Johanna Hurme

I first became acutely aware of my connection to landscape in 1993, when I spent a year in Canada on a high school exchange. Compared to the rolling hills, evergreen forests, rock and lakes of my native Finland, I first understood the Manitoba prairie as a vastness of nothing. The landscape, or lack thereof as I then perceived it, was simply shocking. Coming from Helsinki to a town of eight and a grid of country roads, with fields of wheat and canola as far as the eye could see had a profound impact on my understanding of who I was — as an individual, and as part of the culture I had come from and the new one I had now been transplanted to. After nearly a year on the prairie I took a trip to Kenora, in northwest Ontario, for the first time. Seeing the landscape gradually transform from fields and bush to the Canadian Shield with its tall evergreens, exposed bedrock, lakes and valleys shook me to the core. In an instant I had an unequivocal sense of belonging, a sense that I was home. Now, nearly eighteen years later, while I will never lose my connection to the Finnish landscape, a new love for the prairie has developed in me. I admire and respect its unforgiving nature, and the sheer vastness of the land. I often find myself wanting to go to the spot near my host family’s home where you can stand and see absolutely nothing on the horizon in all directions. After years of living in Winnipeg I also miss lying out in the field, away from the city lights on a clear night where the sky literally reads as a sphere and the stars are so many they can never be counted. The prairie too has become part of me, another layer in the complex cultural memory I carry.