Everything has a season in the life of an Aboriginal person. As the final preparations come together for winter with food preserved, frozen, dried and kept in other ways, fire wood has been hauled, chopped and piled and countless other chores continue to take place there is also time set aside for other details that enhance the quality of life we have as individuals and as a community. For instance, there is time now for more gatherings to celebrate harvest and to be thankful for having made it through the life challenges each of us has seen and struggled through. And focus is placed on the trap line and the harvest that will take place there. Some of us focus on beading, weaving and quilting projects that will keep our hands from becoming idle. Others of us look toward continuing with education, teaching others or finding mentors to learn from as well.
One of my goals this year was to take my children to visit the Crooked Bush located between Hafford and Spears on the way to North Battleford. I wanted to do it ‘before the snow flies’. Well, last Sunday, a bucket load of snow was forecast and so I was even more insistent that we should stop at the bushes on our way to North Battleford for a medical appointment scheduled the next day.
Along with my children, I had my sister and Mother with me. The elder two didn’t want to visit the bushes at all. The reason for their less than eager attitude has to do with the last time we went to visit the trees. I missed the turn and didn’t know it. So after a few turns and back tracking on the dusty country roads, we neared the stand of crooked bushes with mixed emotions. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore, and my Mother and sister wanted to do nothing more than turn around and return to the highway, heading for home without a backward glance over their shoulder. You see, as we approached the trees that day, my vehicle suddenly seemed to hit an invisible force field that slowed our vehicle down without explanation. Suddenly the horn started to repeatedly blow. To say silent prayers were quickly sent to God’s ears would be a major understatement. Afterward, we talked about what happened that day and both said they’d never prayed so fervently or with such complete sincerity. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to return!
When my daughter was about three, we did return. But it was a bit of a letdown for me because it was an uneventful visit with no melodramatics or kissing of the ground once we returned home (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating over their reaction just a little bit!). And I just haven’t found time to go back and visit. Until this past Sunday.
As cold and chilly as it was, this stand of crooked trees just makes me happy. There is something about this place that brings a sense of calm and peace inside of me. And I wanted to share it with my children while they can remember. Why are the trees crooked? Nobody knows. A google search reveals several far-fetched theories that may or may not hold a realm of truth. The bushes are described as a “botanical mystery” and a “natural treasure”. When people visit, they are encouraged to be respectful and to stay on the wooden path as much as possible. The path is in need of repair yet I remember having to climb over tree limbs the last time we were there. This time the path was clear. And I was able to satisfy my curiosity… I wondered if there would be new growth and, if there was, if it would be twisted. There is new growth and it is twisted.
It’s interesting that the Aspens grow in their own crooked, gnarled way but the rose bushes, grasses and other foliage all grow straight and tall. They don’t suffer the same growing challenges the Aspens do.
When our time with the trees was done, we had several pictures of the children and the trees. Since our visit, my children have wondered when we will return and will it be as much fun as it was this time… well, if I can figure out a way to make my vehicle slow down while my car horn blows hysterically as my sister and mother turn white with fear … it could be highly entertaining for me and quite a lot of fun. Otherwise it will be another peaceful return to visit with old friends and catch up on how they fared over winter.
Now that my children have visited the crooked bushes, they can now use this experience to set the scene for some of the short stories and legends they will create this winter. Legends have always been a large part of the cultural sharing between elders, knowledge keepers and the young people of the community. The stories are more than an opportunity to entertain one another, it’s also an opportunity to teach and learn from each other, and I’m really looking forward to that.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to share some of your creative writings, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Writers’ Circle Inc. will meet the second Tuesday of every month at the Gabriel Dumont Institute building on second floor (48 12th Street East, Prince Albert). Meetings are from 6:00 to 8:00pm and anyone 16 years and older may attend. In addition to writers, we welcome illustrators as well. I look forward to seeing you October 15, 2019.
Have a great week, everyone.