My heart drops as I see the tiny little cluster of high rises ambitiously reaching for the sky surrounded by miles of stunted buildings that are the urban sprawl of Calgary.
I have come home to regroup after a particularly disappointing break up and my mother has come to collect me from the closest national airport. I am grateful to have her support and a real home in which to recuperate, I only wish it wasn’t here.
For many European immigrants, the landlocked province of Alberta held the promise of jobs in oil and farming as well as space in which to raise a family. For me, growing up in the isolation of the pre-fab, suburban neighbourhoods made me feel isolated from those exotic cultures my parents crossed the ocean to escape.
We negotiate the traffic of the now-booming city and make our way to the wide expanses of the prairies and ultimately, the town of Lethbridge, home to less than 100,000 inhabitants. Calgary’s booming expanses have pushed my mother out further, to smaller cities to get that peace and sense of space she always craved.
The wide road is straight as an arrow and disappears into the distance. The brilliant blue sky opens wide. I have to get more of that clean, fresh air. I open the window and breathe, my nose fills with the earthy scent of the brilliant yellow canola fields. I can hear the hum of crickets over the sound of the car; the warm prairie air envelops me.
Before me is the real life version of one of those masterpieces that hangs in Europe’s famous museums.
When asked by new acquaintances I always tell them I am from the more exotic Vancouver, never proud of my humble beginnings. Alberta was a place you moved away from.
We drive past sagging grain elevators. Candy-coloured wooden artefacts, earmarked for destruction to make way for more efficient, modern buildings, stand testament to the homesteading forefathers of this area. It is in these fertile, prairie expanses where many Mormons and Mennonites came to escape persecution and practice their religions in peace.
Black oil drills dip their heads to the ground, like giant birds at a watering hole. New giants have made home on the horizon; rows of towering white windmills spin in the wind.
Crowds of sunflowers stand hold their faces to the warm sun and I see signs announcing the annual sweetest corn and hottest chili competition and I picture myself, a local, heart full of pride, winning the blue ribbon.