Highway 63

Highway 63 one of two highways that goes south from Fort McMurray. It has been my lifeline out of the city and back to Edmonton or wherever. A few weeks ago I drove the highway on my own (my dog was there for emotional support) since January and that 4.5 hour drive was emotional.

Driving north from Edmonton, I pass many small communities ones that I had played hockey in when I was younger. I thought about how much that sport had given me, how much it continues to give me in terms of support, friends and self-confidence. Continuing north I pass one of the parks that I worked as a conservation officer. So many memories on this road, everything from belting out show tunes with friends to the spot where I got a ticket for speeding a few years back. Then as the prairie gives way to the boreal forest, my mind shifts to May and June of 2016 and driving on this isolated highway.

About 20 km south of Fort McMurray I pass the spot where I chose to call a friend and ask for help on January 13, 2017. The fear and shame from that day are still raw and very real. But that is for another blog post.

In the past I have mounted a go pro on the dashboard of my vehicle to take time-lapse photos as I drove. Thousands of pictures, in varying conditions and I am finally organizing them in a meaningful way. I came across this picture from 2014, the camera snapped just as a logging truck passed on the undivided highway on a snowy day. The highway is now divided, the road improved.

This picture really struck me, how quickly I forget. In the beautiful days of summer driving conditions where an audio book and cruise control make travel enjoyable, the thoughts of harsh winter driving conditions are far from my mind. Memory can be powerful but also fleeting. In the warm summer mornings the days of challenging myself to get out of bed, the days of deep crushing depression feel far off but that was my reality for so long, and it could be my reality again.

This photograph reminded me how little I have in terms of the past and the future. I never imagined that I would be looking back with so much shame and that I would be so uncertain of my future. This photograph also reminded me that in the present moment, in this moment, I have everything I need. Focusing back or trying to predict the future negates the moment that I am in. In this photograph, black ice, my terrible habit of checking my texts while I drive, or any other random road hazard could have ended my life or life could continue on as it has. Moments are like a handful of sand, slowly disappearing, slipping through until gone and forgotten. Photography can freeze those moments, allow some reflection.  My past I learn and grow from, my future I see promise and potential but the present, the present is powerful, its real, its life. I need to be here because really, its all I have.