Just passing through......

Musings of a lowly pilgrim
Life lessons | Nature | Photography | Stewards of our planet | Travel

Rocky Mountain High

July 29, 2019

It has been a while, I know. I have been rearranging my life again. I finally completed the courses I was taking at Athabasca University, but have decided not to continue. Along with the cost, I’m not that crazy about putting myself through the struggles of meeting deadlines and learning stuff that I don’t agree with. While I admit that I still have a lot to learn, there are some fundamentals I have learned in the sixty years I have spent on this earth, and they clash with the learning material in my course. I have finished with a 4.0 GPA, so I know my brain has the capacity to function at a decent level, and I may have made something of my life, had I been provided with, or taken, the opportunity to further my education in my early years. I am now able to accept that my life will continue to be humble, that I won’t make some grand contribution to the world and I won’t join the likes of Paul Watson, Sir David Attenborough or Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier in changing the direction of climate change or environmental issues, but I can still plug along in my Lilliputian way, refusing plastic bags, disposable cups and straws, composting, recycling, repurposing and reducing my ecological footprint.

Early morning mist

I had an epic time in the mountains several weeks ago. I took myself out there as a treat for finishing my courses. I drove out on Friday evening with plans to sleep in my car overnight and get an early start at wildlife spotting. In between Banff and Lake Louise I spotted my first ever wild grizzly bear, but, alas, it was too dark, and I didn’t know how to fix the camera settings to compensate, so all I got was this lousy photo with my phone:

(You’d think that after two years of picture taking, I would have learned something, but no, I’m still a complete amateur!)

The next day, after a pretty restless night in the back seat of my little Chevy Cruze, I awoke to rain. So I decided to bypass walking to the lake, Lake Louise that is, and drove the backroads to Kananaskis. I revelled in the sunrise and the mist, so beautiful, and stopped here and there to take pictures of some of the wildlife in the area, notably mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep.

Mule deer being rude!
Wapiti (Elk)
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

I was still kicking myself about missing the opportunity to photograph a grizzly, when, driving down a gravel road in Kananaskis Country hoping to spot a moose, I saw these two brown humps in the brush at the side of the trail. No, I thought, it can’t be! But it WAS!!! Two grizzly bears, TWO grizzly bears! Oh, my goodness, I was in heaven. There they were, right by the side of the road. Now, if I had taken the time to adjust my camera settings, I might have had some pretty spectacular photos, worthy of publication. But no, I was too excited to even look at the pictures I was taking. I spent fifteen glorious minutes with these majestic beasts, while they continued munching on grass and berries, sometimes looking up at me, but mostly just enjoying a mid-morning snack. Eventually, a few other cars stopped, and the bears took offence and mosied on their way.

Smoky and Baloo
Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of a Scots woman!
Yup, that’s definitely the blood of a Scots woman!

I was in my car most of the time while photographing them, and only opened the car door and stepped one foot out so that I could capture them without the door frame in the way. They were literally twenty feet from me. I’m not that stupid as to leave my car. I am in awe of these giants and their capabilities. When I finally drove away, I cried, it was such a surreal moment. I feel so honoured to have spent that time with these creatures and thank God when these moments come around. Strong emotions rise in me as I consider the power and beauty of creation and am ever grateful to be permitted to commune with some of the most magnificent animals on earth. I do believe that animals know if we mean harm, or even if we respect them.

Berry hunting
Brother Bears

This moment will remain one of the top three highlights of my life (besides giving birth to my wonderful children). The other two are when Hannah, my youngest, and I swam with whale sharks off the Mexican coast by Isla Mujeres, and when my son, Matthew, and I visited the protected  waters of the Ojo de Liebre Lagoon near Guerrero Negro, Mexico, where the gray whales go to breed in the winter and are so curious they come right up to the boat to check you out!

Hannah and me swimming with whale sharks! (Photo courtesy of Mexico Whale Shark Tours)
Gray whale waving!
Thar she blows!

Since my Rocky Mountain high, I have had little motivation to do anything. I had planned to dive in and learn all about my camera, but I had surgery on my mouth about eleven days ago, and I don’t want to do anything. It’s kind of like the letdown after a much-anticipated event. I still do enjoy my trips out and about looking for birds to photograph, but I am deflated at the moment. Ah well, I have learned, this, too, shall pass.

The three little lambs

I have been thinking about fear for a while, mostly because I am forced to live without teeth for an extended period until my mouth heals. That is a fear I have lived with since losing all of my teeth over twenty years ago. I have never wanted to be seen without my teeth; the humiliation just seemed too much. But, you know, it’s not that bad. Sure, I would rather not be seen this way, but there are far worse things that could happen. After all, it is only temporary. Some people have to live like that all the time. And some people lose much more than teeth.

Every single thing that happens in a person’s life is for a purpose. There is something to learn, and though this may seem trivial to many, it is a lesson for me. I am much too fixated on what people think of my appearance. (I can hear some of you sniggering and thinking, really?) Yes, despite what I chose to wear and how I present myself publicly, I do care about what I look like. My fixation stems from my anorexic brain and grew out of criticism of the way I looked back in my early twenties. I have come a long way, though. I no longer wear sleeves all the time because I’m ashamed of my teacher’s arms (you know, when the teacher is writing on the chalkboard and her upper arm flesh is jiggling). I wear sleeveless shirts now, jiggling flesh and all. But facing the world with no teeth is something I never imagined I would ever have to do. It’s my last hurdle to overcome appearance-wise (I hope!) and isn’t it wonderful that I get to overcome. My friend, Kathy, sent me this quote:

“The secret of happiness is to be free of fear. Fear is like a toxin that runs through much of our thinking. It                                       feeds on insecurity, feelings of loss, loneliness, inadequacy and attachment.”
                                                                                     Devidas (Dev) Tahilian


I like that. I think it is true. And so I am grateful for the opportunity to face my fears and find more peace of mind. I am avoiding any social activities at present, but I do have to go to work, and I work in the public library, so it’s not like I can hide anywhere. As with anything, the thought is usually worse than the event. I count myself privileged to have experiences that show me what is on the inside of me. As any of you who have read previous posts know, I don’t always shine in those moments, but if I never had to face these things, I would never grow. And sometimes I fall back into the sludge and slop around for a while before I can get a foothold out, but nothing, absolutely nothing happens by chance. And if I fall, that’s fine; there will be another opportunity to overcome just around the corner. What we avoid facing will keep popping up time and again until we do.

Morning in the Rocky Mountains
  1. Great pictures Tina! You are so lucky to live somewhere that is so close to nature and where you can experience one of your greatest passions (nature) fairly easily.

  2. Your post echoes much of what I believe, Tina. Despite my many years of education I still have to accept that I never achieved anything great, and probably never will. I will not write a great novel that will be read by future generations. And I can no longer deal with the stress of being a trustee of a charity struggling for survival. I am just one ant among 7 billion struggling to survive. Music, singing, baking bread, country walks, a garden humming with bees, butterflies and flowers sustain me in this big ugly society we have created.

    1. I’m beginning to think that we all aspire to greatness. So I think the greatest thing any of us can really do is be kind to those we encounter on life’s journey. All of us ants are longing to know we are special to someone. You are special to me. And the life you now live sounds pretty darn great! Simplicity at its best!

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