Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Beauty of Canada by Victoria Chatham

 As a child living in England, Canada to me was that big country across the North Atlantic. My earliest recollections of references to it were of the Rocky Mountains and canoeing on crystal-clear lakes. Later, I learned about the Calgary Stampede, never imagining that I would eventually make Calgary my home.

On my first trip to Canada, the flight followed the northern route over the north pole and, as we flew across Hudson Bay, my very first impression was of the abundance of water. The surface of the Bay shimmered in the morning sunlight, but it was the lakes, rivers, creeks and tributaries which sparkled in diamond-bright links through the land that made me catch my breath in wonder.

From the air, Saskatchewan looked like a patchwork quilt, and the passenger beside me explained that each patch was a section of six hundred and forty acres, give or take. I was pretty good at mental arithmetic, but I
quickly gave up trying to calculate the total number of acres beneath me. I've always liked a window seat so I can see whatever there is to see, but I had no idea that the chain of the Rocky Mountains, many of their peaks still capped with snow even though it was July, would be in full view all the way into Calgary. Since that first trip, I've traveled to many places in Alberta and British Columbia but no further east than Moose Jaw, in Saskatchewan.

That might not sound very exciting, but I loved Moose Jaw for its history. Murals depicting that history decorate the sides of buildings and then there are the stories of the tunnels which were first dug by Chinese immigrants and later became notorious for their connection with prohibition and bootlegging.

I've wandered through farmer's markets in many small towns, appreciating the produce and people, sampling artisan bread and cheese, organic wine, and home cured meats. I've had chocolate tea and wood smoked coffee and only in a market would you hear snippets of conversation about a bear chasing alpacas around the yard or geese stripping the lower branches of hazelnut trees.

Wherever I go, I see new vistas and have new experiences, each one building a new memory for me. It might be a memory of one of those iconic crystal-clear lakes or majestic mountains. It might be the gentle rise and fall of the foothills or the patterns of breeze-blown prairie grass. It can be river courses and deep, scarred canyons cradling dinosaur remains. It can be fantastic cloud formations carrying a rainstorm or winter frost and always above it that big, big sky.

I’ve hiked trails in ancient forests, rode horseback across mountain meadows and heard stories of the land from First Nations people. I've seen killer whales in the Juan de Fuca Straits, buffalo in southern Alberta and finally, after twenty-six years and where I'd least expected to see them, moose.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but Canada's beauty can be found wherever you choose to look.


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