Letter from Sage Hill

Posted on Jul 28, 2014 in Books, Food, Reflections

Well, from the Sage Hill Writing Experience actually. As Philip Adams, the Executive Director, likes to joke, the name sounds like something cooked up by a bunch of hippies sitting around a circle smoking their favourite leaf. And may have been, but it is an experience. First there’s the people: the writers who come here from all over Canada for ten days to learn, to teach, and to read from work in progress. A meeting of the tribes, and some of the best writers in the business. Then there’s the landscape: the painterly Qu’appelle Valley near Lumsden in Southern Saskatchewan, the way the colours of the prairie hills change with the time of day and with the light, the way the barn swallows dive and dance the thunderstorms, the early and late airs. So many birds: meadowlarks, blackbirds, robins, catbirds, kingbirds, Baltimore orioles, so many singing sparrows. There’s the physical building itself, an interchurch retreat centre with a Franciscan legacy. The round chapel in the centre that’s a cool refuge from the heat of the day. The Franciscan Friars who do the dishes morning, noon and night. The bedrooms so narrow that one has to go outside to turn around. And I must mention the food, which reminds me in a good way of the best of farm kitchen cooking from my own childhood, especially the desserts, only Saskatchewan is a different country.  Nowhere else have I eaten exotic Half-Hour Cake or Pudding Cake or seen Matrimonial Cake (called Date Squares in Alberta) served with a spoon, and rice pudding baked in an oven. And yes, the coconut creme pie (think truck stop) is to die for.

Now i’ll wait for the Saskatchewan ex-pats to correct me.