My Search for a Tumbleweed

by Nadine Bruneau

Last year, in the November 2017 Restoration, we put an unusual request in “One Man’s Scrap.” A tumbleweed!.

We see this plant, which the wind blows across the wide spaces of desert and prairie, as a symbol of our foundress Catherine, who was blown by the wind of the Spirit. For many years, a tumbleweed has always hung above her former chair in the dining room, but the one we had was disintegrating. We needed a new one.

They are too big and fragile to take on a plane, bus, or train, and getting one across the U.S. border would be a problem. So getting a new one has been a challenge.


Madonna House had been on the lookout for a new tumbleweed for a couple of years. Since I was planning to drive there from Vancouver for a visit last August, I was asked if I would keep an eye out for one.

Though I was very willing, I was not exactly sure what I was looking for. The only tumbleweed I’d ever seen was the one in Madonna House.

What did they look like out in the wild? Were there certain regions where I’d be more likely to find them? Was there a season for them? Could I find one by the side of the highway, or would I have to venture afield? How plentiful are they? So many questions!

The fact that Madonna House had been looking for one for so long gave me the impression that they are rare. (Factually, they are not.)

Nevertheless, off I went on my cross-country adventure, and once I hit the prairies, I kept my eyes peeled. I was determined that if I showed up at Madonna House empty-handed, it wouldn’t be for lack of effort.

Because of different places I wanted to visit, I kind of zigzagged across the country and ended up driving over 2000 km (1243 miles) just in the prairies. So if any one was ever going to find a tumbleweed, I guess I had a pretty good chance.

One place I stayed was near Cadillac, Saskatchewan, and I arrived several hours before my host was going to be home. So, since I had time to kill, I thought it might be a good chance to make a little side trip to Willow Bunch, the town where my grandpa was born, about 200 km (124 miles) away.

About half way there I had to fill up on gas, and that is when it dawned on me how inefficient this little side trip was.

Basically, I was driving a couple of hours to the middle of nowhere. Grandpa had left that town in his teens, and I don’t have any relatives or connections left there. I just wanted to check it out while I was on my way across the country.

Except that 200 km each way isn’t exactly on the way! Oh well, I was already halfway there. I wasn’t going to turn around now and say I drove an hour out and back just to get gas. That would be even more ridiculous!

So, I continued on my way and kept on the lookout for that tumbleweed. At least if I found one, my side trip wouldn’t be quite so pointless. But the miles seemed endless, and I didn’t see a single tumbleweed.

I arrived at the cluster of houses and the gas station which are Willow Bunch, parked the car, and walked around for a bit on the soil my grandpa once walked. I felt as if I were on holy ground. Surely there would be a tumbleweed just around this corner, or that one, or just at the top of this little hill on the edge of town. But no such luck.

Then I headed back to Cadillac. Again, the miles stretched on endlessly before me, just as bereft of tumbleweeds as before, and my spirits sank a little as I contemplated the possibility of arriving at Madonna House empty-handed.

By tomorrow I’d be on the bigger highways and arriving in Winnipeg for the night. If I was going to find this thing, today was my best chance. But that chance was slowly slipping away.

I was also kicking myself a little for this gross inefficiency and waste of gas, and for what purpose? Sure, I was glad to see my grandpa’s hometown, but couldn’t it have been done more efficiently?

As I was pondering all of this—I certainly had plenty of time to do so—my attitude slowly began to change.

I thought of how God’s ways are not my ways, and how sometimes he seems to do things that seem so unreasonable or inefficient.

I started to feel that God had intended this side-trip to be like this, and that in every single out-of-the-way mile that I had driven, he had gone before me and prepared the way.

Though surely God in his wisdom could have planned this more efficiently, he didn’t. I didn’t understand it, but as I drove on, I began to feel that God had planned the trip this way and therefore that this was exactly the way I should be going.

But it would have been nice to find a tumbleweed.

I was almost back at the farm where I was to spend the night; I had literally driven all day, all over the map through the prairies, and nada! Nothing! Oh well…

All of a sudden, something caught my eye! Was that a tumbleweed stuck in a fence? I stopped the car, backed up, and yes, it sure was! I had no idea if it was big enough, or too big, or nicer than the one they had, but it was definitely a tumbleweed!

I was so happy. I just put it in my car and kept going.

Before long, I saw another one! No way! But I already had one … but maybe this one would be nicer. So I stopped and took a look at it. I couldn’t decide between them; so I put both of them in my car.

Very shortly after that, I saw a whole row of tumbleweeds! I couldn’t believe it! I ended up with five tumbleweeds filling the entire back of my little Subaru and decided I’d let Madonna House pick the best one.

What really got me was that I was literally within 10 km of my destination, from the point where I decided to venture out on this excursion, and I had passed by this very way on my way to Willow Bunch!

Why hadn’t I seen anything on my way out? It’s as if I had been blind or something until I had gone through this whole side-journey and back.

God’s ways are not my ways, but thanks be to God for the journey.