The Canadian Rockies
We as writers are dependent upon imagination. Imagination is the ink that fills the pen that feeds the lines that write the page. I have returned from a place where there is no need of ink. It does not invite description. Instead, it offers itself to be held; to be pressed like picked flowers that find a home between pages of a favorite book. Pressed into the unforgotten. Forever remembered. Imagination became exhausted when it was formed and neither word nor paint, nor photograph, can convey its extraordinary splendor.
The Banff to Jasper corridor through the Canadian Rockies is neither route nor visit; it is an awakening that refuses the eye any momentary pause, any sudden blink, or any excuse to escape the moment which clings unrelentingly to the awakened soul. What the soul reveals is unspeakable in words. It inhales through the eyes and then exhales in slow repining gasp from deep inside, then rises invisibly to settle, to decorate what words simply can not do.
There are times when words can only diminish a truth which is reserved for experience, for the communion of soul and place. Times when what is felt is confined, kept imprisoned, ‘lest we as writers, reveal the ineptitude of language to define or describe visions which refuse the audacity of words. There is a time to stand in awe, to revere the unspeakable and to never endanger such privilege with the futility of description.
I have prefaced my following ineptitude with fair and honest warning, with a prescription for futility directing my way, with promise to fail. None the less, I will paint despite a lack of paint and I will write, though words will serve at best, as evidence that what I come to do, can not be done.
Imagine if you can, conspicuous and meandering valleys, which cradle sublime and delicate meadows, golden aspen and seas of hypnotic evergreens, scaling the unimaginable. Imagine rivers and streams so clear the eye can define the grains of sand which lie within the crevices of bottomed bedrock. Imagine wild grasses dancing rhythmically to soft sweeping breezes and floating fragrances that settle undisturbed as they light upon the silence. Above it all, imagine if you can, but you can not, granite monoliths rising almost vertical from grass to sky with jagged crowns piercing the captured sky. East and west, north and south as far as your heart can see. They stand as though they were pulled from the ground, stretched upward with out hesitation or any pause to consider slope or grade or cant or bend. They simply reached and laid claimed to the “high above“. They are painted in alluring greens, splashed infrequently with the elegant gold of shivering aspen. Below the stone gray granite faces of their omnipotent crowns, a mile high, the yellow needles of Autumn larch, separate themselves from the lower mountain. To behold such splendor in a single moment, begs immediate reverence from the soul. To stand in the midst of such incomparable beauty humbles the spirit and brings the glory of stillness to ones human spirit.
The granite faces are more than half the height of the mountain; Above timberline, above the common and ordinary places which men violate in their want of uncommon adventure. There are no summits to crest, no trails to execute, and no mountains to climb, but, for rope and axe. They stand in solitary splendor embracing wild, unfurled, valleys and canyons to their great stone breast. Held, protected, sheltered, from the usual trespass of an outside world. Imagine that your eye can not find the beginning or the end of their presence, for they hold the horizon in any direction. Sunrise plays upon the miles of lofty granite faces as though they were simply empty canvas, inventing hues of color for the approachment of a day humble by yet, another visit.
Imagine if you can, but you can not, to steal the green from emerald and pour the purity of color from your hand into lakes reserved for its reflection. To squeeze from turquoise its life until the color drips in complete surrender to the claim of whatever water sits below.
There are many who say such place conveys to them the illumination of their comparative insignificance and standing in the presence of such unending awe, leaves one to understand the why. As I sat imprisoned by surrender, surveying a landscape which my senses could not completely grasp, I thought how fortunate for such a place that I and others come. To see, to feel, to hear, to smell, to taste, to think, to experience. After all, it is our senses which create the awe, the splendor, the exhilaration. What is, such an extraordinary place without our presence. It would not find the awe within itself. But then, who are we, without such place to give purpose and awakening to our senses?
If man’s encroachment misrepresents the wild or the wilderness that resounds from wall to distant granite wall, he need simply leave the illusion of safety and put his foot to ground. It is undeniably home to grizzly and black bear, to big horn sheep and cougar, to elk and dear and moose, to wolves and wolverine. They belong to such a place, as much as the wild flowers that carpet the high alpine meadows in August, as much as countless glaciers which resound daily in avalanches high above trails which keep their distance, as much as the waterfalls which plunge from the severity of a vertical world unable to tame their want to leap in exhilaration and as much as the high stillness that keep secrets in yet, unapproachable places.
To say that grandeur sweeps the landscape with unspeakable proficiency is to diminish the perfection that such a place embodies. To say the eyes fail to measure the scope of its magnificence is as much from truth as heart may beg and still, it is a truth that words will fail. If imagination is the ink of writers, then I have seen a place surely written in ink from God. I have kept my promise and failed to capture its incomparable wonder in any of my words, but then, who am I to improve upon what God has written.
It is good to be home. To sink into the comfort of all that is familiar. To read, to write, to listen to my music and to bounce grandchildren on knees that rise up as imaginary horses. It is good that we imagine. But sometimes, it is good to escape such ordinary excercise. Sometimes we must see what the imagining is all about. When we return we may find new paint upon our palet, new words with which to write and new music with which to dance. Despite the prospect of such collection, some places will always take our breath away; Only there, where there is no need of it, no want of it, can imagination ever find a place to rest.