Skip to main content

The Mountains or the Ocean

No blinds mask the window that directly face my bed. Every morning when my eyes open to the world, there are no concrete buildings or telephone wires in my view, there are no horns honking or the morning buzz that most cities bring. What my eyes see is something remarkable, something that is hard to describe through words and something that brings with it an indescribably humble feeling of  insignificance that is demanded in their presence. This feeling by the way, seems to never age. Ha Ling is the mountain that greets me each day and if I catch it at just the right moment a glowing hue upon it's alpine edges seems to dance amongst the surrounding mountain tops and the awe of its beauty can literally take your breath away. These are relatively new feelings for me, introduced and embraced only in the latter third of my life. I was born and raised an islander and exposure to structures such as these, or anything remotely close, was non existent. I was however exposed to a resource with just as much beauty, power and awe that the mountains bring. A resource that has been a way of life and  livelihood for many and has a beauty that will always feel like home to me - The Ocean. And so upon this new growing love and an old familiar salty friend, a welcoming affair has emerged.

The mountains or the ocean, a question that has been presented and pondered by many, myself included. I have contemplated the answer and thought on this for some time, let me tell you, and for me there is no winner just thoughts, experiences, feelings and memories that both have brought over the years. I have come to identify with them both immensely but in very dissimilar ways.

For me, the ocean wasn't so much as a way of life as it has been for many Newfoundlanders throughout our islands history, however I cannot downplay its significance in my life and the meaning that it has had for me. I was 9 in July of 1992  when the cod moratorium in Newfoundland took place and the ocean almost instantaneously became off limits to our people. My memories of this are limited but I do recall clips of the unions and government fighting on the TV, I remember it being impossible to even get jobs at MacDonald or Tim Horton's, distasteful welfare jokes and despair especially amongst those living in our out-port communities. The fishery closure carried an emptiness that not only the void seas and rotting boats brought but it also found it's way in  hearts and minds of most Newfoundlanders.

When I look over the salty waters that surround our rock, there is a comfort that comes with its boundless limits, its milky blue reflection and the gentle waves that seem to calmly sing when they wash up to our rugged shore. There is no escaping the smell of the salty air that fills the island just as it does your lungs with each breath you deliciously take. To me, that smell is the smell of  home and comforts me the way that my Mom's home made bread does or the sounds of how my Dad's old records makes me feel. The ocean can also be intimidating and those calm waves can instantaneously turn and become 10 foot beasts that carry the power to crush, overturn boats and lives as they have in the past. They scream 'do not mess with me' and over the years we have learned not to. I have spent hours at a time looking over the ocean, breathing in the salty air, and connecting to as close to of a religion that i'll ever know and the feeling its presence brings to me will forever be tattooed to my soul.

My journey to 'finding' the mountains was not in the way the crow flies. Some people's draw to the west are in fact the Rockies themselves and rightfully so, but for me and many other Newfoundlanders, industry and a promising career opportunity were my calling. The fact that I was moving to one of the most amazing mountain range playgrounds in the world never even entered my mind and kind of like those romance movies where you discover that your best childhood friend is actually the love of your life, it would be years before I made that connection to the mountains.

At some point within a year of living in Calgary, over 10 years ago now, a friend suggested we head to the mountains for a night. I shrugged at the offer, there were no heavy bags or gyms I knew of, I had work that I needed to focus on and an assignment to finish but figured, as I didn't have a car at the time,  that it was a good opportunity to do a token visit to Banff so at least I could say I had seen them.  And so, in Calgary style, we hopped in my friends over priced status car, a Cadillac , that was worth more than he made and roared off to what would many years later come to be the introduction to one of the greatest loves of my life. As we peeled down highway 1 and the outline of the mountains drew closer I knew something special was igniting within and a small flame began to flicker inside. A tangled feeling of excitement, wonderment, fear and humility grew as I passed Yamnuska to the right and I felt like I was passing through a gateway into a new world. But when the day ended I went back to the bells, whistles and buzz of the city, back to the heavy bags, my corporate office, and back to school and I continued on the same path  I was following and I tucked those feelings aside.

