Driving North on Highway 43

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Somehow it is Thursday, and I haven’t posted anything here yet this week. I am starting to wonder if my goal of two posts a week is too ambitious, but rather than give up, I am allowing myself to bend the rules a bit and offer the occasional #throwbackthursday post.

This weekend I will be driving to Grande Prairie to visit friends. When I moved to Grande Prairie in May 2001, to start my first professional job as the Children’s Librarian at Grande Prairie Public Library, I had no idea how significant highway 43 – the highway south from Grande Prairie that led to the two places I called home at that time: my parent’s farm in Barrhead and Edmonton where most of my friends lived – would become to me over the next few years.

An excerpt of this poem was published in 2007 by the Calgary Herald in their Discovering Alberta series.

 

Driving North on Highway 43

 

1. the first time, from Barrhead

I moved to Grande Prairie
and suddenly, home an
hour north of Edmonton
became south, and this highway
the umbilical cord
straining to pull me back
to the land that birthed me

 

2. and many times after that

I find myself on this road
driving south to north and north to south

to pass the time I count the creeks
that weave their way through trees
under the highway before disappearing
into the bush again and I wonder
who gave my favourite,
the tiny Chickadee, its name

eventually this highway and I
become uneasy friends
as I learn to forgive the slights of
oil patch trucks racing to work
and the sight of road-kill
decomposing on the shoulder

instead I look for beauty:
the valley at Bezanson
glorious in autumn
before the big wind
sweeps away the splendour;
a great horned owl perched on a sign
Fox Creek 46 km;
brush piles burning at dusk

mostly I drive straight through
but once I stopped at Kleskun Hills
climbed to the plateau
spent an hour lying in tall grass
watching sky change pretending
not to notice those first drops

 

3. close call

driving through Sturgeon Lake Reserve
in a blizzard blinded by whiteout

just over a rise snow shifts
reveals an oncoming semi
passing another semi
despite double solid lines
hidden under the snow

so I drive on the wide shoulder
knuckles white
the trucks roar past

as I pull back into my lane
the shape of a man appears

a dark shadow in the beam of the headlights
walking through the blizzard
just before the sign
to watch for pedestrians

 

4. seasons

driving north on highway 43
I witness the seasons
each with its own particular colour:
the new green of spring,
summer’s azure sky,
burnt umber, ice white

with each I become more
part of this northern place until home
is at both ends of the highway

2 thoughts on “Driving North on Highway 43

  1. Angela I love and always have loved your poetry, thank you. I showed this to Ed and he drives highway 43 a lot with his job and can relate to a lot of your sentiments Hugs

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