Every September I say it. It’s the most beautiful month of the year where I live. Summer is still here and yet the evenings are beginning to cool. Soft breezes visit often. Wild flowers fall about lazy and flourishing in their rich colours. Spectacular cloud formations make the skies endlessly entertaining. And the light – the light of September is its greatest gift: soft, translucent, dreamy, gentle.
So I’m sitting on a patio on our old and pretty street and a September breeze is feeling luscious on my arms and I’m having one of those “I love my life” moments, when a guy on a skateboard holding a bouquet of flowers sails across my line of vision, and nicely hammers home the life is beautiful thought.
After a week of travelling and eating in restaurants, a simple salad at home is exactly what I needed. I just love these power bowls. They’re so nutritious and filling, and easy to make. This one with mixed greens, cucumbers, carrots, grape tomatoes, chickpeas, avocado, cucumber, hemp seeds, pepita seeds green onion, hummus and yogurt dressing with dill, honey and lemon juice. It’s a good way to clean out the fridge, no?
It’s our last dinner in Alberta on a lovely patio on a lovely tree-lined street, and I’m feeling grateful for this man. The best trip planner ever. He planned every leg of the trip, made all the arrangements and did all of the driving so I could sit back and really see the Rockies and the Plains and the Badlands and all the other parts of this amazing province I’d never visited before. What a good time we had – every minute of it. This goes down in the books as one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and I didn’t even have to leave Canada.
It wasn’t the first time I’d done a musical pilgrimage. Years ago, during a road trip to visit our friend Sheryl in New York, my sister, her kids and I travelled back up through Woodstock, and then tried our damnedest to find Big Pink, but there was some missing link in the road signs (we suspected perhaps the current home-owner might have caused this) and we just couldn’t find it. Many do it. Music, like all art, is a spiritual experience. And if music affects you as deeply as, say, Music from Big Pink or The Basement Tapes did Cathy and I, then you’d seize any opportunity to be in that place where it was created or inspired. It adds a whole other layer to the musical story and your experience of it.
So here I am in the beautiful town of Jasper and I realise Pyramid Lake is just a short jaunt out of town, and I have to go because it is at the centre of one of my long-time favourite Blue Rodeo songs, the trippy and joyful Cynthia. While here I learn that Jasper National Park is the world’s second largest dark sky preserve, and so how could star gazing in a place like this not inspire a beautiful song like that?
One of Ceri’s pet peeves is the way people use superlatives to describe ordinary things.
“Can I borrow your pen?”
“How was your first try at making meatloaf?”
As we were driving in Jasper National Park and I’m snapping shots and gaping in wonder at the astounding beauty of it all, Ceri said, “yeah, this is awesome.”
I’d never visited the Rockies before. I’ve flown over them, and that in itself was incredible, seeing the sheer mass of mountains below and the odd peaks poking up through the clouds. And so as we arrive in Jasper I’m feeling happy and grateful to be here in this part of the world. With every bend or dip in the road everything changes and there’s a whole new kind of beauty in front of you. I sit back in my seat and just enjoy.
Not ten minutes into the park we’re in a traffic jam. Cars are all backed up as far in front of us as we can see. I mean, it’s not as bad as all that – there’s plenty all around to keep us entertained, it’s not exactly like being stuck on the Gardiner Expressway at five o’clock on a Tuesday. We inch along for well more than an hour, and then up ahead, we see the cause of the traffic jam – the Jasper Park Welcome Wagon.
I love where I live. I love the noise and energy of the knockabout downtown. The diversity of all us that live here. And the tourists. The history welling within the bricks of this old neighbourhood. The endless supply of new things to do, different foods to try and culture to explore. That I don’t need to own a car. And that I can walk to work! Many unique neighbourhoods to discover. Grand building and humble alleys. A killer view of a really great skyline.
And a short walk to a small, floating, quieter world where just sitting down to watch if for a little while will soothe the mind and breath from all that bustle when it needs to.
My mind is glad to wake but my eyes are not, and they do their best to stay closed against the brightening window. I try to focus on some fat steely looking clouds hovering there, my eyelids protesting while I try to gauge the direction of their journey across the sky, but they are moving so slow my eyes won’t stay open long enough to judge. Opening them again, a beefy face underneath a newsboy cap emerges in the heavy grey mounds, and it’s something to focus on. I watch the face and it watches me as it creeps south toward the lake, past my window and out of sight, presumably turning its attention to sleeping dwellers in the building across the street.
I lay there and think about that face for a minute, and then, eyes ready to receive the morning, open to see the sky now entirely blue beyond the window. I get out of bed and put the kettle on for coffee.
Today I’m hammering away at my computer in my office with its rectangular windows with their rectangular venetian blinds overlooking a landscape filled with other rectangular concrete office buildings under rainy skies and I get a text from Debbie: “Thinking of you. Taking pictures of lupines in Parry Sound.”
It’s a nice thought – that a bunch of bobbing, wild lupines make your friend think of you. And that she tells you so. And that at least she is standing in a place where they are.
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These days more strangers seem to be smiling at me on my walks to work. It’s probably because last week I was listening to the wonderfully charming audio book, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” and this week I’m listening to David Sedaris read his stories. I’m grinning and snorting and chuckling (and sometimes crying) all the time on my walks to work these days, and finding many passers-by with open faces smiling back at me. Reminder to self: Smiling at strangers always pays off – and it doesn’t even have to be intentional.
* * *
Summer hasn’t even shown herself yet, and still, people are already complaining about the weather. Maybe all of those people are the types that ACTUALLY LIKE seemingly endless winters with seemingly endless snow and ice and seemingly endless strings of -25° days with whipping winds that hurt your whole body when you go outside. Me? I prefer a season with lupines.