Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

My life, today February 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 11:49 am
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I started this blog in a small room I rented as part of my work package, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in the town of Banff, Alberta. I was alone, but with a team in Ireland keeping track of me and an international squad of salespeople, ski instructors, rock specialists, musical stars, party animals, yogis and snowboarders and lawyers-in-waiting, even an ultra-marathoner to get to know, I was kept from falling.

In having little I recognised it is in simplicity, we have abundance. In being  alone, I opened up to having company; that solitude can be too much. I would eventually realise, no woman is an island either.

It was an amazing experience.

I am now building a home with a beautiful man in the Alberta Prairies. Instead of a ring of mountains I have fields as fas as the eye can see. My horizon has never been so far away. Back then, in my small room and small world, I was finding out what I loved and who I was. I stopped looking at the future and lived in the here and now. Now, I am with he whom I will spend the rest of my life with. I becomes we.  This is my home now, my future, my world.

I wash the dishes, knowing how much I love having a clean kitchen to wake up to, but then spend an age inside my head, working out if it was my turn, if it has become my chore, if I am compromising my feminist values or satisfying my inner need for order. If he washes the dishes because I have asked him, does that count? Nobody wants to do dishes, but should he not want to do them so as to please me. Then I wonder why it is about me, when he benefits just as much from washed dishes and clean laundry and a full fridge. When he does wash the dishes, I cringe at the running water, the deep attention to detail and a 5 minute task taking 15. I often leave the kitchen and distract myself. 30 minutes of chores sometimes become a full weekend of a life dilemma, but in the morning the kitchen is clean and that is good.

His laid back attitude gets on my last nerve when we are grocery shopping or late to a party but it is heaven to go camping with or walk by a river or hike a mountain with. His attention to detail kills me as he rinses a knife after washing, but I am delighted that he keeps my car in great working order.

He brings out the best and worst in me, and he loves me, for them or in spite of them I am not sure.

It took me 30 years to work me out and find my voice. Now, one year in, I am coming to terms that I am someone’s other half. I am in a real and proper relationship which involves finances and dishes and underwear on the bathroom floor. I am working out who I am as someone’s “other half”.

I often wonder, how does he put up with me? God love him.



Snow season November 10, 2012

Filed under: snow — wakingupincanada @ 1:04 pm
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Banff is undoubtedly, a winter wonderland; The snow covered mountains, the ice rink by the high school, the ski hills, the winter sports stores.

The Prairies are not.

In the Prairies, people leave. They are called snowbirds, our migrating population, mostly retired, who head south to Arizona, Nevada, Texas and California for the winter. The snow came early though, not many have left yet, but they are hurrying to get their affairs in order. For those who must remain, this  early snow predicts a long, cold winter. The newspapers have tracked road traffic collisions since the snow began on Thursday. Traffic news on the radio lasts three times as long, and the general point is, “it’s snowing, please drive slowly and carefully”. Unlike in Ireland, there is no talk of only driving if it is “essential”. The radio does not announce school closures. The buses may not run, but the school remains open.  Heads shake, frowns grow, nerves tighten and ladies refer to the “other, nasty 4 letter word”.

Unlike last year, when I sauntered to work with flakes falling gently on my face, crunching in my snow boots through 2 feet of white fresh snow, I must drive. The roads are in good condition- I always check with the AMA website before leaving.  I see white, however, and I naturally slow. I want a bumper sticker for my car to inform motorists, “we don’t get snow like this in Ireland”. The wonder is the car parks. Somehow, cars are parked, in line, in order, even though we cannot see the grid lines. There are 2 rows of parked trucks and cars where there is meant to be 2, nobody has parked awkwardly, unsure of where the box actually begins and ends. I simply aligned mine with the ones around me, and chalked it up to the Canadian sense of order.

