by Donna Kane
Lost Moose Books (an imprint of Harbour Publishing), 2018; 224 pages; $19.95
Although Donna Kane’s book calls itself a memoir, it’s a whole lot more than the usual look back on a life. She looks back, yes, but in doing so, she also looks ahead. If this sounds complicated, it isn’t — no more complicated than learning to ride — or, as Kane learns to express it, “to sit a horse.” As she recounts how she learned to overcome her hesitant ways around horses, she learns many other lessons too — about herself (trying to overcome her perfectionism, one of those traits too many of us drag around), about the wildness of the Northern BC landscape, about the various forms of wildness within herself.
An almost-chance encounter with a man leads to a relationship that she, a middle-aged woman with grown children, might not have imagined: “Never have I put my body beside a man’s and had it fit so well. Bespoke…You turn toward the back of me; I turn toward the back of you. I am home.”
Her new partner, Wayne, is a trail guide in Northern BC’s Muskwa-Kechika protected area, a region that’s about the size of Ireland and that’s known by some as the “Serengeti of the North.” Wayne is one of the reasons the area has gained protected status, and he is fierce about ensuring it stays that way. Kane, though a lifelong Northerner (astounded when she reflects that she and Wayne spent their lives barely an hour away from each other), learns much from him, including how to love again.
This book is about learning to pardon oneself for mistakes made, and about forgiveness and acceptance of others. Most of all, it’s a book about healing — a healing that begins when she needs to spend a summer treating the wounds of a badly-injured horse but it’s a healing that carries into levels of her own personal healing.
A fine poet, with several books and awards under her belt, Kane knows how to put words to work. Some of her descriptions of scenery or wildlife could stand as small poems on their own. Consider this portrait in miniature of “…a tiny grey moth resting with its wings fully opened…which appears as a shred of wasp nest, a flake of hammered silver.” Yet upon taking off her glasses, it “…becomes startlingly clear. I can see the lacework of the moth’s wings, a brindled filigree like the tail feathers of a grouse, a striped fan of brown and white trimmed in copper. I can see the moth’s face, two bright eyes like minuscule beads of oil on a head small as a grain of sand.” Among her gifts to the reader are these close looks at things, whether delicate alpine flowers or the patch of torn flesh on a horse’s back.
There are chapters that could stand alone, as meditations on simple objects. My favourite of these is the chapter on horseshoes, a topic I knew almost nothing about, beyond the childhood scar on my shin from an out-of-control backyard game that involved tossing them.
A memoir? To be sure, but it’s also much more — a paean to the outdoors, a plea for the environment, a chronicle of several layers of healing. Heck, it’s even a darn good love story. »From issue #80