Saskatchewan is NOT Flat!

Whenever my Alberta-born and raised husband wants to get a rise out of me, all he has to say is, “Saskatchewan is s-o-o flat!” and the battle is on.

“Saskatchewan is NOT flat!” I declare.

Which got me to wondering: Why do people think Saskatchewan is flat?

I think it has to do with where the horizon is. If you come from a place of mountains or forests or cities, you have to look up, w-a-a-y up to see the horizon. In Saskatchewan, the horizon is down around your knees. Maybe even your ankles. It is OUT there, not UP there. It is “space,” writ large. As one of my uncles said, “You sure can exercise your eyeballs there.”

So, yes, you can see yesterday leaving and tomorrow coming. Yes, you can see your dog running away for three days. But that doesn’t mean it is flat! We have valleys – the Frenchman, the Qu’Appelle, the South and North Saskatchewan river valleys, the Assiniboine. We have uplands – Moose Mountain, Duck Mountain, the Porcupine Hills, the Missouri Coteau, the Wood Mountain Uplands, Cypress Hills, Old Man on His Back.

Another factor may be that people drive through Saskatchewan on the Trans-Canada Highway which, surely, is the least interesting part of the province (note, I did not say “the most boring” part). The route was probably chosen because it was the least demanding, and therefore the cheapest, route on which to build a highway. Furthermore, it connects three major cities – Regina, Moose Jaw and Swift Current – which, I grant, have their own charms.

But if you want to see the Other Saskatchewan, the Definitely Not Flat Saskatchewan, turn left at Moosomin (if you’re coming from the east) or right at Maple Creek (if you’re coming from the west) and head south to Highways 13 and 18. That’s where I grew up and where we (my family and I) spent the occasional week when farming duties permitted. I will introduce you to some of those places in my next posts.

I guarantee you will see the definitely Not Flat Saskatchewan.

#Saskatchewan #Highway13 #Highway18 #SouthernSaskatchewan #Saskatchewan History #SaskatchewanArchaeology #SaskatchewanHistoricPlaces #MargaretGHanna

What Happens in Emergency . . .

In case any of you are authors thinking of writing a scene in which your protagonist has need to go to Emergency, here are some possible scenes for you to include.

1. Emergency is the medical version of Rock-Scissors-Paper – no matter how serious you think your injury/illness is, someone else’s injury/illness will always trump yours. If you have a cut finger, someone else has a broken arm. If you have a raging fever, someone else is in anaphylatic shock.

2. The first thing you do when you walk into the waiting room is count the number of people already there. Bad move! You now have an idea of how long you will have to wait. (Hint: not any time soon.)

3. Waiting is the medical version of Snakes and Ladders. Each time someone is called in from the waiting room, you go up one rung closer to being called into the Inner Sanctum. Each time someone comes in on a stretcher, you slide down farther away from being called into the Inner Sanctum.

4. The only questions you hear from other waiting patients are: 1) “How long have you been waiting?” (A: You don’t want to know), and 2) “What are you in here for?” (A: Again, you don’t want to know.)

5. There is always at least one baby screaming.

6. You hear a nurse ask, “Where is the Thing-a-ma-bob to take a tiny battery out of a nose?” and you wonder if that is why the baby is screaming. Q: Why would a baby stuff a battery up its nose? A: Because!

7. There is always at least one person coughing. Loudly. Persistently. In these COVID times, that’s the last thing you want to hear.

8. There is always at least one toddler who refuses to sit still, who squirms and whines, whose nose is running, and whose parent doesn’t seem to notice.

9. There is always one patient – usually male – who gets fed up with waiting and starts yelling and screaming at the nurses, as if it’s their fault an accident victim just rolled in on a stretcher, putting said person well back on the “to be seen” list. Eventually, the nurses call Security who escorts the person out, still yelling and screaming. One of the few high points of your wait.

10. If you remembered to grab your cell phone/tablet, good for you. You can now read email, update your Facebook status, take a selfie, play games, maybe even read that book you downloaded five months ago. Be advised, your battery will die at least an hour before you are seen.

