Waking from her nap, Hippie Me tucked Corporate Me away with the business attire and powerpoint presentations, hopped in the shiny blue rental car and headed for the mountains. I relished the thought of even just a few hours of pretending I was a free spirit again before flying home to family and obligations.
The closer to the mountains I got, the giddier I got. How can you not love the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains?
As I pulled into the town of Banff, though, a strange kind of melancholy settled on me. After stopping for a few cold photo ops, I took the familiar road toward Tunnel Mountain. When I passed the Banff Centre of Fine Arts, the melancholy grew and I started to cry.
I came to Banff with high hopes that summer, and left wounded and raw. Faced with an abusive boss who took chunks out of my fledgling self-esteem as often as she could, a job that revealed nothing but my weaknesses (cleaning, precision) day after day, a room-mate who didn’t really like me, and other friends who I’d come with who were happier in each other’s company and didn’t really need a third wheel, I was lonely and depressed all summer long.
After parking in downtown Banff, I gathered my camera and the book I’d promised to find a place for, and wandered across the bridge at the edge of town. I found the perfect place on the railing of the old stone bridge in arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the world. I took pictures and walked away. It all seemed so perfect.
Suddenly, I felt like skipping. The book drop had done wonders for my spirit. Banff is full of not only tourists, but young people just like I’d been – coming from all over the world to work for a few months in the service industry in an interesting location before going back to school or moving on to the next adventure. I pictured a younger version of me finding that book just when she needed it most. I pictured the difference it might have made in my nineteen-year-old life. I wanted to believe I’d been a conduit for something special happening for a young woman in the blossoming time of her life.
The book was still there. Someone had torn open the tape on the paper packaging, peeked inside, and left it all behind. I was heartbroken. How could someone see such a beautiful book free for the taking and not whisk it away to a private little hideaway for some quality soul time?
I didn’t think the book would still be there, but I decided that if it were, it was meant to be mine. Pretending for a moment I was my nineteen-year-old self crossing the bridge to my forty-three-year-old self, I returned to where I’d left the book. It was still there, lying on its side again, like someone else had rejected it and assumed it was meant for someone else.
I took it, but not without HUGE reservations and a whole lot of arguing with myself. (Aren’t you cheating? Maybe Christine will be angry. Shouldn’t you fulfill your duties like you promised? You’re failing again!)
In a flash of inspiration, I walked into a jewellery store and bought myself a promisary ring. (I later learned that the blue chalcedony is meant to strengthen the body and mind and give the wearer a sense of clarity about what they like and don’t like.)
In the Wild Flour café, I wrote myself a promise note.
– I will take more chances.
– I will believe that I am an artist.
– I will trust my ability.
– I will look for opportunities to paint and make art as often as I can.
– I will sign up for another class or workshop that stretches me.
– I will honour the muse.
It’s never too late to learn the things I should have known that summer I turned 19.
(If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see that I picked up a brochure for the Banff Centre of F
ine Arts. Maybe… someday…)
I drove back to Calgary wearing my new ring. I am rather fond of the way it looks on my weathered 43 year old hand.