Ths post is my attempt at remembering and writing about what I saw on my road trip to Lethbridge, Alberta. The tense changes a lot, paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence. Please hang with me as I try to get to the gut of seeing the beauty of our land.
I know I am speaking from a point of privilege to even say that I have enough time to take vacation and enough money to go some place outside my neighborhood.
I am at Waterton Park in Alberta, just north of Glacier National Park. I am visiting friends who moved to ALberta to teach. Today it's a trip to the mountains to see the view of the Rockies. As I walked slowly up the trail putting one foot in front of the other, I watched the tops of the other mountains get closer. I noticed the way the earth and rock were formed, at angles, layers of rock moved further towards the sky. The sides littered with trees standing, leaning or fallen against the others that are standing, leaning or fallen. I reach the top of the summit to gaze at what the earth has been making for over 10,000 years or more. How old are the Rockies? The mountains are large and imposing. But aren't all mountains, Olympus, Rainer, Everest, and the Himalayas?
The wind blows my linen pants and strands of hair. My friends and I take pictures, pointing, posing and gazing. Standing close to the edge of a mountain/hill me and my friends hiked up, I took in the vast sky before me and the lake below, big and blue, reflecting the sky. I fell small. I feel big. I feel that warm fuzziness when you are in the presence of something grand. I wish to stay there forever in the present moments.
A crowd starts to gather and a family with three boys joins us on the summit. Reality sets in, it's time to head back down the mountain. Descending requires more concentration. I must pick my steps carefully so I don't slide on the small stones. I see scenes I didn't see on the way up, I look away for a second, lose my footing, slide a bit, and catch myself. Life changes quickly. Lose your footing and you can be a rolling stone. But life up here on this mountain doesn't seem to change that fast. Not from what I can see. I regain my footing and walk slowly down to the parked car and the bustle of the town.
The mountains were inspiring but then so were the plains. Our road trip took us through some beautiful fields of sunflowers, grazing cattle and cows. Once we reached Painted Canyon of North Dakota, just before Medora,my mind turned the glaciers that carved out this place and made the buttes that were popping up as we drove towards Montana. I would get out of the car at a rest stop and try to get my heart to catch up with what I was seeing, before we moved on.
A week doesn't do the landscape justice. I was slowing down as I sped across two states to visit friends who I would see for about five days. I wanted to take in every scene and document it. There is something valuable in seeing the land and its natural beauty. I try to visualize the mountains that were forming around Lake Waterton and also Lake St. Mary, MT, and how the coulee in Lethbridge was carved in the land, with Chief Mountain looking on. The plains give way to pastures that are larger than most neighborhoods. My thoughts would wonder to who surveys and keeps track of all this land? The fences that are so close to the rodas and highways? What will we do if the population gets too large? Will we expand out here? What will become of this land and the beauty?
Looking out the window beyond the twisting road to the foothills of the Rockies in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, drawing me in with it's pine trees like flag poles, covering the range and the creek rushing past us, heading north as we travel south. Bright blue sky hangs above and I feel free. Not myself, not anyone for a moment. I am in the moment. I am that blip of a blip in the history of the world. All I know for sure is this land will continue to be. It was here before me. It will be here after me. And for that I feel thankful, grateful.