Playwright Karen Hines has been in residence at The Banff Centre, along with playwright Jessica Moss, as part of the Banff Playwrights Colony. The Colony includes this two-week Retreat component as part of its activities, which resume with the spring Colony from April 13 to May 4, attended by 30 writers, dramaturgs, directors, and actors.
It’s 11 a.m. and I’m walking along the snowy, hilly trail I call “my trail.” It’s more like a thoroughfare on the way to other more actual “trails” – but this road is snowy and car-free and has the benefit of passersby, now and again, which is good because of the cougar that is stalking me.
I have no evidence of this cougar, and sightings on and around the campus are extremely rare. But cougars go for quiet, solo people, and in this place, I sometimes get all thoughtful and drifty: with my own cougar after me, I am a menace to myself.
When you get to Banff, you can feel your mind expand. It is a nearly physical feeling, though that’s physiologically impossible. As though the brain and the flesh of the walls inside your skull pull away from each other and there is room. Room to create, ostensibly – but there are also potent forces at play in this Bow Valley, and people have been known to go a little cray-cray. The first time you come here, you may think the mountains will tip over onto you. I am a Banff vet, however – been a few times in different capacities – and I am cool with the intensity.
As I walk, I hear a “snap” in the woods. Branches, of course, can only be snapped by bears and cougars (deer step over branches), but the bears are asleep, I’ve heard, and so this must be a cougar. I peer between the tall fir trees … and see a cougar. It is black, though, so it must be a panther and despite my delight at having sighted the first Banff panther, I am scared bloodless.