We were four days, more or less, in Alberta last week, flying out from Seattle on Wednesday morning. It was a new--and therefore smaller--model airplane and passengers were warned that they might have to check some of their carry-on items at the door if it wouldn't fit in the new--and therefore smaller--overhead luggage racks. Why do people insist on bringing full-size backpacks with sleeping bags into the passenger compartment, as well as suitcases and bags and God knows what else? Don't get me started. It was a smooth enough flight though worries (unfounded, it turned out) of turbulence meant no coffee or other hot beverages. Somehow we managed to survive, being very brave.
The Calgary airport seems to be mostly empty space, as if it were built during more hopeful economic times, for a boom that hasn't happened. Although the prairie around Calgary continues to be eaten away by ugly urban sprawl in the form of identical subdivisions of identical brown split-level houses, a cancer of development. But the Calgary airport is quite clean and I like the friendly folks in the red vests and white cowboy hats offering free rides on the carts.
Calgary was only a way station, where we transferred from plane to bus for a two-hour drive into Banff, within Banff National Park, in the shadows of Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade. We were attending the annual Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. The grand prize of the book half of the festival went to Jim Herrington's The Climbers, a book into which Mighty Reader poured countless hours. Be sure to read the opening essay by Greg Child (author of Over the Edge among other books). Banff is grand and it's always nice when every presentation ends with an exhortation for attendees to buy some books to support small publishers and book sellers.
The view from our hotel window, facing west.
The full moon setting, around 6:30 AM.
Banff National Park, detail.
The Alberta prairie, lovely in its emptiness.
À bientôt, Calgary! You see in the near distance one of those new identical unsightly subdivisions, and spaces being scraped flat for more of the same. They go on for mile after mile. From the highway the roofs of these houses seem to crest over hills like horrific brown waves, an advancing flood of I-don't-know-what. Ruskin pointed out the importance to human dignity of beautiful homes for the working class. In Calgary, they are erecting hectares of mud-brown mazes, sheds for bodies rather than houses for immortal spirits.