I miss the Irish sense of wanton abandon; remember 2 Christmases ago? Drivers were so delighted to have made it through ungritted roads to Letterkenny, that when they got to the car park, they simply stopped in a spot to let go of the steering wheel and relax those twisted nerves. You knew the world was out of sync; the car parks lost all sense of organisation. There was an eerie sense of quiet upon the town, without the usual hustle and bustle of weekend shoppers, let alone the festive madness there should have been for that time of the year. Not here, no. Lethbridge is as busy as any Saturday, just with mittens and boots and pick-up trucks with boxes full of snow. Stores have footprints of water throughout the aisles, and that’s ok.

The snow began 2 weeks ago, and Fountain Tire (yes, I know, I’d have spelt it TYRE too) were inundated, putting on the winter tyres. Somehow I was prepared: My father will be delighted, and surprised. I’d needed new tyres so it made sense to make them the winter kind. Are they working? Well, I am not sure if it is the tyres, the lack of any alternate choice or the general confidence of drivers that surround me, but you just get on the road and keep it between the ditches, preferably, the white line and the yellow line. The centre line is yellow here, not white. I often wondered why and I think the snow answered it- a yellow line is more visible in the snow. The white line making the side of the road, doesn’t matter as much in this weather. I go a little slower (sorry, drivers behind- see bumper sticker) when a semi (a big, big lorry) or the snow plough is coming towards me. They shoot snow on my windshield and I am temporarily blind.

I am grateful that I can get to work, or go to the city, but I think longingly on that December in Ireland. Everything stopped. Children waited for Highland Radio to name their school in the list of closures. I watched out my window at the snow fall, something rare and marvellous. I put on a fire and cuddled in.


The walk home April 1, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 9:03 pm
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I turned right instead of left when I walked out of work this evening. It is a welcome oddity that I finish at 7 on a Sunday. It is made even better by the light; the long evenings coming in. I used to laugh when  my Grandmother would say that; I’d begin mentioning it once the shortest day of the year passed on December 21st.

Now I know the feeling; the end of winter, the sign of hope, the beginning of something fresh. In Banff, the snow is melting, leaving slush and ponds of water across the sidewalk. It is getting warmer and I only wear my snow jacket skiing now. The streets are getting a little busier. New staff are coming and old staff are leaving.

Summer is coming.

I walked along Banff Avenue and called into Lululemon, where I was inspired and motivated; to run better, work better, plan my future better. Not a bad pep talk for a Sunday evening, without spending a cent. I walked along the Bow River to the spot I spent New Year’s Eve and watched the fireworks in between the water and the mountains. My brown suede boots filled with bits of snow and water from the melt. I sat down and looked at the bridge, the mountains, the forests, the blue sky and the white moon, the frozen river and the water in the middle still flowing. Simply beautiful:

It is the unplanned that can amaze us, the simple act of walking home a different way, a longer way, that can find us amidst nature and love unexpectedly. It reminded me of where I am, right here, right now. It reminded me that the best things in life are free.

I walked home with a spring in my step and took off my wet boots, feeling more energised than if I’d come straight home.

When I looked out the window, it was snowing.


The beauty of Banff December 5, 2011

Filed under: Travel — wakingupincanada @ 12:13 pm
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It is beautiful here. Walking to the gym, from the gym, home from work late at night, sitting looking out my bedroom window, it is all around me. It is too overwhelming to take for granted. The mountains are snow-covered but each differs from the other.

As I run on the treadmill, I looked out, up to Sulphur Mountain, its evergreen trees rising above the white blanket covering the mountain. In the distance, mountains I cannot name stand white and grey.

In my bedroom, I look out at our 2 snowmen. They were built after my first day of skiing with 3 friends, new friends, good friends. With each new snowfall, they get a new coat of white. The deer has taken their noses and we have learnt not to do that again. One is headless, the result of human wildlife straying through our lawn. When we get more snow, I will put a head back on him. Across the street, a red water column stands amidst the white snow.

Now and again, snow falls. Sometimes, heavy and thick and sometimes, just a light dusting. I imagine this will continue throughout winter, but who knows, Banff is full of surprises, like this morning, the 2 big beautiful, brown horses pulling a trailer down my street and I wished I had my nieces and nephews to see, because I think only they would have been as excited as I.

