Part 4 – Day 3
a.k.a. ‘If you fall, I fall’ (Aislin Fall).
There are long talks and short talks, deep talks and shallow ones, conversations interrupted by views, oh’s, ah’s, vertigo or slow drivers.
Mountains sit so still, don’t they? They don’t move, they sleep, almost, eternally resting in a might that knows no equal – that has no equal. They say that you should stand tall like a tree, roots in the ground. But what if I were more like a mountain? Rolling in stillness, moving in stillness, just being, not going, not rushed or chased in grandness and might but instead just still – still in grandness and might.
I’ve been standing still for a long time. But I’m thinking, maybe some of us aren’t meant to move. Maybe some of us are meant to be displaced, picking ourselves up and putting ourselves down in elephant steps, growing in stillness, growing in non-motion. Draw strength from our stillness in being.
Some people are fleeting, always moving. Some people are rocks. Maybe I want to be a mountain.
Icefield was the coldest night we experienced. Ashy reckons we hit -12 degrees Celsius. Surprisingly enough, we made it through without much trouble, the only thing we were at risk for was suffocation – death by blankets sounds perhaps a little too good to be true though. The sun is just hitting the mountains as we clamber out of the car, the short walk proving just how cold the night had been and how relatively warm we had been. I was sure one of my fingers had frozen over as I held my hands against the blow-dryer to thaw.
We have breakfast at the foot of the mountain. I have lost track of how many times I asked Ashy how you pronounce ‘Coquihalla’ and I keep confusing it with how you say ‘Kelowna’. I have also lost track of the times I’ve asked her where we’ve been and where we’re going. I’m scatterbrained, or perhaps my brain just doesn’t want to plan and organise and think about what’s next because really, with so much right here, why bother with what’s next?
We attempt to hike Sunwapta, but the snow proofs too difficult and dangerous a task to descend the mountain safely. Ashy skids down on her bum to get to the waterfalls and I make for an improvised route through fresh snow, holding on to branches and trees.
We follow the road to the Mistaya Canyons, where the mantra of the day was born as I called out “I’m most definitely going to fall on my ass” and Ashy replied, “If you fall, I fall!”
I ask her: “What happened after Sunwapta?
Ashy answers: “I was aggressively passing people on the highway. And you kept score”.
We follow the road to the Mistaya Canyons, waggling through the snow with the sun on our backs which makes for a funny shadow dance. The mantra of the day was born here as I called out “I’m most definitely going to fall on my ass” and Ashy replied, “If you fall, I fall!”
At Peyto Lake, Ashy makes a snow angel. She falls back in knee-high snow, carefree and oblivious to other people’s potential thoughts, and laughs as she flaps her arms and legs. There is joy on her face as she later dances off the snow. I think this might now be one of my fondest memories of her.
I have an autistic tendency of reading street signs out loud. I’d been keeping this habit in check for days, but driving up to Lake Louise, I find myself slipping and calling out names of stops, lookouts, mountains and places. Ashy joins in, calling in the signs from her left. I cover the right side of the road. That’s how we met ‘Herbert’.
Lake Louise is too crowded – overcrowded, really – with tourists. We make a dash for it, escaping the beehive madness, the traffic of Lake Louise alone has already spun us in a frenzy. We flee to Lake Herbert and set up a tiny camp. Ashy cooks chilli as I mentally scare of the busload of tourists that arrives shortly after. We’ve become quite a domesticated couple in a few days on the road.
We witness dusk settle over the landscape and make it to Banff, setting Polly up for the night behind another Pursuit (happy accidents). Fire-lipped and snow-toed, behind us so many miles of wide & welcoming roads, grey and winter-kissed, and we catch ourselves being on our phones as we’re within reach of Pursuit’s Wi-Fi. We object, loudly, and correct our own behaviour. It’s not long until, with darkness around us, we mumble towards each other that this is the last night here and how we don’t want to think about it yet and what if we simply deny it, what if we life in a constant state of denial and what if we want to stay here, on the road, forever and ever and –
what if we just keep on driving?