Walking into the dark woods.

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On Thursday night, there were two concerts and a volleyball game between the Montagues and the Capulets (the cast of a production of Romeo and Juliet are here; I can just barely see them working on swordplay and movement rehearsals from where I sit to write). But there was also the night walk and bonfire with a local guide and naturalist. I put my name on the list, thinking that the bonfire would be nice. I really nice a nice wood fire.

Night shadows.

As it turned out, I was the only one to turn up for the night walk and bonfire thing. The two concerts and the warring volleyballers of fair Verona had just about everybody in the arts programs wrapped up. The guide arrived, and we waited a few extra minutes to see if anybody would arrive, and then we went out on our own while a helpful Banff Centre staffer went to start the bonfire.

Tunnel mountain at night.

We went out on the Hoodoos trail, which runs behind the Banff Centre, down to the river and around the the other side of Mount Rundle. The guide, Ronna, had cleats for me (phew) and then said that we’ve be going out without flashlights or headlamps. She had them, but we were going to walk by the light of the moon. She had bear spray just in case, and we both had pointy sticks for walking. I was a bit worried about going out into the woods in a national park in the dark, but I decided to give it a go.

Banff at night.

Tunnel mountain at night.

You know, it turned out to be the best thing I could have done. As we stepped into the gloom, it was very dark. Very dark. But Ronna said our eyes would adjust, and they did…gradually, the dark took on a new quality. The light was silvery and shades of grey, but then also a deep green and violet, subtle shades that took on new qualities the further down we went. It was like my field of vision got wider; there was more to the periphery. It was exquisitely silent – not a creepy silent, but a very friendly quiet. It was as if the mountains were rising up to the sky to cradle us, and the trees were gently creaking and whispering with the wind.

Banff in the dark.

We crossed a frozen tributary and came out into an alpine savannah, and there was Mount Rundle, tip stretching towards the moon. It wasn’t a clear night – clouds would come in and cover the moon up, then clear, then cloud over. We stood in the silence and it started to snow, and I swear that I could hear the snow falling crisply all around us.

Banff in the dark.

And then we walked back, into the trees, crossed the river again and came back up to the Banff Centre and had the bonfire.

Banff at night.

Last year was a tough one for writing. I didn’t have the energy or the spirit to write, and I felt very much that I poured everything I had into the surgeries. Everything. It had been so long since I’d written anything that I was starting to feel scared that I wouldn’t be able to. My Banff Centre applications were pleading; I wrote them a letter that more or less said that I needed their help getting my writing back.


When this week started, I wasn’t entirely sure that the writing was going well. It felt stilted and I was doing revisions – I do not enjoy revisions all that much. By midweek, it was getting much better. On Thursday, standing in the dark, looking at the mountains and thinking about the landscape, I felt it come back. Ronna had suggested that we both think about our gratitude to the spirit of the land, and something connected…something suffused me with a feeling of rightness. This experience was something very special and important, and I’m so grateful that I had it.


I walked into the dark woods and I came out a different person. I can’t explain it fully, but something beautiful happened.

Banff in the dark - looking at Mount Rundle.

The sounds of the Banff Centre.

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Here are some of the sounds and sights of the Banff Centre.

There was an art project. The artists came by our tables at lunch and asked us to come and help make noise for their piece; they gave us mallets and asked us to bang on their glass sculptures. One of the musicians brought a violin, and the rest of us made a strange, eerie concert.

There are the ravens and the chickadees, and the sound of the snow under your feet when you go for a walk.

And the little bonfire we had after a night hike (which I’ll write more about soon).


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Things are going really well. I finished the last series of edits on my story, had a last read through, and then submitted it. Fingers hugely crossed.

It’s been snowing today, off and on, and the mountains have been shrouded by cloud and snow.


It’s quite beautiful and mysterious, and very silent.


I went for a walk today and saw a deer in the distance, and stood and marvelled at it.


It feels like the experience has really started to click…I’ve forgotten what day it is, went to a performance exhibit where we were all invited to make noise by hitting the sculptures with mallets, and watched a deer. Last night, I went to a flute concert. It’s all been rejuvenating and quite wonderful. I’ve got a couple more days left, and I’m going to shift gears and stop editing and get back to writing what I think will turn out to be a novella.


Hugs and kisses from Banff. I’m so glad I’m here.


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Well. I had a lovely sleep last night in the hotel, which was unexpected. The night was quite silent and the pillow comfortable, but isn’t it always a shock when you wake up in a hotel room in the morning and realize that you’ve had a good sleep?

Me and ice sculpture.

I went out for a walk in the morning, and happened across another lone tourist trying to take a photo by an ice sculpture, we swapped cameras. It’s the code of single female travellers: when we see one of our number taking a photo, offer to do a picture.


I also bought myself an agate necklace and some earrings. Because when in Banff, buy something to remind you of Banff months later, when you need it the most. I asked the hotel if I might have a half hour extension on the check out, and they kindly agreed, so it gave me time to have that last bit of wander around. Then up the hill to the Banff Centre!

The room is lovely and spacious, and though there is a large desk against the wall, I have settled into a table by the window. I called a florist in town and ordered myself flowers (something alpine, please, I told them, and no lilies) and they arrived later in the afternoon. It’s a lovely big arrangement with pussy willows and pine sprigs, so I get a whiff of pine from time to time as I work.


