Wildness is a necessity

I am loosing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.   

– JOHN MUIR

I took a screen shot of this quote from Instagram awhile ago. I do that. My camera roll is half full of these things. Sometimes words like this, stop me dead in my tracks and I don’t always know why. I tuck them away for future reference. Everything falls into place, eventually.

The quest for a piece of “wildness”, is not a journey I was consciously aware I was on. I didn’t know I was missing it in my life. I’ve always fancied myself a city girl. My parents have tried to show me the benefits of living further afield, where life is a bit less tamed by the constraints of civic rules and regulations. I’ve been curious, but never enough to commit. 

Recently, on a trip to Cortes Island, something in me shifted. Luckily something similar tugged at my husbands heartstrings. Timing is everything. We didn’t seriously speak of it until almost the end of our stay. We toured a piecce of waterfront land and all the pieces clicked into place. We both knew, this is it. Of course, this is not a movie, we don’t pan from that moment to a view of us happily sipping coffee, enjoying the view. Real life has many more hoops to jump through to get from “A” to “Z”. I’m not sure which letter we are on just now, but we are getting towards the end.

Eventually, we will join the cast of characters which have commited to steward a piece of wildness. The memories of those who have come before remains strong on Cortes. There are remnants of the past everywhere you look and it is a rich legacy. But you have to really look, in order to see. For many people from the city, a shell midden or an old orchard, the wild mint and oregano, these things blend into the rest. For me they are symbols of the industry those who came before had. The fortitude to carve out a life in a place so beautiful, it takes your breath away. But a place of wildness. Not for the faint of heart. 

Of course, we are not pioneers trying to clear the land with hand tools. We are not up against the hard deadline of the approaching winter. We don’t worry about the fruitfullness of the crop and the extremely hard work of preserving sustanence for the dormant season. We have the luxury of time, resources and distance. It could take us years to create permanent living quarters. We will only be able to enjoy weeks at a time, rather than months. We can purchase what we need from as far away as we like. This is a different era.

But our quest for wildness knows no time. It is more primal. It is something all humans crave. Even if you don’t realize it. There are riches to be discovered, which are priceless. That is what we have found.

  

Stolen weekend

It should not have been so nice. Unheard of. The air was so warm, you didn’t need another layer as we scooted along the lake. There was not a drop of rain.

Must be hard to guess where I was, surely nowhere near the Coast. Yet, only 3 hours from door to door. A place where you can cross into the USA and not need a passport.

Web_Floating stall

Ross Lake campground is on the Canadian side, nestled into the North end of Ross reservoir. The mountains rise sharply from the lake like fjords, along all sides, so crossing into the USA is not possible. All the park rangers for the US camp sites come around through Canada to enter their park. (A weird piece of trivia).

Web_fjord

The reason so many people visit this park, is the ability to enjoy the back country in a relatively pristine state. Something that is becoming harder to find in North America and impossible in Europe. It is areas like this that we treasure.

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We went early Saturday morning. Friday night was a pre-teen dance that could not be missed. Gone are the days when the adults set the schedule. However, we managed to be up early and arrive by mid morning. The sun was warm and welcoming.

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But something else was waiting for us. The mosquitos. Oh my gosh, these were crazed little bugs. They gathered in swarms and could fly faster than you could run. Clearly they had missed the memo – it is too late in the season for such vicious insects. (Just had to stop and madly scratch my ankle). Apparently the mosquito takes no notice of the date on the calendar….hello…it is September, back to school, no biting insects allowed! (have to stop scratching soon, there will be blood otherwise).

Web_fall leaves

After the blissful hours in the sun and running the gauntlet back through the forest path to our camp, the typical evening rituals were enjoyed. Nice smoky fire, cooking dinner on a stick, swapping stories. It was most pleasurable to hear my children tell their jokes and indulge us in their secrets learned in camp and other places over the summer.

Then it was winding down. Time for bed. This is the part of camping that always makes me so happy to be home. But my husband insisted that we sleep in our HH Warm baselayer, sleeping bags and extra wool blankets. Once I was in my cocoon, I found it extremely comfortable.

