It is July 1 in Banff, Alberta, and residents are celebrating Canada Day as the country readies for the big bash in 2017, when Canada marks its 150th anniversary as a nation. The food stalls offer bison jerky and stone-fruit juices and vegetable samosas. Performers are attired in costumes from many lands. Singers belt out a universal message of love and harmony in many tongues.
A stranger hands me a paper Canadian flag and we make our way to the parade route along Banff Avenue. Many of us are from the U.S. or China or India, and we know only two words in the lyrics of the national anthem. But we all gamely chime in with “O Canada” at the right spots.
From the red and the white all around me I look up and see blue and green. Banff is no ordinary small town. It sits in the middle of Canada’s first and arguably best national park, 2,500 square miles of Rocky Mountain splendor carpeted with pine and spruce trees and riddled with glaciers bleeding blue into clear lakes—a space big and bold enough to support huge numbers of wildlife, including such so-called megafauna as wolves, elk, cougars, moose, black bears, and grizzlies. A thought strikes me: People are puny; nature is the grand marshal of this parade.