I wandered along the South Saskatchewan River yesterday, breathing in the warm spring air, feeling the sun against my skin. The trail winds along the shore, following the river's tract through the valley bottom. On the far shore, the verdant hillside gave way to houses lining the ridge above. The University sprawled in concrete and glass as cars whizzed across the bridge linking both shores. There were people in those cars. Going places. Getting to things.
I had nowhere defined to go. No thing necessary to do.
From my Iphone
It was pure luxury. A day of indolence and relaxation. A late start. A visit to a local cheese shop to pick up some delicacies for dinner at a friend of C.C.s who was cooking dinner that evening. A drive into the city to visit the Mendel Art Gallery where I spent a few delightful hours -- some of which were whiled away sitting in the conservatory watching a bumble bee busily buzzing amidst the flowers.
From there, I walked along the river and happened upon the Ukrainian Museum of Canada where I feasted on an entire room of specially commissioned William Kurelek paintings of life on a Ukrainian homestead -- quite stunning! Having little knowledge of the Ukrainian experience as early pioneers in Canada I was fascinated to learn about this unique and important element of our history. As I read about the flight from Russia, about families torn apart, about oppression and enforced servitude I was struck by the strength and courage of these peoples who populated the prairies.
Years ago I knew a woman named Peggy Armstrong who immigrated to Canada from England with her brand new husband shortly after the end of the first world war. She was 19 years old, a 'town girl' and unaccustomed to physical labour let alone living in the wilds of northern Alberta. Peggy and her husband homesteaded 300 km north of Edmonton and to have had the opportunity to hear her accounts of the trials and tribulations, and small and big triumphs, of those days was a wonderful gift.
Peggy, like the women portrayed in the various displays at the museum yesterday, exemplify true grit. They speak of determination. Commitment. Of getting the job done and putting aside ego and fear and hesitation.
To support their families, many men had to leave the land and take up jobs on the railroad or at factories in the cities. They had to leave behind the women and children who would clear the land, work the soil, harvest the crops in their absence. To claim their 160 acres at the end of the government allotted three years for ownership of their homesteads, there was no choice. It had to be done and so the women did it.
And while doing it, they reclaimed their cultural and religious heritage that had been oppressed for so long under the rule of other nations in their homeland. The museum is filled with examples of their handicrafts, fine embroidery, blouses and skirts and wedding dresses and hats. Beautiful hand woven rugs and all sorts of examples of Ukrainian art and history.
It was a fascinating journey back through time. One I'm glad I took.
The view of the river from my Iphone
And when I was finished I found a lovely restaurant overlooking the river, sat and enjoyed a salad and a glass of wine as I wrote in my journal or simply watched passers-by on the river pathway, or birds bobbing on the water.
Later, I met up with C.C. and his friends and spent a delightful evening of conversation, laughter and great food.
What could be better than a day filled with all of this?
I'm grateful. Relaxed. And happy.
All is well with my world.