Archive for the ‘Fraser Valley’ Category

Blueberries, painting and a bike ride

August 6, 2008

It was the British Columbia Provincial holiday and August 1st long weekend and my friend Dorothy came out from the city to stay for the weekend. She’s preparing for a two hundred kilometer bike ride early in September so she brought her off road bike. I don’t do that kind of valiant exercising, so she was on her own for four hours doing the lovely dike roads and trails that go along the Alouette and Pitt Rivers. I agreed to meet her up at Pitt Lake but I’ll never do that again on a long weekend.

The lake is a popular place to go for canoers, kayakers and speed boaters. The place was crawling with half clothed, well-tanned people. I guess one of the reasons it was so popular this particular day was that we’d just gone through a week of summer rain that felt more like late September and everyone was very glad to have that burst of hot, hot weather and brilliant sunshine again.

I took my paint box, a selection of watercolour tubes, a desk easel to prop my painting on and a folding director’s chair. When I got up to the Lake parking lot, it was packed. Cars were circling to get a space in case someone left mid-afternoon. I circled three times before I parked in a five minute zone for kayak drop off and then stayed ten minutes. Dorothy still didn’t show.

I was a bit worried about someone getting on my case, or worse, giving me a ticket, so I puttered with things in the trunk of my car, bringing the bag of painting supplies to the front seat, shifting the remainder of things around, getting out my camera, et cetera, et cetera. I took some pictures of a young lad at lake shore standing in the water, picking up stones and throwing them in. He was about five and he had a rather admirable persistence in his task and a dismal record at distance throwing. Most landed just inches from his feet.

On my fifth tour of the parking lot, perspiring away in the humid heat whilst stewing, so as to speak, cooking on slowly but inexorably in my black, heat absorbent car, I decided that I’d missed Dorothy somehow. I hadn’t seen her on the road in and the hour I had spent moving from one illegal spot to another in the gravel car park was not productive, not to mention the waste of carbon fuel. She goes on these lone bike rides often. She’d just probably lost her way. It was only slightly possible that she’d gotten there before I did and given up waiting for me.

A park attendant came up to my open car window and reminded me that I couldn’t park at the stop sign. I had been waiting, wasting a few more anxious minutes, figuring I’d move when a car came up behind me and needed me to move on.

“You can’t park here, y’know,” she said gently.
“I know. I’m just leaving,” I replied faking a bit of chagrin. However, her softly spoken reminder was my signal. I wasn’t staying any more.

“Oh, you’re leaving then?” she said, still gently.

:I’m on my way,” and I put my car in gear and drove out the parking lot and down Meaken Road. About two kilometers out, there was finally a parking space. I shook my head at the persistence some people have to get their boats in the water, then go park their car far away, then walk back a kilometer to their launched boat and then go rowing or speeding around as an afternoon diversion.

Two kilometers down the road, I found a shady tree with room for about three cars to park. I got out to explore. It would have been a safe and flat enough place to sit out and paint but there was no view. I crawled through the metal tubing gate and walked a few feet up an unused road but found nothing of paintable interest. The grasses were beautiful and tall, a whole field of them. It was a crop, but I couldn’t identify it.

So I drove down another bit of the road and found a drainage ditch, a dike perhaps, filled with water reflecting land and sky. I followed that for another short way. Eventually there was a space for about six cars to park and I stopped in the shade of a tall cottonwood tree. The colours of the ditch water were simply beautiful. My photos, when I saw them later, simply did not do them justice. I did a painting there of the ditch water. It’s one of three times I’ve stopped to paint in the last year, so I can’t say it’s wonderful, but I’ll share it with you anyway:

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As I was painting, Dorothy rode up a little worse for wear, struggling with the heat. Thirty degrees Celsius is not really an advisable heat to go cycling in, in my opinion, but she is a hardy sort and rides in all weather. She’d missed the turn off that led to access Pitt Lake but she’d found another way to get there and all was well. Not counting where she had ridden through brambles, nor where a branch had whacked her on the way, she said it was quite easy. She had a large black grease spot on one leg which belied her bravado. She had fallen. Like all good athletes, she had just gotten back up again and continued on.

