Monday, July 6, 2020

Glenwood Manor - 51°03'17" N 114°04'56" W

Outside of the Glenwood Manor
Doesn't it look grand?

There is a surprising amount of history here ... just within the Collins Family.

For the years that I worked downtown, Sunnyside was the neighbourhood across the river that our original Adobe/EyeWire office looked out on.  I had grown to admire a particular old building I could see that faced right onto the Bow River.  It looked so stately with its brick solidness, stained glass, wrought-iron gated gardens and shiny metal roof.  When walking through the neighbourhood to friends' places in the dark of the evening, I would make a point of trodding the sidewalk past the building and see the lovely built-in cabinets and ornate light fittings shining warmly through wavy, old-fashioned multi-paned windows.

When, in 2009, I noticed that a suite had come up for sale in the building, I quickly arranged to do a walk-through with a realtor.  The place I looked at, Suite 2, had been kept close to original.  It reminded me of other "character" homes and buildings I'd been in and was enthralled with the thought of owning such a property and someday living in it.  I was fortunate enough to have enough cash for a downpayment.  My plan was to rent the condo until Kate and I sent the kiddies on their way, then move into this right-sized apartment that had enough room for us and guests.

About this time, my Mom and Dad were renting a place in Calgary and their landlord was putting the rent up (because Calgary was booming and therefore he could).  They had no idea how much higher the rent was going to go in the next few years and were looking to move to a more stable environment.  So, Kate and I saw an opportunity to get our inheritance by the month.
They were very happy there and got on with the others in the Glenwood.  When Dad's dementia started to advance, Mom just couldn't manage there with him.  Dad went into memory care and Mom stayed for a while by herself at the condo but eventually moved out to Vancouver Island to live with her sisters.

As Mom was preparing to move, the last of our kids decided to fly the nest and head to the West Coast.  That left us a huge, empty, four-bedroom house.  So we rented out our big ol' house and moved into the Glenwood.  Hooray!

I loved being at the Glenwood.  Being so small cosy, it was easy to keep tidy and organized.  We got to know the neighbours, including Diana, the first violinist with the CPO (Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra) who often left her hallway door open in the afternoons while she practiced.  I have many pleasant memories of siting on the sofa of our condo with the hallway door open (too) to have beautiful violin arias wafting down the stairs.  We had the busy-ness of Memorial Drive quietly existing on the other side of the living room front window.  Watching the lights of the Peace Bridge blink on, signalling the transition from evening to night was marvellous to behold.  There always seemed to be activity on the other side of Memorial Drive - be it a group of students posing for graduation photos with the big, red bridge as a backdrop or just the hoi polloi of Calgary making their way along the foot- and bicycle paths.  There was no yard for us to deal with so we could truly lock-and-leave when we wanted to travel.  And travel we did.

The Peace Bridge - right across Memorial Drive

When we went on multi-month-long sojourns, we had friends, including another CPO musician, stay and enjoy our little condo.  We returned to stay at the place just long enough to plan our next big adventure - our one year delivery of Popeye in Asia.  We didn't think it prudent to leave our condo with just the occasional visitor, so we found a lovely man to rent our home.  As he was coming to Calgary to stay only during the week, he was pleased to be able to rent it furnished, with all our antique furniture.  He took wonderful care with our precious things (everything pictured below) and treated them as if they were his own.  He did generous acts around the building, too, including buying potted flowers for the planters out front in the summer and assisting with the boiler maintenance  in the winter.  Everyone in the building loved having him around as he was the quintessential Good Neighbour.   We were sad when he bought his own place and moved out.

After renting the condo to a group of three international students (who didn't show nearly as much care for the condo or its contents), we recently did a big clean on the apartment and have readied it to rent unfurnished.  Before we took the furniture out (and after we did a major, major deep clean), we decided to have some pictures professionally done to help us remember this magical little piece of Calgary where we were lucky enough to spend some time. 

Here's our lovely little condo.

Living Room, facing onto Memorial Drive and the Peace Bridge

The living room facing back to the dining room. Note the leaded glass in
the built-in cabinets and the original gas fireplace

The dining room, opening into the guest room and the kitchen

The kitchen breakfast nook.  Check out
the old Bakelite telephone on the wall.  It works!

A very functional kitchen with solid fir cabinets

The sunroom that empties into the back garden

The guest room

Bathroom with funky clawfoot tub and pedestal sink.  The radiator is
a great spot to put your towel for after the shower - it will be warm!

