When I was still in high school, I went on a trip to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I will never forget that place. I never knew what "Big Sky" meant until then. And I have never seen such beauty since.
I tell my friends how flat Saginaw is, and they don't believe me. They'll never believe me then for saying now much flatter Saskatchewan was. Words could never come close to describing that singular experience. Not even pictures would be enough, if they are indeed worth a thousand words. But nevertheless I'll try.
Imagine you're standing outside on a warm summer day in late August with a gentle western breeze, and in every direction as far as the eye can see, there is nothing to obstruct your view other than the signage of the Trans-Canada Highway and a single farmhouse with two lonely trees far off in the distance. All surrounding you are boundless fields of golden summer wheat. No hills, no mountains, no lakes, no forests, nothing other than the white of the sun casting the black of your shadow onto the gray of the road that cuts the yellow of the earth in half, all under the ceiling of the cloudless blue sky. That was what Saskatchewan was like.
Before we left, our relatives took us shopping at a local mall. There was a dollar store. I saw the green-and-yellow flag of Saskatchewan. I wanted to buy it. My mom said no. My mother was firm in her disapproval, but I should have been more stubborn. Was it too much to ask for a flag of the land I fell in love with, a cheap $1 memento of happy days in the Canadian West?
I sulked for a bit. I should have bought it.
My camera was stolen before I could get the film developed of the pictures I took. I lent my copy of my favorite book that I got for 50 cents at a book sale in Moose Jaw, The Call of the Wild, to a friend and never got it back. Now I have nothing, no pictures, no souvenirs; nothing other than my fading memories.
It convinced me, a few years later when on a tour we stopped at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, to buy a flag of Arizona. I went into the kitschy gift shop near the lake to escape from the humidity and the 115 degree heat. My mom was still just as insistent that I not waste my money, and it was a lot more expensive than that one of Saskatchewan I could have gotten two summers ago -- four dollars I believe -- but I knew that I wanted it, and ever since then, that flag has stood beside my bed.
One day -- I don't know when, maybe a year from now or maybe decades from now, but one day -- I will return to Moose Jaw, and I will take some pictures of the golden land and azure sky, and I will buy a flag of the Province of Saskatchewan.