She’d only done twenty six of her eighty kilometer goal, so she only rested a half hour while I continued to paint and then she was off again. I stayed and painted these two sketches before I went down by the Little Red Barn fruit standing hoping to find some fresh yellow beans and some juicy blueberries for dinner.

and

We met up backat the house three hours later, both within minutes of each other. I was unloading the director’s chair and the paint pots from the trunk when she called urgently to me. She stood only ten feet away on the asphalt of the round-about.

“Look at them!” she said. I couldn’t tell if she was gloating or amazed or disgusted. Besides, I couldn’t see anything, at first. And then I saw this creepy but amazing convention of little flies amassed on the ground, swarming apparently aimlessly. There were so many of them they were bumping into each other. I could just just hear the conversation down there.

“Excuse me, just, get out of my way!”

“You bumped me.” (peremptorily) “Can’t you look where you are going?”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to. We’re supposed to be going south, y’know.”
“South? Our directions were north. Did you see the queen? Some babe, don’t you think?”

“Nah. Royalty is royalty is royalty. They all look the same. Big, important, lazy, making the rest of us work for them.

And all the time these fly-like creatures are swarming, bumping into each other, squirming their way around each other like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was as if the tarmac itself was coming to a boil.

Dorothy is scientific. She’s done lots of lab experiments and observational studies. I’m a gardener at this point. At the same time as I was watching. fascinated by this horde of winged creatures which we decided were adolescent ants. I didn’t want them in my lawn and I didn’t want them in my garden, really. I started to stomp them out and got quite a few of them, they were so closely packed. They had no sense of impending danger and so the foot fell and slid across their bodies them into oblivion.

“Are you disgusted with me for squishing them?” I asked Dorothy.

“No. I’ve done enough lab experiments to know what they are all about. It must be the heat and the fact that they have graduated from their larval stage. But to see them all at once, it really is quite tremendous.
“No. I think it’s quite alright. There are certainly enough who escaped your heavy footed-ness. They won’t be missed.”

We went in after that. I cooked steak and steamed a corn cob each. I sliced a few tomatoes and a bit of cucumber and that was it. On a hot day, it’s no fun being in the kitchen. Simple is best.

Mrs. Stepford next door is alone for a week while her husband is away traveling, so she came and shared the repast with us. We had a hilarious conversation over dinner and a Tom Hanks, Julia Robert’s movie – Charlie Wilson’s war that kept us engaged for the evening.

Now, I have to go backwards to go a bit forwards.

Before Dorothy came, I was doing my usual cleaning for a guest routine. I changed the linens on the beds. I started noticing spots on the bathroom mirrors, so I wiped down the mirrors. I had to find something for lunch and for dinner. It’s blueberry harvest time so buying some of these was a must. I drove down into the farmlands that lay beside the Alouette and Pitt Rivers. It’s bucolic and redolent of new mown hay. Because of the heat, the grasses are looking golden and ripe. A second haying is in process although I don’t see any of the giant marshmallow-looking covered bales of hay I that saw earlier in spring.

I’ve got two favourite farm places I like to go. There must be at least eight, maybe ten, of these along that one stretch of road. Purewal’s blueberries are always good and ripe, cleaned of all leaves, stems and miscellaneous debris. They’ve got a giant blower that keeps the leaves and twigs afloat while the berries spill onto a conveyor belt The daughter and the grandfather sit on either side of the belt picking off the green, the tiny and the squished ones.

At two dollars a pound, you can’t lose. I bought seven pounds for me and I picked up blueberries for Dorothy as well. The farmer didn’t have enough for my large order so he excused himself and went out to the fields in his little tractor to get me another ten pounds worth, leaving me with his daughter, a child of about ten, and his father who tried to have a conversation with me, with great difficulty. I wondered if he had suffered a stroke, so difficult it was for him to form words.

When the farmer came back, I asked him what he did with the culls. They looked perfectly good for jam with a bit of cleaning up. There were little stems and twigs in amongst them. There were absolutely green ones that would have to go, but there were lots of plump soft ones and some little to mid sized ones that were perfectly good.

