from the home quarter
I am from the home quarter. Where a house rests upon an expansive lawn. Where flower beds of petunias are hemmed in field stone. Where a rotary phone hangs at a wallpapered entry. My fingers pull against the hard plastic dial, spinning it in a familiar pattern – careful to first put the receiver to my ear and listen for a voice on the party line. Hoping that I may be granted permission to visit our neighbours, Paul and Jenny. He is a mountain of a man. Tall and broad shouldered. Jenny is small and exudes softness through her face. Her voice. They share likeness in their splendid white hair. She will draw birds in pencil for me at her kitchen table while I eat the puffed wheat cake she made after we hung up the phone and I rode my bicycle a mile southwards. The cake is still gooey and warm. The outside is chilled by the freezer where she placed the pan – a quick fix to cool it in time for my arrival. If I happen to see Paul, it will be briefly when he comes inside to say hello to this child. He smells of soil. He is gentle and generous with his smile. I hope that Jenny will take me to the coop to collect eggs, though I fear the birds.
I am from a landscape that is a canvas. Upon it four distinct seasons make themselves known. Each is unique in colour, scent and quality of light. They are unified by long showy sunsets that reveal themselves glorious and uninhibited across the prairie sky’s expanse. In summer the sun tracks across the blue and threatens to inflict my fair skin with sunburns. How many times can one little girl’s nose peel? How many snow forts can be cut into a tree line? How many rubber boots can be filled to the brim with icy ditch water? The answer to all is innumerable.
I am from land that reveals the gentle curve of the earth. My young eyes know nothing other than this. Simple, stark and fierce when winter sets in. Where the impossibly flat terrain is divided into a settlers’ grid that is only fully appreciated when in flight. This mark upon the land went unconsidered until it was seen from the window of a single engine plane. Exhilarated by the danger, I listened keenly to the engine for signs of faltering. Soon after, my parents crashed while flying with a neighbour who owned a Cessna. For years they claimed it was an emergency landing because of fuel loss. Or maybe a faulty gauge. These lies went undetected until I was in my twenties. It was then that my mother finally divulged the truth that the pilot’s arrogant hotdogging nearly made me an orphan.
I am from gravel roads that challenged my bicycle’s tires. I learned to ride a two wheeler on our farm’s south lawn. A patch of grass with a slight slope gave enough momentum to sustain a glide. Next came the courage to pedal. Coast and crash. Coast and crash. Once the confidence of riding unassisted took hold, I gained the freedom to travel alongside my brother to the neighbours’. Two miles round trip to Paul and Jenny’s. Four miles round trip to Lyle and Mina’s to jump on the trampoline. I made that journey one afternoon with a fine rash of gravel stinging my elbows and forearms after a wipe-out at our driveway’s end. It hurt the whole way there and back, but I will do most anything to not be left out. It is a trait that still nags at me.
I am from pioneers and homesteaders. Immigrants and settlers. It is a history I know little of and that is fraught when viewed through a modern lens. I have been a lazy student to its lessons, but I am eager to learn the traditions. To show proof of my Ukrainian heritage and my connection to the people who built the home quarter where I am from. May peace return swiftly to the land of my ancestors.