Riding the Rails West…

Written on VIA ONE Feb 4, 2016 – on my way West.

Posted from St Peter’s Abbey Feb 10, 2016.

Hullo Sweeties!

A quick check-in from the road…  I wanted to post from Winnipeg, but ‘twas not meant to be, so then I thought I would post from Saskatoon, and then as soon as I arrived here at the Abbey….

Alas…none of that was meant to be.  But I’m here now with what I writ then.

Here it is…

Grabbed a chance for a quick visit/sleep-over with some pals in Saskatoon before heading out to The SWG Winter Retreat at St Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, SK.  Glad I got to stop by and celebrate a birthday with my oldest friend – oldest as in I have known her the longest.  I believe we met when I was 2 and she was 3.  Back in the ole neighbourhood in Regina SK when things looked a lil something like this….

Regina 1915
Regina 1915

OK…. Regina didn’t look quite like this when we met.  But I do believe this little ditty was still a hot number…


I found my old pal a card and some Puffed Wheat Cake at the Human Bean in Winnipeg.  There’s a 4 hour stop  in Winnipeg now on VIA One.  Whenever I am headed west, I jump off and head over to The Pancake House, at the Forks,for a nice leisurely breakfast.  Usually waffles!

I didn’t get much WORK done on the first travel day.  Spent a lot of time gazing out the window and loving the sway of the train in motion.  My favourite way to travel.

I woke early and headed to the dome car to sit and watch the light come.  I love early mornings.  Used to be I only saw them when I stayed up the night before.  Now I love to rise up and be there for the cross-fade from dark to light.

Loved this pick-up around 7:58 AM.

Dude picking up a woman from the train...takes luggage first
Dude picking up a woman from the train…takes luggage first


A woman hopped off near some camps.  This fella met her.  Not sure why he took the baggage first, or why she didn’t jump aboard with him. We pulled away before I could see if he came back for her or she walked in.

I read quite a bit.  Loving up The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel.  I blush to confess that I’d never heard of her.  Discovered her while browsing short story collections in Overdrive. Saw this in Rick Moody’s intro essay…


It’s all about the sentences.  It’s about the way sentences move in paragraphs. It’s about rhythm.  It’s about ambiguity. It’s about the way emotion, in difficult circumstances, gets captured in language.  It’s about instants of consciousness. It’s about besieged consciousness.  It’s about love trouble. It’s about death. It’s about suicide. It’s about the body. It’s about skepticism. It’s against sentimentality. It’s against cheap sentiment. It’s about regret. It’s about survival. It’s about the sentences used to enact and defend survival.




… the Hempel stories where urbane, witty, somber, dazzling, oblique, and quietly, desperately heroic.  In Reasons to Live, one had a sense that the author really was trying to use sentences to save lives.


Holy CRAP, right?


I finished the book yesterday (that’d be Feb3rd) and… I have a new love. If you haven’t read any Amy Hempel… I say, “Run.  Run now and find some!!!”


While I am in the quoting mood… I will say that Hempel’s work brought one of my favourite “why I write” quotes to mind.


There are writers who write for fame.  And there are writers who write because we need to make sense of the world we live in; writing is a way to clarify, to interpret, to reinvent.  We may want our work to be recognized, but that is not the reason we write.  We do not write because we must; we always have a choice.  We write because language is the way we keep hold on life.  With words we experience our deepest understandings of what means to be intimate.  We communicate to connect, to know community.  Even though writing is a solitary act, when I sit with words that I trust will be read by someone, I know that I can never be truly alone. – bell hooks


Lovely, isn’t it?

And so true, for me.

I especially love that hooks turns her clear eye on that idea that “we write because we must” that is so often… spouted.  I spout it myself.  I’ve said that I wrote Mostly Happy “…because Bean wouldn’t leave me the fuck alone.”  This is true, in a sense, but the deeper truth is that I wrote Mostly Happy because I am still wrestling with a lot of things from my childhood and through Bean, I found a way to make sense of some of those things.


You’ve heard me say similar things before.


You’ve heard me say that I write to make sense of the world.  That I aim to create… maps… that someone, somewhere, might be able to follow out of the dark.


I entirely believe that sentences can save lives.


I am proof of that.


Swear to all the Gods above and on my Mama’s life, books saved me.  They still do.


Authors that I have never met in person take my hand, every day.  So many keep me company along the road. Some make me laugh and some make me cry and the best of them whisper truths to me.  Truths about what it means to be a human.


May I always strive to do the same.


Thanks for coming along this journey with me.


Next stop – St Peter’s Abbey.  Hold onto your hats, m’dears.  Methinks there will be magic there.


Go easy~p


PS – there IS magic here.  If I get my poop together, I hope to write some posts from here.  In the evenings, when the days “work” is done.

For now, know that all is well.  All is very very well with me.

4 Comments on “Riding the Rails West…

  1. I LOVE the words you write. It’s amazing how much power they have, how much they influence us for good or for ill. I’m SO glad you are doing well and I hope you have a FABULOUS time on this journey! 😀

  2. I am incredibly jealous that you have so much *time* to go on these writing journeys. Ah, but I am sure that you are crafting much better works, with a wider audience, and helping so many others.

    Enjoy the Abbey. Craft well there.

    • Hey Bill – ahhhh yes the TIME. Bought at a price, of course.

      The choices made.

      To live simply and cut down on our costs as much as possible in order to have more time for the writing work.

      To put the writing work ahead of the “make more money” work. Instead of fitting the writing work in around the job-job.

      To not have children.

      I am not saying this because I think that this road is for everyone. I know many many people can and do fit the writing work in and around and between all the other doings like big jobs and big families and big houses and … so on.

      But for me, there came a time of conscious choosing.

      And… I try mightily to remember that when the water in the hand pump off the back step freezes in February. Or the composting toilet acts up. Or I feel too tired to chop wood.

      We all find our own way.

      May the words flow well for you, friend.
      And may your find the time you need to do the work you wish to do.

      go easy~p

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Ailish Sinclair

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Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

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