“Oh, those? Those go to the jam factories. I can’t sell them. They’re no good. Not firm enough. Not big enough. Green ones.”
“I’d gladly pay you for some, for making my own jam.” I offered.

“Nope. Nope. The berries are no good. If you want some, I’ll just give you some.”

I took about five pounds to try. Later in the evening as we sat watching Tom Hanks acting as a cowboy (and maverick) senator from Texas and Julia Roberts in a ghastly wig acting as the sixth richest woman from somewhere (The United State? Texas? The world?), I cleaned up the box of berries.

I’m an impatient woman. I couldn’t stand not knowing how they would work out. So I put them in a large Pyrex bowl and covered it over with a dinner plate so that if it splurted, I wouldn’t have a mess to clean up. I set the microwave for five minutes and presto, I had jam! It was incredible. A quarter of a cup of sugar stirred into the piping hot mixture and, voila, the berries were an nice sweet sauce.

At the Little Red Barn across the street, I bought some fresh peaches, apricots and green plums for dessert.

Monday morning came early. Dorothy had to get back into town to get ready for her next work day. She took her car and I took mine. We went back to Purewal’s berries and I loaded up on a ten pound box of berries of the cull variety. She bought some fresh fruits at the Red Barn for herself and went on her way. I went back home to sort out my box of free berries. With such a short cooking time, it took me just a few hours to freeze the good berries for winter and to make blueberry jam and ice cream sauce with the remainder.

It was a happy weekend and I only wish I could send you all a little taste of my blueberry surprise! That’s one of the failings of the Internet, so far. But you never know. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have thought it possible for a computer to take dictation, but they do, with voice recognition. But Cyberspace still has a bit of difficulty with sending jam. So, like the little red hen, I’ll just have to eat this up all by myself!

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Avoiding Christmas

January 2, 2008

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The warm sodium lights seemed to be throbbing up from the earth’s surface in suburban patterns of cul de sacs and highways. Snow lay in the yards and large undeveloped patches but had melted from the roads and the trees. The snowfall had not been consistent everywhere; it seemed to have chosen select communities in the Lower Fraser Valley. By the time we flew over Burrard Inlet with its sulphur docks in Port Moody and the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, out into the Georgia Straight for a landing from the west, all traces of the wintery white were gone.

Below, the lights were crisp and clear, cheerier and richer in colour at this end of the Christmas holiday season than they would be at any other time of year.

I had been up at seven, Ottawa time; on a bus to Montreal by nine, arrived at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in the community of Dorval by eleven. I ate an early lunch, fully aware from my flight from Vancouver that there would be no meal service and only tightly compressed sandwiches bound in swaddling plastic wrap or junk food to be had from the airline’s “cafe” menu. I sensibly downed a Caesar salad and a clear glass of cool water then went to security check-in.

Beyond the point of no return there were few shops to linger in. There was a coffee stand with croissants, sweets or sandwiches that you could take with you on the airplane, more sensibly boxed (therefore not crushed into eraser-like carbohydrate wads). I bought an oatmeal cookie telling myself that it was whole grain cereal with only a bit of sugar and a cheese croissant for my on flight sustenance. I bought a cup of decaf which I immediately downed. I would not be getting a decent cup of this until I got home again.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted for three weeks. I took the luxury of a holiday to visit two of my cousins and my nephew Hugh and a fine relaxing holiday it was, too. I met with two friends, one recently met through our mutual friend, Mother’s university friend who was in touch with her until the very end, and one of my colleagues from my former workplace.

Cousin Beryl in Ottawa spent a week with me and then went on holiday with her partner of 30 years. They were off to play indoor tennis, Patrick having recovered only recently from a knee operation and still unable to go skiing. She works too hard, very devoted to her job as director of a humanitarian organization and needed some downtime, some renewal time.

Cousin Clara, whom I had started this holiday with, had gone on to Toronto to visit her daughter’s family and then on to Florida where she spends some winter time in the comfort of a warmer clime.

Coming back through Montreal, there was no point in going up to her house during the three hour period I had before my flight. She wasn’t there. The whole city felt empty knowing that Clara was not in it. It was somewhat the same feeling I had leaving Byrel this morning as she saw me off at the bus station.