I guess the expectation and preparation for bad weather, the menacing bugs, the love of nature and the need to spend time outdoors, are all things that make us Canadian. In fact, it is probably what most people have in common, or at least the ones that are lucky enough to experience it.

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Nature

North of Calgary - July 2013

North of Calgary – July 2013

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”   ~Albert Einstein

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”   ~Mahatma Gandhi

I came of age in the 1980’s, the decade of conspicuous consumption, a time when the movie “Wall Street” and everything it embodied was highly revered. The philosophy that “Greed is Good” was king.

Those were heady times. The allure of money and everything it can buy seemed a sure-fire route to eternal happiness.

However, a storm was gathering. Super high interest rates and a confidence in the ever-increasing stock market left many a family in ruin. It became a new reality to owe more money on your mortgage than your house was worth….a lot more, in fact.

While the decade started out so promising, it went out leaving behind a terrible wake of destruction. But for those not directly affected, the party went on, (or so it seemed).

What many people started to realize by the mid 1990’s was – money could not buy happiness. That fact became a house of cards. What was left after all those dreams came crashing down? It was time to get back to basics.

Some of the simplest things are free AND make us happy. For example, numerous studies show that connecting with nature is very beneficial to health and well-being.

Here are some of the facts:

  • Taking a walk in a shopping mall is not the same as being outside in nature.
  • Getting on a treadmill in a gym will not replace having the wind blowing through your hair, outside.
  • Seaside, forests or mountains – the exact type of nature doesn’t matter.
  • Your age does not affect how great the benefit will be.
  • The intensity of activity, does not matter, you can sit still and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Fast forward to present day and my journey to finding a greater level of peace and happiness. If my 20-year-old self was sitting beside me now, watching me write these words, she wouldn’t believe it. She would probably think I had become my Mother. Luckily, I am now wise enough to realize that is a compliment in many ways. If love of nature and being outside were her greatest accomplishment with me, I think she did a great job.

Youth is wasted on the young

I used to really hate this saying. Probably because I was always the youngest. At my company, among my friends, anywhere, anytime.

But somehow, I am not the youngest anymore. How did that happen? When did that happen?

My husband and I were discussing this and we reminisced about all the things we did when we were young. We wasted so much time running in circles, not knowing what to do otherwise. How do we spare our children from this anguish? My husband concluded, we can’t, youth is wasted on the young.

No sooner than we had this nice little chat, I was standing at my car, ready to put groceries inside. And there was a juvenile gull standing on the roof. He was very bold. I lifted up the hatch and threw in the bags and slammed the hatch, he did not move. My daughter and I got in, closing two doors, he did not move. I started the car and backed out of my stall, he did not move. We could hear him dancing around up there looking for a better purchase.

Finally, as I moved forward, he flew away. He was one, brave, cocky and confident juvenile gull. He had no concern for safety. He was fearless.

Which just goes to show, youth is wasted on the young.

Front Yard Breakfast

This week, the first of my figs are ripening.

Somehow, I have managed against quite a few odds to harvest figs from my tree in the front yard. But let me back up.

9 years ago when we bought this property there was a beautiful climbing rose in the front. It almost overtook the front stoop and required this ugly support to do so. But I couldn’t kill it. So my Mom and I spent many hours digging it out and moving it to a side yard location, (where it has never really recovered.)

I am not a rose girl as you can tell. I want some kind of tasty harvest from my plantings. I am sure that all the effort to produce fantastic roses is well worth it, for some people. However, I also prefer plants that can fend for themselves whilst producing something I can eat. Roses, left to their own devices do not thrive here on the Coast, but rather only survive.

Just after the rose moving operation, my Mom and I were in a nursery and saw a fig tree on sale for $16.95. Turned out by luck the vacated spot from the rose bush should be the perfect spot for my newly aquired tree. Time will tell if all my reading on fig tree preferences is true or not.

Evidently, fig trees can get “out of hand”, producing so much fruit a person will be making jam for days, not to waste any. Bring it on, I can’t imagine it from my tree – but I welcome the challenge.

Breakfast pictured here was toasted sourdough with a local goats cheese, then figs drizzled with a little honey, S&P to taste. Yum.

