I ate a second piece of bannock before leaving.
I had freshly painted red toe nails.
I took sweetgrass that I have planted in my backyard and left it on the gravestone.
I left a red rose cut from amm’s Hope for Humanity rosebush. I left a purple petunia I had planted for a friend’s mother who passed away the same year amm did.
I listed to I Am Woman by Helen Reddy and Starwalker and He’s An Indian Cowboy by Buffy Sainte-Marie while laying in front of the grave.
I read Fahrenheit 451 – and old copy of amm’s while sitting on the quilt.
I talked out loud.
I heard the muffled voices of others in the cemetery. Their sounds carried away by the breeze.
I left a few pictures of Arrine.
I had my priorities straight when I arrived at Batoche. I needed to eat bannock before I did anything else. 🙂 So I sat in the little cafeteria and ate my warm bannock, smothered with butter. It was just what I needed. I also bought a pad of paper showing the church at Batoche so I could write my thoughts down while I was there.
I had packed amm’s Nine West pink handbag for the day and I took the quilt that Vera made for me out of amm’s pyjamas. As I walked along the gravel path from the interpretive centre towards the church and cemetery, I had a strong feeling as I rounded the curve of the path and saw the church steeple rise from the prairie.
There was a soft breeze that made the leaves speak every few minutes. When the leaves were quiet, the grasshopers squealed. A bird sang in the distance. Dragonflies led me along the path towards the cemetery.
I walked directly to the gravestone of Rosalie Letendre. I lay down the quilt and sat in front of the gravestone. And just sat.
It took me a long time to get to Batoche, and based upon my absence from updating the website, it took me a long time to get to a place of being able to share.
But here goes…
I’ve been to Batoche many times, but never on my own. Before leaving for my journey, I used Google Maps to check what highway I needed to take when leaving Saskatoon. Later I asked Nick to look a the map too so I could have his opinion on how best to get from Batoche to North Battleford – drive cross country or travel back through Saskatoon.
On Saturday morning I left the Delta Bessborough and found the highway Google Maps showed me to use. I was driving only for a few minutes when I realized that the highway was not familiar to me at all. It just didn’t seem right. I pulled over and checked Google Maps again. Yes, I was on the right highway as the map showed. But I knew I wasn’t near Duck Lake, which is a good reference point for Batoche. I found Duck Lake on the map, scrolled around and found that Google Maps incorrectly has two ‘Batoche’s’, and if you search for ‘Batoche’, it directs you to the incorrect location. I had a little cry at this realization, called Nick, and figured out my new route. Luckily I just had to travel west on Highway 784 and it would connect me with the highway I needed to be on.
Highway 784 turned out to be a gravel road. The map showed it crossed the South Saskatchewan River. But a red flag went off when I saw a sign that read, “Clarkboro Ferry – 10km”. Sure enough, in a few minutes I arrived at a river crossing. The ferry had just docked and I was able to drive right on. I pulled ahead as there was one other car behind me. I had rolled down my window and the ferry operator came over to chat.
Side note: How many of you have made the connection yet? Traveling to Batoche. Across the Saskatchewan prairie. Needing to use a ferry. Immediately I thought of Gabriel’s Crossing, the story that amm had published, and the connection to Gabriel Dumont and amm.
Was I surprised when the ferry operator physically reminded me of Gabriel Dumont? No. We had a lovely chat and then we docked and I drove away, all the time knowing that amm wanted me to ride that ferry.
When I retold this story to a co-worker, he asked if I had checked to see if the ferry is actually shown on a map somewhere, because maybe it was a ghost ferry. 🙂 Well, I found documentation online that the ferry does exist, but I do believe there was something unearthly that guided me there.
Earlier this week while at work I sighed. And I sounded just like amm did when she sighed. It was a nice unexpected moment.
I do plan on sharing more about the Batoche pilgrimage. Just needing to find the time to gather my thoughts…