Tag Archives: memories

Time to Reflect – in Banff (36/365)

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I spent much of the day today hiking from end to end of Banff (and back), reflecting. Ostensibly, I was figuring out exactly where I need to go when I lead my first ghost walk, planning where to tell which story… But there was lots more going on than just deciding when to mention the various apparitions. Wandering around the streets and alleys, peering into back yards, reading all the plaques (they weren’t there when I lived there, way back when), catching glimpses of the familiar, being shaken by all that has changed… I kept alternating between regret and sadness that we ever left and delight to be back and looking at my old hometown with fresh eyes.

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All day today the world kept shifting between the intense colours of early summer and the black and white filter of powerful childhood memories. 

When I was a kid sometimes the guys (they were mostly men back then) would let me ride my horse at the back of the string of horses when they were brought down from the Banff Springs Hotel to the barn near the rec grounds. I pretended like I was actually important and had a proper job to do, though I was really just following along. I loved the way the tourists would point and say, “Look how small she is!” as I sat astride my much-too-big-for me horse, Ace.

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Ace in front of Cascade Mountain. About 1970. 

As a family, we travelled a lot when I was young and until recently I was hard pressed to say what place I considered to be ‘home.’ Now that I am back in the mountains, though, I feel like I have come home, in geographic terms at least. Walking around in Banff, I think that’s perhaps the closest I will ever come to identifying with a specific place in such a way that I feel that’s where I come from. It’s a very strange feeling because I don’t even live in Banff (and probably never will again) – I live down the road in Canmore. But Canmore feels like the place I live at the moment that’s very similar geologically speaking to a place I once called home. And that is different to actually being back at home.

Oh, it’s confusing. I keep finding myself time-slipping, taken back almost five decades to the first summer we spent in Banff in a cabin not much different to one of these:

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Banff Beaver Cabins on Beaver Street

Back in the day, accommodations for visitors were in short supply (actually, that hasn’t changed much). Enterprising locals built cabins behind their homes and rented them out. When we first arrived in 1969, we lived in just such a cabin for the first summer until we moved into a small house on Grizzly Street a couple of blocks over.

My most vivid memory of that first summer was being awakened at dawn by banging noises behind the cabin. No, it wasn’t a ghost… it was a female grizzly and her two cubs raiding our garbage cans. Mom, my brother and I watched through the window until they had taken what they wanted and ambled off.

Those were the days before animal-proof garbage cans and, actually, before feeding the wildlife was strictly verboten. Somewhere, I have photos of us feeding crackers to elk outside the back door of the Grizzly Street house. On my next trip to the coast, I’ll dig through the boxes of old photos and find a few to post…

For now, though, my memories from long ago and the new impressions from today are doing a strange dance, not quite in synch but not quite not in synch either. Do you know what I mean?

I am too tired to think any more about this tonight (and, my jaw still hurts so I just want to go to bed), but I’ll leave you with a question or two: How far away from ‘home’ do you live? In our ever more mobile world, what does home mean?

Memory Lane… (28/365)

Sometimes it seems that my life is a series of different digressions, fascinating side roads that are way more interesting than the whatever the main road was supposed to have been.

Those side roads are braided, looping back and around themselves like Celtic knots, leading to familiar corners rounded and re-encountered when least expected.

At the moment I’m exploring a theatre cul de sac where the familiar and the new are sending me back to the very beginning of my acting career. 

 

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Wow! Look what I found online in the archives of the Banff Centre! That’s Dad (holy smokes he looks so young!) in about 1970 teaching a student… (reference #A 05 01 09, no photographer listed). 

 

Back in 1969 when we first came to Canada from Australia we moved to Banff in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Dad was the first Artist in Residence at the Banff School of Fine Arts (now known as the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity).  I was all of 8 and determined to perform my way onto the stage. I took ballet classes and enrolled in an acting class for kids. I landed a small part in a play. The director of that play and my teacher was a dynamo called Shirley Tooke.

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The Banff School of Fine Arts (c 1970)

I’ve thought about Shirley many times over the years. She was the first person I had ever met who took theatre seriously. And, more to the point, she took me seriously, even though I had pigtails and could barely see over a table I was so short.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I ran into Shirley at the 40th Anniversary gala event hosted by Pine Tree Players the other night. Turns out Shirley has been working her magic, directing plays, mentoring actors, and making theatre happen here in the Bow Valley for decades! Everyone in the room had a connection to Shirley, a story about how instrumental she has been in terms of nurturing and developing all things theatrical around here!

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I remember going to this production of the opera, Hansel and Gretel back in 1970. We were so lucky to be able to attend performances – ballet, modern dance, opera, music (I saw Oscar Peterson live), authors (Farley Mowat comes to mind), and theatre… And, of course, art shows. I never thought much about it at the time, but how lucky were we as kids to have access to so much art in our back yard? 

It was pretty cool to see my first acting mentor from so many years ago. Though she remembered my parents (she and my dad would have crossed paths at the Banff Centre), of course Shirley didn’t remember the earnest little kid with the big dreams. But that little kid never forgot her! I’m so happy we ran into each other again and I was able to say a long overdue thank-you for the kindness, support, and enthusiasm she offered so generously.

I wish I’d had my wits about me and had someone snap a photo of us together, but I confess I was so flabbergasted it never crossed my mind to do so!