Some people are born with a good sense of direction and some, well, are not.
In a way, if I hadn’t turned right instead of going left—toward Banff, our destination—we wouldn’t have gotten lost at dusk near Lake Minnewanka and I wouldn’t have seen the baby deer on the road blinking at me in the car headlights in astonishment seemingly thinking, ‘What on earth are you doing here?’ Mama deer was nearby and the family quickly leaped safely back into the dense woods.
If I hadn’t booked the holiday through a third party, I would have been able to change our WestJet flight; wouldn’t have arrived in the late afternoon (after an unexpected delay); and would have missed seeing the family of elk peacefully grazing on the side of the TransCanada Highway (A1). What a sight! Next to what geologists call ‘cluster blocks’ and ordinary folk call mountains.
When you don’t have a good sense of direction, GPS becomes very important. And when your GPS doesn’t immediately locate satellites it becomes a problem at best or your worst nightmare. When I saw ‘Ontario’ appear in location and not ‘Alberta,’ my heart dropped.
It all started in the garage of Enterprise rent-a-car at the Calgary International Airport. I was given a speed tour of the Hyundai Kona (2021 model)—and a map. The map and a compassionate hotel receptionist in Calgary are what got us on the A1. He said, ‘You can use the GPS on your phone.’ That’s what—eventually—got us to Banff. I prayed that God would bless this man and his entire family.
I like my GPS and call it the Li’l Nüvi for short. It’s actually a Garmin nüvi 44 LM. Without the Li’l Nüvi, I feel lost.
All this to say that in my mistakes—forgetting that the Li’l Nüvi can’t locate satellites while surrounded by concrete in an underground parking lot—and allowing trepidation to take hold of me when we were ‘this’ close to Banff led to the most wonderful discoveries. I learned that my phone can guide me just as well (no offense, Li’l Nüvi); that elk and deer come out at dusk; and that all detours lead to Banff.
Still processing the experience
As I pen these words from my Toronto residence, I realize that I continue to process the spiritual significance of my trip to Banff and the ‘cluster blocks.’ The Nepalese waiter (she/her) from Pacini’s who was born in Kathmandu calls them ‘Baby Mountains.’ We got a good laugh out of that. They may be babies but they sure have clout!
Possibly the oddest thing that happened on the trip was sensing the presence of Chief Albany. This is not the man’s real name, but for those who have ears to hear, let them hear. It happened at thirty thousand feet.
‘My name is Luba and I’m in an iron bird.’
‘I know what planes are,’ the chief replied.
This provided a good laugh, too.
We are never truly lost
There was no doubt that I was on the traditional territories—in this case in the traditional air space—of the Indigenous people.
Although I was physically lost near Lake Minnewanka, the chief ‘spotted’ me even before I stepped foot on land and knew exactly where I was.
The mountains seemed to know, too. After every excursion, I would feel their calm and sober presence.
I had some hesitation before taking my 85-year-old mother out west, but decided to cast my fears aside and go.
And if you’re wondering, the Li’l Nüvi connected to satellites in Alberta after all.
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