I have travelled through the Qu’Appelle Valley numerous times in cars and on trains, but last month I finally got to stop and look at a small part of it. Parked between the town of Lumsden and the Louis Riel Trail is the St. Michael’s Retreat Centre, home (perhaps for not much longer) of the Sage Hill Writing Experience. For two tick-filled weeks in May, I hung around with poets and Franciscan friars and holed myself up with my manuscript. I stared at fields and deer and barn swallows, I watched cars dip into and out of the Valley, I visited artist Dennis J. Evans’ Straw Bale Observatory in the Flying Creek Valley, I attended the launch of Trevor Herriot’s new book, and I got so much goddamn work done I still can’t believe it. Singular focus is a boon, an immense luxury. Forget Porches, forget old wine or private jets.
I shared my time with these incredible people: Jan Zwicky, E. Alex Pierce, Joan Shillington, Deanna Young, Margo Wheadon, Micheline Maylor, Lauren Carter, and Basma Kavanagh. Together, we came to numerous important conclusions. Keep an eye out for all these poets. They’ve got new work in the hopper.
Below are a few photos of the valley, the fields, the observatory, the highway. The relief of flatness and a long view. The astonishment of rolling land shaped by an ancient river.