Main bedroom, with a window onto the sunroom.

Calgary newspaper for the grand opening of the building in 1928. 

I take great pride in maintaining this tiny slice of Calgary history and get some comfort in knowing that the disproportionately large condo fees go to keeping this municipally and nationally heritage-listed property looking fabulous.  As much as both Kate and I love our Calgary pied-à-terre, our Canmore pad - along with all our sport toys and trails and mountains right at the doorstep - is likely where we will reside for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Three Sisters Deck - 51° 04' 58" N 115° 22' 07" W

This, from Lizzie Rummel, a biography by Ruth Oltmann.

In the Canadian Rocky Mountains it is a tradition when there is no solution to a problem, or the burdens of the day are just too much to handle, "Let's have a cuppa tea" somehow changes the look of even the worst problems. Mary Conway exemplified this when she wrote in the Alpine Club of Canada Journal in 1948:
A tea tent is certainly a morale booster in any camp and I can only weep for my lost youth in the 'States where I was unaware that such refinements existed. Aside from its merits as a beverage, tea has a unique psychological value. How many parties would have been stranded high in the mountain vastness had not the prospect of tea called forth superhuman feats of effort and skill! How many little tidbits of gossip would have died an undernourished death had not the tea tent provided an audience. If I learned nothing else from my stay in Canada, I am forever grateful that I learned to appreciate that nectar of the mountain gods, hot tea.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Banff Park Gate - 51° 08' 05" N 115° 24' 23" W

The longer I live in my newly adopted mountain village, the more interesting bits of its history I learn.

Yesterday I did a mountain bike cruise along the Powerline Trail and travelled through the unfinished Three Sisters Golf Course.  It is a project that started in the 1980's and has been owned by several companies - many of whom have gone bankrupt.  As I rode through the wide open spaces that had been cleared of trees, I passed stands of deer and elk grazing on the exposed grassland.  A stream wound its way down the hillside and into a beautiful manmade reservoir before continuing down to the Bow River.

It prompted me to do some research when I returned home.  I found a video about the area that was curated by Jerry Stephenson, a long-time local that was the chief engineer at the Canmore Mines until their permanent closing in 1979.

YouTube video - Learning from Experience
Click here to watch the Video!

It warns of the danger of developing the land there any further than light recreational (i.e. golf course, hiking trail or wildlife corridor) use.  Kate and I had the pleasure of meeting Jerry on one of his museum tours and could have spent ANY amount of time listening to his stories and pontifications about Canmore and his life.  He passed away just this year, after living a full and fascinating life.


Later that evening, someone else had posted a great article about Annie Staple, a woman who was the first gate keeper at the east Rocky Mountain (now the Banff National) Park, starting in 1916 and continuing until she retired at age 65.

The Original Park gate, near Exshaw
Article from the Brantford Examiner about Annie Staples

I've found that the archives of Whyte Museum in Banff has some of her log books, letters and working records available for perusal.  Once the COVID-19 virus is no longer a reason for concern, I hope to spend more time learning about the interesting characters and events that shaped this place.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

COVID-19 - 51° 04' 59" N 115° 22' 07" E

How COVID-19 entered our world and broke our hearts

I come from a very close family, scattered around Australia and Canada but close nonetheless. We are an active family, into skiing, sailing, riding horses and other such pursuits.  And we are travellers.  In part because we live scattered across two countries but also due to all the many great adventures to be had and our very strong sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Much of this stems from our father.  Dad didn’t think twice about lifting his tiny girls atop towering horses with a ‘hold on, she’ll stop at the fence’ or of piling us onto his sailing boat and heading across the open waters of Bass Strait to Deal Island.  We went on Bunyip hunts at night, searching for that elusive, mythical creature and he both thrilled and terrified us with tales of man-eating tigers as bedtime stories.

It was Dad leading the charge on grand adventures, hosting epic parties and living life to the full.  When he turned 80 last year, we all gathered on Hamilton Island for a five-day party.  The days were magical – filled with fun activities … sailing, snorkeling, lazing by the pool … and each evening, we had a feast cooked up by Graeme.  It was a most fitting 80th birthday celebration. 

Then Dad, Sean and I sailed Popeye down the coast to Brisbane.  We sailed the 600 nautical miles straight through taking 70 hours with Dad at the helm, wind in his face, grinning the whole way.  He’d always wanted to ski in Aspen, Colorado.  So in February, he and Gabby winged off to the US for a three-week ski trip.  COVID-19 was just a murmur out of China.  Planes were still flying, travel warnings had not been issued and the terms ‘self-isolation’ and 'social distancing' were yet to enter our vernacular.

I receive a call from Dad and Gabby saying they are cutting their trip short.  COVID-19 had started to spread its ugly tentacles across the globe and they want to be home.  They purchase new flights due to an uncooperative airline and arrive home to a voluntary 14-day self-isolation period.  Dad develops a cold.  Two days later, he is rushed to hospital by ambulance and his test for COVID-19 comes back as positive.

He is in isolation, no visitors allowed, not even Gabby.  I chat with him on the phone.  He is in good spirits although feeling quite ill, but looking forward to getting out of hospital and going home. Things take a turn for the worse.  He is transferred to intensive care, sedated into a coma and placed on a ventilator - absolutely no visitors allowed.  By now travel bans are in place.  I am in Canada, Wendy is in Queensland, Susan, a five-hour drive away in rural Victoria, Gabby self-isolating alone in Flinders and Dad in intensive care in Frankston.  The chest-tightening worry, the feeling of complete helplessness, the endless ‘what-ifs’.  And none of us can be there, not even to hold his hand and tell him we love him.  With an update on his condition only once every 24 hours, these are very long days.

Some good news: Gabby tests negative.  But still she cannot visit. They cannot risk her bringing anything into the hospital or intensive care or waste precious gowns and masks on visitors.  We hold out each day for the daily update - about 1:00 am here in Canmore.  It’s bad news, they’ve had to crank up the ventilator; it’s good news, his oxygen levels have improved.  It’s a roller coaster of emotion.  I start to dread the phone ringing but desperate for the call that brings a glimmer of hope.  I lie in bed at night, sleepless and anxious.  I wake unrested in the morning and watch the clock – 4:00 am in Melbourne … don’t people often die in the hours just before dawn? 

It’s 5:30 am in Queensland.  Wendy rings.  I stop breathing.  He’s stable, but no improvement.  Stable is good, isn’t it?  Every morning for four days, the call is the same.  No better, but most importantly, no worse.  Day 8 on the ventilator.  Is this good or bad?  What is the normal pattern for COVID-19?  Do they even know?

And so we wait.  With our stomachs clenched and the tears constantly welling in our eyes.  Desperate for the phone to ring, dreading it when it does.  We are exhausted. And we are unable to be together.  Borders have closed, travel is restricted and ‘stay at home’ regulations are in force.  We ring each other, we tell funny stories about Dad, we cry and we shake our heads in disbelief.  Dad, of all people.  He is so fit and healthy, he may be 80 but he’s not a normal 80 year old.  He still skis and sails and rides bikes and hikes up mountains.  And just look at the statistics, most people don’t die from this and those that do, have underlying health issues.  Dad doesn’t – he is as healthy as an ox.

The medical staff are superb.  Despite Dad’s age, he is getting the very finest care that a first-world medical system can provide.  Unfortunately, for COVID-19 patients, the available arsenal is limited.  There is no treatment.  There is no miracle drug.  They roll him.  They try everything but in the end all they can do is provide him with support with a ventilator helping him breathe, and hope his body can combat the virus.  And all we can do is hope.  And wait.

It is nearly midnight in Canmore when the phone rings.  It’s Gabby - and what she tells me breaks my heart.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Elizabeth Parker Alpine Hut - 51°21'26" N 116°20'21" W

There are many beautiful places in the world.  This is one of them.

As part of our year of staying (sort of) in Canada, we are venturing into a few of the places close-by that we have been meaning to get to for forever.  Many, many times we have driven by the turnoff on Highway 1 that leads to Lake O'Hara.  The parking lot twelve kilometres past Lake Louise is as far as anyone can get in a private vehicle.  This being winter, we donned cross-country skis as well as backpacks for the eleven kilometre trek into the lake.

The out-and-back route - click for a bigger view.

Starting with some uphill ...

... and more ...

We only decided to make the trip in a month prior.  Some friends from the running group (Pamela, Grace and Jim), joined us on a Tuesday morning at the trailhead at 11 am.  The fire road is undulating uphill with a solitary picnic bench just past the 5 km marker.  The trail twists and turns through the valley south of Mount Victoria (the one you see at the end of Lake Louise, looking from the Chateau), giving us some awesome views despite the high clouds.  We puffed our way up with Jim and Grace (who had elected to ski in for the day, have a snack, then turn around and ski out before dark) in the lead most of the way.  Upon reaching the lake, there was a ranger's cabin and a day lodge that mercifully had a fire in the stove inside and gave us a spot to warm up and dry out our sweaty mid-layers.  After we rested a bit and had our lunches, we walked the 100 metres to the lake and decided the 3 kilometre loop would have to wait for another day, as Jim and Grace needed to get back to their vehicle before dark.

Pamela, Kate, Jim, Grace and Sean.  Lunch stop and turn-around for Jim and Grace.

Lake O'Hara offers a few levels of accommodation, from tent sites to a dorm-style alpine hut to a $1,000-or-more fully catered lodge (in the summer only).  We chose the hut.

Cheap, but not-so-shabby accommodation

The Elizabeth Parker Hut is run by the Alpine Club of Canada, which operates over 100 affordable hostel-like places to stay for people who like to explore the backcountry.  It has a communal kitchen and dining/gathering area.  The hut has propane lights in the common areas, a wood-burning stove for heating and more alpine character than you know what to do with.  It was built in an alpine meadow half a kilometre back from the lake, nestled at the moment in a snowy dale.  The hut is very popular and securing a spot for a few nights was a coup.

Common kitchen in the main hut

Dining/Gathering area, with dorm sleeping bunks to the right.  Holds eighteen.

Wiwaxy cabin, our much-cosier place.  Maximum of eight visitors.

Sole source of heat.  A good incentive to have enough firewood chopped to last all night.

The first night we shared with a very rowdy group, but found ourselves deserted the next morning as the group left en masse.  Suddenly, it was quiet.  By chance, we had managed to be the only three (Kate, Sean and Pamela) that stayed through to the next night.  Although many trails beckoned us to explore, we were awfully toasty and warm inside the cabin.  As we watched big, fluffy flakes floating down through the panelled glass, we decided to stay put and enjoy the solitude.  Logs were thrown into the pot belly stove and books were pulled from shelves.  The lodge had not one, but two resident guitars, which were put to work by both Sean and Pamela.  Tea was produced and hut slippers were donned.  Who needs to be a millionaire to have your own private backcountry log cabin?

Looking very pleased with herself, isn't she?
Pamela working on a song

Much later that day, other groups began to show up and were appreciative as we had been for the fire that had already warmed the cabin.  Most were from Alberta and BC and had tales to share over the dinner table of other wilderness huts visited and trails travelled.  As the meals finished up and some brought out plastic bladders of red wine, the stories became more boisterous.  When it was discovered that one of the others in the group liked to play bluegrass on the guitar, the cabin's trusty instrument was brought down off its hook and a sing-a-long ensued.  However, good and respectful hut dwellers that we are, the party shut down at 10 pm, in order to let those who were rising early to get some peace and quiet.

The next day, we did some exploring of the area ourselves.  We got to the loop of Lake O'Hara and tromped around the closed-up deluxe cabins.  We were all happily surprised by how quickly we whooshed down the fire road back to the parking lot.  900 metres of climbing on the way up meant for a glorious return, one third faster!

Breaking tracks across the lake itself.

Loop of the lake completed.  What scenery!

By the Ranger's cabin

Time to go.  Goodbye, little log cabin!

Following Pamela out to the trail head
Click on this photo for a panoramic view of Lake O'Hara

Hooray!  The Parking Lot!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Learning Nakoda - 51° 04' 59" N 115° 22' 07" E

The move to Canmore means that some of our closest neighbours live on the Morley Reserve and are members of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.  Taking advantage of the wonderful resource that it ArtsPlace, we enrolled in a 10 week Stoney Nakoda Language and Culture course.

The course is run by Buddy Wesley who is one of the knowledge keepers of the Wesley Band from Morley.  Stoney Nakoda is an oral language spoken by around 3000 people in Alberta.  In recent years, a writing system has been developed with an alphabet and a series of rhyming syllables.  Unlike English, these are always pronounced the same way.

Vowels are pronounced:

a as in father
e as in cafe
i as in ski
o as in go
u as in blue

â, î, û - nasalized

But the huge challenge is that no structure for learning the language has been developed.  There are no verb conjunctions, dictionaries or spelling protocols. 

