To get away

Grouard Mission. Residential schools. Northern frontiers

Grouard Mission. Residential schools. Northern frontiers

There is often great irony in a writer’s desire to get away. Away, where there are fewer distractions and impositions. Writing retreats promise that, yet inevitably raise new distractions, new issues requiring the writer’s attention.

Such was the case a few years ago when I joined a small group of writers at a retreat in a vocational school in Grouard, at the north-west tip of Lesser Slave Lake in northern Alberta. It was only six hours north from my home – but worlds away. For a couple weeks, we were the only residents of a residential school that has seen thousands come through it over the years. Thousands of hopefuls. Like us, but their lives in so many ways not like ours.

Grouard Mission. Residential schools. Northern frontiers. The place overwhelmed me with sadness – an entrenched darkness that was at its deepest in the cemetery of untended graves, full of makeshift markers for children.

I wrote a piece then that I call a prose poem. Maybe it is that. I recently revisited the writing and have posted a slightly revised version here as a ‘postcard essay’ in the Essays section. No matter.

It’s called The Slave.

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