Thursday, March 26, 2009

a northern nine heavens

I drove through a haunted, magical forest today listening to some haunting, magical music: Nine Heavens by Niyaz. (thanks to my friend, Gerry, for sending me this CD!) At first I couldn't figure out what sort of music it is. Is it Iranian? Is it Indian? There were some other Eastern influences suggested but I couldn't put my finger on it--or should I say ear? The music is maddeningly magical in its elusiveness, in its strange but familiar calling. Niyaz, it turns out, is an Iranian trio which includes one of my favorite singers: Azam Ali, whose music my friend, Fataneh, introduced me to a few springs ago in Stockholm. Niyaz is a mix of Sufi mysticism and electronic trance, blending Iranian, Turkish, and Indian music with poetry by Rumi and other lyrical messages.

In the northern nine heavens that I traveled through, spruce trees and aspens were bent over with the weight of ice, some were lying with their tips curving onto the ground as if they were doing a graceful yoga asana in the boreal forest, other trees were tilting this way and that seeking support against each other, yet other trees less fortunate had snapped cleanly in half, with the top parts lying in confusion on the forest floor, and still others looked like sentinels of white branching coral or white multi-limbed skeletons standing in mute colonies along the roadside.

This entombment in ice is a result of an ice storm that recently visited our region and covered all trees, streets, steps, sidewalks, shrubs, driveways, cars, and whatever is outside with a thick layer of glazed ice. Driveways turned into skating rinks. To get into your car, you first had to get to your car! A feat in itself. Not a day for fashionable shoes or boots, now was a time for sensibles. After inching your way carefully to your car, you then had to hack away at the hard shell of ice encasing it.

After the ice storm, we've had sunshine, snow squalls, and more ice and more snow. And more snow. Winter does not want to quit. So, the landscape has become encased in ice and snow. It looks heavenly but it is not heavenly if you have to drive somewhere.

So, I wasn't really looking forward to driving to Fort Frances today, which is about 350k west of Thunder Bay, down Hwy. 11.

I had to drive down Hwy 11 today to teach my class on writing, which is at the 7 Generations Institute on the Couchiching Reserve. I usually have taken a Bearskin Air flight to Fort Frances (the planes are such in size that you have to stay ducked and walk bent over to get to your seat--and if you feel queasy or frightened when there is air turbulence, do not get on these flights). But because there is no flight out of Fort Frances after my last class is done, I usually have taken the bus back. There is no lack of stories you get told when you take the bus from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay, even if there are only 4 passengers on the full-sized Greyhound Bus. Who knows? Maybe you get more stories told to you because there are only 4 passengers? But, a couple of weeks ago, the bus schedule changed so now there is no way to get out of Fort Frances after 2:30 pm on Friday other than car.

So, take the car it was.

To get to the Hwy 11 turn-off to get to Fort Frances, first go to Shabaqua corners on Hwy 17; then turn left.

As I drove down this near-empty highway, I had been thinking how beautiful and magical the forests around me looked. That is, until I saw the red flashing police car lights ahead. A car had flipped onto its side after sailing off the road into the forest. There were a few police cars and an ambulance; the police officer waved me through. I slowed down my speed after seeing the underbelly of that car. I hope the driver and passengers are o.k.

Highway 11, because of last night's snow, was snow covered on the edges, so cars had to drive in the middle of the road. So, when there was an oncoming car or truck (rare), you had to slow down because then you'd have to drive over the slippery icy slush--which is why, I assume, that car flew off the road.


marja-leena said...

All that snow and ice sounds magical and beautiful indeed .... and treacherous! I think you were too brave for your own good to be driving in those conditions. Glad you made it, Taina.

Merche Pallarés said...

I agree with MARJA-LEENA, how treacherous! Driving in those conditions is suicidal... Thank God nothing happened to you... I would hate to miss your very informative posts and your wonderful cybernetic friendship! Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

thank you, ladies, for your concern! I have arrived back home in Thunder Bay safe and sound.

Terrible road conditions are not easy to avoid here, especially if a) your paid work requires you to leave the house; and b) you work, live, or have family or commitments in the numerous communities scattered throughout the huge expanse of land that is northwestern Ontario. NWO is the size of France, but in comparison, vastly under-populated! We have to travel vast distances, most of which is simply bush. Which is why Hwy 11 is so beautiful. Many places in NWO are inaccessible even by road; these are the First Nations reserves. So you can imagine the difficulties the people have getting in and out of their reserves. They don't get many tourists, that's for sure.

As one of my paid jobs is teaching in an outlying community, traveling there and getting out have to be considered in light of the limited options. Neither the plane nor the bus arrive or leave every day, so that sporadic schedule compels you to drive.

My students and all the interesting things I have learned about the Fort Frances region make it worth the risk. Hopefully, if I have time, I will post some of what I have seen, done, who I have met, what they told me, etc., but as time is never on my side, and as my blog covers .0001% of my life, well.....

Ari said...

It is not so very easy to earn some extra sausage with your bread in Canada either. Luckily you don't have to drive 350k every day. We haven't had very bad weathers so far during this winter in Finland at all. Good Fort Frances Days !

northshorewoman said...

Ari, our winter is never ending. Today is April 1st and what happened? A blizzard last night which made seeing out your car windshield a difficult task, which meant wondering which side of the road you are on also a difficult task. This morning I woke up to find 1.5 ' of snow covering the ground. So, to get to my morning class, I first had to spend 1 hr shoveling heavy snow. Needless to say, I looked a bit sweaty.