Sweet Home Alberta
I wasn’t born in Alberta, nor was I raised in this great province, however, when I get off the plane in Calgary and get my first glimpse of the city skyline silhouetting the majestic Rocky mountains and ever-changing skies of blue, purple, and gray, I feel at home. This weekend was no different, as I took a long weekend away from Washington, DC to come home- catch the tail end of the Calgary Stampede, take a breathtaking journey through the mountains, and up to Jasper to attend the wedding of a close friend.
My heart is warmed by the spirit of Calgarians; proudly dressed in their best western attire and paying homage to the western prairie roots. A collage of leather, denim, plaid, topped with straw hats; I’m in shock, as 17 degrees Celsius feels so cold after the eastern heat waves and yet locals are gallivanting in sleeveless tees and short summer dresses. The country twang and that distinct fiddle resonates throughout the city- from car windows, make shift beer gardens, and the concerts of Stampede grounds.
Leaving the city and driving through Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Columbia Icefields, and finally up to Jasper; 5 hours of winding roads, construction sites, park authority check stops, and slow moving recreational vehicles. The highway periodically turns into a parking lot of visitors taking photos of waterfalls, mirror lakes, mountain peaks, and all the other grandeur sites I always seem to take for granted.
On this occasion we spotted mountain goats, deer, elk, eagles, even a baby black bear, and the inevitable pack of tourists getting too close for comfort to snap that perfect shot. I am inspired by nature, although I am not at ease until I reach the comfort of our hotel and amenities of Jasper Park Lodge. The hotel is a little more rustic, a little more remote than the Fairmont in Banff and Lake Louise, especially when compared to city hotels I am accustomed to, yet the charm of JPL is instantly evident.
The wedding participants began to arrive, and my friends and I gravitate to a patio overlooking the electric blue lake and serene setting. Enjoying a picture of Sangria with good friends, laughing about memories past while celebrating the present; the best part of Alberta is Albertans themselves, and I’m fortunate to know such great people. We clink glasses and toast our good fortune, gratuity to our families and friends. The humble and calm temperament is a much appreciated escape from the hyperbolic intensity I experience in DC.
The ceremony began at 2pm, the sun was shining and reflecting off the lake, as we watched the elegant and graceful bride pledge matrimony to her strapping groom; we listened joyously to their story and praised their commitment and the journey they will take together.
The reception was glamorous, as to be expected from two classy Albertan families, and we continued to laugh and cry through anecdotes and marriage advise from jubilant friends and proud parents. A slide show highlighted the two young lives and their paths to meet one another- my personal favorite shows the bride sporting her Oilers jersey with the groom draped in his Flames, a true Albertan compromise. Wine was flowing, conversation was erupting, and dancing and traditions kept us going into the early morning hours.
After a girls brunch to squeeze in another few hours of visiting, I embark back down highway 93 on the long haul back to Calgary, only to hop on a plane for the milk-run journey back to work and real life. This time I will try to bring the Albertan spirit of freedom and family to my hectic and cosmopolitan east-coast life.