John Denver made me move back to Alberta.
Not literally, of course, because he was dead by the time I returned to Calgary. But I hold him responsible, even though the Rockies he sang about were not my Rockies.
I was born in Calgary, where I lived until I was five, at which time my family moved to the west coast. My dad was sick of the winters in Alberta, and Victoria was a much more appealing part of the country.
I grew up near beaches and had a love affair with tide pools. I spent hours turning over rocks to watch tiny crabs scramble and will always carry with me the sensation of poking the squishy centre of an anemone and having it close around my fingertip. My childhood was scented with the tang of salt water.
I remember a time when sand dollars covered Vancouver Island's beaches. I can picture them, scattered beneath the gentle waves of a low tide, and I know better than to bring them home. My mother was not a fan of the smell of dead sand dollars.
Alberta, by contrast, doesn't live in my memory as a smell; it exists as a song.
When I was young, my parents listened to John Denver as we drove to our cabin in the Rockies. I grew up listening to Rocky Mountain High and though by then the Rockies were no longer home I always thought of them that way.
Upon hearing the opening guitar notes, my breath catches every time.
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
I was 36, not 27, and it was winter rather than summer, but I did come home.
My husband - himself an Alberta boy - and I had always talked about moving back. I honestly never thought we would, but suddenly I was ready.
I was excited about moving but anxious about the unknown. And then one day as I was packing up our house, iTunes served me up some faith.
I hear her voice, in the morning hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And drivin' down the road I get the feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday
And I knew. It was time to go home.
Rocky Mountain High lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
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