles. I feel I’ve learned something about hypothermia).

Being home was special. I even went out to my high school, meeting old teachers and sharing stories of adventures we’ve had in the last 12 years. It was great to revisit memories (like running on the beach in Italy with my gym teacher, and staying after school to learn about the Khmer Rouge and Angkor Wat – which inspired my first trip to Asia). These people were teachers in many ways, and it was cool to learn these times were also important to them.

While this may dash the romanticism, I don’t feel Saskatchewan is my place anymore, but connecting with where I came from and being with family reminds me that special places imprint on you and support you long after you leave. I think we always carry them with us to new places, just with a little extra beauty from where we’ve been.