I had stayed in her house while she was away on her holiday. All the personality of her decor could not make up for the the fact that she was not there. The house all of a sudden felt empty. We have similar tastes in music and I played her CDs a good part of the time I was alone but it was not the same. I felt a good measure of joy in talking with her as I do with Clara.

Beryl is one of those rare people who speaks her mind clearly without hesitation. We had a parting hug before we left the house. When we got to the station we looked like two people who barely knew each other. As we were standing in line up with about seventy other people headed for Montreal, she said, ” I never understood really why you wanted to come to Ottawa for Christmas.” It was a question.

In my inimitable way, I blurted out my inability to sit down at the dinner table with my family this year. Too much water under the bridge. A damning situation. A log jam of emotions, if you prefer which, by the way, I did not say out loud. I’d had great cooperation and assistance from my sisters, but Otto had been obstructive. I wanted a neutral territory to celebrate Christmas on. I could perhaps have sat down at the table for an hour with him, but not stayed in the same house with him listening to him extol the merits of family and how wonderful family was when he had taken care to tell me how odious I was over the matter of Mother’s estate.

I must say I hadn’t been very tactful in answering Beryl. My original idea in my getting away at Christmas was to avoid unpleasantness. To be somewhere where every decoration, every change from tradition would remind me of my Mother’s passing. But as I began to think where I might go, I knew that Hugh would be alone and missing the festival of the year that he most delights in. If I were to make the trip, I would most certainly want to spend some time with Beryl. Clara was reasonably close by in Montreal, and so as I conceived of this trip, I wanted to ensure I saw her too. They are both “safe-haven” kind of people.

So that was the explanation I gave to her forthright question. We parted company only five minutes afterwards. I was on the bus and grumping somewhat about ending this delicious holiday with a full day of travel – two hours of bus, three hours in between time before the flight, five hours of flight – and I had time to reflect.

These two cousins are like sisters. We understand each other. We are of the same generation, and unlike direct family, we don’t have to see each other. We’ve chosen to do so.

I met Beryl and Clara after a forty year hiatus. I had know Beryl and seen her only occasionally before I was ten and then not afterwards. Clara had visited only once in my hippie-dippy days at our mutual age of 23. Many years later in my working career, as I was often travelling back and forth for my job, I often flew into both Ottawa and Dorval. On these trips, I reconnected with these fine women. It didn’t take us long to uncover our common ground – how we felt growing up, what we were doing now, our successes and failures in our relationships, marriages, and partnerships.

My father and their mothers were siblings, but it’s our mothers and our upbringing that we feel are the common thread. We talk about the vicissitudes of childhood and early adulthood that were more characterized by the upbringing of our Mothers and their culture than our common thread of our parent siblings. Fathers had less to do with the day-to-day management of children and they figure quite differently in our affections and family heartaches.

So as I ruminated on these things on the bus to Montreal, passing through a rich sepia world of farmlands and small forests all softened by a fresh dusting of snow that was still falling, I regretted that I had not mentioned how much I had come to love Beryl and our Cousin Clara; how any opportunity where I can add on a visit to one or the other, I will; how I am vastly proud of Beryl for her humanitarian work; just as I am of Clara for her stubborn determination to learn to paint and now that she is proficient and sure of her skills, her volunteer work with difficult medical patients, teaching them to paint, bringing joy to their impoverished lives.

I ruminated on the gifts these two ladies had given me. Both had given me their trust in speaking freely of their lives, their loves and their families. It’s not sugar coated. It’s down to earth real. We take a Giordian knot of relationships and try to sort out the whys and wherefores of family, of our joys and hurts and we try to find ways to heal them or heal ourselves.

They have both given me a welcome that made me feel that I was important and valued. Now, how great a gift is that! And it didn’t die after three days…. you know that aphorism about fish and visitors stinking after three days. We were still sharing stories as avidly after a week as we had on the first day. And if we don’t see each other for another year, or two even, now that I’m retired and travelling less, we will catch up the conversation as if it never had stopped. That’s a mark of a good friendship.

Beryl phoned a day after my return to the Wet Coast. I asked her what she had meant by her question on my reasons for coming to Ottawa.

