poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Cypress Hills

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

a woodland stream in southern Alberta

with 2 comments

When we were children, living in Alberta, Mom and Dad took us for drives on the weekends.  Usually, we explored the prairie roads or the landscape of the South Saskatchewan River.  Sometimes, though, we sought the wooded areas of southern Alberta. 

A place we visited more than once was a small wooded stream in the Cypress Hills.  We called it ‘Greyburn Gap’, probably after the nearby community of Greyburn’s Gap.  The site had a picnic table and shelter, woods to explore, and the little stream. 

The Cypress Hills area is an eroded plateau, rising above the Alberta and Saskatchewan prairies.  It was left unglaciated during the last ice age and has a flora and fauna much different than the surrounding prairie.  Part of the Cypress Hills is protected as the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

Elkwater Lake and the wooded landscape of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park as they appeared in 1967

My parents were raised in Nova Scotia and were accustomed to the forests of the Atlantic Provinces.   The Cypress Hills, and the woods of Elkwater Lake, where we had a cabin, must have helped them feel more at home in Alberta. 

mixed woods of Elkwater Lake area (2002)

our cabin at Elkwater Lake (1967)


Greyburn Gap, Alberta


I remember    a brook threaded through the trees like string   

black water in the gap between gossamer and fern

a fence to mark its moving   a fallen fir

to tangle its water    our hands

trailing in the eddy


a jug of root beer   sunk to the neck   to move the brook’s cold shiver

into our summer bodies



 © Jane Tims, 2011

Written by jane tims

August 24, 2011 at 8:04 am

%d bloggers like this: