The painted sky


The clouds were brilliant, the sky deep blue, the air still.  If there were such a declaration, yesterday would have been exalted as a Sunny Saturday, inspiring a bumper to bumper exodus from town to the beach.  As it was, without any formal notification, almost every parking spot was taken by the time we pulled into Gregoire Lake Provincial Park yesterday.

We parked in the upper reaches and cut through the forest path down to the water.  People were everywhere: lined up at the ice cream trailer, enjoying picnics on the grass, soaking in the rays horizontal on their beach towels, jumping around in the water and zooming back and forth on the flotilla of boats just beyond the buoys.  In 17 summers of coming out to the lake, I don't recall there being as many people.


"I love cloud watching," I said to Heather, sitting beside me on the beach as Ben diligently dug a deep hole  just a few feet away.

"I love people watching," she replied.


She had a lot to watch, people from all over the world gathered together with a common desire to enjoy a drop dead gorgeous day and some fun.  I say "all over the world" because as I laid there with my eyes closed, tuning into the voices that surrounded us, the number of languages being spoken was stunning.  We could have just as easily been on the beach at Playa del Carmen or some other exotic tourist destination.


The sun stayed strong for the two hours we were there - splitting our time between the beach and the water - shimmering through the scattered cloud, almost motionless, frozen in the moment.


I wondered aloud how many newcomers to Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo have not discovered this oasis yet.  Judging from the diversity of faces on the beach yesterday, I suspect word is leaking out.  It is a summertime jewel that is a mere 20 minute drive away for those of us living in the urban centre.

My mom and dad at Madge Lake in 1967
Being at the lake - any lake - takes me back, right back to my youth and countless days spent on the sand at Madge Lake, Saskatchewan.  The clouds were brilliant then too, a painted sky containing a thousand pictures, and providing an escape into blissful nothingness.

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