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.
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.
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.
Sometimes light falls on things in a fleeting moment. The subtlety of the moment can be so quick and startling that you suspect it was placed in front of you just so you’ll open your eyes and see.
The spring sky beckons to the heart starved by a winter that overstayed its welcome. “You don’t need to escape the cold any more. Come on, linger a little longer…”