Monday, December 31, 2007

First Impressions

For my first visit to Williams Lake, we drove. Our vehicle was new; we bought it only a few days before we left. It is sure footed in the Ice and Snow, and it does everything except make my morning coffee...

But new vehicles have small bugs that must be identified and fixed. We did not have time to find these inconsistencies before we left. But one problem became annoying and somewhat dangerous...the windshield washer gave up the ghost half way to our destination.

On snowy, muddy, salt-encrusted highways, a clean windshield cannot stay that way for long. We found our water bottles came in handy to wash the sprayed Mud and Ice and Snow from the glass, although this only worked until the next huge semi-trailer passed by.

Nothing could take away the beauty of the Snow-covered landscape, however. This was not coastal Snow...these flakes kept their individuality, even as they lay on the ground. After we stopped for the night, I went for a walk...it felt as if I was walking on a blanket of Stars, that winked and blinked at me, telling me their gleeful secrets.

Then I remembered I had forgotten my camera! Both cameras were sitting on the table...back in Qualicum Beach. It was very difficult to accept my ineptitude in leaving them behind. So many photo opportunities were lost; and yet, in the end, I discovered I would have had little time to take photos. Time was distinctly accelerated on this trip, and the impressions made would have to stay in the camera of my mind.

As an individual who has lived on the coast for most of my life, I was enthralled with this Snow that clung to Trees and other vegetation, long after the last Snow Storm had passed through the area. Vast fields of untouched white, with Cattle dotted here and there, gave me the urge to place my footprint here.

It was cold. The temperature lowered the further North we drove, and yet...this was a different cold. Temperatures of -9C on the Coast, with the biting Ocean Wind, would have me diving for the best spot in front of the fireplace. Here, with Sun's smile beckoning, the temperature felt crisp, to be sure...but it also gave energy. The kind of energy where outdoor activities no longer felt scurrilous, a thing to be avoided. Rather, this kind of energy called me to come and see...

Coming from the South, the first glimpse I had of Williams Lake was a sea of White. Even the roads were packed with Snow, making distinctions between the Lake and the City difficult, from my vantage point. It was my first introduction to Snowmobiles racing on the Lake, leaving tracks that were quickly covered over by blowing Snow.

The Sun glittered, calling inhabitants of this Northern Cariboo City to come and play, to take advantage of the Lakes and Rivers and vast Fields and Trails that dot the area.

As we drove down into the Williams Lake valley, I was absolutely astounded by the enormous activity. It seemed as if the whole day was involved in a constant rush hour, it seemed as if everyone that lived there was outside, shopping, window-gazing, going about important business. Restaurants are filled to overflowing; finding a table at lunchtime is next to impossible.

In the middle of Winter, this City carries on. The cold condition of the weather in Williams Lake is ignored.

We checked in to the Fraser Inn, currently being renovated. I soon learned that the entries to all businesses, Hotels and restaurants are sloppy and wet...Snow melting off shoes and boots create puddles and mats become waterlogged. Even the finest entry to the best building falls victim to the melting Snow.

I learned, as well, that Snow falls during the Night, very often, making the sludgy, muddy Roads pristine once again, until the inevitable daytime activities once more turn them into ridged, softened, dirty runnels.

We made an appointment for the next day with a Realtor; with a map of the City we set off, once more, to see what there was for sale, what areas we wanted to be situated in. We wanted country property, so we headed off...to Fox Mountain, Esler/Dog Creek and others.

None of these roads were ploughed. Most were hard-packed Snow; it was difficult to tell where the ditches were on these roads. Thankfully, our vehicle pulled through, dirty windshield and all.

The City of Williams Lake is centred in a valley, with the Lake at its middle. It is a relatively narrow valley, and property outside of the city is situated on the mountainous terrain that surrounds it.

And the higher one goes, the colder it gets, making for a very short growing season, a thing I did not realize and a thing that is important to me. The views of the City are stupendous, from some of the places I saw. But am I ready to exchange a view, as beautiful as it may be, for the shorter growing season?

There is another consideration, in moving to a country property...and that is many of the properties have sewage lagoons, a thing I had never heard about before this trip. This took me aback; this is entirely new to me. A sewage lagoon. The questions I asked were met with gentle smiles and some bewilderment...why was I concerned about this?

Sewage lagoons will require much research on my part, before I could consider buying property with one. Here, on the Coast, if the soil will not perk, there are other ways around the problem and these ways have not transferred North, as yet.

And many of the ideas and creativity involved in building here on the Coast have also not travelled North. Green ideas, conservation and taking care of the environment seems to be a little less in the forefront. In some ways, I felt as if we had travelled to a different country entirely...one a little back in time.

