All Just Part of the Spiritual Adventures of AJ Plan
So, I’m standing at the registration desk of the Eckhart Tolle “Joy of Being” retreat at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise ready to ask for a free ticket to the pricy yet sold out event.
I’d already picked up a hitchhiker on my way up the mountain to the lavish lakeside resort hotel without getting robbed or stabbed, so I figured luck was on my side.
Fiiiine, the hitchhiker wasn’t actually hitchhiking. She was just a guilty-feeling mom—all mom’s feel guilty for practicing self-care—from Saskatchewan walking up a four kilometre steep road to get to said retreat.
When I drove past her, I knew where she was headed — there’s nowhere else to go way up there — so I found a spot to turn around and went back to asked her if she wanted a ride, which she gratefully accepted.
Back at the registration desk…
I ask, “Are there any volunteering opportunities?”
Blank expressions greet me before I’m shuffled around to various higher ups in the volunteer department.
Finally, I get Ann (Anne?), who is so apologetic about rejecting my advances (to get in to the retreat for free) that I feel compelled to squeeze her arm affectionately and apologetically.
“I rented a car and drove out here just in case. I can’t afford this. I’m sleeping in the car…”
She looks at me like she’s about to give me her volunteer position and throw me a cot in her room to boot, but she stands firm.
“I’m sorry, there’s over 1000 on the waiting list…” She trails off, looking down.
“Ann, don’t feel guilty. I mean, of course you will. Guilt is unavoidable. You’re a woman.”
I feel bad for making Ann/Anne feel bad. (Apparently, all women are born with built-in guilt.)
She nods, seemingly feeling understood, if still chagrined for turning me away.
Just before I take my leave, she whispers, “They’re taking a walk around the lake in the morning.” Then, tipping her head closer to me and glancing around to make sure she’s out of others’ earshot, “Eight o’clock. You could just be there.”
I smile kindly, “Thank you, Ann.”
I give her another arm squeeze and wander through the hotel — it’s opulent — and then outside and down the tiered landscape walkway to the path along the water’s edge to scope out tomorrow morning’s stalking grounds.
I find a bench and sit. The view is worth the $1,000-a-night-on-sale-lowest-class-room rate.
This is the first time since leaving my high earning real estate career that I wish for the disposable money to attend such an event like the wealthy patrons who belong here, instead of like a girl about to sleep in a white Nissan Altima in a gravel parking lot.
After sitting for awhile feeling sorry for myself and questioning my life’s decisions, I decide to go find a place to “camp.”
There’s no overnight parking in the village of Lake Louise and the last thing I want to have happen is to be towed away while sleeping in the back seat of a white Nissan Altima.
I find overflow parking (read: free) a few kilometres from town where other budget-friendly tourists have already parked their RVs and minivans, front ends facing the lot, lawn chairs set up behind them.
I park away from everyone near the wood frame outhouse building, though I know that come dark I won’t dare leave the safety of my white Nissan Altima. I may be brave but I ain’t that stupid; there are bears and cougars in the Rocky Mountains.
And that creepy man smoking a cigarette by the outhouse.
An Enterprising (Entertaining?) Interjection
Let’s be clear, I was supposed to have a Kia SUV. I’d done my homework and I could’ve slept mostly flat in one of those. (Even affordable accommodation was fully booked.)
But being a long Canadian holiday weekend, all the SUVs had been claimed by the time I got to the Enterprise lot bright and early at 1:30pm on Sunday. The white Nissan Altima or the Ford F150 were the only two choices remaining.
“Does the back seat fold down?” I ask about the Nissan.
It did. Sort of. It folded down to about a 20 degree angle.
“I can deal with that. If I sleep with my head in the trunk part, I won’t get woken up too early by the light. Silver lining.”
The rental guy, Sparky, squints at me and nods uncertainly, then adds, “And it gets better gas mileage.”
“I love silver linings!” I beam.
Back in the gravel overflow parking lot …
Here’s what I didn’t think about until it’s 9pm and I’m tired and it’s a two hour drive back to Calgary and I’m still pondering a morning walk around the lake with the well-to-do Eckhart crew…
If creepy guy does bust a move, or a window, to abduct me and take me to his torture chamber, then I’ll have a heck of a time having any chance of fleeing if I’m head first in the trunk.
I decide I’ll sleep with my legs in the trunk.
“Better for my head to be elevated on the mostly folded down seat, anyway.” I assure myself out loud. “Otherwise, I could get a headache.”
Thank Baby Jesus my BFF loaned me two sleeping bags because the temperature is in the minuses in the mountains at night in May and cars are not insulated suitably for camping in them.
But sleeping bags are made with externally slippery material.
So I keep sliding into the trunk more and more until only my head is propped on the mostly folded down seat of the white Nissan Altima. The rest of me is folded up in the trunk.
But because I constantly worry about Shreddies Killers, I don’t sleep anyway.
Instead, I eat an avocado, keeping handy the knife that I brought and hoping I won’t somehow doze off and roll onto it poking out my own eye and surely taking away the pleasure Creepy Cigarette Smoking Shreddies Killer is fantasizing about.
The sky in the Rockies is beautiful from 9pm to 4:30am and the area is deafeningly quiet, the silence punctuated occasionally by a semi-truck approaching and roaring by.
I lay there giggling at myself and mentally making up a new dating site profile that includes hashtags like #adventurous #lowmaintenance #slightlynutty #likesEckhartTolleandavocados
At 4:30am, with dawn fast approaching, I sneak over to the outhouse, avocado knife in hand, watching for shadows of feet approaching under the wood board slats.
Then I get in that white Nissan Altima and drive back to Calgary, appreciating the first sunrise I’ve seen in a long time and the first ever in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and reaffirming my decision to not return to stalk those Eckhart lake walkers.
What would be the point? I’ve read Eckhart’s books several times and have listened to dozens of hours of his retreats via YouTube and audiobook.
I saw him live in Calgary last week and in Vancouver last year.
I’m sufficiently knowledgeable in his teachings. I’m insufficiently financed for his live retreats.
I decide that’s alright. It’s enough.
What would I have to do — sacrifice — to have the ability to go to a luxurious retreat?
I saw the glory of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, escaped the trickery of a non-hitchhiker from Saskatchewan and the certain grip of a Cigarette Smoking Shreddies Killer, slept in a trunk, witnessed an awe inspiring sunrise and made it safely home to my Calgary abode.
What have I re-learned?
Life is an adventure. Half of it is in my mind (dual meaning) and that’s OK, too. In fact, it’s perfectly sufficient.
- Just for shits and giggles, write out my new dating site profile that will not go on any dating sites because I’m so done with dumpster diving for diamonds aka dating sites, though, um, I highly recommend them for all singles. *sideways glance*
- Post said dating site drivel here for your entertainment. You’re welcome.
p.s. It’s my birthday today. The best gift is you reading this. (And sharing it if you feel so inclined!) Happy Birthday to me!! :))
p.p.s. The second best gift is for you to buy and read my memoir! 😉 xo #shameless