Ode to Banff / Leaving is part of the journey.


So after nearly 6weeks away, I’m back in Scotland now. Sitting on my sofa. I’m pretty sure one of my cats has forgotten who I am and the Glasgow accent isn’t sitting very warmly in my ear. I miss Banff in a way I hadn’t anticipated. My partner has made me a ‘re-entry’ plan, just one of many lovely things she had done to make this process less painful. It’s a form of grief in a way but as one of my new-Banff-friends Kirstie suggested – leaving is part of the journey.


So rather than write a tedious blog about my ‘life-changing-expereinces’ I wanted to share a piece of writing I wrote while I was at Banff.

My ‘Ode to Banff’ was written in early hours of Sunday the 1st of December, after celebrating American Thanksgiving in Canada… it was written in one 30 minute sitting, so it won’t be the most original in thought but I can promise you it’s all heartfelt… I’m a bit of a sappy sister after all. I wrote it to read at my ‘Open Studio’ where we invite other artists to come and read / listen / see / experience our art and studio. It was to sit next to a much darker and pensive work-in-progress called Swallow and so I wanted to write something that celebrated my  time in Banff.

So here it is and heres to the next adventure.


Ode to Banff: 3 Million Seconds.

30th of October 2013. I step onto a plane with a backpack, a laptop and the kitten of anticipation somewhere just left of my heart.

I get on a plane. British Airways – pretty ritzy. I have a glass of wine and watch 4 movies back to back. I get a bus and I get a room and I am armed with only an idea and sensation that something has to change.

I meet some folk and then some other folk and then some people doing something about space and feeling dizzy that after 4weeks I’m still sort of struggling to understand. But they include me, us and I feel welcomed by the arms of people I have never met.

And I get books from the library and watch films with people doing things I could never do. Moving pictures of people scaling mountains and living for the precise moment that they are in. Risking their lives so that someone else could see all that came before. They use equipment that you hang your whole life onto. So in a way, making art isn’t that different to mountaineering. Except mountaineers get bigger calf muscles and they smoke less.

And I get all wrapped up in the politics of land and animals and people. And I read and learn about a people who were here before the European financial system and Catholicism fucked it up. Before, as ever, white folk took what they thought was theirs and they couldn’t quite stop themselves from taking their dick out of their pants and sticking it in someone else’s land. And I get context for phrases like Indian Act, residential school and cultural genocide. And I have this odd sensation of reading about things that scare me in a place which is so free of fear.

Because somewhere in between the burning of sage and cedar, hope is still here. Loss and death are just lies we tell ourselves and in this world this is a painful kind of progress. Because it’s no longer about equality but rather equity. Because economic advancement is not human progress. Because we only have one chance at this and if you aren’t angry then you simply aren’t paying attention.

And my days are pensive and political and my nights involve music and rum and laughing in a way that I haven’t done in months. Girls who aren’t wearing bra’s play guitars and sing every song like it is meant for me. And tall boys, step back and forth to words richer than all of Calgary’s oil.

And it’s make mine a rum and diet with extra lime. In a room full of ‘I’ll-get-this-one’ and ‘your round is next time’. And we sit in uncomfortable chairs, strangers and artists, growing closer with time and red wine. And we talk space and ideas, some of which are small, and others inexplicably large. And we learn about our childhoods and our beliefs and there is room for just about anyone, especially those that fall in between.

And everyone says – “I just thought I’d get more done” but what I’ve realised is I’m just getting a different type of work done. Not the kind that exists on Word documents or canvases but the kind where I know exactly what it’s like to snow shoe to an off-grid cabin, or how to say ‘aw get out of here’ in Cree.

This is a process of unlearning – at least for me. I’ve unlearnt a lot of things about myself and my life and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about crossing the Atlantic. As I buckle up and get ready for the long haul flight back to myself.

Lessons unlearnt, lasting hugs, some new music, some new friends, some new ideas of how I am going to live my life.

And I know all of this sounds grand but as day trips into night and then sun catches the moon again. Thoughts cling to me. I’m not scared of the darkness here. I’m not scared of the light either.

Because we all stand a little taller here in Banff. We all stand a little more calm. And the woods and the wild and the artist cards hold us here only for a moment in time. Only for a second.

Now if I live to 75 – which is unlikely, let’s face it, my family has a history of heart attacks and I really like starting fires – but let’s for a moment pretend that if I get to 75 I will have lived 2.3 billion seconds and I will have spent 3 million of those seconds here in Banff.

It’s amazing what can happen in a second. A fruit fly of a life to change everything. But then time moves differently here in Banff, where 3 valleys meet under the watch of a sleeping Buffalo.

And if I had some advice for the new artists, I have 3 very simply things to say –

1. Be prepared for everything to change in every way something can

2. Be prepared to meet people who you think are wonderful and you can’t imagine not seeing everyday

3. Don’t get overexcited about the breakfast in vista’s – that shit never changes and the coffee is really shitty.

And for you I have two very simple hopes –

I hope that while you are at Banff you make art in a way that only you can.

And I hope that in the seconds and minutes and hours and days and years left remaining, I hope that you surprise yourself.

I wish you more wilderness.

I wish you more rum.

I wish you more Banff.


Ps If you’d like to repost the poem or the photos please link to this blog rather than ‘copy and paste’

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