The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, July 23, 2006


By Craig Terlson

Most summers I try to hit the highway for at least one long road trip. If it were up to me, I'd just pick a direction and head out, but certain family members think we should do some "planning". Sheesh – planning is worse than asking for directions.
But I compromise and agree to something more than West or South (how about something new… southwest?).

This year we are travelling through the motherland (Saskatchewan) and then heading south to the Dakotas, maybe dip into Wyoming or Nebraska. I know what you're thinking (especially you folks that live near those bumpy land formations in B.C.), what the hell is there to see in any of those directions? Well, the thing to see is space: flat, open and a helluva lot of it.

I was speaking to a friend recently about the nature of home, how so many of us feel the need to return to something familiar, the landscape of our youth. For me, that was open prairie and long roads that only curved when they really, really had to.
I love the conversations we have as we drive and I love the long silent stretches where you look at the sky, the band of yellow fields whipping by, or a red barn that pops out of the flatness and shines like a weathered beacon. This landscape allows my mind breathing space. It's probably the reason it shows up in my fiction. When I think of a setting for my characters to live their lives, struggle with their conflicts, a place to think deep thoughts, I find that I'm often plunking them down somewhere flat and barren. That's where I like to be, it's the least I can do for my characters.

This is from the opening of a recent story of mine called, "Flat as Nothing" –

When you drove along a flat stretch, which is often around here, and the landscape dipped even the slightest amount, you noticed. The road, the field carpeted with green shoots turning gold, and even the surrounding sky, shifted like some oceanic plate disturbed by seismic activity. The accompanying crack and flashbulb effect of the sheet lightning increased the sensation, terrifying and gorgeous at the same time. The valley lit in a way that every ripple in the ground, every fluttering leaf, rock and varmint on the run was exposed with fluorescent clarity.


Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean, Craig! I love driving through flat lands; I find the stillness very peaceful.

Sun Jul 23, 03:12:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This reminds me of driving with my husband through his home province of Alberta. There's absolutely nothing to see (I'm a city girl) except for the occasional grain elevator rising like a temple. It's beautiful and eerie, as though you haven't yet realized that somethng terrible has happened and everyone else is dead.

Sun Jul 23, 06:47:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes - to both - I find it very peaceful and it can be quite eerie, especially late at night when it's you and the grasshoppers on the road... and that's it.

Sun Jul 23, 07:48:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

I love the excerpt Craig, I love it, it's been along time since I've driven on flat land, every so often, I long to get out of the bumps of BC, can't seem to get past those rockies...your work is always so beautiful, thanks Craig. xoxo

Mon Jul 24, 02:09:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger craig said...

So nice of you to say, patricia - thank you.

In my defense (?), I love the rockies, I am often silenced by their beauty - whereas my wife (a prairie girl) feels oppressed by them, she needs to SEE!
Very strange (but I love her for that)

Mon Jul 24, 10:11:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig, what a pip. This is so darned cute. Diane

Mon Jul 24, 10:39:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

A fellow roadtripper! Although I come from the land of bumpy formations, I love wide-open spaces, too. I've never understood it when people say there's nothing to see. If you've eyes, there's always something to see.

I've not been through that part of Canada/US, or not much of it. But my memories of Arizona are strong. In fact the desert is one of my favourite places.

And oh yes, the sounds. When the eyes have less stimulation, your ears open up to the symphony...

Oh, I am in need of a long roadtrip...

Thu Jul 27, 05:31:00 pm GMT-4  

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