Thursday, February 14, 2008

We're high over Lake Superior as I type this. The Lake looks strange from up here - darkest blue, striated with ice and patches of snow - it looks like the clouds have fallen straight out of the sky and landed flat on the surface of the water below. I've only every flown over it in the summer before - it's vastness never fails to surprise me.

This is a solo flight for me - my Man, his Guitar, and the Franco- phone left yesterday, the Photographer followed last night - and I am the last to arrive - on a flight that should have left at eight-fifteen but which sat on the tarmac until ten o'clock. (I had been thinking, as I sat in the Maple Leaf Lounge waiting for the gate to open, that I had never encountered a significantly delayed flight, in all the traveling we've done with the Guitar over the last two years. I should have known better - I jinxed myself.)

I've been joking all week that some people go to the Caribbean in February - my Man and I go to Winnipeg (Romance Capital of the Canadian Midwest) where last night the temperature with wind-chill reached an inconceivable -50C. The purpose of our visit to Winnipeg on Valentine's Day is the Festival du Voyageur - Canada's second largest winter festival, after Quebec's Carnival.

There should be a shuttle waiting for me at the airport - so odd to be on the other side of the festival service machine - I'm used to being one of the folks who provides the service. We're in Winnipeg as guests of the festival; the Guitar will be officially nicknamed (there's an oxymoron!) - at a press conference this morning, and is the focus of several events over the weekend. We'll have the portrait studio up and running as well - so between taking pictures and participating in the musical events, it promises to be a very busy few days.

We're flying over land, now, and the open spaces of Manitoba lie below, huge swathes of white, squiggles that must be rivers and the occasional straight line of a road. The snow looks lovely - like someone blew hard into a huge pile of flour - enormous white feathery brush strokes drift across the ground below. There's a railway line running straight as an arrow westward. One two-lane highway intersects with another and inscribes a perfect cloverleaf in the otherwise deserted landscape.

As we near our destination and fly lower over houses, I see a deserted ice rink behind what must be a school or community centre. It's perfect, the two blue lines and one red one, the iconic shape - so symbolic of our country - reminding me that I'm travelling toward an experience that will give me another piece to slot into the puzzle that is Canada. This is my first visit to Winnipeg - to Manitoba - and it's exciting to be part of a festival that speaks so directly to the culture and the history of the place.

I can't wait to see everyone, to meet new friends and hear some good music, eat some local food and discover some new favourite haunts. We're nearing the airport - time to shut the laptop and return my seat to its upright position!

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