Last month Kevin and I headed off on a winter road adventure with some members of the Wood Buffalo Photography Club. Despite how long we have lived in our Northern home, we had never travelled the winter road. And we definitely travelled the winter road - all the way to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories and back within 36 hours. Phew! It was certainly a whirlwind and I'd now like to do it again with a little more time allowance and my own plan of action.
Due to the whirlwind nature of our trip, the slideshow below is a series of images shot through the front window (from the passenger seat). I wanted to quickly capture the varying road conditions and scenery despite not having enough time to stop and craft my images as I would normally! There were many places that I felt disappointed that I could not stop and savour, or images that I wanted to perfect. But not every moment is meant for creating and perfecting images - sometimes it's just for the memory bank.
It felt really special to have taken the journey - a road that is impassable in any other season due to the terrain and river crossings. And now we've touched every border of Alberta! When you look at a map of the province there's this vast Northern section that is begging to be explored - we've journeyed through it - drove right over frozen rivers and sand dunes - through forests and marshes!
With the warming temperatures of the change of seasons, we will have to wait until next winter to travel it again. The quietness of a landscape largely untouched was so special and why I love venturing off into the backcountry. (And as much as I love hiking, it was definitely a perk to have a warm vehicle to shelter us from the bitter cold!)
Note: Click on the images below to view the gallery of my images from our trip! If you're on a desktop, press the space bar once you're in the gallery and it will create an automatic slideshow for you. :)
Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to really explore the communities of Fort Chipewyan and Fort Smith - which I would really love to know more about. It's one thing to study a place from afar, and another to actually be there and experience it.
Although the trip was fairly quiet on the wildlife front we were treated to the sights of Spruce Grouse, a Rough-Legged Hawk, a Northern Hawk Owl and a number of Snowy Owls! (And, um, some "eagles" that ended up being wasp nests mounded in snow.) For those of you who know me, I was over the moon to witness the owls, in particular. They were often in the distance, clear enough that you could recognize their silhouette and pull out the binoculars - but too far away to photograph effectively. On our way back South we came across them right along the road! What a blessing!
I can't believe it took us this long to finally take the trek but now that we know better what to expect, we can certainly make plans for future trips up this gorgeous winter road. I sure love my Northern Alberta home.
Why does your heart ache when you experience something you find intensely beautiful? Is it that your heart can only contain so much - because the very tendons that hold it together are ready to burst at the seams? Perhaps our capacity to take it all in limited by our humanity... the only way we know to respond is with that overwhelming ache that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says
"Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ― Lewis Carroll
For as much as I mourn winter's coming, and feel relief with the melting winds that tease of spring, I adore the beauty of winter. And as spring starts to show her face again, I find myself wishing for one more snowfall - one more peaceful blanket of delicate snowflakes that remind the earth, and me, to rest. This winter has not been one of rest - it has been a flurry of productivity and long, busy days. Still, I carved out little moments to trudge through drifted snow and wait quietly among birdsong. It was (and is) there, when I chose to get out my own head, my own heart, and my own way, that my soul was refreshed. When we wish away the winter days, I fear we may be missing out on a season that is whispering to us of beauty and restfulness that we so desperately need.
The past 34 days have been the richest blessing.
I am looking forward to moving on to new projects and new work but I have to confess I am also mourning the end of this exhibition. Today I will be removing the work from the gallery walls, handing over purchased pieces and figuring out where to tuck the rest at home. The 18" Journey took over my life and it feels rather odd to have to say goodbye. It's time to sort through the piles of paper and art supplies, reorganize, regroup, and spend some dedicated time in reflection and evaluation. It's time to move on.
It has been an honour and a privilege to share this body of work with all those who took it in. The venue to connect with so many beautiful souls is one of the biggest elements of this exhibition that I will miss. I am humbled to have had so many of you share how deeply the work resonated with you. It has proven to me that art truly does tear down walls and through vulnerability we can become more authentically connected.
I have learned so much this past month... things that have made a significant impact in me. To have been poured into with so much love, support and encouragement is nothing that I could have predicted or even hoped for. Please know that every word, note, message, social media interaction, attendance at an event, and purchase of artwork has not been taken for granted- it has been a beautiful and unexpected gift. I feel there is so much to say but I find myself at a loss for how to adequately express my gratitude and to put this entire experience into words...
I think that means it's time to get back into the studio.