Thursday, August 30, 2012

A visit to ancestral landscapes in the Eastern Qu'Appelle

the village of Tantallon, a few miles west of the Manitoba border
Last weekend I travelled with my parents, now in their 80's, to the Eastern Qu'Appelle Valley to join family in laying to rest the remains of my last living aunt on my mother's side. If you read River in a Dry Land, you may remember the chapter "Bank Deposits" where I brought my mother and Aunt Doris back to the old homestead site for some reminiscing. The rest of this posting will be an annotated photo album but first here is a short excerpt from the opening of that chapter, which I wrote about 18 years ago:

As we walked, one memory arose, settled and faded into the next, spanning the years of their life in the house my grandfather built in 1921: the house they were born in seventy years ago; the house that was empty soon after and that became in my time a wind-worn monument to the floor-sweeping, pail-slopping existence that was once here, until it vanished leaving nothing but stories behind. Stories that weather the memory as peak moments capped and hardened by humour, grief, or drama--odd figures crystallized within the soft, eroding drift of days and left standing like hoodoos in the heart's terrain.

"the mansion"

This image shows the house we always called "the Mansion" in Tantallon, which I lived in very briefly one winter as a small child. My grandparents owned it at the time. It was a grand ediface right by the river. It looks like someone has been repairing it and perhaps had to stop working for some reason.

the United Church my parents were married in 60 years ago

My mother, the last remaining member of her generation, greeting relatives at the Valley View Cemetery

It was a windy day--many of the headstones in the cemetery are my ancestors, all Scottish, all settlers in the Eastern Qu'Appelle region

Big Bluestem at roadside
There were large patches of Big Bluestem grass and other native prairie plants growing right at roadside as we drove home along the valley bottom leaving Tantallon.

Yellow coneflower
Coneflower still blooming.

heavily wooded south slopes of Eastern QV
Tremendous poplar and oak forests in the Eastern Qu'Appelle once you get downstream of Round Lake.

Brian Hoxha and a new giant etching of the valley which will be at Nouveau Gallery soon
One of the happier moments of the visit was when Brian Hoxha showed me a new etching that will soon be on display at Nouveau Gallery in Regina.  

Brian, a Toronto-based artist who is also a "shirt-tail" relative of mine, comes back to the valley faithfully each August to sketch and paint for a month. I got to tell a little of his story in one of the last pieces in River in a Dry Land.

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