Alberta Bound

As you may have guessed from my last post and my absentness this week—I went home to Alberta, Canada! Ooo I gathered as much of that awesome Alberta soul as I could carry! I was like a worn teddy bear being stuffed with fresh cotton.

I was absolutely mesmerized, dazzled and comforted by the crystal night sky, the magnificent sunsets and the warmth of my family. After the brief trip I realized visiting home could be just as enriching as visiting the most exotic lands. Here’s why:

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Dinosaur Provincial Park: Brooks, Alberta

Skidding on the loose soil I wobbled, flapping my arms to regain balance. Just a meter ahead of me my sister carried on upwards ignoring my bleating while jolting infrequently through her own noodle dance. After a few seconds I successfully fought off gravity’s affection and managed to acquire the proper vertical position once more. The last few steps to the top were simple, but I still had to chase my breath. Overhead the blue dome sky stretched on to forever. The clouds seemed to reach out from infinity. As the eternal hills and silent river posed for my eyes the trees continued their seasonal wardrobe change without pause.

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I Have a New Doorstep!

The first thing I noticed was the aging paint and mold-ridden walls juxtaposed with satellite dishes. It was like seeing sodden cardboard boxes precariously pulled together with broken string, topped with shiny red bows and presented as awkward gifts.

Of course a second longer look revealed that the long line of apartments before me was in fact sturdier than it first appeared. It just well worn. Like a pair of jeans whitewashed from use.

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Burst of Colour Run: July 27

I ventured closer to capture the kids and adults clustered around a bucket of blue. I planned to raise my camera over the odd monument of limbs and capture everyone as they look down, enraptured by the coloured powder.

An excitement sped through the air and with my attention zeroed in on obtaining my photo I missed the hidden signal to begin.

The term “all hell broke loose” is the most appropriate phrase for an individual suddenly finding herself in the midst of a colourful dust storm with a camera worth around a $1,000.

I whipped around and dashed out of there like my tail was on fire, cuddling my camera as a football player protects the ball. I’m sure I would have mowed down anyone who stood in my way if they’d chanced that unlucky confrontation.

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Carnivals: The People Who Build Them

Carnivals have always brought a sense of wonder and adventure to me. I marvel at the dazzling lights and flashing colours. What had once been an empty parking lot would come alive with imaginative themes. The very air would become saturated with a whimsical mood. People came to carnivals to forget. To rattle their brains of thought and spin their worries away.

It’s been this way for decades according to popular culture. Magic and mystery travel hand-in-hand with the carnival in our imaginations.

As always overnight it seemed as though the rides had risen from the dust.

And, like being there at exactly the moment the wheels of a pivot begin to turn or watching a spider complete its a web, I managed to appear at the carnival’s doorstep right as it began to build its fantastic façade. Continue reading “Carnivals: The People Who Build Them”

Carnivals: The People Who Build Them 2

Climbing up to each ride with my feet clanking on every step. I only had eyes for the hand rail, the stairs and the waiting empty seats. The glance I’d share with the operator of the ride would be one of dismissal. You’ve seen my wristband now let me ride I’d be saying behind my cheerful smile. I’d notice but not focus on the fact that each glimpsed face was different. Some gave me a large toothy—or toothless—smile, others looked right on past me.

Some individuals were white skinned while others were dark skinned. Sometimes faces and hands was dark from oil and grease. Some faces were crinkled like waterless riverbeds and tiny canyons. Others were identical to the teens waiting to ride.

The same as it would be in a small town, there were eyes that laughed, that silently cried, that you wouldn’t want to meet in an alley and eyes that welcomed you with all their heart.

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Canada Day: July 1st

The shade was creeping over my body, bringing a cool blanket over my hot skin. I yanked my cap up to replace the hot air around my head with colder fresh air. It was a habit I’d continue throughout the day as the sunlight became hotter and the sweet delicious shade became scarcer. I wiggled on the curb trying to get some feeling back after sitting on the pavement for over an hour. Though a solitary figure from the Declercq clan, I was far from alone. Around me people gossiped and greeted each other from their lawn chairs and blankets. Ever few seconds a cheerful cry went up as someone recognized another whom they hadn’t seen in months or weeks or years. A small child at my side turned to her mother and asked in a voice I could fondly recall from my own youth, “mom, when’s the parade starting?” The youngster settled back with a huff when the answer was ten minutes, which as we all know is a decade in a child’s time frame.

After ten restless minutes the sight of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police leading the parade around the corner erased all tension from waiting. The parents gave a gasp of relief and settled back to watch their children sprint back and forth with candy. The parade had begun and so had the Canadian celebration. Continue reading “Canada Day: July 1st”

Aboriginal Day (Men): June 21

Behind me children of nationalities across the world watched a tradition that I could confidently call something born of Canada and the land the country itself was born from. As nation we like to describe Canada as a patchwork of nationalities, which ultimately means we have a hard time defining ourselves. What is a Canadian? What it does mean to come from Canada and live within it? We call ourselves peacekeepers, environmentalists and liberal thinkers for the most part. And yet we just as easily contradict those ideal images. For example our suppression and continued stubborn misunderstanding of the unique nations within our own, which we arrogantly clutter under three names, if that. Often we only use one set of words that mean the same thing but are deemed more or less politically correct: Aboriginals, First Nation Peoples, Natives, Indians. Continue reading “Aboriginal Day (Men): June 21”

National Aboriginal Day: June 21

The first time I saw men and women performing traditional dances in aboriginal regalia was at a tiny tot pow wow hosted in the gymnasium of my university. The event was a celebration of children. When the dancers first entered the gymnasium floor they danced in a wide circle, “flattening the grass” of the dancing area as their ancestors did before them. Then the different categories of dancers proceeded to astound and delight with light and sure feet. Like the deer, birds and butterflies they mimicked the dancers swiftly pranced and ducked. But they had nowhere to go in that gymnasium, no sun and sky to embrace so they circled and stayed close to the ground.

This time I was witnessing the dances in a small school theatre and the dancers seemed even more out of place than the gymnasium. The fancy shawl dancers twirling and fluttering like butterflies seemed caged in the confides of the stage.

Originally the dancers were to be hosted outside a school called Griffin Park, but rain drove them indoors to save their delicate regalia.  Continue reading “National Aboriginal Day: June 21”

Kinsmen Pro Rodeo: June 7th and 8th

The big screen at the far end of the arena displayed what I couldn’t see from my place in the stands. In all his pixel glory a cowboy is twisting a strip of leather and rawhide around his hand and the saddle so he can create a suitcase-like grip. With each second he is tying himself more firmly to the bronc’s back. I can’t help recalling what a former classmate said when I interviewed him earlier about being on the rodeo circuit as a saddle bronc rider. “It was the most comfortable, natural thing for me to do and it’s what I like the best,” he said.

“I wasn’t interested in tying myself to a bull.”

There is a bang as the horse shifts in the stall, jostling the cowboy and causing the men around him to jerk back. After a moment the spat is nothing more than a memory.

Seconds later the door flies open. The horse leaps out with explosive energy. Flying out like a coiled spring it bounds forward kicking at the air in energetic earnest. The crowd is cheering trying to glue the cowboy to the bronc’s back with their enthusiasm.

Points will be awarded to both the bronc and the cowboy for their performance. This is a shared moment, a split effort, a reenactment of a historical bond—bound to less than 8 seconds in time. Continue reading “Kinsmen Pro Rodeo: June 7th and 8th”