A soldier’s voice

Tim Isberg. Visualz photo, Isberg website.

He was supposedly the warm-up act. He was Tim Isberg, a singer-songwriter from Fort Macleod, Alberta. And I was supposedly the main event, offering a talk about veterans’ stories, and how I came by them. But, as I sat there waiting for Isberg to finish his set, I was mulling over a problem in my head. I wasn’t quite sure where to start my presentation. Suddenly, I paid attention to what Isberg was singing.

“Listen to the voice,” he sang in a calming sort of way. “Listen to the voice calling me … calling you.”

Workplace and symbol

It was about 1 p.m. One of the clerks outside the chamber went over the rules I was to keep in mind when I went inside: Enter quietly. No briefcases or parcels. No applauding or talking out loud. Rise to your feet when the Speaker enters, when you’re introduced and when you leave. It made me think I was entering the Vatican.

But it was actually the Speaker’s Gallery at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton last Thursday afternoon. Eventually, the MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) for Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton, rose to address the government and opposition members present.

“Speaker, I rise to introduce distinguished visitors,” MLA Annie McKitrick said.

The REAL ‘We the North’

From a grade school primer reader, All Sails Set, a sketch from the story about Canada’s winningest basketball team.

Over the weekend, I read with moderate interest about the latest woes facing the Toronto Raptors pro basketball team. All week long, the Raptors’ brain trust was grappling with the news that Kyle Lowry’s wrist surgery might put the Raptors’ all-star point guard on the shelf for the rest of the season. Here’s now the Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur put the loss of Lowry:

“It’s like a team losing both its brain and the biggest part of its heart.”

Make it awkward

Mother Canada sculpture at Vimy Memorial.
Mother Canada sculpture at Vimy Memorial.

The man sat at the back of the audience area through most of my presentation. I spoke, as I usually do in those situations, walking among those in the audience, in this case 30 people seated at about eight tables. My topic was the Battle at Vimy Ridge coming up to the 100th anniversary next year. And I was speaking at a small Ontario fair last weekend. I could see the man was reacting to what I had to say. He frowned a lot and when I’d finished he put up his hand.

“Is it true that all the French-Canadian troops threw their rifles overboard on the way over to France?” he asked.

I paused a second, wondering where he was going with the question. I didn’t want to think there was prejudice involved. “No. I don’t think that’s true, since one of the key regiments at Vimy was the Royal 22nd from Quebec.”

Surviving the night

NIGHTTIME_HIGHWAYAt about 3 or 3:30 in the morning, one hardly expects anything very important to happen. After all, most civilized people are asleep in their beds at that hour. But last Tuesday night, I didn’t have any choice. I had to drive a long distance – between Winnipeg and Saskatoon – to arrive in time for a media appointment the next morning.

As I drove my car rental late that night, I suddenly became aware that the sky was growing brighter in the wrong place. Not behind me to the East where the sun would be rising in a couple of hours, but to the North. I dimmed the lights on the console of the car and peered off to my right.

“The Northern Lights,” I said to myself in a hushed tone, as if speaking the words aloud would scare them off. “Aurora borealis,” I added.

Kindness of strangers

Marg Wright at her 90th birthday celebration in Winnipeg.
Marg Wright at her 90th birthday celebration in Winnipeg.

The project seemed daunting. On paper, it looked as if I could pull it off. I was young. I had ambition. I had no sense of my limitations. And yet, the idea of actually travelling across the Prairies in search of eyewitnesses to help me document a piece of Canadian history, was just that – an idea and little more. It needed somebody, anybody to give it a vote of confidence. That’s when a couple of business associates offered me a lifeline. They knew I planned to begin my research in Winnipeg.

“Well, if you’re going to spend any time in Winnipeg,” brothers Jim and Hal Sorrenti told me, “you have to stay with Auntie Marg.”