Toronto is a city of skyscrapers. Steel and glass. Grey. Yet, there’s an energy that refuses to be contained.
It’s always on the move. Vendors and tourists and professionals, rushing from place to place, night or day. Festival after festival, ball games, concerts, camera crews, and every culture represented in food and drink. Millions of stories walking around in human shape. The buzz in the city spoke to me, and I got drunk on the vibe.
Even in the suburbs, something was always happening. Traffic was a nightmare no matter where you went. But something about the diversity and the constant rush held a kind of magic that probably only creatives and eccentrics can love.
Calgary is different.
The highway takes this sloping turn, then you see it–winter-dry grasslands and farms, and pale-hued houses. It’s ochre and sienna and umber, cerulean skies and fluffy white clouds. The landscape rolls, and for every hillock you crest, you’re rewarded with the most incredible view of the Rockies in the distance. Not so distant, mind you. Close enough for a lazy afternoon drive, an adventure before dinner.
Like the Rocky Mountains, Downtown Calgary is impossible to miss from any hilltop. A cluster of buildings in the middle of the suburbs, the only vertical part of the city. These buildings aren’t quite as high as those in Toronto, and though steel and glass are present, the building style doesn’t resemble New York as much as any European city.
Downtown is quieter after 5 PM. The clusters of condo buildings are far fewer here, so the people leave their inner city jobs to go home.
And yet, Calgary is alive.
This restful quiet can only sprout from proximity to nature. It’s calm here. Relaxed. It’s as though everyone knows no matter what comes, the mountains will still stand.
The people are open and welcoming–as they were in Toronto–but it’s amplified here. Go-with-flow culture means there’s always a moment longer to chat, and the lady at Sobeys will remember us when we buy milk next time. It means everyone stops for passing pedestrians, usually with a smile, and travellers in other vehicles actually wave back at Kayla when we wait at the traffic light.
More than this though, Calgary is familiar. Doubly so. As it is right now, with dry grass and winter sunshine days, Calgary resembles Johannesburg so much that I find myself wondering if we took a wrong turn to miss Malibongwe Drive. The lay of the land, the building style, and the way the houses fit together–I feel like I know this place. Like I’ve always known it. Besides the mountains, the other exception is that it’s so much cleaner. 🙂 Don’t feel bad, Jozi. It’s so much cleaner than basically everywhere else.
I said doubly, right? The Bow River runs through Downtown Calgary, just like the Rhine runs through Düsseldorf. And, as I mentioned somewhere above, the building style whispers of Europe.
I know I said in my last post that home is in beating hearts, and I stand by that, but something about Calgary seems both memory and a new place to discover. It’s like moving out of your parents’ house, but you still have a key and can let yourself in to raid their fridge, even when they aren’t there. You belong, always. At the same time, there’s something thrilling about discovering Calgary–you know, like Mom and Dad left a box of unopened chocolates that you just happened upon. As familiar as it is, it’s still shiny and new.
And though I love Toronto fiercely and my time there was incredible, I was never quite sure that I fit. But I’m certain now.
It took us two immigrations and one cross-continent move to find it, and I know even if we leave for a while, we’ll always come back. Home. Home to Calgary, where we belong.
Until next time.
4 responses to “Calgary”
Klink baie lekker. Hoop julle is gelukkig daar.
Wow, my liewe dogter!!!! You’ve got a way with words! Dis ongelooflik mooi geskryf. Dit laat my na Calgary verlang en ek was nog nooit eers daar nie. Well done! Hoop ons sal ook die voorreg hê om daar te kom aftree. Xxx
Thanks, Ma ❤