'I think i'm going to move to Canmore', I nonchalantly commented to my friend as I drove back into the city after the first Christmas I ever spent away from home in 2016. Ten years had passed since that first visit and by this time the mountains were beginning to call and although complicated at that  very moment something seemed to become much more simple when the thought  of living in the mountains passed through my mind. It wasn't calculated,  I had no idea how I was going to make it happen but when it came out of my mouth I knew something had to give. And so something did and I gave in right along with it and with that the wheels were set in motion. During this particular period of my life, I felt like I had nothing to lose in following this new path. An engagement had ended, the house I owned would be gone and the majority of my friends had moved back to the rock.  I was at a tipping point and something in life needed to change. Three weeks later my bags were packed, a lease was signed, my house was sold and I was sitting in the middle of the floor, looking out my window staring up at Ha Ling in my newly leased condo in the town of Canmore. I knew the course of my life was altered indefinitely. My heart spoke and for the first time in a long time, I was smart enough to listen. Nestled in my new mountain home, I was ready for the next adventure to begin. And when I stared out that window, stunned by my new mountain view, I had a hunch things would work out.

For me the ocean represents who I am and it will probably always be what I identify with the most. Although living on a huge rock in the middle of the Atlantic doesn't sound all that glamorous (and it isn't) having had that upbringing and opportunity was one of my greatest life gifts and it's meaning and impact on my life will never be lost on me. And then there are the mountains, ahhh those mountains. The mountains are my now, they are my conscious choice and they could quite possibly become my future. The joy that these most magnificent structures have brought me over the past few years will likely never be matched.  When I leap and bound down them, when I ride my bike up and over their peaks and whizz around dusty mountain paths, or when I glide down the snow that engulfs them I am a kid again and I shout out just as I did when I was 10. I am no longer entering my 35th year, life is just beginning.

And so the love affair grows and it will continue as I could never consciously choose one over the other. There is however, no struggle, just a feeling of gratitude for having them both in my life. Thankfully, my heart no longer feels torn from the ocean as the Rockies have become their perfect complement. Both rough around the edges, both a little intimidating but like a true friend they are always there to bring comfort,  a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

Summer 2017  - Beauty view from the Skerwink Trail, NL
Spring 2017 - Little jaunt  round the bay - Father Troys Trail Torbay, NL

Winter 2017 - False Summit Grotto Mountain Canmore, AB

Spring 2017 - Just out for a strole - Wasootch Ridge - Kananaskis, AB


  1. love your writing Erin. I agree... it is a difficult to choose between the mountains and the ocean. I will take both in future and hope for a 50/50 balance between the Rockies and an ocean when I retire. But for now, I pick the mountains without any regret.

    So happy to read your blog and see you so happy at home in Canmore.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Boston - A Journey

As I stood there in awe, knee deep in mud, teeth chattering uncontrollably and legs plastered in a paper mache mud, I took in my surroundings. Moments before, we had been ushered off yellow school buses, herded like cattle and directed to wait in large fields until our ‘waves’ were called. Garbage and haggard clothing decorated the ground, people wrapped themselves in garbage bags and lay on the ground huddled close together, trying to find warmth. There were no cell phones to be found, little laughter filled the air and friendly exchanges were few. The freezing temperatures, torrential rains and heavy winds made warmth hard to find and spirits even harder to lift. There was, however, a smell of excitement in the air and an energy that even the strong winds couldn’t tame.
I tried to count the endless hours that I, and the 30,000 others who surrounded me had vested into having the opportunity to stand exactly where we were standing, in that treacherous weather, at that that very moment…

Why being a Newfoundlander and not living there is a hard thing to do

On a humid, overcast and foggy Friday night I threw my line into the ocean. We were situated just off the easterly shores of Newfoundland in a quaint coastal town called Portugal Cove. It was only a matter of minutes before my jigger hit the ocean floor. It felt like forever, but soon with a hypothetical ‘thud’, the courting would begin. I was all too familiar with this lure, that now these unsuspecting cod were about to endure. There was nothing overly fancy about this process - a large weighted three-pronged barrel tied to a line and thrown into the ocean with not a morsel of bait on the end. Still though, the cod would bite, time and time again. So why then, were these bait-less, simplistic hooks so appealing to the cod who frequented these shores? I could identify with these creatures of the sea. I couldn't always rationalize the draw and deep connection I had to the rock – but something my heart could always so deeply comprehend. Over the years my head and heart have battled …