Out of Hibernation

You may have roses in your garden but we still have the remnant of winter. And in Lake Louise, about 58 km (36 mi) from Banff National Park, it is still winter in full swing. This photo was taken just a few days ago:

Lake Louise

People were walking out into the frozen lake, with the glacier in the backdrop.

A snowy but cheery welcome:

Snow Hat

40 mins. drive south to Banff, it’s much warmer, and spring has arrived. The best sign is when you see a grizzly bear coming out of hibernation. See her?

Out of Hibernation

When I first spotted the bear, I was going to quietly walk away until I was told a group of people were already there, well protected and with a park ranger interpreting her every move. So I gladly joined them:

Well Protected

The ranger told us that was a five year-old she bear, officially known as Bear #148, just out of hibernation a week ago. Later I found she had been in the news for trailing a woman walking her dog a bit too close for comfort.

Here she is, still in good shape after a long hibernation:

She Bear 1




I slipped away quietly when she got just a bit too close. What’s the first thing you’d wish for after a long, deep sleep? A hearty breakfast of course.

What an exciting herald of spring.


Looking for “Intrusions of Grace” in Nature

This may be the easiest to find, especially with our glorious fall this year. Not intrusions, but infusion of common grace. I’m amazed because everywhere I turn, I see beauty that’s out there and so accessible to me. Like their raison d’etre is for me to behold and enjoy. From the macro scale like these scenery at Banff National Park:


To the medium range, nature in our city streets:


To the micro scale. Last long weekend, I walked the Douglas Fir Trail. Again, I’m grateful for our urban parks:

And what an apt occasion, Thanksgiving Day, for me to discover all these minute wonders on the Trail. First, the colours:

Nature in the miniscule… the varieties of berries. Black against red:

Red against green:

And these pure whites like pearls in the undergrowth:

And the vibrant lives on two fallen twigs… I was mesmerized:

If we’re intruded by grace, I’m more than willing to give in.


All photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects in the fall of 2011. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

From Banff to Jasper

My cousin and her husband came to visit from Ohio.  They wanted to see ‘the most beautiful highway in the world’.  Not that I’m touting my own horn, but if they didn’t mention it I wouldn’t have known of such a claim.  That’s the stretch of roadway from Banff north to Jasper National Park here in Alberta.  Since I considered that part of the country my neck of the woods (relatively speaking), I was glad to take to the road with them as a guide.  Yes, I admit beauty may be subjective, but I’m sure you’ll agree these are some of the most extraordinary sights one can behold.

Canmore, Alberta, is the gateway to Banff National Park.  This little town hosted some of the ’88 Winter Olympics events at its Nordic Centre.  Here’s a view of the nearby Three Sisters Mountain at dusk when we arrived:


From Canmore we headed to Banff National Park the next morning.  Despite the commercialized Banff Avenue, we could still get close to the wild near the Bow River. Elkie was so busy munching his lunch that he seemed oblivious to his human intruders:



From Banff, we continued on the Trans Canada Highway to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. If you happen to have an old Canadian twenty-dollar bill, take a look at the back of it.  Here’s the real thing, Moraine Lake:


From Moraine Lake, we headed north on highway 93, the Icefields Parkway, towards Jasper National Park. This stretch of the road offered some of the most beautiful sceneries in the world.

Bow Lake at the bottom of glaciated mountains.  The beautiful emerald color is the result of rock flour, moraines grounded to fine powder suspended in the water:


The Clark’s Nutcracker is a common bird in the area, among wildflowers by the glacier water:





The serene Waterfowl Lake:


After a couple of hours drive, we entered Jasper National Park.  The major attraction as soon as we entered was the Columbia Icefields, the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains.  It spans 325 sq. km (130 sq. miles),  with an estimated depth of 365 m. (1,200 ft.)  Elevation averages 3,000 m. (10,000 ft.)

Mount Andromeda:


The Athabasca Glacier spans an area of 6 sq. km (2.5 sq. mi), with a depth of 90 – 300 m. (270 – 1000 ft.) Its elevation about 2700 m (8900 ft).  Yes, there we were, in the middle of August in our summer clothes, thousands of feet above sea level, walking on the remnant of the last ice age over 10,000 years ago.  Here’s the magnificent view:


That was only the entrance of Jasper National Park, but more than we could fathom for our short excursion.