It is rather fun to start to recognise words that we are familiar with as Nakoda.  There is a lake outside Banff called Minnewanka.  We now know that mînî means water and wanka means spirit.  So Minnewanka translates as spirit water.  Banff is mînî hrpa which translates as 'dropping of the water' - a nod to the waterfalls around Cascade Mountain.

And of course, language is strongly connected to culture.  Numbers in Nakoda are interesting.  because it is not a culture of commerce, they didn't really need big numbers.  Up to about 20, numbers are quite sensible but then things get a bit out of control.  One million is yawabi tâga which means big count.  152 is obûre wazi tathâm wikchemnâ thaptâ age nûm!

Time is a nebulous concept - things happen when it is time.  This does frustrate the Western psyche and is known derogatorily as 'Indian Time'.  But think about the concept - when is a baby coming? We cannot say a precise time but we can say early May and it will come when it is time.  And when will the leaves open or the river break-up?  Culturally, there has not been the need for 1pm Tuesday 10 May so the language reflects this.

The months relate to the cycle of the moon.  January is wîchorâdu wahîyâba or the Midnight Moon.  May is woya wahîyâba or Vegetation Moon, when things start to grow. It is also the new year due to the new growth.  August is wasasa wahîyâba or Fireweed Moon.  And when the leaves of the fireweed turn red, it's prime time for meat so it is when meat is hunted for the winter.

In Nakoda, you point with your lips and your fingers are used to point at people.  And looking someone in the eye is rude and considered intimidating.  If an older woman screeches Eeeeeh! and points at you without looking you in the eye, we think something is terrible wrong.  But no, she is merely saying hello!  And if you are a man, you are not allowed to speak directly to your mother-in-law instead, you must speak through an inanimate object.  The same holds for a woman and her father-in-law.

And Mum will love this one - she who always watches the new moon to see whether it will be a wet month....  How the new moon sits in the sky is an indication of what the weather is going to be like for the next month.  If the moon is on end, it will be a cold month.  If it is horizontal, it will be a warm month and if halfway, a fair month.

And snow!  Yes, lots of different descriptions for snow:

wapa  - snow
wapach - snowing
wasmâ - deep snow
wasmohâ - into the deep snow
washâgejagen - skiff of snow
îhrpe yach - fallen snow
wapaïja stastach - hard snow that hurts the face
wapâtâtâ gach - big, fluffy snow
wapa ogahnorach - wet snow
wa oyumotatach - blowing snow

And some wonderful pronunciations - tababan is ball and to me sounds like a ball bouncing.  Crow is a an, raven is kari and robin is siksosoga - just like the sounds they make.

And in the Stoney Nakoda culture, there is no need to say good-bye.  You simply leave...

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

artsPlace - 51° 05' 23" N 115° 21' 46"

When you live in Canmore, it is easy to focus on physical activity.  Cycling, downhill and cross-country skiing, climbing, hiking, running, canoeing ... the daylight seems to vanish from underneath us.  Winter brings colder temperatures and shorter bouts of sunshine, so we do find ourselves indoors and looking to fend off cabin fever.

As well as being a town full of active people, love of (and occupancy in) the mountains also inspires artistic endeavours.  There are many artists in our little berg and therefore the arts community is unusually strong.  We have no less than three theatre companies; there are more public and private galleries than you can shake a hiking pole at; the Bow Valley hosts the Banff Centre for Arts; there are world-class festivals for music, spoken word, painting, sculpture and written word.  Heck, we even have a former potter as a mayor.  One of the outcomes of this is we have a fabulous community gathering centre called artsPlace.

Artspace hosts a pottery studio (of course), gallery space, several classrooms and a large performance space that seats roughly 200 people.  We were attracted to an event there last year and have been going back almost weekly to different events.  Things we have seen there and things we are looking forward to include:

  • After the Fire - a live-actor play about the survivor guilt and aftermath of the fires in Fort McMurray in 2017
  • Pecha Kucha - a theme-based, storytelling night that shows 20 slides for 20 seconds per slide.
  • several movie nights of arthouse films, including Blinded By The Light and Where Did You Go, Bernadette?
  • screening and Q and A session of the documentary, We Will Stand Up.  We had elders from the Stoney band attend and give their (very interesting) opinions on the film afterwards.
  • Nakoda Language and Culture course, given over 10 evenings, where we will learn language (and therefore a bit about their perspective on the world) from a Nakoda elder.
We are very lucky to have such a great resource within walking distance of our home.