A frontier is an outer limit – an edge that, by definition, can often be moved. Today’s frontier is tomorrow’s history. I am interested how we each explore the frontiers that capture our imagination. My essay Today is the Frontier began with my experience of Alberta’s western Pembina area, in and around the hamlet of Lodgepole.  From there, I poke around in remnants of my father’s and grandfather’s experiences in the region, then back to the mapping expeditions of David Thompson, and through him some elements of aboriginal experience.

Now, years after the essay won the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Prize, I continue the explorations. Recently, I have been re-reading some of Jon Whyte’s work. I knew Jon as a poet and while I always found his poetry a bit intellectual for my tastes, after his death I discovered the modest little collection of columns he had written for the Banff Crag & Canyon paper.  Mountain Chronicles had a lot in common with the kind of broad social observation that I contributed to my local paper for years.  As is often the case, I regretted that I hadn’t known about his column when he was alive, and seen more areas of common interest than I thought existed at the time.

Jon’s explorations of the frontiers of the Rocky Mountains have certain parallels to my essay’s rooting about in the experience of the foothills oil fields.

On another track, this fall I snatched up a great new book – a newly edited edition of the travel writings of David Thompson. Thompson was not only a fur trader and accomplished map maker but his writings are fine and thoughtful observations on western North America at a time (late 1700s and early 1800s) when very few Europeans had seen it.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in original Canadian history.

There are always frontiers worthy of exploration.

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