Darlene Quaife

Articles

Auto Hypnosis in West Magazine, The Globe & Mail

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Swimming in the Desert in Avenue Magazine

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Kananaskis Country in The Canadian Rockies

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Salamander in The Calgary Herald

 

 

The Money & The Power in The Calgary Herald

 

 

 

 

Imagine in The High Country News

 

Imagine travelling from Europe to the Canadian wilderness in 1926 to marry a man you've never met. Imagine carving out a life beyond civilization in the northern forest and lake country of British Columbia. Imagine the hard, backbreaking work. Imagine the privation that can drive you away or drive you mad. Imagine loving the adventure in this young, wild land, only to be told after twenty years that you're going to be flooded out by your government.

Isa Luise Essler is a German writer and intellectual. She emigrated to Canada to marry the trapper and prospector, Wil See. It is now 1946, the Second World War is over and "progress" is king. Because of this post-war mindset Isa Luise and Wil are fighting the fight of their lives. While trying to keep the Nechako Dam Project from flooding their valley, Isa Luise is also corresponding with the incarcerated American poet, Ezra Pound.


This is the territory I’ve paced out in my latest novel, Wildnis. Why, you might ask?

It’s a question I have put to myself on days when the words refuse to be captured on the page, or the screen for that matter. But on most days when I research and contemplate, imagine and write, I’m fascinated by questions that bespeak the human condition. Questions that have always been part of our psyche: Where do I belong? How will I make a place for myself?

I’ve followed the torturous path of these questions in Wildnis for two reasons: one creative, the other personal. As a thinker and a writer words are my compass, they help me find my way toward a better understanding of the world. As someone who has chosen to live in the country, the high country, I watch as the city encroaches, subdivision by subdivision, on the landscape to which I belong.

Imagining a place called Satoo Valley, imagining people who have chosen to live there, imagining the threat to their way of life has brought me closer to understanding my own sense of belonging. But this realization has come at a price. Researching this novel has also awakened a sense of powerlessness in the face of unrelenting Progress.


And how does an American poet convicted of treason fit into this picture? Let’s just say that he thought he could reason with mad men. Pound believed in the power of words, as do I, as does my protagonist, but Pound paid dearly for his belief – 12 years behind locked doors in St. Elizabeths Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Ezra Pound’s crime – he spoke out against the Second World War as a citizen of the world.

Belonging can be complicated.

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 Wildnis is available as an eBook

From Apple/iBooks, Chapters/Indigo/Kobo
Amazon/Kindle. 

Wildnis is coming in September as a Paperback

  

 

Living with Snow in The Calgary Herald

 

‘My country is not a country, my country is snow.’ Absolutely a Canadian sentiment. Weather is in our blood, our bones, on our tongues. Witness these pithy Canadian sayings: “Nine months of winter and three months of darn hard sleddin’.” “Cold as the icicle on a polar bear’s dick.” And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Canadians have to say about cold and snow and winter.

Some of us become Snowbirds and fly south with the first flurries. The majority of us complain – a survival technique employed to keep us hot under the collar. But there are among us those who embrace winter, see cold and snow as an opportunity to prove what we Canadians are made of.

Take my partner for instance: a winter wilderness survival expert, who introduced me to the “comforts” of a snow cave on a way-below-zero night. This was when I first learned I was claustrophobic. This is also when I learned what it means to be stranded in the Great White North.

We had gone into the Kananaskis, in January to truly experience a winter night, to build a snow cave and camp out. Of course we had a safety net – we drove in, we could drive out. If we weren’t up to the nocturnal challenge, we could just jump into our old Jeep. But when your car battery goes dead, all you’ve got is an icebox.

Claustrophobia does not make a pleasant bedfellow, believe me. We weren’t destined to sleep that night, anyway. A mouse (mice live in tunnel homes within the snow) decided our snow cave was the Ice Queen’s palace and had a ball, flitting back and forth across our heads where they stuck out from our sleeping bags.

As Canadian luck would have it, snowmobilers came upon our camp the next morning. Rescued from a long, cold walk by Saint Bombardier.

Being something of purists, instead of investing in a snowmobile, we bought two strapping huskies, Alaskan Malamutes to be exact. Sled dogs breed to haul freight. So, pulling a single crazy human on cross-country skis was no big deal. At least not for the dogs.

Towed by racing dogs, careening down steep switchback trails in the backcountry around Banff, well, we saw god on a regular basis. Especially when the dogs picked up the sound of a mouse under the snow. Forget the training. The sled dog commands of hoo, gee, haa -- useless, we could have saved our frozen breath. Our working dogs had reverted to being self-sufficient predators. With us still in tow, they leapt into snowdrifts or bounded off the trail into the trees.

There was a period of sanity when our huskies grew too old to take to the mountain trails. In the two years after their deaths, I must have missed taking on winter, because I sat down, took mouse in hand and wrote a novel set in the snow and cold of a Cape Churchill winter. Here on the shore of the Hudson Bay, polar bears gather, waiting anxiously for the ice to form, the ice on the bay that is. They walk away from the misery that is summer, out onto the ice, their heads cocked, listening for the sound of seals under the snow and ice.

I now have a new novel and two new husky puppies. ‘My country is winter.’