Most houses here are not meant for two people...most have a minimum of four bedrooms, full basements...every house is really large. Heating with wood is very common, especially after the Pine Beetle left many groves of dead Trees. The Trees are Pine and not conducive for building, but some newer houses use the dead wood for planked ceilings and walls and furniture, a very attractive alternative to burning. Pine Deadwood has a silvery, marred beauty that speaks to me of history I do not intuitively understand, as yet.

Landfills can no longer accept the dead wood; there is too much of it. In time, other uses for the wood will proliferate, and there is an eventual end to the Deadwood. The pine beetle has moved on.

This trip turned into a fact-finding mission. What was I truly facing, beyond the romance of the Northern country? What was mundane life like, here in the Heartland, far away from the sophistication of the western shores? What challenges or opportunities awaited me here? And how would I find the best way to deal with them?

I found a butcher shop, selling cuts of Beef and Buffalo only found in the finest restaurants, which also sells the same brand of Goat Milk I buy. I found two large grocery stores and countless other smaller ones. I found another butcher shop, that sells nothing but Pork products. I found organic vegetables are delivered in the Summer growing period, from a local farmer.

I find a branch of the Thompson Rivers University. I find many beautifully kept schools, with large playing fields and well-thought out designs. I find a zest for life here, beyond the outward look, beyond the fashionable designs of the West Coast.

And I find I do not hurt in this climate...arthritic knees and shoulders and feet and hips all felt much more limber, in this dry cold.

People are open-hearted here, true and honest. Friendliness is a given and nurturing goes beyond the necessary...Graham is suffering with the most dreadful cough and a waitress in a restaurant, with high solace, asked him if he wouldn't like some honey in his tea, wrapping him with care.

Our life is turned inside out, for awhile. Everyday events will change, each hour bringing a new idea or thought. It is exhausting and exhilarating.

Williams Lake awaits us...a City built by cowboys, loggers and miners. Adventurers all, their Spirit still imbues the City with a palpable energy.

What will this energy teach me?

16 comments:

  1. I love the last line: "what will this energy teach me?" That is what life is a learning teaching experience. Happy New Year my friend.
    Blessings and love 2008

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  2. Wishing you a wonderful 2008 as well.

    Sorry I haven't been around lately but I had a Christmas job which totally exhausted me. Never realized how much I had aged since I retired until I tried to stay on my feet for 8 hours a day LOL

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  3. All I can say is that I admire what you are doing. For me at my age it would take courage to uproot and move elswhere. Its interesting what you say about the climate and your arthritis, a dry climate will suit you better than a damp one. Its the damp that causes problems not the cold. Good luck and remember your camera next time so that you can show us where you will be living. Good luck again, what a way to start the new year.

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  4. Marion, an absolutely lovely post about the trip. I know what you felt though about leaving the camera. I kick myself when that's forgotten. Next trip we will look forward to photos. This sounds like such an adventure. I guess my only advice on the house hunting would be to say that it may be possible that the perfect house doesn't present itself at first. Our recent experience moving into a small house now has us thinking of larger quarters.

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  5. Marion, I hope all works out for you there. I admire your courage and your positive attitude. I'm sure you'll bring lots of good spirit with you to your new community.

    I've read that dry cold is easier on arthritis.

    Happy 2008!

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  6. It is totally beyond my Southern heart to imagine what it would be like to live there, but it does sound exciting and lovely, all at the same time. Is the realty outlook such that you could rent, rather than buy, until you can decide what you really want? With a climate that harsh, what seems ideal in the dead of Winter might be a real disappointment in warmer times. That is particularly going to be important to you as an avid gardener.

    As for the lagoon, I suspect they have long since found the best solution for this area, even though it's different from what you are used to. It is odd that they are not particularly conservation conscious, though.

    Like Shelia, I'm looking forward to PICTURES!!!

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  7. Wow, what an adventure! Hope the new possibilities are full of creativity and joy, and that the challenges continue to make you grow!

    I loved the fact you forgot the camera, sometimes I think the camera of the mind, and the evocative descriptions you give are more than any pictures you could publish. Having said this, there were some great photos too!

    Happy New Year! And happy new possibilities!

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  8. Dave,

    Many Reiki blessings back to you and your family! I hope 2008 will be very kind to you.

    It seems there is a pattern in my life, as I look back. The older I get the more my life events seem to make sense. Most work out well...we'll see where this one goes.

    Jackie,

    I well know how exhausting this would be, after not doing it for awhile! Happy 2008 to you, as well!

