We stayed in
a rustic hostel in Jasper, where we had to fetch our water from the river. The
outhouse was a short run across open bear country. The bears! Everywhere you go in Western Canada you
see bear warning. You are given grizzly advice. You are taught black bear encounter strategy.
As far as I could tell, when you meet a bear you should not eat their porridge, and you should always have a hiking
partner who can't run as fast as you can.
They had me so hyped I detected bears
at every yard from the kitchen to the latrine. What's that? It's a bear! Oh, a tree.
That's a bear! Oh, no, it's Katie, the bus driver.
Sorry for throwing a pine cone at you. A bear! The same tree again. And so on.
We saw a bear at last by the roadside. It was cute.
Banff is a resort in the heart of the Rockies, surrounded by glacial blue rivers
and lakes, and stern upthrust sedimentary rocks. We went whitewater rafting, I fell
out so that my friends could practice their laughing-too-hard-to-save-your-life
technique, and then climbed a mountain.
The land unfurled easily around us in
an adventure playground of greens and greys under the perfect blue sky.
All of a sudden I wanted to be a ski guide, a rafting guide, a rock climber,
anything to allow me to see this place through its changing seasons.
Maybe I can get a job as a mincing jigolo.
My new friends have gone again. Julia, who had kept me laughing all the time, sat
up with me last night and we talked at random, spilling out various odds and ends and
scrag parts of old emotions. Thank you for that Julia, you eased my heart.
Tomorrow I must make twenty
new friends, and maybe this time if I keep my mouth shut and they play no ballet
music, they'll let me be a quiet old man who just smiles and nods to himself,
and if he looks out the window
sometimes, perhaps he remembers that things are just fine.