Feature Article

Signing a Book Contract From the Sky

Greetings from my fire watch in the sky! Today I’m as buoyant as the brilliant blue tree sparrows that dive and flit around my office perch, a cupola, or tiny dome that balances atop a 100-foot steel frame tower.

I’m briefly breaking my vow of technological silence to SING out the splendid news: Women Who Dig, my book about female farmers and farmworkers around the world, has been warmly welcomed for publication by Bruce Walsh and his team at the University of Regina Press.

I’m soaring over these boreal tree tops today!

Yesterday afternoon, as the fair-weather clouds strolled quietly along the big blue canvas of the sky, I looked out on the vast spread of spruce, poplar, pine and birch trees below, and felt humbled by the journey Women Who Dig has taken me on. Three years, three continents, eight countries, and over one hundred stories from women who are defying cultural, political, economic and social odds to grow food, steward the land, preserve cultural integrity, and nourish their children and communities.

After all that blessed, but shaken travel on off-beaten country roads to meet women on their farms, I must admit, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending to the journey of this book — to receive the news of publication from a place of solitude: the writer completely alone, at last, on the land, in the woods where hundreds of known and unknown wild things grow and roam and blossom.

Sounds romantic, eh? Trust me, some days it isn’t…but today, it’s pure euphoria!

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Feature Article

“Going In” – Writing From the Fire Watch

At ten o’clock tomorrow morning, “I’m going in.” It’s an old expression used by fire watch, or lookout observers, who’ve become seasoned seasonal smoke-spotters from their isolated perches overlooking Alberta’s southern grasslands, foothills, alpine areas, and northern boreal forests. In less than 24-hours now, I’ll join the men and women who have fallen in love with this job of scanning the horizon for smoke, and embark upon a four-month adventure alone in the boreal forest.

In the Peace Country, the clean opening of the river, the faint dots of green that emerge from the aspen branches — darkening and thickening within a few days into blots of virgin green on the landscape — all of these signs of Spring have come weeks early this year. For those who live the fire watch lifestyle, they are signs of another kind of opening.

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to fly to my northern boreal tower to climb up into the sky and “open season.” My tupperware boxes are stacked high, packed with dried food goods, books, gardening tools and seeds, carving knifes, bedding, clothes and all-season, all-weather gear.

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