“Oh, the weather,” she explained. “Why would you want to come knowing we might have snow?” I had completely misunderstood the intent of her question. And, well I might. In Ottawa, people go away to have a break from perpetual cold and snow. On the West Coast, we are inundated with perpetual rain. Grey skies prevail. We only have two seasons – cold autumn and warm spring. The heat of summer lasts two weeks and the snows come for two days and melt away. Had I understood the thrust of her question, I might have answered, “Oh, we don’t get snow. I thought a white Christmas would be glorious!” Instead, I fueled a day’s worth of rumination on family and some of my most favourite people whom I was leaving behind until next time. Dummy me! I’m glad I misunderstood.

In all of this rambling, I haven’t even talked about seeing Hugh again. It was wonderful! But that’s another story.

Road trip – the way home

April 30, 2007

Much to Franc’s disgust, I brought back more junk than I took up to Nelson. Lizbet’s church was having a garage sale on Saturday. If we helped put things in place, we could buy in advance of the crowd. I found a beautiful ceramic bowl and a one cup measure in the form of a cream jug with a rooster decoration. Very discrete, the rooster was. Lizbet found a rug in excellent condition which she needed to protect her newly finished floors.

I sorted out the books. Now there’s a dangerous thing to ask me to do, with my love of books. By the time I was finished, I had two tables full of books sorted mostly by size – paperbacks and hard cover – with a box or two of fashion magazines. The price was ridiculously low and I came home with two Atlases, one by Reader’s Digest, the other by the New York Times, some old text books on art and ceramics. Nonetheless, I needed two cardboard boxes to carry them all.

Lizbet knows my weakness for second hand and antique stores, garage sales and bazaars. She took me to Trail’s Sally Ann and down the street, a mostly furniture second hand store. I didn’t find anything in the first. In the second, there was a lot of new furniture in old styles made in Thailand, so most of it wasn’t too interesting. But the owner was unpacking some auction lots and I found some original silk screen prints that needed an art rescue. Franc grumbled and cursed under his breath as he was packing the car. After all, I was going to have to move soon. What was I doing accumulating more stuff.
“What do you need all this for? he snapped; but he knew better than to do more than that.

“I’ve learned that it’s her money and she can spend it where she wants.” he professed to Lizbet. Well spoken, I thought. After thirty years of our tempestuous relationship, he restrains his efforts to direct my every choice and guide my footsteps in his version of righteousness. Besides, he didn’t have an atlas, wanted one, and would be only be too happy to take one off my hands.

Car packed and ready, we drove away at seven thirty after a quick coffee. Knowing Franc’s driving history, I packed a pair of hard boiled eggs and a half bag of Hawkins’ cheezies. Franc doesn’t like to stop en route. We had a ten hour journey in front of us (if I was driving) that he could turn in to an eight hour one just because we didn’t stop. Add to that he believes that he was born to race the Formula One. There were stretches of road where his fear of authority was overridden by the vast number of trees standing guard instead of Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As a matter of principle, he always exceeded the speed limit by ten clicks an hour. Coming down mountain hills or racing past a loaded semi truck trailer, he could add another twenty, on occasion.

As we hit Paulson Pass just past the Trail connector, a fine hail rained upon the windshield with a hissing sound but it didn’t stay on the ground. As it lost force, the sky settled into a dull overcast cloud that did not quit us until Grand Forks. Here the willows were almost fluorescent yellow with the newly soaring sap. A steady wind stirred the branches. All the trees were sporting a tender new green.

Unlike the trip up, I was wide awake and our conversation flowed over the events of the past ten days, the successes in the domain of repair and renovation, the possibilities for the house, Lizbet’s and my excursions. The conversations was punctuated with Franc’s observations on the weather as the car’s digital reading of outside temperature vacillated from three to ten to fourteen to seven to seventeen to eleven Celsius as we drove up mountains and down and then into the Okanagan semi desert.

In Greenwood, we stopped at the bakery cafe. I bought a delicious and sinful cinnamon apple and pecan something aruther (how do you spell that?) and a virtuous whole grain loaf. Franc had a scone drizzled with icing. I just pecked at that sinful thing. We carried our coffees away and were back on the road within ten minutes.

