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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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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Flying Around The County of Newell, Alberta

The first thing I saw was blue sky. A serene, baby blue. A sky only seen in summer with fluffy cumulous clouds lazily drifting by like bundles of floating cotton-candy. My stomach slouched as I felt the wheels rise off the ground. My heart skipped around in my chest as though it were tired of the secondhand images from my eyes. My eyes meanwhile ignored the clamouring of my heart and peered earnestly ahead searching for the horizon.

Then the nose of the small Cessna 180 dipped down and my stale static perspective of my home for 18 steady years and two summers found itself chucked out the door.

After snatches of discussion with Terry Wagner, the pilot and my guide for the morning, all sounds dwindled away except for the buzzing of the turbine beyond the cushion of my headphones. I found myself lost in the geometry of the land. I’m not usually interested in landscapes, but the patchwork of crops, perfect spheres from ever circling pivots and roads that went on forever caught me in their snare. I was enthralled by the mundane and entranced by objects I wouldn’t have given a second thought on the ground.

The skies revealed a new world. And things I’d never seen before. Continue reading “Flying Around The County of Newell, Alberta”

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”

Little Britches Rodeo: June 7th and 8th

My right knee dug into the soft dirt of the open air arena as my toes ground the dirt inside my shoes. With clouds passing intermittently overhead my dollar store hat was doing a great job of keeping the sunlight from my hot burned face. Everything outside of the small radius of shade made by my cowboy hat was warm. My nose was sore from being mashed against my camera but I ignored it. My attention was fixed on the gate. Advertisements flickered in the background as my camera swayed. Seagulls called from the blue sky.

BANG! The gate flew open and a white ball of wool came barreling out with its passenger hanging on for dear life. The crowd roared in excitement. These people were cheering on the small child clinging to the sheep’s back. Continue reading “Little Britches Rodeo: June 7th and 8th”

Alpacas in Alberta

I quivered slightly as I dipped forward before gaining my balance again. The sun warmed my back and brightened the stark wooden enclosure. Cloud shadows flitted across the dust, deepening the grooves and highlighting the ridges of the uneven ground. Twenty hairy faces gawked back at me. There was an uncertain energy to the group. Standing with my face angled over the fence wasn’t easy but I really wanted that kiss.

But the alpaca wouldn’t have it.

Must have been my personality. Yep, you read right. I was hoping for a kiss from an alpaca. Because I mean, how could anyone resist this face?

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