poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Alberta


with 6 comments

Landscape is a fundamental driver in our lives.  The spaces around us shape our experiences, our thoughts and our perspectives. 

I was born and raised on the Alberta prairie.  Although I love the woods and hills where I now live, I think my eyes are never satisfied when they seek the horizon.

When we drove across Canada in 2002, my husband, who was born in New Brunswick, was appreciative of the prairie landscape, but when we finally turned toward home, he was glad, so glad, to see the trees. 

In southern Alberta, on the Trans-Canada Highway, we tried to measure the distance to the horizon.  We took note of the oncoming lights and timed how long it took them to reach us on the road.  One car, we estimated, was 17 kilometers away when we first saw it on the prairie horizon!  On the Trans-Canada in New Brunswick, we rarely see cars more than 2 or 3 kilometers distant.       

the prairie horizon of southern Alberta (2002)

What was the landscape of your childhood?  Do you live in a different landscape now?  How are these landscapes different and how are you different in each?


a longing for prairie



what subtle psychoses

plague women

who grow on the prairie   

and leave

to die in the forest  


memories a few words long

the chinook   coulees at sunset   the odd red of prairie mallow   grasshoppers without aim  

spears of foxgrass   gophers beside their burrows   willows by the slough 

the rattle of the Texan Gate    the tarnished dry of August

I want to run on the prairie


I narrow my eyes at the ditches 

imagine the weeds tumbling

to cover the forest with shortgrass

and sedges

the clearcut

and the barrens of blueberry 

have the lie

but not the essence of prairie


piled by the roadside

nine bales of hay 

burst from the baler twine 

left to the rain 

piled three high into landscape  

mountains, foothills, flatland

this last has sprouted me prairie


trees form a tunnel 

shut out the spaces around me   

some days I can’t summon the words 

the hay and the corn fields are all I have 

and the hayfield shows the tines of the tiller

deep into summer


Published as: ‘a longing for prairie’, Whetstone Spring 1997


© Jane Tims

a glimpse of prairie landscape in New Brunswick ... just a glimpse

Written by jane tims

September 7, 2011 at 6:33 am

trampled grass on a flat-topped hill

with 2 comments

I change the spaces I enter, even when I enter only for a moment.  I am an intruder.  I am certain feet have scurried into hiding just as I arrive.  Sounds have ceased.  Scents and tastes have been altered.

Once in a while, my difference can be disguised.  I can enter before the space can know I am there.  If I am quiet, if I walk softly, some agent will help me pass through the veil and remain unnoticed, just long enough to see and hear and taste the true essence of the place.  Often, the generous agent is the wind.

It was a favorite hike, an old cart track winding up the side of a dome-shaped hill in the Elkwater Lake area of the Cypress Hills in southern Alberta.  The hill had a flat top and a thick bristle of conifers along the sides.  On the flat top was a fescue grass meadow, a bit of prairie perched a layer above the mixed grasslands. 

a hill at Elkwater Lake ... coniferous woods and grassland on the same hill

The track was not much more than two ruts, worn into the grass.  It curved up the side of the hill, so the approach was gentle, gradual.  Then, abruptly, the hilltop.  If the wind was right, I could surprise the deer.  They yarded there, grazing the grasses, etching paths into the meadow.  

If the wind stayed in my favor, the deer would linger, chewing their cuds, watching me, but not registering my difference.  As long as the wind blew I could watch, but if it settled, my scent would reach the deer.  They would lift their heads and tails and be off in a few zigzag bounds. 


 deer yard

on a flat-topped hill



below the hill is the distant prairie  

speargrass and grama grass

and the sweetgrass hills of Montana


the grass at my feet is different

fescues of the Cypress Hills

flat-topped remnants of the Great Plateau

untouched by glacier scour



bless the wind

it sorts the grasses

lifts each hair

ruffles the limp and fine


wind nudges the stubble

the artist’s bristle

the tail hairs of the doe

the chop of fresh grass


her gentle cud

her watchful eyes

wind in the spokes

of the mule deer wheel


the trampled paths

a game of fox and geese

or the part teased by wind

into sun-blond hair



if the wind takes a breath

if the grass or the hair 

settles on the shoulder

of the hill

she runs!


seeks the safety

of the downslope






curious on this flat-topped hill

its rightful place

the ancient prairie


Published as: “deer yard on a flat-topped hill”, 2010, Canadian Stories 13 (76)




© Jane Tims

deer on the grasslands of Nebraska (2002)

Written by jane tims

August 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

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