    Davem,

    I think you and I must be close to the same age? Never mind...you don't have to tell,lol!

    Never thought I'd ever do something like this, either. I know it's right, however...I didn't want to come home. I have not felt so well in years.

    The New Year really began with a Bang, this year! Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Sheila,

    I can understand why you would...a small house requires constant purging of unnecessary items, and I , for one, would rather do other things! And we expect visitors from the south, family and friends, and it would be nice to be able to put them up, with all the facilities that make it easy.

    And Williams Lake is not geared for two people, homewise...all the houses are built for families. I wonder about the heating bills, though...that's where burning with wood comes in, I guess.

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  9. Barbara,

    My best wishes for a safe and happy 2008 to you, too!

    The community part interests me...this invitation to join came out of nowhere. It makes me wonder what the Universe has in store for me there.

    DB,

    I couldn't believe it when I realized I had forgotten the camera...I beat myself up pretty good on that one!

    I suppose there will be many photo ops in the near future, however...Graham begins his new position on Jan. 28. I'll sell up here...and we're off!

    The sewage lagoons don't seem to trouble anybody other than me, lol. As you say, they know how to deal with them. I'm not sure I'm up for Graham modernizing them, as I am positive he would do. Probably immediately, lol.

    Renting would be an option, if we didn't have two big dogs, lol. We'll find something...it's a bad time of year, is all.

    Alastair,

    Thank you! And I hope you find the ability to sit down and relax a little more in 2008! Lol

    I wish you a great happy and healthy 2008!

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  10. Your photos are JUST BEAUTIFUL... but um, don't think I'd wanna be there. Brr! I'm too spoiled now after the southern weather for 20 years. I always think "ohhhh how nice" and then I remember shoveling snow, pushing cars out of the snow, slipping and sliding around on the roads, etc etc...I don't think I could re-adapt to all that, although I certainly could re-adapt to the beauty and enhanced scenery that snow gives us!

    Happy New Year to you and yours. :)

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  11. You describe an icy eden.
    Be careful , many are retiring in the "lower 48" and may be enticed.
    Bye the bye, what kind of new vehicle did you make the trek in? (pardon me, I follow failure modes and reasons)
    Best to you both in the new.

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  12. Marion, the place sounds breath-taking. No need to worry about a camera when you write as well as you do...

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  13. There's me thinking I really ought to get to grips with the compost heap we have at our new house - and you may have to cope with a 'sewage lagoon'! It sounds like something out of a dark fantasy story. I imagine they have them in Mordor...

    But such innovations aside, Williams Lake actually sounds very jolly. There can be something both comforting and energizing about coming into somewhere warm and cozy out of the cold and from what you say about the busy restaurants, Wiliams Lake has that feel-good factor in abundance. A very happy new year to you and Graham - I hope you will be very happy in the new home you're going to be find there!

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  14. Daisy,

    It will certainly be a huge change. Gardening zones in Williams Lake are 3 and 4...leaves out a lot of the plants I grow. But there are many small greenhouses with the houses for sale. This will certainly be handy for seedlings and vegetables.

    Snow is rarely shovelled up North...it is just driven over. There is continuous snow...a garden in winter is covered over completely.

    I'll let you know how I adapt, lol!

    Goatman,

    We bought a Torrent, a vehicle I had never heard of before. It is very like the Buick Equinox. Graham usually has time to research a new buy like this...but because things seemed to be falling into place so easily, I said that there should be something we could use on the lot and let's just go and see.

    And there it was...the only one on this huge car lot. It is a super vehicle and will certainly keep us safe.

    It would be great for you to retire up there, it's gorgeous, there's lots to do, and the property is still cheaper than further down the coast. Win, win all around.

    PD,

    Thank you, but I still mourn the fact I forgot the darn thing...I wanted to capture those first impressions. There will be time for that though, in the near future.

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  15. Simon,

    Yes, you've said it perfectly...Williams Lake does have that feel good factor. The climate, believe it or not, makes you want to do things, it is completely energizing.

    If I have to, I can take on those sewage lagoons as well. Apparently they draw lots of wildlife, such as birds and frogs, etc. I'll end up planting a garden around mine, lol!

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  16. Great post Marion as always. I followed some of the links. Williams Lake looks like a great place. I visited Canada a couple of years ago for my 40th birthday. My Mum and I stayed in Montreal and Toronto. Everywhere we went the people were very sociable and friendly. But don't know much about British Columbia. It's a shame you forgot your camera but we learnt so much about Williams Lake from your vivid descriptions and the links you posted. Good luck with your househunting Marion!

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