HANNA, ALBERTA — There’s poetry in the Alberta sky. It spreads overhead like a long, wide, never-ending flag, blue and white, unfurled to captivate your eyes and mesmerize your mind. The sky pulls the wind and the clouds, stretching to reach Asia and Australia, Saskatoon sweeping by. It elongates moments even as it speeds ahead, a thousand miles an hour and still it halts your breath. Beneath the canopy, Alberta grass, golden and wind-swept, hip-high and inching farther, disappears into the mountains of the west or climbs over hills that glide smooth to the eastern horizon. Galloping, the horses come, 20 dozen at once, breaching the nearest hill as if on a cinematic cue. They trace the path of a machine that chugs and squeaks and lumbers without any grace. Thoroughbreds and standardbreds, mares and stallions, colts and fillies, all manner of equines occupy the hill the way you think Degas would’ve wanted to pose them.
They chase the feed truck on the Calgary Stampede Ranch, which lures the horses everyday with grain dispensed from its chute. The ranch sprawls across 22,000 acres in this ridiculously gorgeous territory populated by nearly no one. On it are 500 horses and 80 bulls, some of which will star in the rodeo portion of the 100th annual Calgary Stampede, which runs from July 6-15. Once the horses are busy with the food littering the grass, the feed truck stops at the crest of the hill. The horses form a circle and chew, masticating with zeal, heads bowed, oblivious to the Alberta sky and the speed with which it zippers along, taking time with it and enough of your heart to make you treasure being here and alive. — Adrian Brijbassi