Posted by: kerryl29 | January 19, 2015

The Canadian Rockies: Thematic Interruption – Meadows of Meaning

Throughout this series of posts devoted to the Canadian Rockies, I’ve tried–among other things–to demonstrate the variety of scenic wonders the region contains.  There are soaring snow-capped mountain peaks; rushing rivers and creeks; sheer textured rock faces; thundering waterfalls; dense forests filled with aspens and conifers; seemingly endless lakes and ponds…and it’s all wonderful.  But for some reason, I found myself drawn to the numerous meadows that I encountered more than any other scenic environ.

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

I was bitten with the “meadow bug” on my very first day in the region.  At some point early in the afternoon that day, I encountered Hillsdale Meadows along the Bow Valley Parkway.  As soon as I saw the place, I pulled off to the side of the road, gathered up my things and waded into the tall grass, swiveling my head around to take in the view in every direction.  It was there that I encountered the set of meadow elements that would become increasingly familiar to me as the trip moved along:  a broad, grassy area, dotted by stands of aspen and pine, mountainous backdrops and the ever-present fast-moving lines of clouds.

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Occasionally, at a particularly high altitude location, the aspens might be replaced by larch and there might be a boulder field or two.  From time to time there would be a stream running through the locale.

Larch Forest,  Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

Larch Forest, Saddleback Pass, Banff National Park, Alberta

But, regardless of the specifics, there was something about these places that always seemed to provoke a specific set of feelings in me when I encountered a meadow.  Simultaneously, I seemed to feel quietude (I was typically by myself in these places), awe, peace…

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

In a way, it reminded me of how I felt on the numerous occasions when I was walking the road between bus stops in Zion Canyon at Zion National Park in Utah.  There was something–ultimately indescribable in any meaningful sense–about those meadows that I can still feel (and looking at the images really helps bring it back to me) that I can’t quite put into words.

Icefields Parkway Afternoon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Afternoon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

What is it about certain places–or certain kinds of places–that seem to have a special, deeper emotional impact on us?

Cottonwood Slough,  Jasper National Park, Alberta

Cottonwood Slough, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I’m still trying to sort out the answer(s) to the above question.

First Summit Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

First Summit Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta

All I know for certain is that virtually every time I saw a meadow when I was in the Canadian Rockies I felt a kind of pull–one that was extremely hard to resist–to explore the place.

Glory Hole, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Glory Hole, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Beyond the spots you see in the images that accompany this post, there were a number of times when the light or other conditions simply weren’t right for photography, in my estimation, where I went off to explore a meadow, sans gear.

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Approaching Storm, Palisades Picnic Area, Jasper National Park, Alberta

And, as I noted above, it happened again…and again…and again.

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

I kept stumbling across meadows and I kept feeling the need to stop, explore and express…and try, unsuccessfully, to pull my emotions about these places together and make sense of them.

Morning Meadow, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Morning Meadow, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Even when I was ostensibly in a hurry to get to some other spot, the pull of the meadow seemed to call to me, cause me to stop and delay my travels.

Kootenay Plains Sunrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Sunrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

I visited meadows at sunrise, at sunset, and just about every possible hour in between, off and on, during the 13 days I spent in the region.

Lone Aspen, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Lone Aspen, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

The closest I can come to an explanation of what I ws feeling–and it’s not a very good one, I’m afraid–is to point you to a piece I wrote 3 1/2 years ago, based on an experience I had a White Sands National Monument in New Mexico in 2007.  Since it’s an attempt to explain the inexplicable I’m not sure how much help it will be in clarifying my thoughts and feelings but, sadly, it’s the best I can do.

Next:  The Canadian Rockies:  Day 12 – Abraham Lake at Sunrise, the Fire Trail, Mistaya Canyon, Saskatchewan River Overlook and the Kootenay Plains Revisited

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Responses

  1. Wonderful images as usual. What a theatre of operation you have to choose from. Always appreciate your messages beneath the images.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Great images…great thoughts. I wonder if part of your attraction to meadows comes from living in cities. The open spaces and big skies are certainly different than what I imagine is your every day experience.

    • Thanks.

      I’m in suburban more than urban areas, but point taken. That’s almost certainly part of it (even when I visit undeveloped areas in the Midwest and East, they’re ordinarily naturally cluttered (it’s the organic state of things)…but definitely not all since I haven’t had quite this reaction to other wide open places I’ve visited before (that White Sands experience notwithstanding…and that definitely wasn’t entirely a “vast, open spaces” thing either).

      I’m really not certain what it is; I’ll have to think on it some more.

  3. I thank you for your incredible images and talent that showcase the beauty of my country and province. 😃

    • Thanks very much!

      • You’re very welcome. 😃

  4. Some things just stop us in our tracks, indefinable/undefinable, unexplainable. “Earth Shadow’ is a hauntingly beautiful image, thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for the kind words.

  5. Well, I have no idea why you are so moved by meadows, but your love for them certainly comes through in your photos!

    • Thanks very much!

  6. Wow.. beatiful photo…
    What kind of camera rens do you use for beatiful photo?

    • Thanks.

      I shoot with a Nikon D800E and typically carry a set of four lenses with me: 14-24/2.8; 24-70/2.8; 80-400/4-5.6 and 200 macro.

  7. One possible reason for the particular appeal of meadows may be that they speak to ancestral memories—tucked away in an odd corner of DNA, perhaps—of home. Grasslands and savannas are places of hunting and gathering which sometimes became places of ranching and farming. A meadow evokes such a sense of place while distant mountains establish a sense of wildness and provide an intuitive frame for the scene.

    At any rate, these are absolutely wonderful images.

    • Thanks, Tom.

      I have thought about a possible biological anthropological explanation for my meadow mesmerization; I pause because it would suggest that such an attraction is universal (or nearly so) and I’m not sure that’s the case. It’s food for thought nevertheless.

  8. You should like this to this week’s photo challenge (serenity). For sure, that’s how I felt when I saw the lovely pictures and read your beautiful prose that went along.

    Nancy

    • Thanks!

      • Sorry – I meant to say linked. You should link it to the weekly photo challenge.

        • Thanks–I’ll have to look into this.

  9. That last photo is insane, really nice !

    • Thanks very much!

  10. Excellent series, Kerry. 🙂

    • Thanks very much, Frank!

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  12. Wonderful pictures! Makes me want to go there! 🙂

    • Thanks!

      • You’re welcome!

  13. nice shoot

    • Thanks very much!

  14. […] you can see, it was a kind of marshy meadow area–and you already know how I feel about meadows–with the requisite stands of aspen, with pools of water filled with fallen leaves and prairie […]

  15. […] divide these two approaches disappeared in the many meadows that I visited on the trip, something I discussed at length in a “meta” post a few weeks ago.  It was in these marvelous places that all of the elements of wonder seemed to […]

  16. […] magical about this location that’s difficult to describe.  It had something to do with my affinity for meadows, something to do with the human void, something to do with the magnificent weather, and it all […]


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