In the moment of being present within the grandeur of the Kananaskis mountains, their jagged peaks edging the horizon like the ridged back of a dinosaur sleeping beneath the infinity of the blue sky soaring above the valley bottom stretched out in verdant lushness on either side of a babbling brook joyfully streaming its way through the verdant fields, I forget to be present within the moment. I forget that this moment passing by, like the stream passing through the valley and the clouds slowly drifting out of view, is all there is to experience. That this moment full of soaring peaks and whispering pines is all there is to know.
I am busy.
Too busy, I tell myself, to stop and savour the feel of the cool crisp mountain air on my face. Too busy to let the sun caress my face, the smell of the Lodgepole pines and white camas and elephant heads tickle my nostrils.
I am too busy.
Until I remember, this moment, this nanosecond of time passing by in man-made multiples of seconds and minutes and hours, is all there is to hold onto, to know, to remember.
It is in those fleeting, liminal moments I stop, look out the kitchen window, close my eyes and breathe in. The air. The sights. The smells. The silence. The whispers, rustlings, muffled voices and the beauty all around me.
It is in those ethereal, tantalizing moments I remember to be present. To be comforted by the knowing, there is nothing else, nowhere else to be. I am here. Embodied in this moment. Awake. Aware. Alive.
There is nothing to push, pull, rush or divert. Nothing to change.
There is only everything to experience, embrace, delight in and savour.
And then, the moment passes and I return to chopping and stirring, to checking on the bread baking in the oven, the soup simmering on the stovetop, the onions caramelizing in a pan.
Life is like that. Moments happen. Sometimes, we happen to be awake enough, aware enough to experience the depths of its joy, beauty, richness. Other moments, we sleepwalk through time, believing we’ve got lots of time to awaken, or not.
And with each passing moment, we move on. Like the stream burbling through the valley bottom unaware of winter’s approaching harsh winds and frost-riddled chills, we blithely dance and laugh, or stumble and groan our way through each day unaware of the fragile nature of time’s hands spinning away the hours.
We weave our lives in and out of time’s warp and weft, sometimes consciously shuttling the threads to create a picture of intentional beauty, other times letting the threads push and pull their way through without much thought to our design or purpose.
No matter our passage, in the end, regardless of how much intent or inattention we put into the weave, the tapestry of our lives will be woven through all the moments we experienced, awakened, asleep or simply sleepwalking.
I spent five days in the Kananaskis. Four of them cooking at beautiful Mt. Engadine Lodge. It was a sublimely enriching experience full of laughter, shared times with lovely people surrounded by majestic mountains and lush valleys.
I wasn’t always conscious of the beauty around me, but I like to think that every morsel of food I prepared was imbued with the beauty of my surroundings and the love and gratitude I felt for the gift of time to cook in such a stunning environment amidst the wonderful staff at Mt. Engadine Lodge.
This morning, as I sit at my desk and watch the green leaves of the poplars dancing in the morning breeze and the river flow past in an endless ribbon of deep blue water, I feel rich. Enriched. Enlivened.
I am Awake. Aware. Alive.
I am grateful.
Grateful for everything (even the tougher moments and my (many) mistakes) but especially the people — my dear friend Jane who filled the role of Chef’s Assistant with such grace and joy, her daughter CJ who came for a short visit and taught us how to use her apple corer/peeler (Amazing!), my daughter Liseanne who gave up part of her long weekend to help me in the kitchen for the final day and a half when Jane had to leave, and her husband Al who took the time to BBQ burgers for the staff dinner on Saturday evening before they left. And the Lodge’s incredible Chef, Tony, for trusting me with his kitchen (and the guests’ gastronomic experiences) for four days and the irrepressible Simón, the lodge’s general manager, whose constant smiles and good humour kept me laughing and out of ‘the stress zone’! And all the staff who treated me with such kindness and helped me find where things were and answered my endless questions about “What would Tony do?” and laughed with me (and then helped clean up the mess) when I did things like turn on the giant mix master thinking it was on low only to discover with one flick of the switch… it was set to High — have you ever seen how far a machine like that can fling cheesecake filling? Oh my! Liseanne and I were covered as were the walls and floor and everything else within a two foot radius!
I am grateful.
And… while the last time when I got home I said I’d never do it again. I was wrong. I’d love to! While it was challenging it was also fulfilling. And, as my daughter Liseanne said on our drive home, “I feel accomplished.” And she’s right. Cooking for 29 paying guests at a backcountry lodge with a temperamental (possibly possessed) oven and an occasional meal when the water cistern runs dry and when you can’t run out to the grocery story to pick up a missing ingredient, is no small feat!
But it is fun and challenging and definitely does leave me feeling accomplished.
Below is a short video I created to remember my time at the lodge. A couple of the photos at the end are from the hike my daughter and I took to Chester Lake on the Monday after we left. It was sublimely beautiful.