Eleven years later, I’m back in Wild Rose Country, no longer so named on its license plates after a provincial political party co-opted it. It is as blue, flat and disorienting as I recall. On my first visit, I remember thinking that it would be reasonable to walk the ~8km from the Calgary airport to my destination, not realizing it was on a highway, also seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was December and snowing. I was proud of how many different transportation modalities my trip involved: car, ferry, three buses, plane, and I wanted to cap it off with walking.
Today, as I drive down two-lane highways that seem to be more sand and grit than actual road, Google tells me where to turn and when, always slightly too late for my liking. It makes me wish I had a co-pilot. How did people get around without smart phones and GPS? Eleven years ago I remember being cold and lost (misplaced?), having a street address but no map while coming to realize that all street names in the suburb started with the same prefix, and knocking on a random house door on a dark snowy evening to ask for directions. Years later, it made for a good story.
I check into the guest house where I’ll be staying and am greeted by one of the proprietors. He seems genuinely friendly and warm but not overly earnest. I like to think that my tendency towards the excessively earnest would be an adaptive feature in a small town, but the truth is I don’t know, and I’m here to find out. I wonder who stays in this guesthouse in a Northern Alberta town of 989. It advertises itself as being suitable for family reunions and quilting retreats among other activities. I imagine myself being here on a bit of a writing retreat, ‘writing’ having a nicer ring to it than ‘trying desperately to catch up on my CaRMS applications’.
The dry air has made me thirsty and in need of a snack. I pull out a saucer from the kitchen cupboard to slice an apple on, and notice something resembling muffin crumbs. I pull out another; same thing. I picture the previous guests as a group of older ladies with taking a break from quilting to enjoy tea and treats.
I turn to put the saucers in the dishwasher. Its door locking mechanism malfunction brings to mind a faraway friend with the same predicament. It seems that many things remind me of him these days. I’ve been wanting to tell him that I miss him for probably a year now. Snarky comments come more naturally. I wish I could tell him, I’m so aloof without it being a self-disproving point. Thinking of him elicits the familiar, frustrating brain fuzz of a thing left unfinished.