When I lived in Beijing, we often had a weather forecast that was just one word: Smoke! It was usually in the fall, when the peasants in the surrounding provinces of Shandong and Hebei were burning the fields after harvest. The city would be shrouded in smoke, with off-the-charts bad air quality until it rained or the winds shifted to the north.
On Monday it was Minnesota’s turn. Smoke from wildfires burning in northern Saskatchewan descended on our fair state, making the air quality in Minneapolis worse than in Beijing.
We are now in the Canadian Rockies after spending the last two days crossing the North Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Alberta prairie. We couldn’t help thinking of (and admiring) the early pioneers who crossed the same land and settled the farms and ranches we were seeing.
We also came to understand why the slogan for Saskatchewan is “Land of the Living Sky.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful sky in my life, changing from brilliant blue to puffy white to dark and ominous — and back again as the days wore on.
We crossed the border at Portal, North Dakota, stopping first at a gas station on the US side to fill up one last time without having to do math. I asked the station attendant how far it was up to Moose Jaw, SK. “I don’t know,” he said, “I haven’t been to Canada for 11 years.” (never mind that it was across the street)
When I handed my passport to the Canadian border guard, he asked me if I travelled much. I stifled a chuckle and said, “yes, quite a bit.” After deeming that we three were not a threat to Canada’s social stability he sent us on our way.
Here are a few photos of the prairie.
A quintessential ND prairie town
A prairie sky
Inside the storm
And just for fun, here’s an interesting video clip about the border between the United States and Canada. As they say, “who knew?” (if you get this blog by email, and can’t see the video player, please click here.)