Therese DesCamp Longlisted for the 2023 CBC Nonfiction Prize

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“I write because I have not yet found how to say what I long to say. Words can’t contain the fullness of what I see and feel and know. There is a spruce tree outside my window; that the spruce tree exhales what I breath in, and inhales what I breathe out. Our necessary exchange is a silken thread in the invisible, infinite web of breath, nutrients, ideas, feelings, and love that continually pours into and out of all beings. How can I say this so someone else can feel it? That’s why I write.”

~Therese DesCamp

Wide Spot: Temper, temper

First you heat carbon and iron to 1450 C, then cool it rapidly. This makes the steel hard, but it shatters easily. Next you heat it to a lower temperature, say, 650 C, and cool it slowly. The end result is hard but not brittle, with springy strength. This is tempering. I thought about tempering …

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The Destroyer

I look out my window through a haze of choking smoke. Over 33 million acres have burned in Canada and we’re just halfway through the forest fire season. It’s not an unreasonable question to ask where (the hell) G*d is in all this mess. There’s been a Destroyer lurking in every pantheon since the dawn …

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Wide Spot: So say the lichens

She was getting out of her van by the beach, clearly unnerved by the thick smoke in the air. “Did you hear that they’re evacuating all of Yellowknife?” I blinked; I didn’t know her from Adam, but she sure needed to talk. “Yes,” I said. I felt anxious too. But I know how to listen …

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Wide Spot: Don’t Kick

I had a list a mile long, I did, of plans for July. Not only family visits, but writing space, study time, a week-end board planning meeting, a personal retreat week. My overall longing for this month was for big blocks of quiet reflection time, something that’s felt sorely lacking during the last six months. …

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Wide Spot: Stung

Last year, my revered teacher made some unconsidered remarks to a board on which I serve. Part of the problem was that she didn’t recognize the competence of the people in front of her; that stung us. Another board member pointed out her misconception, and the group went on to vote in favor of the …

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Wide Spot: Sacred

When I was a kid, sacred was about church. It was the Lord’s Prayer repeated each Sunday; it was the consecration, the communion cup, the baptismal fountain, the ashes on the forehead. In Braiding Sweetgrass, the indigenous biologist and author Robin Wall Kimmerer recounts an observance enacted daily during the summer months that her family camped …

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Wide Spot: Bull’s Eye!

I recently participated in a difficult conversation. The conversation was difficult primarily because I responded badly to a remark made by the other person. Since this person is the one with whom I cohabit, it is not the first time I reacted in this way. Regrettably, it is also probably not the last time that …

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Wide Spot: Just Standing

Years ago, not long after my father died, a friend of mine called in a favour. While I can’t even remember her name, I do remember the favour: to be present while her favourite horse was put down. It was the last thing I wanted to do. But I went because she asked. I have …

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Wide Spot: Hope

Most people I know are loathe to speak of hope these days. They see the impacts of climate change and social inequities; they feel the tremendous systemic strains. They recognize that the world is in an unsustainable mess. The only hope these dear friends may allow themselves is the hope that they die before the …

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Wide Spot: Give Up

Some of my friends are just fine. They are doing exactly what they love, making music or mentoring younger people or hiking all over the mountains. They are joyful and creative and it’s fun to be with them. I don’t know about the dark corners in the middle of their nights, but clearly, they are …

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