Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

Snow Sunday Starts November 11, 2012

Filed under: snow — wakingupincanada @ 10:24 am
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The sound of the shower signals the start of the day proper; an end to this quiet morning time by myself, my time of contemplation and wonderings, newspapers and Sunday morning communication from the British Isles and my scattered siblings.

I watched as darkness moved slowly into light, breaking through fog, to a blue sky and pale sun. The thick snow is now a bright white and the grey trees are glistening white in the sunshine. My iPhone tells me it is now -30, an increase of 1 since 7am. It predicts that is should now be -14. Somehow, to me, the variations in sub-zero are not at all obvious. I wonder where Apple gets its

The front yard is cut through with tyre tracks. The back yard is untouched. The summer deck chairs, one pink, one green sit covered in snow, sheltered by the white branches of the Caraganas. The green lies on its side, strewn over by a storm a few weeks ago and never lifted. The coffee table sits alongside them, a tablecloth of snow where once I sat my strawberry daiquiri and watched the men play horseshoe. Perhaps we should have taken them inside. I had forgotten they were there.

The snow blankets my world, and somehow silences it. Snow gives time to breathe, to stop and listen to the silence. It cotton-wools my life; stress and tensions and plans don’t seem as important, as big, as imposing.

Footsteps come plodding towards my window seat, the coffee pot is lifted, the fridge opens. The day begins.


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 love of falling March 24, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 11:44 am
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Skiing this week, we were ploughing through deep powder. The hill looked different, the snow re-designing the trails we knew well, re-shaping the landscape. Knowing our days are numbered as we enter Spring,  we were also trying some unfamiliar runs.

3 runs in, we aimed to avoid a questionable portion, and headed down a simple slope.  Without warning, I was deep in a hole full of snow, with my legs somehow tangled beneath me, one ski inexplicably intermingled with the other, and my mouth full of snow. I laughed, my friend laughed, and with some exaggerated gesticulating of my legs, I managed to eventually get out.

Further down, we decided to give a black diamond a go. We did a bit, did a bit more and then saw the cliff and opted out. We hiked back up to a green run, collapsing in the snow bank to catch our breath and cool down. Ski boots are not made for hiking. When we saw the cliff from the bottom, one of us thought no way, one of us thought maybe, none of us wanted to try it again.

When you fall, it is best to just let go. If you tense up, you can do more harm. Falling in fresh powder doesn’t hurt really, and after the first fall, you lose the fear and enjoy the ride instead. You might lie a little longer than necessary and get your breath back, you might jump right up and on, or you may have to untangle yourself, work out a way out and do your best to make it through.

It seems to be love is very much the same.

If you are happy to fall, and know that falling is part of it, then it becomes about the journey, not seeking the destination. The falls might be playful or they may see you land awkwardly or hard, head first. Seeing love as fresh powder gives a soft landing, a cushion, a resting place.  One of my friends believes that if you don’t fall, you are not trying hard enough.

There are times it is easier and more relaxing to take it easy down a simple green run, enjoying the scenery around you. However, there is a sheer excitement in upping the stakes, in mastering a tough run that works your legs, your balance and your courage.

We are surrounded by risks. There might be an easy way and a more difficult way but often we can only either hike back out carrying our stuff, or we  face the cliff.

I’m going to face the cliff.







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.



WINNER! November 30, 2011

Filed under: NaNoWriMo — wakingupincanada @ 7:34 pm
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Today just before 3pm, I completed my Novel writing challenge. He carried her off to bed and I crossed the 50,000 word mark. I never thought I could do it, but reminding myself that it wasn’t about being perfect, it was just about hitting 50,000 helped me keep going. So it is done, it has been validated and I never have to open that file again. I might take a look in a couple of weeks.

Sometimes we give up because we aren’t perfect. I am not a perfect traveller, my adventurer streak still isn’t as strong so as to have amazing stories of the places I just managed to end up in. I am far from a perfect skier or a perfect beginner but I am going back on the hill tomorrow to try again. I am not a perfect runner but I love to run.

Doing what I love as often as I can seems to be a perfect way to live my life. Long may it continue.

[Today’s blog is shorter than usual. I apologise. But I am going to celebrate being a NaNoWriMo Winner and that I ma going skiing tomorrow and that it is my last night out with another beautiful friend, and simply because I can]


Ski-day: The Morning After November 24, 2011

Filed under: Travel — wakingupincanada @ 8:28 am
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My world extended in many ways yesterday. It is one of those days where I wonder if I knew what I was getting myself in for, would I have gone? This morning I wake, sore and bruised with many stories to tell.

On board the shuttle out of Banff up to Lake Louise, I was simply blown away by the beauty. I have never wandered far from Banff but I can only imagine it is stunning all year around, the trees, the mountain, the river. Dressed in 21cm of fresh snowfall, it was breath-taking. The snowfall felt like a perfect gift on my first day skiing. Crossing below the mountain, along the valley, the usually dirty train looked red and vibrant. It was the kind of beauty you feel in your gut.

