Friday, December 11, 2009

Best place: the coulees of the Oldman River Valley

December 11: The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook?

wild flight, 334/365

There are no doubt warmer places, more exotic places, more exciting places; but for me the best place this year and every year are the  coulees of the river valley in my town in southern Alberta, because they're there for me when I need them.  It's no use pining for a beach a thousand miles away or a cafe by a distant bank: I love the coulees because they are so very present, and surrounded by their bleak, bleached, barren shapes, I can't be anywhere else but here, now; nor can I escape the elements, however they choose to present themselves that day: the sun, the wind, the snow, the dust.Coulee clouds, 34/365

big sky

rivervalley west, 255/365

They are alien to me, having been born in the tropics and then raised in the lush, temperate Fraser Valley on British Columbia's west coast.  But this week, I was working with a woman who had also moved here from the valley. She said that when she first set eyes on the landscape of southern Alberta, she was literally staggered: physically lost her balance and had to hold on to something to keep from falling to her knees. The wildness, the desolate, stark beauty completely unmoored her. I knew exactly what she meant.

coming over the ridge

I don't feel unmoored, quite, any longer, now that I've lived here for over twenty years. The coulees are almost literally my back yard. But even with their familiarity, year after year and season after season, they can still leave me awestruck, at the way that they have permeated my  breath and bones, at the way that they can revive me when my spirits are flagging and calm me when my nerves are in tatters.  This year and every year, the best place.

part of Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge

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