11. If you didn’t remember your cell phone, well, sorry, but you are in for a long boring wait. Thanks to COVID, there are no trashy magazines. No People or Us, no Chatelaine or Woman’s Weekly, no 10-year-old National Geographics, no Motor Trend. No trade magazine promoting the latest in medical equipment (“They used that on me?!”). No holistic medicine magazine touting the latest apple cider vinegar-based cure-all for everything from hangnails to heart attacks.

12. As if a lack of trashy magazines isn’t bad enough, if you are (un)lucky enough to be in a waiting room provided with TV, you have my deepest sympathies. Waiting room TVs have only two offerings: 1) the in-house medical channel promoting a myriad of healthy ways to live longer interspersed with videos of smiling, earnest practitioners counseling equally earnest, smiling patients, or 2) the children’s channel with live-action programs so inane they make the cartoons seem intellectual.

13. At least one stretchered patient will be accompanied by several of your city’s finest, leaving everyone to wonder, “Is he a gang member?”, “Was he shot?”, “Was he knifed?”, “Is he hand-cuffed to the stretcher?” Another high point of your wait.

14. Blood goes everywhere! It seeps into every nook and cranny, every crevice and pore. It’s impossible to get rid of. The much-advertised glue named for our largest primate relative should stick so well. No wonder criminals use industrial strength solvents to remove blood traces. No wonder CSI types find blood even when there is none visible to the naked eye. No wonder archaeologists find blood on millennia-old stone tools.

15. When you do finally get taken into the Inner Sanctum, you discover it is a mad house back there. Total Bedlam. Doctors, nurses and orderlies scurry back and forth. Monitors beep. Patients moan and cry. Stretchers, some occupied, line the hall way. Yet, the doctor or nurse who attends you is pleasant and patient, laughs at your self-deprecating jokes about the stupid thing you did that ended you up in Emergency, and takes the greatest care of you in spite of the bedlam.

Don’t ask!

And then it’s over. You’re finally released. You walk out into the cool night, take your first breath of fresh air in several hours, and promise yourself you will never, ever do such a stupid thing again. Then you go home and swallow a fist full of pain killers.

Not that I would ever do such a stupid thing!

#EmergencyRoomVisits #EmergencyTriage #Humour #Accidents #WaitingGame #MargaretGHanna

Fear Factor

Summer 1970 – my introduction to field archaeology. I had a newly minted B.A. degree in my hand and no practical experience, yet here I was, one of a crew of four (Gil, Bob, Don and me – yes, I was the only female), traveling around the province of Saskatchewan, testing and evaluating sites.

I saw more of the province that summer than I had seen in my previous twenty-three years growing up there. We traveled most of its length and breadth. We tromped through badlands and ravines, and across pastures and sand hills and cultivated fields; we threaded our way through forests and bush. We excavated at campsites and bison kill sites (at one, I fell into a deep looter’s hole and found myself up to my armpits in stinging nettles). We found sites worthy of further work and others that were nothing at all. We camped in farmers’ back yards, in abandoned buildings and sometimes even in real campsites. I learned the difference between real artifacts and rocks that only look like artifacts (sorry, sir, it’s not an artifact just because it “fits the hand real good.”).

We met marvelous people who invited us into their homes, who shared meals and stories and laughter with us. We met others who could most generously be described as “interesting.”

And I had to face down a long-standing fear.

We were walking across a pasture – probably looking for tipi rings – when Bob scurried off, zig-zagging through the grass. When he stood up, he held – a snake! A grass snake, he called it. Opheodrys vernalis, if you really want to know. Green as the grass it had been sliding through. The three guys admired it, thought it a beauty. Then Bob walked over to me and dangled the writhing snake in my face. “Want to hold it?”

Hold that image for a moment while I digress.

I hated snakes. They were icky. Slimy. Disgusting. In grade school, the boys took great delight in chasing us girls with any garter snake that made the mistake of slithering through the school yard. Of course, we ran away shrieking as only girls do when chased by boys wielding snakes. And now, here I was being asked to hold one? Yuck! No way!

But another thought screamed through my brain simultaneously. I had worked with these three guys long enough to know that, if I refused, if I did the “girly” thing and screamed, they would forever harass me with snakes. I’d find snakes in my tent. I’d find snakes in my sleeping bag. There would be no respite.

