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Guest Post by Marguerite Pigeon: The Messiness of Democracy in Action

Book Cover Open Pit

I became a volunteer in Honduras entirely for myself. I was just thirty then, single, unhappy in my work life. I had applied to a creative writing MFA, but with an unpromising portfolio. I thought that if I could be useful in the area of development it would make me feel better about myself.

The impulse to go did not stem from hopes of writing about the experience. That would’ve been ambitious. This was more like an escape plan. And a realistic one: many NGOs reward bored, middle-class shirkers like me with “development vacations”—easy stints in poor countries. I was on that path, likely to return to Canada much as I left it, maybe destined to write a novel about fellow Canadian escapees.

Instead, the group I hooked up with troubled both my motives and my sense of feeling “better.” Rights Action is a small social justice organization intent on allowing partner groups in Central America to set local goals. They only bring a handful of people from Canada down to places like Honduras and El Salvador, and only with the understanding that you work under those groups.

So, early in 2002, I travelled to La Esperanza, a rundown but pretty hill town in Western Honduras, near the Salvadoran border. My first surprise was the weather: I had imagined a steamy, tropica …

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Writing Your Way Into Landscape: Guest Post by Jenna Butler

Book Cover Seldom Seen Road

Writing your way into (toward) a landscape is a tricky thing, a continual process of navigation, negotiation, re-visioning. I’m in awe of those who do it well, and turn often to the likes of Candace Savage and Sharon Butala, Robert Kroetsch, John Newlove, and Di Brandt.

Book Cover I See My Love More Clearly

I was talking with poet Nora Gould about this a handful of months back; her book I see my love more clearly from a distance, set in the ranching country of southeastern Alberta, has become a touchstone for me. We were deep into a conversation about the similarities between farming and ranching life, mostly the close attention to the natural world in all weather. I’ve spoken of this before with other rural friends, and usually the discussion shifts to the differences between ranching and farming: mobility versus stasis, that certain hardship out on a cattle drive versus the farmhouse just back over the rise if anything goes wrong. But with Nora, I felt the deep companionship inherent in setting those dividing lines aside and focusing on commonality: the weather, the seasons, the sto …

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