Impressions From a Visitor to Spirit River From Bangalore

Submitted by Nazneen Tonse, first published on Art Earth Ink Soul

Spirit River: If only it wasn’t so cold.

Today I took a little dip into Spirit River. A virtual dip, I mean. The name intrigued me. Also ‘spirit’ and ‘river’ are two words I … well … I just like! I’m not sure what I was expecting, something wild and tribal I think. Instead I found a tiny little town with great big farming machines, somewhere in Alberta, Canada. Someone in that tiny town visits my blog, so I decided to pay them a visit.

I didn’t find the actual river. But, courtesy of Google, I took a trip through the town and its history and its happenings. I tried imagining what it would be like if I was actually there, not just looking at it through my computer screen and imagination.

First of all, I would be very very cold. The winter photographs looked a bit like the Christmas cards my parents used to send out years ago. And I would be very brown. Everyone else in the town is white, with very rosy cheeks. I did click on a picture of a Greek Orthodox church to see if there were any Meditteranean skins to keep mine company, but no, everyone there was white too.

“Everyone”, in the case of Spirit River, refers to a little over 1000 people! Just 1000 people. It sounds better than New Zealand! (Whenever I get fed up with the crowds of humanity I can’t help but encounter in Bangalore, population how-many-million?, I dramatically announce that I am moving to New Zealand where I heard there are more sheep than humans. I like sheep. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am agoraphobic. Travelling down the road is hard enough. Getting on an aeroplane is not currently an option.)

But I digress. So there I am, little brown me with my nearly bald head, in a snowy town of 1000 snowy-white people. Yet I don’t believe this would be an issue. Every face in every picture is smiling. And they appear to be very happy people. They have huge expanses of clear blue sky above them, fields of green (outside of snow-time, I presume). Their lives seem to be full.

If I were to create a story from all the pictures I looked at, this is the story I’d tell:

When they’re not farming, they play golf. They ride horses on the trail, whatever that is. They have parades and ride around in the most gorgeous antique cars. My, how those cars GLEAM! Absolutely stunning. Their motorcycles are all polished and lovely, too.

They win hockey tournaments, and go curling, whatever that may be. I’m assuming it’s some sport played on ice, although I think it would be more fun if it were a more energetic version of spooning. They plant trees and they garden; soon they will be swimming. In a heated pool, I hope. They have knights and an unlimited supply of ducks. They’re in touch with God and they sing with glee, and though their history may not be monumental in the global context, they treasure it.

That was my favourite part of Spirit River:Β  visiting its history. It was a bit like reading Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables at the same time. I saw little barns and cabins that could actually be lifted up and transported on wheels to new venues. I saw grain elevators that looked as though God had plonked down a few giant milk cartons. I saw a lovely evocative photograph of Pearl and John Jarvis, seated in a field in 1932, and my mind is already imagining a story to go with it. I saw the Molinga triplets and wonder whatever happened to them, and if their descendants are still out there, giving birth to multiples. I looked at the Whites, playing musical instruments in their home, and thought how similar we all are – tens of years later, thousands of miles away, I do the same thing with my friends (minus the violin).

I read about the fire of 1921 and wonder if the whole town burnt down, and then I think that if it had, there must have been something special about the place for them to want to rebuild it. I read about the young man who died horribly when a combine harvester accidentally poured a load of grain over him while he napped in the empty box of a grain hauling truck , suffocating him. But I also read about people from this tiny town – young people who had left and moved on, and now, decades later, are finding cousins and grandparents all around the world.

I even found real estate listings of big sprawling spreads of land and beautiful wooden houses. Within my budget, too! Clean air, happy people (and not a lot of them!) and wide open spaces. Apparently they age extremely well. I saw one picture of a white-haired lady busy on top of a ladder, painting the church! They keep their cars clean, and they recycle. It looks like heaven from here. Even the curious fact that this town of 1000 feels the need for a taxidermy shop could not put me off.

But ah, if only it wasn’t so cold. (Well, that and the agoraphobia).

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10 Responses to Impressions From a Visitor to Spirit River From Bangalore

  1. Anonymous says:

    It takes a gifted writer to capture the essence of a place from across the world, having visited only through pictures. Incredible piece, Nazneen! What a tribute to the Spirit River Museum, and museums everywhere.

  2. This is a very nice snapshot of the people and the area of Spirit River. Well done!

  3. Town Spirit says:

    This is a wonderful post. Hopefully everyone here will read it and be touched by what a stranger to our community saw in us.

  4. CeeBee says:

    “knights and an unlimited supply of ducks”. Love it!

    • Ah, so you noticed that, CeeBee πŸ™‚ I did figure out who the knights were, but am still intrigued about Ducks Unlimited .. why do you need so many? Do chickens not enjoy the cold weather? I’m also eagerly waiting for one of you to tell me what’s at the taxidermy shop. Wait a minute! Don’t tell me Ducks Unlimited IS the taxidermy shop?! I can’t imagine a stuffed duck sitting on every mantelpiece in Spirit River! I always thought the only appropriate place for a stuffed duck would be at the dining table? πŸ™‚

      • townspirit says:

        There are a lot of ducks, in the summer months anyway, but the “Unlimited” is the company name (as opposed to Ltd.) Surely there is a play on words as well, since Ducks Unlimited is the world’s leader in wetland and waterfowl conservation: unlimited ducks! But, in the lakes, not on the mantlepieces πŸ™‚ And mostly we eat chickens, and turkey for Thanksgiving in October. Here in Canada, the company name is Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC). Ha ha!

        As for the taxidermy shop, that is mostly for the hunters. We have a lot of deer and moose and elk and deer. It is good for tourism, and also keeps down the numbers of animals straying across the highways or into yards.

        It is so great to have your questions! Your fresh imagination and humour continue to make us think about Spirit River in new ways.

  5. Thank you all! It is such a wonderful feeling to know that my writing has connected to you.

  6. Tom Mookken says:

    Lovely piece Nazu.

  7. Scads says:

    I love this article. Every time I read it I am inspired with a fresh appreciation of this place. And I wish I had eyes like the author so I could take wonderful trips across the world in photographs as well. And I, too, wonder what ever happened to the Molinga Triplets.

  8. Karla Dixon says:

    I just happened to fall upon your article. My mom is one of the Mollinga Triplets. All three are doing very well! It’s nice to be able to read about their home and the town. Thank you for mentioning them in your article! Wonderfully written.
    – Karla

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