The Ocean at the Other Side of the Hill

GNP-Grassy-Hills-Distant-Butte-rev-web“Grassy Hills Distant Butte, Grasslands National Park” by Laureen Marchand (5″ x 7″, oil/board)

The wind has been blowing for three days. This isn’t just a light breeze. Today the wind is reported at 70km/45mph. In Val Marie, even though my house is in the village and relatively protected, the wind sounds like traffic on a superhighway. Walking into that would be like walking into a train. All the willing creativity I can muster isn’t going to get me outdoors today.

It makes me think of Ireland. Thirteen years ago I lived for a winter in the West of that country,where I learned about the Beaufort Scale of wind speed. I had rented a cottage near the sea in western Ireland for three months, to paint, make new friends if I could and try a different life for awhile. The experiment was a resounding success. I credit it with my discovery of the joys of rural life and my eventual arrival in this beautiful Saskatchewan Southwest.

But oh, the wind. It blew all the time. There are warnings of gales and strong gales on all Irish coastal waters and on the Irish sea. That was the Irish weather forecast, repeated on the radio hourly. Gales and strong gales are terms from the Beaufort Scale, developed in 1805 to relate wind speed to its effects on ships at sea and still used wherever ocean defines weather. A gale is wind up to 74 kilometers per hour; a strong gale is up to 88 kilometers per hour. The Scale says that at gale force, the ocean shows moderately high waves with breaking crests. On land, some twigs are broken from trees, cars veer on roads and progress on foot is seriously impeded. At strong gale force, there are high waves whose crests sometimes roll over and large amounts of airborne spray may begin to reduce visibility. On land, branches break off trees and some small trees blow over.

Saskatchewan being landlocked, we don’t usually measure wind using the Beaufort Scale. But in the winds these days I think I can hear the roaring sea. I think the ocean has moved in, somewhere the other side of the hills.

I’ve always said that in Grasslands National Park there’s a place where the ocean should be. It looks just like western Ireland. You could make your way up and over the hills, and you’d expect to come down on the other side and meet the tide.

Next time the wind goes down, I’ll go there and look for seaweed.

There are warnings of gales and strong gales on all Saskatchewan ranchlands and on the Grasslands sea.

(The title for this post was inspired by a wonderful fantasy novel by international award-winning writer Neil Gaiman called The Ocean at the End of the Lane. You should read it.)

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6 Responses to The Ocean at the Other Side of the Hill

  1. pam March 17, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    your landscapes are such faithful renderings of the feeling of the place I weep

  2. Laureen March 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    Maybe you can find the prairie instead of the ocean at the end of your lane!

  3. Antoinette Herivel March 17, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

    lovely work Laureen ! Recent gales in the Georgia Straight were up in the 90’s in some places!!

  4. Jeannie Harwell March 17, 2016 at 9:52 pm #

    What a neat post and vivid sense of place. Can almost hear the wind. Lovely painting as well. I love your Ireland stories. I think that must have been a wonderful experience on so many levels. Your post ages ago about walking to that studio still sticks with me

    • Laureen March 18, 2016 at 8:50 am #

      Thank you Jeannie! That time in Ireland was wonderful. It opened up so much for me. I’ve been back since then but nor for three years – way too long!