“What happened to the philosophy you’ve been handing me lately that we are retired and there’s no need to hurry?” I asked. He grinned sheepishly as we pushed onwards at a speed that flirted the authorities. “That doesn’t apply to driving,” he said.

As we came down the steep slopes of Anarchist Mountain into the town of Osoyoos, we could see mountains across the valley still defined by the late spring snows. Camera at the ready, I snapped at the things through a rain spattered windshield that I would have liked to stop and photograph standing at the side of the road, or at least stopped, window rolled down. With some wheedling and cajoling, I convinced him that, if we were not going to stop for coffee in Osoyoos, we could at least stop at the first place that had an orchard fully in bloom so that I could take decent photos. We were just outside Cawston when we chose a good size roadside orchard. I know the limits of his patience and don’t take much time on these occasions. Luck was with me though. He had discovered a stand of dark coloured lilacs close by and had to go smell them. It gave me a full five minutes of clicking close ups of the blooms and distant shots down to the horizon of the orderly rows of apple trees.
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I returned to the car with my digital trophies.

Franc called to me “Bring the car up here” which I did. “You drive for a while now” he added which I also did. When he got in the car, he was carrying three or four branches of lilac. I only felt slightly guilty. There was a whole wall of them, a hundred feet of frontage. They would not be missed.

We drove past Keremeos with it’s fruit stands, past our friends’ trailer park because they were down with flu and didn’t want visitors. At Hedley, I made a forced stop and chose a cafe rather than the gas station. I’m a nuisance to cafe owners. I’m allergic to caffeine.

As the young waitress brewed a new pot of decaf, she chatted. I asked her about the mines and she confessed she did not know much about Hedley. “This is only my second season and I’ve only been here two weeks this time. I’m a Seasonal Worker” she proclaimed, as if it were a badge of honour. She was a Native girl in her early twenties with a lovely, friendly nature and a soft warm coloured skin. She had an air of self possession and contentment.
Franc who had urged me to hurry so we could get going, waited outside, claiming not to want another coffee. But just as my coffee was ready, he came in saying, “Is that my coffee?” and we waited while she then brewed a new pot of regular for him. As we waited, our conversation turned to weather. It had been hot all day in Hedley. It was twenty degrees now. “I like the heat,” she said. “It’s part of what I come for. It can get pretty hot in summer time with the heat accumulating in the rock face up back.”

The interior of the whole cafe was walled in pine set on a forty-five degree angle, with an overlay of huge jigsaw-cut geometric patterns between the two big windows. On three of the large wall surfaces there were murals depicting mining life, equipment and the surrounding countryside. Up above the bar, there were recent paintings of Hedley by a Penticton based artist. “All for sale,” the waitress assured me. I dared not bring home another piece of art work. These were being well cared for and did not need rescue.

Before we got in the car, we stopped to admire the bizarre garden just next door to the cafe. A lady was poking about in it, weeding and hoeing. We congratulated her on her creativity and admired her decidedly western-looking inukchuks – balancing stones.

Like the temperature, we had watched the gasoline prices vacillate as we passed from town to town. It was a dollar seven in the Kootenays, a dollar twelve in Grand Forks, Osoyoos and Hedley.

Now, as we drove along the Similkameen River, it was full with early spring run off. I had rarely seen it full to the top of the banks. There was little snow left on any of the peaks along our route. It seemed to all be here in the river. On the occasional time we spotted a snow load, high up, I attempted to get a picture. The twelve times digital was a boon on the camera as was the graphic image stabilizer, but nothing could correct the motion of Franc’s fast driving nor the winter’s crop of potholes in the road.

Gas in Princeton was one dollar eight, but we passed on by. Just west of Princeton, up the top of the first long hill, just past the Sandman hotel, Franc had reconsidered. Gas at one twenty four in the Lower Mainland was a ridiculous price. Coming up, it had been a dollar nineteen in Hope. We’d fill up here and have some left for when we got home.

As we were filling up, I noticed an Asian family with an energetic girl about ten years old. She was pulling her father to see something and I followed her gesturing to see a tiny herd of four deer grazing about 50 metres away. I got out of the car to stretch my legs and followed the family, taking pictures of the deer all the while.