Header Picture:  Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

All photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com August, 2009.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

A Midsummer Day’s Dream

It was pure serendipity.  Finding out there would be an interview with Michael Ondaatje at the Banff Summer Arts Festival was a wonderful surprise.  Hours later I was on my way to Banff National Park.  The 90-minutes drive through the Rockies listening to the soundtrack of The English Patient was surreal.  And the destination was just as picturesque and dreamlike:

Banff Summer Arts Festival

The Banff Centre

In the event entitled ‘Literary Primetime’, Michael Ondaatje, the Sri Lanka born Canadian poet, novelist, filmmaker, winner of the Booker Prize for The English Patient, was interviewed by Marni Jackson, the Chair of the Literary Journalism Program at The Banff Centre, an acclaimed writer in her own right.

Ondaatje’s impressive body of work includes novels, memoir and a dozen books of poetry, editorial work and documentary filmmaking.  But perhaps the most famous is The English Patient, which was adapted into film by the late Anthony Minghella.  The movie was awarded nine Academy Awards in 1996.

ondaatjeThe literary event started off with Ondaatje reading several passages from Divisadero, a book that brought him the fifth Governor General Literary Award.  I sat in the huge dining hall with an audience of a couple hundreds, entranced.  From afar I held my gaze at the silver haired writer framed by the large picture windows, the evening sun seeping through majestic evergreens, and silence shrouded the place except for one man’s gentle voice.  It was simply mesmerizing.

But it was the interview that made the dreamlike experience most rewarding.  The conversation explored the creative mind behind the writing process.  I jotted down some helpful tidbits:

Curiosity goes a long way.  It sparks off the research process, generating and sustaining the creative energy for the work.

Listen to the rhythm of the sentences.   “He would” or “he’d” could elicit very different effects.  Sound advice from a poet.

I was excited to hear Ondaatje address questions stemming from his book The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, which coincidentally, I am currently reading.  Murch was the film editor of The English Patient, one of my all time favorite movies.  The serendipity is most gratifying.  The art of film editing parallels that of writing… the essence is knowing what to cut, and when to move on.

While Minghella was writing the screenplay, Ondaatje was involved in the drafts.  The story had to be taken apart and rewritten to be adapted into film.  When you see your work being dismantled and reconstructed into another form, I imagine it takes courage, trust, and humility to accept that.  Ondaatje appreciates the art form of film and respects others’ expertise, entrusting his work in their hands.  This team effort, this alchemy of talents is most prominent in the making of the movie.

In the Interview, Ondaatje was asked about one excerpt from The Conversations. The writer and the film editor shares a common appreciation for the Chinese auteur Wong Kar Wai and his film In The Mood For Love.  The layering of sounds suggests the multiplicity of going-ons, events happening off-screen.  Such an effect can also be found in The English Patient.  The thickness of the actual and imaginary scenes adds complexity and depth, weaving a much more interesting tapestry.  Again, the parallel can be drawn with novel writing.  It’s the multiple offerings and the possibilities of interpretations that make a piece of writing intriguing:

“We are not held hostage by just one certain story, or if we are, we know it is just one opinion: there are clear hints of other versions.” (The Conversations, p. 160)

There were a couple of ideas I was a bit surprised to find.

First there is the ubiquitous self-doubt throughout the writer’s creative process.  Strange, and yet comforting, to find talented minds share this same psyche.  It is a humble sign to admit self-doubt.  The architect Frank Gehry and the late filmmaker Sydney Pollack came to mind.

“Her only virtue is self-doubt.” (Divisadero).

Second, and perhaps the most precious gem I collected from the event was reflected by Odaajte’s own words on the creation of a story: “I don’t know what would happen… I don’t want to know.”  The excitement of writing is that the story reveals itself as if it has a life of its own.  The writing process is an exploratory experience.  How gratifying to know we don’t need to follow a predetermined structure to plug in the story elements.  The creative mind is not bound by structure.  Let the story lead, and, enjoy the ride.

At the end of the Interview, Ondaatje was asked about a skills and job match questionnaire he once did when he was a young man.  The results showed that he could make one good customs officer.  Aren’t we all glad he had chosen to march to a different drummer and diverged in his career plan.