My father’s German and doesn’t speak much English. That didn’t stop him buying a share of a buffalo farm in Saskatchewan in 1998. This resulted in friendships and visits. It’s one of his favorite places on earth, and once I started visiting also became one of mine. Now, years later, the farm is sold, and my father’s health fragile, so who knows if we’ll ever go there again.
But in the last few years we had to go twice; once for a funeral and once to help wind up the financial aftermath of a land sale. These visits turned into road trips, with my dad driving and me navigating, interpreting and organizing visits to his Saskatchewan friends.
We’ve never been close when I was a kid – no-one was close to anyone in my family – but sitting in the car together, not saying very much, I felt at ease, almost protective.
I was truly happy in those few days, just driving in that magical landscape, with the many ponds, the epic, cloud-filled skies, the stops at little restaurants serving diner food and Eastern European specials, the endless low, scrawny forests. No cell reception for days.
My favorite places among favorite places is a lake with a little lodge near Lake Montreal used mostly by bear hunters. It’s behind a gate but a friend of my father’s, and mine, has a key. The only people you will see are the local Montreal Lake Cree Nation people, especially a local trapper who lived in a little hut nearby but would sometimes wordlessly walk in, watch TV and disappear again.
Every morning we’d find new tracks, moose, bear, coyote, elk. We’d fish, just watch the leaves (fall comes early) or the sun setting. Gathering chanterelles, pine mushrooms and picking blueberries on the soft, spongy forest floor.
I often ask myself the question “would you, if you had the chance, go on to live another lifetime, or are you happy having lived just once?” Mostly I’d say, once is enough. But if my next life had more moments like these, I’d be tempted.