It sometimes feels to cold to breathe, and I breathe through or onto my jacket or scarf. Temperatures take on a new meaning. -2 is quite fine. -20 means a little more time to wrap up.

At the Banff Centre, I walk down the stone steps and there stands on the green at least 2 reindeer, or elk, or deer, I am not quite sure, but the general shape at this time of year suggests reindeer, and they are wrapped in fairy lights. The path is cleared of snow and I appreciate those who take the time to de-snow and de-ice the paths all around town. I appreciate even more those who do it with a smile and a nod and those who stop to talk to me while I do ours.

When I arrived here it was beautiful, a summer sun shining down with rich greens and tall trees and a blue sky. Tourists thronged and hiked and climbed and shopped. It is quieter now; Banff may be a ski capital but summertime is the busiest season of all. I lay in the Park and read, and ran along the river, walked up Tunnel Mountain and sat by the river. The lying outside has long ended. The trails are now to icy to run on. I sometimes sit by the river even now, wrapped up, watching it freeze from the outside in. In some places, it has already frozen over but at my spot the water still flows.

There are people I know now; the lady at yoga who goes to my church, my yoga instructor in my favourite cafe, my coffee server, people I once worked with who have now moved to a different job. It feels more like community. There is a kindness here. This is a place of holidays and leisure and those who live here protect and guard their Park. People smile and take time. They sit and enjoy. They ski and snowboard and walk and hike and skate. They mix and help.

I am glad I saw it through from summer.



OH WOW November 4, 2011

Filed under: Travel — wakingupincanada @ 10:25 am
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It began snowing as I was doing my laundry last night. I was listless, dare I say bored. Then I realised I did not have anything to do, that I could enjoy it, smiled and fell asleep. At 9.30pm.

I awoke to white, proper white. I have announced many times that it is snowing, that the ground is white but this is snow, proper snow. Not a sprinkling, a dusting, this is the first solid layer. I put on my warmest tights and 4 layers of tops, my beautifully expensive gloves and my cheap bright blue hat. Snow covered the steps outside; I was the first to go out this morning and leave footprints in the blanket. I attempted a snowman for the sake of my housemates but the powder is too loose. Snowman making was never my forte.

A man was out shovelling the snow of his sidewalk. “Good morning, how are you?” his voice boomed with happiness and energy. I walked to the river, and met runners, people actually run in this. It looks as if their hips were jarred together but run they do. A pup bounced by, from me to his owner, not at all put off my the snow. It is his 3rd season.

The babbling of the river and the falls crashing downstream accompanied my steps. Soon I think they too will be muted by the silence of the snow. Ice is beginning to build on the banks. I stopped thinking and the snowflakes just fell on me. I looked. I breathed. Tunnel and Sulphur are blurred with a fog, the further away mountains invisible. This is heaven I thought, the beauty and silence and pure cold. Can life get better than this? This makes it all worth it.

A man stood taking a photograph. I admired his ability to find the beautiful in the stack of wood. I then saw the focus: a beautiful owl. My first sighting of an owl. His face was proud, his body a round muscle of feather. His eyes glowered out. This is his land. I took out my  Ipod to photo him, from a side angle. He let me, then flew from his perch in front of the photographer to a post in front of me. I had this feeling of being minded by the animals, they our hosts, showing us the sights and how to take the weather. A lady walking her dog told me he was a Bard Owl, from the stripes on his side. The dog, old, did not notice him but sniffed around the ground, probably scaring the little creatures Owl was trying to hunt. We stood, watching and whispering, and then left him to his hunt.

I am happy, the happiness that starts deep inside and shines out. Who knew snow could have this effect? Life does not stop, people walk their dogs and push their child buggies, Wild Flour is busy, the footpaths are being cleared. I feel lucky, blessed, privileged. I walk with a smile on my face and people are smiling back as if to say “Yeah, I know”.