Rocky Mountains

Banff National Park

The majestic Rocky Mountains.

These are among the young mountains of the world. 55 to 80 million years ago erupting from the ground. Then erosion took over and created dramatic valleys and peaks. At first glance, Europeans explorers coming across flat land must have almost been frightened. Surely they were; at thought of finding the passage through to the West.

There is an awe-inspiring feeling and a sense of peace that falls over you as you move through the range. They are so big that only the best position with the widest lens can even capture them on film. In the summer, the smell of the forest and the clean crisp feeling of the air combine with the sights to create a fantastic experience.

Conversely, in the winter the steep slopes gather snow in the most precarious way. It is as if you are being whispered to, “tread lightly through here, show respect”, otherwise the snow pack will give way and cover everything on the valley floor with an immense load.

Rogers Pass

As we travel along the highway with relative ease, it is interesting to think that not so long ago, even car travel was not that easy. My husbands grandparents talk of single track road and “wide spots”. Two meeting cars would have to decide who was going to back up to the wide spot which was sometimes miles in distance. Then flashback further to David Thompson’s work at finding the first route from which to even start building from.

Prairie treasures

Who would have thought that the grasslands of Alberta, part of the Canadian prairies would hold so many interesting treasures?

I don’t remember it that way from my childhood. That is sometimes the problem with being the kind of kid that I was – impatient. I spent so much time waiting and scheming about what I would be allowed to do next. Youth is truly wasted on the young, at least in my case it was.

My 2 offspring are another matter. In the few minutes we are waiting for our meal to be served, they are down to the sand and playing some invented game with whatever happens to by lying about. They are comfortable and at ease wherever they are. I’d like to take credit for that, but not likely as I am only figuring it out now. So it must be in their nature. Or it is maybe due to the quality time they spent with my husband when they were really young. He loves to have a good time.

In any case, back to the interesting sights to behold, tucked away in the grass, on the rocks and just about anywhere you look closely. We found prickly pear cactus http://montana.plant-life.org/species/opun_poly.htm. Beetles of the most magnificent colours, feeding and completely oblivious to my ultra close camera lens. Lichen of every different shape, size and hue clung to anything standing still.

Medicine Wheels

An invitation was extended by my uncle to go exploring. He started to explain the details – we needed to use a vehicle with high clearance, (rough roads) the destination was known but the exact route was not, (there would be wrong turns and doubling back) and it would take a while, (pack a lunch). Well my husband couldn’t say yes fast enough. He heard, “blazing trail”, “requires skilled driver”, “destination unknown”, etc.

So we set off early in the morning, my husband driving and my uncle navigating. Kids in the way back and my Aunt and I chatting away in the middle. The level of engagement to the particulars of the road decreased as you went from front to back. Once I realized that I have seen these kind of roads, (if you can call them that) many, many times before and that the scenery would not change much over the course of the drive, I was happy to sit back and relax.

These are the adventures of my childhood. Usually my uncle would be driving and he would have to be extra careful because his vehicle usually did not have high clearance. Like being a spotter on a boat, looking for dead heads, on the prairie you are keeping careful watch for the big rocks hidden in the tall grass that can really wreck your day.

As usual with these kind of trips, we found dozens of interesting things along the way. I had over 100 pictures taken before we stopped for lunch. What we came for was just one of the delights along the way. It was a case of truly enjoying the journey.

The Majorville Medicine Wheel is an important archeological site. The internet, is of course where we can find out so much more information than the little sign gave us (http://www.shrinesandsacredsites.com/mmw.htm) But the feeling of being within the boundaries of the sacred site and the surrounding area cannot be replicated by reading about it.

When we arrived back, a little later than we had planned, (surprise, surprise) my kids were the first to exclaim how much they enjoyed the day. “Why don’t we do this again?” It is so easy to forget that, for my kids the prairies are exotic. Imagine sky and land as far as you can see with no trees to obstruct your view? Imagine being able to run, as fast as you can for as long as you want? This was what I had most days as a kid, but I didn’t know anything different. As I experience the beauty of the land through the eyes of my babies it is a delight to look more closely and truly enjoy it as if it were the first time.

Prairie cactus

One room school house circa 1904