Day One in Banff

Bow River, BanffIt takes a while for your mind to calm, settle and regain focus after a long flight. The body recovers before the head does, and I don’t think it’s just the lack of sleep (I stayed awake throughout my 25-hour commute from Melbourne to Banff) or the dry, dirty air on the plane or sitting in a narrow seat staring at a screen for hours on end. Those things are all self-inflicted torture, the results of which are predictable. Every part of my body was hurting and swollen when I arrived at Banff, from my eyes to my knees. But after a night’s sleep, a hot shower and a few hours of walking, my body felt normal.

I waited for my mind to catch up. I knew it would eventually. When I set out this morning to walk into town, which is about ten minutes from the Banff Centre, I found a path off the road that led down to a river. I should have clocked there was a river, since the man at the Centre’s information desk told me to cross a bridge into town, but I was surprised to see it, and thrilled. I walked along the narrow dirt track, high above a river with clear, fast-flowing water, away from the town, because it looked so beautiful I wanted to explore a while. I stopped repeatedly to look around me, in front of me, down at the river, across at a forest of pine, spruce and fir trees. The sky was cloudless and the air smelled thin and crisp. I walked and walked, dazed.

Somewhere along the walk I decided that quiet music might be good company. My oldest son had added some music to my iPod, housed in a folder called Chilled, As In Cold. It was a combination of songs he had on his own iPod in folders more lyrically titled Chillaxed and Chilligan’s Island. The first song was called The River. It couldn’t have been more perfectly perfect.

When the track sat at the same level as the river, not far away from the Bow River Bridge, I walked to the edge and put my hand in the icy water. Across the top of Vetiver, I heard the rush of the water. I heard a bird trill. I heard a woman on the path behind me call out in French to a little girl who was trailing behind her. They were both wearing fleecy sweatshirts and woollen beanies. I let the water keep rushing across the top of my hand. And right then, my mind and body rejoined one another. When I stood up, my dizziness was gone and I looked around me as though a gauzy veil had been lifted from my face.


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