Waiting for snow October 30, 2011

Filed under: Run — wakingupincanada @ 10:26 am
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It is 10am and the sun is beginning to shine down on the garden outside my kitchen window. I am sitting drinking hot coffee, in big socks and a blanket around my shoulders, slowly thawing out. I headed out in my running gear as soon as it was bright enough and ran 5 miles along a white sprinkling of snow. I didn’t realise what the ground looked like before I left the house, and I am glad or I may have stayed in bed.  Instead I enjoyed this morning’s scene. The cold was bracing. It isn’t completely white, nor even close. There is frost and, here and there, patches of snow. It was as if the snow was inside a giant shaker, the kind that sprinkles the top of brownies. A ridiculous gesture I think as the brownies are sweet enough and the fine powder doesn’t really do anything to enhance the taste. But the snow sprinkles this morning are beautiful. Some places have a gentle layering, others not a trace. At a couple of points the footpath seemed slippy but I ran on trails mostly and the snow was just perfect; white enough to appreciate, thin enough to run on. A few people were out and about, walking along, taking photos, smoking a cigarette while watching the river. After 5 miles, I ran towards the road, and there standing in a little green space along the path was an Elk. Standing tall and proud, he looked at me. For a split second, I thought he may ram me, or bolt in front of traffic. No. He stood still and calm and just looked. I ran home.

I know my days are numbered. Soon, the ground will be too icy to let me run, and then it will be the gym or the slopes. I came here to appreciate a long white winter and it is only now I realise that I will have to give up the running to accommodate the snow. I’d never thought of it like that before, perhaps I never realised running was something I don’t want to give up. I used to love good excuses not to run. I’m not sure when running stopped being about exercise and started to be something that brought me back to who I was. Somewhere on those trails, regardless of place or time or events of the day, I get my quiet head space and hear myself be me. We are waiting for snow in Banff. I think I’ll run while I can.


The Silence of the Morning October 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 6:22 am
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For as long as I remember, I have been a morning person.

I love early mornings. I love the quiet. I love that there is little to be doing, so I get on with what I want to do. It could be reading, writing, running, or having a slow breakfast with the Sunday papers. I remember
as a child going to 7.30 am mass with my parents. As we drove along the golf course, out past the Pier and down through the forest, only the sun met us. The course waited for the throngs to arrive for the usual Sunday, the water was still without a boat on the horizon and the sleeping houses still had not put up their first smoke. A bird flew overhead and, mixed with the just awake feeling, I felt as if I were in another world, another time, of silence, peace and beauty.

My teacher taught us the saying “A good start is half the work” and that is how I feel about mornings. A morning asleep is a wasted day. There seems to be more time in the morning, as if with fewer people using this early hour, it slows down for those of us who show up to it.  Going for a run outside in the early morning, there is a magical feeling. The day is just beginning, with the potential to be anything at all. Who knows what is in store. It feels sometimes like it is just me and the sun, and that is a good feeling to start the day with.

When I was busy at work, it was the mornings I used, more than late evenings. I’d arrive at work a few hours early, put on the coffee and begin without the interruption of the phone ringing or e-mails arriving. It felt like 2 hours extra in the morning gave me a half day head-start. When I stay at my parents, I slip out while they are asleep for a run along the beach or in the forest and aim to be back before my mum awakes. My Dad is like me, a lark. It is one of the few times it would
just be he and I, passing in the kitchen, him to his cows, me to my run. On family occasions, I would sit and wait, enjoying the silence and the view, and know that before long, the throng would be awake and the day would be off again, racing along.

Since arriving in Canada, my time clock has adjusted accordingly, and I often see 6am. I was probably the earliest hosteller ever to go to bed, but I refuse to let go off my mornings. Waking Up Early In Canada gives me a head-start to my day, and allows me to see the morning beauty of
this vast country. There is something very special about running into the sun as it climbs over the Rocky Mountains. You have to wait a little longer to see it here, and survive the extra morning cold, even in days that turn out to be scorchers. But it rises and shines down, and once again I am ready to take on the day ahead.

Good morning.