Road to Joy

Musings from a t̶̶h̶̶i̶̶r̶̶t̶̶y̶̶s̶̶o̶̶m̶̶e̶̶t̶̶h̶̶i̶̶n̶̶g̶ fortysomething navigating life and love while keeping a smile on my face and in my heart.
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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I contemplate my ability to practice leisure, I can’t help but reflect back upon a vacation my husband Chris and I took in 2006 to the Canadian Rockies.  This was one of Chris’ first trips as a semi-professional photographer, having started within the last year to divide his time between geological consulting and landscape photography.  The trip was particularly well-timed for me as well.  I had recently been assigned to a software development project with an impressive list of deliverables and an equally ambitious timeline, and I already needed a break.

We split our Canadian Rockies week between the townships of Banff and Lake Louise.  Our days followed our typical vacation daily routine: Chris would go out each morning, leaving me to sleep in, shower and get ready, download any photos I had taken, catch up on personal email, and perhaps go out for a walk or hike.  He’d come back to the room, shower, and we’d eat a late breakfast or lunch.  We’d depart for an outing or a hike, come back to the room in the late afternoon for snacks and the paper, and then decide what to do for dinner.  All in all, pretty leisurely, even in the strictest sense of the word.

In Banff, I enjoyed strolling along the main street - with plenty of hustle and bustle, but far more manageable during winter then summer - window shopping or grabbing a cup of coffee.  In Lake Louise, though, I found peace.

Lake Louise is a glacial lake, framed by mountains on each side.  At one end is the historic Chateau Lake Louise; the other, Victoria Glacier.  Along one side of the lake is a trail that extends from the Chateau to the glacier.  My first morning in Lake Louise, Chris having set out for a hike, I bundled up, grabbed my camera gear, and headed out on the lakeside trail. 

The first thing that astonished me the second I left the hotel grounds and stepped foot on the trail was the utter stillness.  Save my footsteps crunching in the snow, the only thing I heard was the falling snow.  The second thing that struck me was the unbelievable beauty, somehow amplified by the solitude.  We had been to Lake Louise before, but in the summer, with teeming crowds everywhere.  That morning, I felt as if I had the entire lake to myself.

My hike turned into more of a walk as I stopped frequently to absorb the scenery around me, doubling forward and back to capture the stunning views in my memory and through my camera lens.  Although photography is hard work that requires lots of patience, persistence, and practice, I felt nothing except joy at being able to walk the trail with my camera in hand.  I never saw another soul on the path that morning, and somehow that made the experience that more special to me.  I repeated my lakeside walk other mornings, but never with the same impact as that first time out.

I don’t even recall if I checked my work email during our winter Canadian Rockies trip.  Knowing me, I’m sure I did, but it doesn’t even register now.  But whatever stress I had felt in the week leading up to the vacation, and the stress that surely followed once I returned to the office, was nothing compared to the tranquility I experienced at Lake Louise, a peace that I still bring myself back to today.

The lake shore trail at Lake Louise.

Learn about Banff National Park or view some of Chris Murray Photography’s amazing Canadian Rockies images.

Stillness, part 1: redefining leisure.

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