Hello, again. While I was away there seems to have been a definite shift towards the cold and the wet and the blustery. Which is good news, in case you were wondering, because it means coats, huddling indoors with mugs of tea and Cat’s welcome home plate-piling roasts
So this is where I’ve been: Canada! Specifically, starting out in Calgary and then travelling up via the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks with Michele and Nisa. Let it be said from the outset that we are both eternally grateful to Nisa for a) hauling all our stuff around in her car, b) being the expert on tents, stoves and other wilderness skills and c) stopping us getting eaten by bears.
Oh, Canada. How to describe Canada? If America was created by a benevolent deity lazing away a free weekend by playing a giant continent-sized edition of The Sims, then Canada is the result of that deity reaching for the cheat codes in frustration when its Sims remained stubbornly unhappy the first time around. The landscape is still clearly North American, pretty much, albeit with fewer billboards (and, delightfully, billboards which still make archaic boasts for food with ‘great tasting flavour’ rather than using impetuous upstart spellings like ‘flavor’). The glistening green lawns of suburbia still sprawl across giant infernal grid systems, and even relatively quiet cities like Calgary (sorry) have unapologetically giant skyscrapers. (You don’t get the impression that anyone in North America has ever worried about maintaining the equivalent of ‘nice uninterrupted views of St Paul’s’, or – indeed – written any ‘view management frameworks‘ which run to over 30,000 words.)
But, at least on this trip, Canadians did a good job of living up to their reputation as the more chilled-out and at-peace Americans. Little things. Smiling faces. Teenagers unironically saying ‘dang it!’ after missing the bus. Cars which stop for you to cross the road. “What’s the national mood like in Canada at the moment?” I asked one of our hosts. “Well, you might remember we had some pretty bad floods here recently…” he replied. (I didn’t, of course, but tried to mumble sombrely and sympathetically.) “Yeah, they really helped bring everyone together to rebuild. It was really nice.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Canada.
Of course, most of this trip was spent with Canadian trees rather than Canadian humans, and of this there are plenty of highlights: hiking up a mountain for the sake of a teashop at the top, lying in a tent looking up at the stars, being disabused of the notion that bearspray is just a joke product, morning cups of tea, evening cups of gin, and deciding that “because it’s cold” is certainly no reason to avoid swimming in a beautiful lake between the mountains. Blissful.
And one sadder note: we also visited a glacier which Michele remembered from a family trip a mere ten years ago, only to find that it’s almost gone. We were able to stand on ground which had once been ice under the Bush presidency, and by the time of Obama is now earth and stone. Soon it will all be gone. Even if you don’t know what it all means (so what’s the impact of losing this glacier?) it’s a sobering demonstration of just how quickly the grand, awe-inspiring structures of the natural world around us can change and disappear.
P.S. Oh, and I legitimately used a sonic screwdriver toy in lieu of a flashlight. Because I am cool.