It feels like we won the lottery. After two summers in Fort McMurray, my husband, The Consultant, has started a new contract in a different town. We are in Slave Lake, Alberta. This is location number two in a series of temporary homes we’ll experience over the next few years. Compared to last season, this is a big trade up.
Instead of modern condo living in a downtown centre, we get to try a country lifestyle in a charming cabin on land rich with history. The owner was raised in the house next door. Second generation on this site where his parents were homesteaders in 1930, he raises buffalo and maintains a museum that displays wildlife artifacts and memorabilia saved over the years. I am hoping some of the third and fourth generation I’ve seen around will keep the legacy going.
The old part of our cabin was a bunk house used for folks, like us, who were “just passing through” to hitch their horses or hang up their snowshoes and rest a while. The front addition has been constructed with hefty beams, finished with period décor and infused with love. You can feel it.
This is a setting I have truly imagined. As I write, I sit in front of tall windows and look out over the lake. When I consider that all the basic furnishings are here, complete with unmatched plates and utensils, I see conditions just right for dreaming. I embrace the simplicity of it all. It’s peaceful.
The trip from Calgary to Fort McMurray was a stressful eight-hour drive. By welcome contrast, it is an easy five-hour trip to Slave Lake. I am relaxed upon arrival and ready to enjoy this incredible part of the world. While our view of the Clearwater River from our deck was lovely, it is no comparison to living right on Lesser Slave Lake.
When we arrived in June, there was a little eastern Phoebe nesting in our eaves. In the course of a regular day, I see bald eagles, pelicans, and humming birds. I wake to the sweet music of songbirds instead of the blast of back-up alarms.
Barn cats come to visit and peek in through our windows. Deer cross my path and two dogs from up the way accompany me on my walks from time to time. Last week, a baby bear ran along the tree line between our front deck and the lake. Last night a beaver splashed down beside The Consultant while he took an evening swim. It’s wonderful.
We have traded general indifference for overwhelming warmth. The people of this town have genuinely welcomed us. Although many citizens of Slave Lake have lived through challenges due to fire and flooding in 2011, there is a strong sense of community. I was taken by surprise, when I overheard a lady mention it was her opinion that people aren’t as friendly as they’d been before the fires. It really shows the relativity of our perceptions. In all my travels, I can’t think of a friendlier place. I have encountered only kindness in Slave Lake. In fact, when I arrived at the gym without my runners, one of the ladies lent me the shoes right off her feet. No kidding.
The main difference between Slave Lake and Fort McMurray is that I feel at home here, Okay, so maybe I miss the excitement of chippy Tar Sand Betties roller derby matches but the rough-and-tumble High Prairie Pro Rodeo was awesome. And, yes, I would love it if there were a bookstore in town. But, instead of suffocating in dust, I am deeply breathing fresh air. It makes me happy.
Life is good.