Throwback travel diary: Maligne Lake

It’s official. I don’t know what to say or do amid the coronavirus crisis that we are all living through right now. In reality, my life has hardly changed. I’ve always worked from home. I’m socially distanced by my nature, only closing that distance when I choose to, not because my life dictates it.

But I have this fist around my chest. It only lets go when I sleep – I think – and manifests in what feels like a permanent crinkle of my forehead. I don’t worry about getting sick, really, or running out of food. I worry about what’s to come for my friends in the health care field, or if I carried the virus around with me, shedding it, while traveling recently. I worry about my parents and their friends, who are all at increased risk if they catch this. It’s likely many of them will. And I feel for the parents trying to teach their kids, and the teachers who can’t anymore, and all the people whose livelihoods went poof when museums and theaters and stores and restaurants closed or reduced hours.

All of those things are problems I can’t control. So I compensate by cleaning things (my dresser in my bedroom finally got the dusting I’ve been meaning to do for months now), trying not to eat all my feelings, and fretting. And looking for ways to use what I am good at – words and pictures – to help somehow.

Which is why I found myself idly flipping through travel photos the other night. I know that the best adventure is supposed to be the next one, but it’s not likely I’ll be adventuring anywhere new anytime soon. So I allow those old trip photos to give me comfort and bring back memories of vistas that took my breath away, in the best sense of the word.

This one, though, confounded me. It’s from a trip to the Banff/Jasper area in the Canadian Rockies in Summer 2019. I kept a journal on that trip for the first time, but I started midway through, and left this stop out when I went back and wrote about the early days, for some odd reason. So my memories of the when and why we were there took some resurrecting.

First though, just sit with this one for a bit with me, won’t you? Imagine you’ve been hiking for 13 miles and your legs are tired, and you’re about to sit/collapse down on a gently floating dock as the light fades toward sunset, behind you. It’s been a pleasantly warm day for the Rockies, so your face feels sun/wind burned, but just a little bit, not too bad. Your skin is dusty and sweat-dried; you can’t wait to rinse it. Your hair needs washing and you’re hungry, verging on hangry. If we’re being totally honest, you’ve got some blisters and chafing going on, because your flatlander body isn’t used to hiking 13+ miles in a day. You’ve spent the day goggling at mountain lakes, emerald reflections of trees and flowers and distant peaks, but somehow despite everything, you still have enough wonder left in your heart to goggle at this view.

Now, come back to reality and take a look at the photo itself with me. Enjoy the way the light cuts down the middle of the green slope, and the mountains in the distance are almost dwarfed by the clouds. How the shadows are almost annoying in that they hide some of the detail. Note the specks from my dirty lens, that I could have fixed in Photoshop but I got lazy. From this photo, you can’t really know if there’s a boat over there on the right hand side, near the trees, can you? (There was. Sometimes photos show and hide things; it’s part of why I love them)

After looking at my diary and other photos, I came to realize that this moment at Maligne Lake was really short. It was the evening of our first full day in the Rockies and I’m pretty sure it came about after one of those “so what do we do now?” moments, when it’s too early for dinner and too late for anything structured. I think we just got in the car and drove, looking for bears along the way. There was so much more we could have seen and done at this lake, but we’d missed the window, so we just took in the view, took our pictures, turned around, and went back to (fantastic) showers and a yummy dinner.

I guess I share this because this image made me gasp a little, smile a lot, and ponder that even moments that we forget about can be magical when you look back at them through the lenses of memory, nostalgia, and a little bit of longing.

It makes me wonder what we will remember when we look back on these crazy days. I hope we are able to pick out some moments of good amid all the bad.

Be well, everyone, and keep washing those hands. And for goodness sake, STAY HOME!

PS: After I sat down, I turned and got this photo. Just more proof that you should always sit down, because you never know how your view might change. 🙂

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