They loomed over the western horizon as we headed from St. Albert’s back to the mountains for some healing and reflection. I could feel the energy in the van shifting. We were returning to the B&B in Brule where we had found such good company a week ago on our way to Ft. McMurray. Last evening, we sat a long time as the dusk darkened and the moon shone its light, making of the Athabasca Valley a place of magic and mystery, the mountains in their austere and immense silence hovering over it all, the river ablaze with moonlight.

Pretty nice place to come to rest, to absorb, to heal, to cherish, to become all that we have seen and experienced along the way of our pilgrimage, to begin the process of letting it change us however it will.

The stars woke me at 5:30 insisting that I go outside into the chilly morning air. The moon had set and they were in their full glory, the Milky Way resplendent, Orion sitting low on the eastern horizon, the Pleiades a brilliant jewel, and then a meteor streaking across the southern sky.

I went back to bed thinking, “Yes, okay, that was pretty good!!”

Then, in my time of solitude looking out over the Athabasca River valley with Denise Levertov’s, Sands of the Well, this verse from the poem, “The 6:30 Bus, Late May:”

The mountain

by arcane power
summons the moon.

Which said what happened last night about as accurately as any other description I can come up with. And then I thought, yes, and the mountains just did that with the sun – summoned it up over the horizon.

Another unusually warm day in store. The other day, temp records were shattered all across western Canada. I thought of the glacier melt (we will go back to the Athabasca’s origins on our way home, back to the receding glacier that is its source), and then of the Colorado floods – a land dear to my heart – and I felt the sorrow of all that is in store for us.

And Prime Minister Stephen Harper matter-of-factly and emphatically declares that Canada will have its pipelines, it will become an oil powerhouse to fuel the world. Doesn’t seem to really matter if we want that or not, or how many more floods this means for Colorado – or for the Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise region of Jasper National Park devastated by floods last June (we saw remnants of the destruction as we passed through). Its an out-of-control monster fed by greed and human addiction to things.

What I journaled this morning was this:

“Whatever we do to them, the mountains will win. They will stand in their austere silence long after we’re gone.”

You see, their fate is not up to us. It’s how long we want to be able to see the mountains, to be part of this – that is what is up to us.

And I wrote this, pondering my cherished Boulder CO, the creek where I spent so many hours in my young life, Big Thompson Canyon, one of the wonders along highway 34 towards Estes Park:

“Nature has this rule: it is not indifferent to anything we do. It does not stand mute or aloof. It engages. What we do to it will have effect. It will respond. It will talk back to us.

“We ought to be more careful about the language we speak…”

So we pilgrims seek to be part of changing the “language” of the human in relation to the rivers and the mountains and the forests and all that is grace and beauty, that of which we are not apart – never, ever, apart or separate – a language that speaks of what holds us and keeps us alive.

It has become urgent that we change the way in which we respond to the earth that speaks to us with such an incredible language and which must wonder at our inability or resistance to listening and learning.

We rest today. Tomorrow we touch back on the origins, spend another night in the hostel on the river, then begin our preparations to return home – filled.

About the author: Margaret Swedish believes that we must not only live differently, we must be differently. More about Margaret’s work is available on her website Spirituality and Ecological Hope –

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