Posts Tagged ‘British Columbia’

Ever since we left Abbottsford at the Washington/British Columbia border I’ve bounced wildly back and forth between delight and frustration … delight at the absolutely magnificent scenery, and frustration over the fact that Canadian highways don’t seem to have view points, so I couldn’t take pictures of all that magnificence. So I worked on composing descriptions for the blog.

For example, there was an extended drive between Abbottsford and Kamloops along Trans Canada Highway 1 that was bounded by steep, heavily forested cliffs with craggy granite faces snugged against one side of the highway, with a shallow, rocky river on the other, and a mountain, dancing in the distance, towering above a sky full of snow-white, wooly clouds.

Then, further on that day, the landscape softened and opened out, still running next to a river, but dryer and riddled with patches of what appeared to be diseased trees. Next, Kamloops was in a wide, dry beautifully shaped bowl in the mountains, a very prosperous, modern town (touted as the food processing and commercial hub of the region). Everything was brand new, with lots of chain stores you also find in the US, like Toys R Us, McDonalds, Bed & Bath & Beyond and so on. Our hotel was a very pleasant overnight stay although for some reason the critters didn’t like it much.

Revelstoke, our next overnight stay, was scruffy, full of mountaineers, bicyclers and hikers, with the loveliest mountain I could see out the hotel room window, flirting with me behind gauzy wisps of cloud that would come and go.

But when we got to Banff I felt like the breath had been kicked out of me. My mind went blank and then the weirdest thought crept in … that I’d squandered all my superlatives on the way here, and had nothing left to say in the face of such (literally) breathtaking scenery!

As we drove through on the way to the Banff Boundary Lodge I kept flipping through my vocabulary and discarding words … magnificent (not quite right), awe inspiring (certainly, but not good enough), spectacular (well, yeah, but … missing something), dramatic, splendid, rugged (pallid), and so on. Nothing satisfied me, so I took pictures and instructed my subconscious to get to work on what to say (my Inner Writer is a diligent and wonderful partner).

The next day (yesterday) I just sat around adjusting to the altitude (about 4500 feet above sea level), flipping through guidebooks for good hikes and car trips, and letting my impressions simmer. This morning I could walk up the stairs in our condo without pausing for breath, and when I was gazing at the mountains through the shower window, the concepts I needed bubbled to the surface.

The mountains around Banff, bare of all but glaciers in early September, are powerful, muscular, with knife-like ridges and striations of glaciers which show very clearly the tremendous force these mountains exerted as they emerged … sometimes the striations are as steep as 45 degrees, giving the impression of a powerful elbow or fist that had smashed through the earth’s crust, giants exploding from deep underground to stand sentinel over this wild, green land.

The only things I’ve ever seen that can hold a candle to these mountains for sheer, raw energy and power are a series of sculptures by Michelangelo called “Slaves,” sculptures which many people call “unfinished.”

I first saw them in my teens during a tour of Europe (see “Coming Home with a Thump”), and found them absolutely staggering even then. Our tour guide, an art history professor at San Francisco State, told me that, rather than being unfinished, he felt Michelangelo intended to show the figures as fighting their way free of the stone encasing them. And you can see below their indomitable will and the powerful struggle of bulging muscle and straining sinews.

One of the sculptures is the focus of the World card (XXI) of James Wanless’ Voyager Tarot deck, probably a big reason I first bought that deck, and why I still use it professionally.

More on the area after we’ve done some hiking and driving and watching for wildlife … originally we’d planned to leave Wednesday, but there are so many tempting activities, and our condo is so lovely and handy with a real kitchen and 2 bedrooms upstairs (and the critters are SO blissfully happy to be staying in one place!) that we’ve extended our stay.

Since we’re going to remain until the day after my birthday, September 10, I will have plenty of time to map out the next stage of our journey, start the process of house-hunting in Maine, and polish some of the articles I’ve promised … including a discussion of Runes for the next stage of our journey, the pros and cons of being different, helpful hints for traveling with 2 cats and an 80 lb dog, Google maps versus paper maps and what they reveal about one’s approach to life, and memories of traveling with my mother’s parents.

May what you see out your window be a feast for your eyes and heart!


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