It looks like I actually might make more money performing at the Grasslands National Park Fringe festival than I ever did in Saskatoon. My audience so far here has included one prairie rattlesnake, two nighthawks, something that sounds like a toad, a gaggle* of coyotes, one mormon metal-mark (sp?) butterfly, rabbit turds, and a sneaky little mouse. Roadies: an antelope, many sparrows that fly up at the last possible moment, thousands of dragonflies (thankfully fewer than ten now living in my grill), and just as many gophers - one now, alas, dead under my wheels - another that stood tall in the road, oblivious to the fact that I had to pass it - many more near-misses - and all the ones that scurry off to their burrows on the side of the road. Or IN the road. I mean, seriously.
* I think the term is actually a "heckle" of coyotes.
I'm staying in a tipi! I was going to camp, but I upgraded the moment I realised I could! Advantages: I can stand up in it. Heck, I could stand another of me on top of me in it. Disadvantages: colder than a tent, and more bugs can get in. But for some reason, they don't. Last night I sat in the door of the tipi, looking out at the landscape, writing, and watching the mosquitos cloud around about two feet from me. Only one of them thought of entering the door, and tentatively at that.
A mouse kept me up last night, though, constantly scurrying through looking for something or other. And I kept thinking that I was about to go onstage. Yes, I'm in a vast and ancient prairie landscape, staying ina traditional shelter, and I'm having performance-anxiety dreams. And all under Nature's lighting special: the Moon. Tonight is astronomy night and I'm thrilled.
The landscape is oddly like Scotland, by the way: treeless, windswept, wacky-shaped hills, and the trees only grow in the sheltered coulees. But much drier. And Scotland lacks black widow spiders and rattlesnakes. In fact, there have been many strange parallels between this trip over the last few days and my Scottish memories - but I won't go too much into that now as I've been sufficiently inspired (as hoped!) to do some writing toward Yarn: the "sequel?" to WOOL that I hope to have ready to perform before too long. Dervaig: meet Val Marie. Calgary: meet Calgary.*
* look it up. I've gotta get back out into the scenery.
So: to get you up to date: Winnipeg Fringe ended on Sunday night, and it was my most successful ever. I'm itching to get back there with Yarn but who knows when? This is a busy, busy, and busy year coming up. Thrice busy, once having trouble finding time to write, as they say. Anyway, very fun festival this year, I had a great time, got to know some people better - including Darrel, a long-distance trucker who takes time off every year to see 40+ Fringe shows! On Monday I passed on a day at the beach (sigh) to take HOURS to get my stuff organized (I'd been staying in Winnipeg for 21 days!) to drive off westward. I spent two nights at Spruce Woods provincial park (MB) which was buggy but very cool. The spirit sands are all that is left now of a HUGE dune area on the shore of the large prehistoric lake. There's a strange, multicoloured spring in the sands called the Devil's Punch Bowl.
I spent two nights in that park then drove a long way west into Saskatchewan, passing through Weyburn for the second time this summer but from a different direction - like I was meeting myself - and then into the Big Muddy Valley, which was SO quiet, and vast, and hot, and amazing. It's private land, but you can hike around/on Castle Butte. I had no idea Canada had anything that looked like this. It's amazing.
(uh, this one should be rotated. Not sure what happened. Look for the varmint!)
The moment that my car pulled up I was visited by two begging gophers. I recorded their whistling and did, eventually, feed them baby carrots, if only to make up for killing one of their kind earlier on the road.
I stayed at a B+B on a farm just out of that valley and had a lovely walk up to the top of the hills where I failed to find a complete tipi ring (a circle of stones that once held down tipi skins), but found a mystery bone that had been gnawed by a porcupine and a whole lot of beautiful. Then I drove out to Grasslands via the St. Victor Petroglyphs (very hard to make out) and a whole lot of tiny towns that are equal parts lovely and pathetic. I've been putting my backroads map to good use!
I'll post more photos of Grasslands etc. soon but I'm anxious to get back out there now. I've been hiding from the hottest of the day, but the day is getting away from me...
(after Grasslands... Cypress Hills park via Eastend SK, then Writing-on-Stone and Dinosaur Parks and into Edmonton via the back way through Camrose. A week and a half without major highways... or even secondary highways for the most part!)