We booted ourselves up, got our day passes and headed to the bunny slopes. There were people coming down a massive steep slope and I could not work out exactly where they were coming from, seeming to wind around the mountain somehow. B would be my teacher for the day. She got me into my skis and talked me onto the T-Bar. Getting off at the top, I nearly fell but didn’t.

And we were off, a gentle snow plough down. I fell over. And again. And again. At this point, my main learning was how to get up when I fell down. This was a good starting point. I got up a little speed and skied a little. It felt good. I fell again. There was someone in front of me. I didn’t know how to curve around them. Down I go. I was delighted to reach the bottom. Up we went again, nearly falling again getting off the T-bar but I didn’t. I came down again, a few more pointers from B, a warning about the powder making turns cumbersome and downhill slow. I’m not sure how much I fell, but I was ok falling. I expected to fall a lot. I did think I’d be upright for longer between falls.

When we look back now, we are not certain who’s idea it was. I can put my hand up and say I expressed my doubts from the start. There were 2 newbies. They took us up a green run. At the top, the able skiers and snowboarders asked us if they could do a run and then come back to us. Most didn’t know Lake Louise. They didn’t know what was in front. One stayed with the snowboarder.

I knew from the beginning I was going to far: the compressed powder at the top, the sheer slope, the different directions, the trees and orange fencing. I struggled, sliding and falling rather than skiing. My goal was always to the point I could see, and yet each time it went on and on. At one point, I wondered if I would ever get off. I wondered would I hurt myself getting off it. I wondered how long it took to get to the bottom and up again and when I could expect some help. There may have been tears of fear, genuine fear. I got much, much better at getting up, at twisting my skis from the position I landed in to be in the position I needed to get back up in.

I remember hearing B and the Boarder behind me, and it was music to my ears. I was not abandoned. I had to get down but I had company and help and advice. So it went, on and on, I began looping across the mountain and back, a maximum of 4 turns before falling. Usually it was my right turn where I fell. A few times, I turned to go up the hill. It wasn’t my intention, I believe my skis were jinxed, Harry Potter style. I somehow fell and hit myself hard in the face. I twisted my back a little, my ankles a bit and my knees a lot. I sat in some kind of frog position at one point and an older skier sat beside me, saying yoga helps. B told him “She does in 4 times a week” and I knew I had to push up out of it. I did. I swore a lot, especially at the skier who told me to show them what I got. I got nothing baby, but more expletives. I swore at B a lot. Not at her personally, just in her direction. The worse situation was a really bad fall and losing a ski. I know it protected my leg but it was a struggle to snap back in. A few times I had to slide down to a flatter section to get it back on.

A few times B told me that I was now on the steepest section. She lied each time. The hardest was the end where it was more packed and busy. A few times I picked up a good speed and covered a little distance. Seeing the base was a breath of relief missed with a hard shot of “How the f&*k am I going to get there?”

It took two and a half hours for me to do a run the most able in our group can do in 8 minutes. I learned a lot. Lessons should have been my first port of call, I should have followed my instinct and stayed on the bunny hill. I know what shredding and tearing up mean, I know what a steep hill looks like, I know what a snowplough is, and it is not always a big machine with a bucket in front. I know how hard skiing is. I knew it was before, but now my body understands it, my muscles remember it.

Barr that, I took it all well. I sat for times, never for long and I always got up, often as soon as I fell down. I did not cry in front of people. I did not hit anyone except myself with my pole. I enjoyed the scene, even when my heart was in my mouth or my mouth in the snow. I heard a bird once in the trees. There are no words for the scene, sadly no photos either: I broke my camera. The skill of the snowboarders and skiers whizzing past me, over bumbs and other terms I do not know yet. There was also a kindness; when I was alone on the ground, nearly each time, someone checked I was ok. I knew if I were to break something, or knock myself out, I would have gotten help. I did see someone being stretchered down a hill; and that takes some skill.

A hot chocolate Baileys finished my day off and we re-counted stories until bedtime last night. Epic falls make great stories. It seems even the most professional talk more about the falls than the sprints or jumps. And boy did I have some epic falls, some witnessed, some not. We also built 2 snowmen on our lawn and it turns out, I know how to do that. I needed to feel skill in something, anything.

I went to yoga, I needed my Wednesday shot, especially after my day on the hill. We were asked if we were playing on the ice or watching from the stands. I thought back on my time on the hill. I’d laughed and cried and quietly concentrated. I’d been frustrated, hurt, angry, upset, spell bound, delighted, excited, nervous.But  I’d been there. In many ways, it was the hardest day of my life. But I was fully there, fully present, fully focused, fully engaged. I could not distract myself from the pain or frustration, I had to use it to help me down.

I thanked B. I showed them my bruises on either side of my hips. I laughed. Others laughed. I wake this morning, knowing I would never tell my yesterday self a thing if I could. Somethings are better to live through regardless of how tough, frustrating and painful, and my first day skiing was one of them. I will go back. Just not on the green run yet.