I took a deep breath, put on a brave face and held out my hand. “Sure.”

What a surprise! The snake wasn’t cold and slimy. It was warm and dry. Its strong muscles flexed as it twisted and turned. Its pretty green scales glinted in the summer sun. It was quite harmless. I decided snakes weren’t that icky. Or slimy. Or disgusting.

Grass snake
The innocent grass snake

Good thing I faced down that fear because the next summer we began excavations at a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post that was only a few miles south of a garter snake hibernaculum. But that’s a story for another time.

Why do we fear, or at least hate, snakes? There’s a term for it – ophidiophobia. Even Indiana Jones, every archaeologist’s hero, suffered from it. Yes, it’s wise to avoid those that are poisonous or constrictors, but the harmless ones? The garter snakes and green snakes? The bull snakes? The ones who are a threat only if you are a mouse or a rat or a gopher or a cricket?

Is it some primeval memory? Is it because they slither and slide rather than walk and stride? Because they hide in dark places? Because they remind us of dragons and other monsters? Because we – Christians, anyway – have been indoctrinated by the story of the evil, duplicitous serpent sweet-talking Eve into eating from the Forbidden Tree?

No one has a definitive answer but there seems to be concensus that it is hard-wired into our brains, in particular a region called the pulvinar. Researchers found that those neurons respond strongly to snake-like images. Children who have never seen a snake have the same neurological response as those who have seen snakes. Even our primate relatives have the same “Yikes! Danger!” response.

Perhaps it all relates back to our ancient primate ancestors of some 60 million years ago, a time when that ancestral population still lived in trees where, horror of horrors, snakes also lived. And hunted. For unwary ancestral primates.

Some people think snakes make the greatest pets – I’m not one of those. But neither do I fear snakes any longer. At least, not the harmless ones.

Thanks, Bob.

#Archaeology #Snakes #Ophidiophobia #Fear #OvercomingFear #RetiredArchaeologist #MargaretGHanna

The Warming/The Guardian (Voice and Vision 2021)

Jean K. Blackall’s initial piece:

The Warming. Mixed media collage, 16 x 20 inches

Jean’s Statement: Every city now seems to have homeless people wandering. How did there get to be so many? There are shelters where they can sleep but often they are feared by the people or, if suffering from addictions or mental illness, they are not able to cope with the regulations.  Many people choose to sleep out under bridges or in alley doorways. I worked with homeless people in Vancouver for five years when I was in my thirties. The images would not leave my mind so I did a series of collage works around this subject, and the art cleansed my soul and I am able to sleep without dreaming. The series is a way to bring the plight of the homeless before eyes that would normally avert from looking at a homeless person. I believe that every human is beloved and the presence of the universal energy is with each person, no matter the circumstances. This homeless person is in the presence of a spiritual protector.

The Guardian (my response to Jean’s collage):

Being homeless is no joy ride, that’s fer dern sure. I oughta know, I been there. Great Depression it was, old man outta a job so I took off. Bummed around till the war began. They gave me a uniform and a gun and a job to do, and I done it. It weren’t pretty but I done it.

But this kid o’ mine. Kid, heck, he’s a grown man. I told him, “Git yerself an education,” but he’d sass me back, “You didn’t get no education.” Told him I got a good one, in the war. Cuffed him till he got too big to cuff and then he lit out. Got himself a job till he got too old and they laid him off and now he’s bumming around. Homeless. Like I was.

I worry ‘bout him. Back then, weren’t no drugs like nowadays, just rotgut booze that might make you blind. But these days . . .

I try to cuff him when I see him reachin’ fer the needle but does no good when yer just a spectre. My hand just blows on right through his head. Whisperin’ in his ear works better. He must think it’s his conscience speakin’.

Oh sure, he’s got his mates, when they’re not tripped out on somethin’. They don’t look out for him the same way I do. The way I shoulda done when I had the chance. Guess I coulda been a better father. Shoulda been a better father.

#VoiceAndVision #JeanKBlackall #Homelessness #Collage #ArtistAuthorCollaboration #MargaretGHanna