Six Star Magazine Six Star Magazine Spring 2017 - Page 22

2017
CANADA
SPRING SUMMER

MB 1870

FRIENDLY MANITOBA

LAND OF COLD AND CONTRAST

BY PETER HARGRAVES
An award-winning architect based in Winnipeg , Peter originally hails from South Africa and studied architecture in the United States before heading further north . His dynamic firm , Sputnik Architecture Inc ., was recognized in the Fall 2016 issue of Six Star for its eco-friendly approach to projects both big and small .
PHOTOGRAPHY : TRAVEL MANITOBA
A place of vast , empty spaces : The sun rises along a perfectly horizontal line and crosses an expansive blue sky , blazing and intense . Cold light casts long shadows across a perfectly flat landscape until it sinks down behind that flawless horizon that is Saskatchewan .
That sunlight , even on a day when the mercury indicates a temperature of -32 º C , will make skin that is protected from the wind tingle warm . When bare skin confronts even a slight breeze at that temperature , a biting sting will quickly remind one to cover up . This is Manitoba ’ s most exotic moment . These are the experiences that we love to hate . They are respected for what they are — deadly .
But just over one million citizens have learned to thrive , even when the teeth of winter will destroy those who unwittingly fail to respect the weather forecast . On another day in the same spot , under the same blue sky , one ’ s skin will burn hot under a sun whose light casts short shadows , rising quickly out of Ontario and falling directly down onto Saskatchewan at the end of a very long day .
Manitoba is a place full of contrast and contradiction . This place that claims the very centre of a continent , also boasts some 600 kilometres of open water coastline and 100,000 square kilometres of freshwater lakes . It ’ s a place steeped in the long , quiet history of peoples who lived in harmony with the environment because not paying attention to the surroundings meant risking your life . After six millennia of inhabiting this place , they left no scars , they destroyed no species ; the genetics of the flora
and fauna moved to the slow , natural rhythm of nature ’ s clock .
The arrival , nearly 300 years ago , of French trappers would spell the end of the symbiosis that humans here enjoyed with their surroundings . Flying over the prairies now reveals a tapestry of cultivated land that begins in early spring with dark shades of black , according to the instrument of choice for the farmer . By mid-May , hints of green begin to creep across the great plain . When June rolls around , the fields are lush arrays of greens , yellows and blues that cook under the hot summer sky , eventually turning toward the soft hues of gold at harvest time .
Standing on top of the Pembina Escarpment in August , looking east , one can sense just a little of what it must have been like 500 years ago ; gazing upon the table-flat land that stretches across the Red River basin all the way to the Canadian shield in eastern Manitoba . It ’ s a vast land once filled with plants and animals that have long since been chased away by the orthogonal network of roads , ditches and fields . Today , these fertile lands produce 15 percent of Canada ’ s wheat .
If one isn ’ t inclined to imagine what the place was like 200 years ago , you can instead
travel a few hours from Winnipeg and visit a place that has remained unchanged for over 10,000 years . The lake system of eastern Manitoba is home to isolated communities that barely dot the map ; here , it ’ s quite possible to paddle for weeks and not see another human being .
It doesn ’ t take long to find the middle of nowhere in this region . The middle of nowhere , it turns out , features dazzling displays of aurora borealis and seemingly endless pools of open water disturbed only by the movements of the biggest of fish . If , during the day , you are not reminded of the smallness of our existence on this planet , then gazing on the clear bright wash of the Milky Way at night will certainly drive home this very point .
I moved to Manitoba as an 8-year-old boy from a place where no one could fathom the frozen river upon which I now skate . I glide past delightful art and architecture installations , a restaurant and thousands of other people enjoying their own private moments . When I contemplate inviting friends to visit us in Manitoba , I want them to know the days with the long shadows and to join me on that river .
20 six star magazine
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