Poem A Day Challenge & Poetry Friday April 19, 2019

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm. Make sure you read her ongoing story poems about John and his dog, Betsy, and check out her page for links to more poets sharing work today.

In 1958, when I was five years old, my parents and other relatives set out on a great adventure north. I have been writing bits and pieces about that time for a while. Over the last couple of years, and as I write more, I interview remaining family members for more details and stories about their experience. To motivate myself to write, I plan to post bits and pieces of their saga here every Friday. They might not be in any kind of order. I'm just hoping to get some kind of reasonable drafts out there. I hope for feedback both on the construction of the poetry, and more details from family.

This is the third instalment. You can read the first one here and the second one here.


they set off north
the grey green shades
of cactus,
grease wood,
sage and
darker hues of

ponderosa pine

left behind
lowlands and
orchards ripe with fruit

hoodoos and
silt cliffs
saluted them
in the early morning
light of their leaving

took the ferry across
Okanagan lake
where Ogopogo
is rumoured to swim

saw terrain transform
from orchards
into ranch land

through town
after town
when main street
meant something

reached the interior plateau
and headed west
through Kamloops
to Cache Creek
a desolate landscape

hills so barren,
the dried grasses
on their exposed bones
wearily waved them on

continued north again
up Highway 97
to Clinton where
they stopped,
spent the night
with family

Peggy and Maurice
welcomed them
fed them,
and sent them
on their way
the next day

onward they pressed
deep into the heart
of the Cariboo
passing through
country lush with lakes,
following the old gold rush trail
in search of a different kind
of riches

100 Mile House
William’s Lake
and Quesnel

mile by mile
groves of white and green
aspen attended them,
bearing witness 

open grasslands
merged into
northern pine forests

that second evening,
arriving in
Prince George
they halted
overnighted with
family again
Alma and Red,
mom’s eldest sister
had fresh baked
huckleberry pies
waiting for them

next morning they set out
northeast across the rockies
on the last
leg of their journey
into what would become
their new homes
their new lives

Links to my previous April poems can be found here.

Here is a link to blogs of other participants in the poem a day challenge.


  1. This is beautiful, makes me long to learn more about my own history. What an absolute treasure for readers and for your family. The names of plants, places, people, and foods bring each line to life. Thank you. May we each be remembered.

    1. Thank you Amy. I hope to some day get it finished!

  2. What an important project! Love that you are capturing your memories and those of your family members!

    1. The best part of this so far Mary Lee, has been doing the interviews and getting to know those people better.

  3. Such a sense of place with those gorgeous details. I love "bearing witness" the personification in this is especially good.

    1. Thank you Linda. The land and their place in it, is integral to my people.

  4. I love all the specific details, like Linda.

  5. Such a journey, Cheriee. I would love to see illustrations with these poems of your family's past. You've put in so many details (as others have said). I am loving the story!

    1. I'm thinking I need to add a section that deals with blistering heat, crowded hot cars, the roar of air rushing into open windows, (no air conditioning) and whiny, rambunctious, squabbling children jumping around in the back seats.

  6. I just went back and read the first two installments. So interesting to think of your family striking out. I had to look up hoodoos and Cariboo. Now I know you're in the Canadian wilderness. Can't wait to hear about the new life your family embarked on - such courage!

    1. Well Ramona, I'm now in Vancouver BC, so not in the hinterland anymore!

  7. Wow, what a beautiful way to capture an important event in your family history! When I was about two or three my family made the trek to move us from Ontario to B.C., and you've inspired me to ask my mother about it! Sometimes you take these snippets of family history for granted, they're just stories you hear a million times and don't really think about, until one day you stop and realize what exactly your family was undertaking, and it can give you such a greater appreciation for what your relatives experienced!

    1. Get the stories now! I wish I had started this before both my parents had died.

  8. following the old gold rush trail/in search of a different kind/of riches -- nice! I also am struck by the trees bearing witness (and I like the sound of huckleberry pies! Maybe you can include recipes in your collection).

    I told my youngest recently about how my parents' first contact was in a college theater class when the teacher had them pretend to get married -- she was really surprised. I thought she knew how they met! We do have to share the stories, get them out there!

  9. Thank you for taking us along on their journey in such beautiful poetic form.

  10. I love those lush greens at the beginning and how you record the landscape transforming as they travel north. This is such a treasure for your family.

  11. Cheriee, this installment of your family history is fascinating and rich in detail:
    hills so barren,
    the dried grasses
    on their exposed bones
    wearily waved them on