Now wild life is a different matter. Franc can be convinced to take his time where animals, especially wild ones, are concerned. We lingered quite a while as we watched these graceful deer move about, grazing. When they showed us their four white bottoms and brown tails in unison and sauntered off as if the presentation was now over, we, too, turned and went back to the car.

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It’s a surprisingly long drive from Princeton to the East Gate of Manning park. Along this route, pine trees have been ravaged by the pine beetle. In an effort to control the spread of this damaging pest, huge stands of pine have been destroyed and rows and rows of very young fir trees have been planted in their place in neat rows. All snow was gone except on one stand of trees, high up. It was a curious that had snow on one side only of the fir trees, as if the snow had been applied by spray bomb.

It was on this stretch of road that we were stopped by the Accident Citizen Patrol. Two elderly gentlemen wearing fluorescent red with yellow cross vests guided a backlog of traffic past an eighteen wheeler that had beached on its side like a great whale. There wasn’t much more of the accident to see. It was impossible to tell if anyone had been hurt though the traffic moved slowly around the behemoth. It’s a perilous road for semi truck trailers.

A little river was raging beside an open stretch of road, undercutting the river banks. The brush beside and now in it, had turned red with sap, giving a warm relief from the ocher and tan monochrome of lately departed winter. We drove through Manning Park, passing heavily loaded transport trucks at a great rate. We were not here for the scenery. Rather, this was a great rally race and Franc had hopes of winning. At this elevation, the surroundings had lost the fresh white coat of winter, but the tender green of spring was yet to come. We were soon out of the park, destination Hope.

There is a lovely marshy area about thirty miles east of Hope called Sunshine Valley. On one side of the road, there is a broad, flat marshy lake; on the other, there are many ski cabins lining the highway. It looks quaint, but we’ve never stopped to explore. From this point onwards down to Hope, there were lots of freshly capped peaks to be seen.

Through a now bug-spattered windshield, I tried to take photos of these. Once, when I began to swear under my breath in words that should not be printed, Franc made a concession and slowed to ninety so that I could get a decent shot of a truly beautiful mountain top, but there were several, so in the end I just had to take lots of photos and hwy-3-433-small.jpg

weed them out later.

We barreled past Hope, along the base of these giant volcanic Coastal mountains, past little rushing waterfalls at the road side, past Herrling Island which always visually pleases me with its almost consistant stand of deciduous trees – entirely ash, it looks like. It takes on a soft look, as if it were a large green pillow a giant could rest his head on.

From Bridal Falls, to Agassiz, to Chilliwack, the mountains are gradually left behind. The Fraser Valley spreads out flat, in some of the best farmland in the nation. It’s become a fully sunny day. There are brilliant clouds lumbering across the sky like mighty cotton elephants. Large shadows follow them below, on the ground. Everything is green. Fields are planted and growing. Fruit trees have flowered and the petals all gone. Vegetation is in full leaf. Farm houses, out buildings, and silos spot the fields at good distances from each other. On the right side of the highway far in the distance, Vancouver’s coast mountains rise out of the sea, looking like pale blue cut outs against a slightly lighter sky, set off with a luscious spring leaf green. Clouds, so habituated to gathering before them and making their offering of rain, today are gathered behind them like a backdrop in a theater.

On the left, the south side of the highway, there are corrals and fences, plowed fields and planted, of strawberries, blueberries, Christmas trees, cereals, hops.

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack, Sumas, Abbotsford, Clearbrook, Matsqui, Aldergrove, Langley, Cloverdale, Surrey: the huge farm buildings for mushrooms, pigs, poultry and dairy appear; there are industries and warehouses; housing complexes, shopping centres, hotels, car, truck and RV dealerships; golf ranges, overpasses. We are on the freeway now. The exits have flown by and we are home to Franc’s place in a record seven and a half hours complete with two coffee stops. We’re back in civilization now.

On the streets of Surrey, the cherry trees are past their flowering. Azaleas compete with them for attention in fiery bloom. There are traffic signals with pre-greens, buses, lamp standards, telephone and electrical lines, signs on everything. Cars everywhere. We are home.