It took a chunk of the afternoon to get unpacked and settled and then to set up my desk for work. I’ve got a plan for the week. Thursday is ‘starry night walk and bonfire’ night, according to Community Services, so I’ve signed up for that, too. Bonfire in the mountains? Oh, yes, please!


Hopefully this is the start of a really productive week. Now – to dinner!

Sunday morning.

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A particularly lovely sunrise this morning. I put myself to bed early last night, and woke up just after seven this morning. Which, frankly, feels very wrong for a Sunday morning. I came out in the dark to start the coffee and found both cats sitting nervously by a window. Looking outside, looking at each other, looking back outside again.

Boy, that is a creepy way to start the morning. I suspect they saw one of the resident owls, which always makes them especially concerned. There’s no point in telling them that the owl can’t get inside. These are animals who are outsmarted by the red dot from a laser pointer every single time. So I looked out the window, made appropriate noises, and made the coffee.

I’m working on finishing my cyborg story today. I’m hoping to submit it to that Women Destroy SF call at Lightspeed. If the cats are to be believed, I should be checking over my shoulder for the owl as I write.


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A lovely, quiet few days on holiday. I really like my job, but oh, I have not missed my cubicle at all. We had our cold weather, and yes, it was very cold. Yesterday brought a chinook, so it reversed almost right away. Today? Cold and misty, snowy and rather dark outside. I’ve been tucked into a Criminal Minds marathon that I stumbled across on tv; the PVR is recording episodes faster than I can watch them.

I’ve enjoyed being home. I’ve been reading a bit, eating too many chocolates and shortbread, and sleeping in. Heavenly. I’ve also been doing some research and writing notes for a story I’m planning for the Women Ruin SF call for submissions, and I’ll start writing it soon (if I can peel myself away from the tv marathon, of course!). My paperwork for the first two Banff Centre residencies arrived, and so I’ve got that for motivation.

Hard to believe that it’s almost the end of the year, isn’t it?

A lovely day at the museum.

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Another lovely day in Banff. I’ve been waking up at the crack of dawn…well, quite a bit before it, actually. For some reason, I keep waking up around 3:30 or 3:45 and thinking that it’s time to get up. I’m not sure why. Maybe there are security staff doing rounds then? I go back to sleep, and then I’m up around 7:15ish. Which is fine, because the ginormous breakfast buffet starts at 7:30.

Same thing today. I had a very nice breakfast and sat and talked with two other writers. Then back to the studio to sit and work on revisions. It’s been quite incredible to see things clicking into place with this novel – I’m quite surprised at how nicely it’s coming together. Then to lunch (I am starving hungry while I am here, and not for lack of food. I think it’s the altitude…).


After lunch, I went down to the town to the Whyte Museum. There’s an exhibition of landscape and wildlife painting and sculpture spanning Yellowstone to the Yukon, and it closes after Thursday. It was lovely! Pictures were allowed – no flash, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that I could take pictures at all. There were a lot of different artists represented, but I found myself drawn to paintings done by Carl Runguis again and again:

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

At the Whyte Museum.

I think what I like best about Rungius’ paintings is that he uses bold, vibrant colour. There were a number of paintings by Dwayne Harty, but they tended to be too pastel for my liking…too soft, I think, and when they were near or next to the Rungius paintings, they seemed washed out by them. There’s something that feels very vital and alive about the Rungius pictures. I spent quite a lot of time looking at them. Rungius kept a studio in Banff and painted here every year until he died, and apparently his ashes were scattered on Tunnel Mountain (which is where the Banff Centre is now) because he so liked the view.

I can definitely understand that. I really love the view here, too.

After that? I went for a walk around the town. I stopped into the Christmas store (there is one) and spotted a really nice tree skirt. And on sale, too! Then wandered around, and as I was heading back, stopped – on impulse – into the Atmosphere store. I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for decent snow pants. They’re awfully hard to find. There are a great many pairs of snow pants available for purchase in Banff, but quite a lot of them are for skiing, and they’re not meant to be worn over work pants (as I plan to). And they are really, really expensive. Imagine my surprise and delight to find real, honest-to-goodness snow pants that are meant to be worn over something at the Atmosphere store! Frankly, I’m surprised that I didn’t start jumping up and down. They were on sale, too, which just made the find that much better. I am so, so pleased. Really pleased. So pleased that I’ve already tried them on twice this evening, just to admire them.

And that was the day. Lamb shoulder for dinner with a bacon au jus (it was incredible) and garlic mashed potatoes. And the Banff Centre chef made me a special bowl of zucchini, as the buffet dish had been cooked with onion in it. I’m quite grateful to them – this is the second time I’ve has to ask for special vegetable at dinner, on account of a food intolerance. Both times, I expected to be given plain, steamed zucchini, and both times, I’ve been quite surprised: tonight was zucchini that had been sauteed and then grilled, and the other time, zucchini with lemon pepper seasoning and a little bit of oil. And both times, they’ve been very cheerful and pleased to help and haven’t treated the request like a bother. It’s quite a relief for me.


Tomorrow? A writing day. I’m near the end of this residency, so I will spend the next couple of days working on the novel manuscript. Taking it easy for a few days, though, and having a break for the wildlife safari tour yesterday and the museum today was a very good idea.