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Rita Friesen

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It’s a different book on my side table, the genre is the same, non fiction Canadian. This time “Ride the Rising Wind, One Woman’s Journey Across Canada” by Barbara Kingscote. A young woman of 20, Barbara chooses to deliver a horse from Quebec to Vancouver, way back in 1949. Her journey took 16 months, stopping to work a winter before leaving the bush of Ontario.

Easy reading, the book chronicles the people she met, the trials and tribulations of isolation and doing without. There were opportunities to catch up with her mail, send pages of her diary back home, make do and do without. Time after time a phrase, gently used, caused me to literally put the book down and contemplate the implications of the words, for me.

Early on Kingscote recounts the day that Nell, her equine mentor, needed to be released from her pain. The faithful horse suffered from heaves, a slow irreversible asthma, and that, with a combination of poor hay and old age could not be cured. Not even with the helpful veterinary column of the Family Herald. It was during the Second World War and there was no money for a vet, so when Nell began to bleed from her nose, the SPCA was called. “I heard the shot that ended Nell’s life. That day I aged alone.” That day I aged alone….Haven’t too many of us had that sort of day? Sometimes early in our life, sometimes later. There was a defining day when I aged alone, Grew up in a hurry. I was a young teen and my dog, the farm dog, had tangled with a skunk that proved rabid. We tried isolation, but the dog hated it and broke free. My father asked a neighbour lad to come a shot Butch, and as accustomed as the dog was to a gun – he was used to accompanying me and the gun into the bush-Butch broke free. It came down to me holding the rope, Butch sitting trustingly at my side, while my father shot him. Doing what had to be done. That day I aged alone.

That scene is relayed before the author starts on her adventure. Months on the trail she finds a haven at a farm house. Jim, a blacksmith, is going to re-shoe her horse. First he takes her up to the house to meet his wife. “ Irene smiled up at Jim and he smiled down at her. I suppose he told her my name, but what I remember was the spider-silk connection spun by the smiles that passed between the two. That delicate strand wrapped itself around me too, drawing me to the dinner table as a friend.” “Spider-silk connection spun by the smiles…” the wonder of the words takes my breath away. I have given, and received just that kind of smile. Beyond time, a comfort, a safety, a knowing. I have witnessed that smile, that smile between two that are one, that have enough room for others. 

It may take me a good while to finish this book!