A delightful day in Carburn park

Photo by Barbara Ellis

Most of our world will not look back on this year with undiluted pleasure. I recall the Queen saying that the year 1992 was her “Annus Horribillis,” and well, that phrase certainly describes 2020. Having said that, are we not having a most remarkable autumn?

Not long ago I had the pleasure of strolling through Carburn Park. This magnificent park stretches itself out along the eastern shores of the Bow River and is one of Calgary’s largest parks. The day I was there the park was filled with people walking, running, bicycling, picnicking and just plain enjoying themselves. Not only is the park big and beautiful, but it has historical significance too as noted and illustrated by the plaques at the entrance.

This year Alberta has gifted her children with warm weather, moderate winds and lots of bright sunshine. Then she took out her autumn pallet, painted the trees and bushes in various shades of yellow and gold and a sprinkling of crimson thrown in for good measure. Nobody can paint a scene as well as Mother Nature!

I stopped by one of the ponds and watched some ducks paddle by and then disappear underwater only to pop up again a few feet away. The pond was a deep emerald green gradually morphing to sky blue in front of me, while on the opposite side, the trees were reflected in their autumn spender.  A light breeze began to tickle the leaves off the branches allowing them to glide to the ground thus adding colour to the accumulating carpet of gold.

In my ramblings, I came upon a huge venerable tree, the largest one I had seen in the park. I am not good at guessing the age of trees, but in my estimation, this one had seen at least three centuries come and go. My, what stories it could tell if it could talk. Luckily for me, there was a bench nearby so I sat down and allowed my imaginings to run wild.

In my mind I envisioned a tiny seed, perhaps carried by a bird eons ago, and then being dropped at the perfect spot next to the river. The following spring the seed came to life and began to grown. Year after year, the little tree grew in stature and strength as it stretched its limbs towards the sky. No doubt over the eons it withstood torrential downpours, blazing sunshine and bone-chilling blizzards, but through it all, the tree stood firm as it dug into the ground and spread its roots for stability.

I do not doubt that the tree witnessed the great buffalo herds that used to roam across the grassland. There would have been deer, wolf, coyote and a host of creatures native to the area. Eagles and hawks would soar high above before dive-bombing to catch a hare or gopher to feed their offspring. During migration, the sky would be filled with an endless and noisy convoy of birds heading north or retreating south.

I thought about the native people who may have travelled this way to fish or perhaps enjoyed a dip in the river before laying down to rest under the tree. Perhaps their tribes made camp nearby and their children tested their skills by climbing up this tree with its ever-expanding and strengthening branches. I could almost feel their presence as I envision them in my mind.  

The river twinkled and gurgled as it washed over the rocks and pebbles on its journey towards its final destination. I wondered if any settlers travelled down the river to homestead and begin new lives. Senator Burns, one of Calgary’s prominent citizens, ran herds of cattle in the area and built a meatpacking empire. He is remembered as one of the Big Four who initiated the Calgary Stampede.

During the last century, the area was better known for the sand and gravel that was extracted and used for construction. These pebbles that the river had washed and nurtured over millennia, became the best building material for a growing city. Over time, it became evident that mining the gravel was an eyesore and caused the destruction of the environment. Concerned citizens envisioned a sanctuary, not only for wildlife but also for Calgary’s growing population. Through the concerted efforts of various organizations, the land was purchased and plans were drawn up to create the park.

The gravel pits were enlarged and deepened and the river water seeped into them. These are now abundantly stocked with fish and are greatly enjoyed by fishermen and all those who delight in eating the tasty trout.

Sitting on that bench I felt at peace with nature. Soon everything would change and as winter took over the season, snow would cover the ground. No doubt when the cold weather came, I would remember with delight sitting by the river, next to that big tree and enjoying my day in the park.