A Border Wall in Negative Space

blue_49th parallel

2016-06-16 – We went to the 49th parallel yesterday—Canada’s border wall with the United States. Canada was smart. They built their border wall long ago to keep out the Americans. They remember President James K. Polk’s 1844 war cry “fifty-four forty or fight.”

True to the Canadian character, the wall is conceptual. Rather than being built from brick and mortar, it is built in negative space. The Canadian forest grows to the north of the conceptual wall and the American forest grows to the south. In between is a space of 49 feet where no tree grows. This conceptual wall extends from the Pacific to Lake Superior.

And it works.

We were out hiking in the Kootenai National Forest near Graves Creek. We drove out a gravel road to Frozen Lake and then began our walk to a clearing. To the west was the Frozen Lake valley. To the east was the clearing that (presumably) extends all the way to Duluth. The Canadian border. We stepped across the line but immediately felt an urge to return to the American side. We said “excuse me, eh,” went back to our vehicle, and left.

Montana is pretty different from Chicago. They have lakes here. I’m used to lakes. We have those in Chicago. But I noticed right away that the land is not flat. It is so not-flat that, the view of the horizon is blocked by “mountains” rather than by buildings. There are also lots of pine trees here.

They also let animals run wild here. So far, we’ve seen lots of deer. There are big ones and little ones. The little ones seem to be magnetically attracted to some of the big ones. They say that there are also bears. I’m told that bears in the distance can look like tree stumps with ears. So far, we’ve only seen tree stumps without ears. I know that seals come in a variety with ears and another variety without ears. I wonder if bears have an un-eared variety.

In addition to border-testing and wild-animal-watching, yesterday, we went fishing. I “cast” once, but was blinded by the reflection on the water. (Cal, someone should write a song about this.) I cast a second time and caught a log. Then we were done. I was later told that, the next time, I could catch some fish, which we could cook and eat for dinner.

I’ll let you know.

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