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 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 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 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?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who Knew?

Sometimes, my doctor says, a change is as good as a rest. And sometimes, the Universe has plans for me I could not, in my wildest dreams, ever have conjured up.

A month ago, I was contemplating Christmas and what I would serve for dinner. Two weeks into that month, Graham received word of a new Williams Lake.

And today, after two weeks of tremendous excitement, anticipation and research into the Cariboo-Chilcotin area, I find I will be moving North into the interior of BC.

For an Island girl, used to the tempering breezes of Ocean all around, this will be a change in temperature, to begin. The mean temperature in Williams Lake is -10C for January...and during our recent cold snap, the temperatures there were closer to -17C. This will mean zone changes for me, as a gardener who has gardened on the much milder coast all my life.

Yet Williams Lake's flower is the of my favourite shrubs of all time. And I hear Rudbeckia and Echinacea does very well. There will be others I look forward to knowing, for their Northern hardiness.

There will be different varieties of wildlife from what I am accustomed to. There are Moose, Elk, Cariboo, Grizzly Bear, Wolves...and the Spirit Bear lives close to where I will be.

There are myriad Lakes and the Fraser River runs close by. Fishing is world renowned...and it is the home of the Williams Lake Stampede, huge ranches, lumber and mining. Williams Lake is the hub of the Northern Interior.

I think, perhaps, I may have a chance to manifest what I have always dreamed of having...a tiny guesthouse. A Bed and Breakfast, with produce grown in my own garden. With perhaps the stewardship of a Forest nearby, and Water not far away.

Along with the euphoria of a New Adventure...comes the sense of loss. This home and garden mean much to me...two weeks ago, I thought we were here for a long time. And Ocean will be three hours driving away, instead of just down the road.

In a two week time period, my life turned upside down, like the Tarot Card depicting the fallen building, called appropriately enough the Tower. This card, along with others depicting a great future, showed up often during my anticipatory Wait. There were many prosperous messages sent by the Animal Kingdom...the Eagles and Hawks...and the Snowy Owl.

If he wasn't a messenger from the North, I don't know who is.

In two weeks, mountains were moved to facilitate this complete change in my life. Obstacles were flowed as smoothly and surely as River moves to the Sea.

Even the move is all taken care of...all I have to do is find a place that will be a home. In the middle of winter, where the landscape is covered by an easy foot of Snow. The garden in the Cariboo will be a little like opening a box of chocolates, when Spring arrives.

The Wheel of Fortune also came up often, during my Wait. Mountains were moved and Rivers were crossed easily and safely because the whole thing was fated to be.

I feel a deep urge to move to this place I have never visited. Something calls me, strongly enough to leave my family...a thing I never imagined I would do. But by flight, they are only an hour away. And there is a great airport at Williams Lake.

For the last two months, I have undertaken to purge our home of items no longer serving their purpose, with an urgency I cannot convey. Even as I did this, I wondered at it...I asked Why?

The answer came with a suddenness that defies description.

Who knew, two weeks ago, that my life would be taken by a giant Hand, and shown a different path?

Friday, December 14, 2007


"Anticipation, anticipation, Is makin' me late, Is keepin' me waitin' "...Carly Simon

The Wheel grinds slowly these days.

The minutes and hours seem longer than usual, when I look to the future...instead of where I am, in the present moment.

However, it seems I must test these things; so I find myself wandering off to a date in the future, when this will have happened and that will appear.

I notice, as always , time slows to a trickle, as my anticipation of the future grows.

I muse...Is this how children feel? Is this terrible, disorienting, joyous anticipation of a decision which will change my life, once again, exactly how children feel, as they look towards Christmas Day?

I think it is.

I remember it now. Time slows to a crawl.

How many more sleeps?...I remember asking, over and over again, with the desperate hope inside that perhaps, somehow, some way, a couple of sleeps had occurred, just when I wasn't looking.

This kind of anticipation surely wakes all the bodies...the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional...ohhh, the emotional bodies. It feels as if I might crawl out of my skin, it feels too tight to breathe. All senses are heightened, as I wait for a decision.

Each morning, as I wake, I wonder what day it is, how much closer am I to knowing...?

As a child, I learned that the anticipation of a holiday is sometimes more exciting than the actual event. And so, I try to balance the excitement with that thought in mind. I list all the cons...and yet, the pros still outweigh.

And the excitement spirals once again.

That wild exhilaration leads to contrariness. It led to contrary behaviour when I was a child; it is no different now.

If pleasures are greatest in anticipation, just remember that this is also true of troubles Elbert Hubbard quotes (American editor, publisher and writer, 1856-1915


Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.”

Seneca quotes (Roman philosopher, mid-1st century AD)

Living in the present moment. Today will not come again.

“An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.”

Samuel Smiles quotes (Scottish author, 1812-1904)

Then again, when I w
as a child, I would try and will into being that new doll I wanted so badly under the Christmas Tree...and who's to say I didn't? It was certainly there.

And so, as I try to live these next few days like a mature adult, I still find the dreams and hopes take centre stage...I still believe if I only will it...

Sometimes changes appear that I required badly but did not know it. Sometimes I am broadsided, looking like Grandfather Tree when he takes a blast from the North Wind.

The harbinger of change became apparent on the same day the man in the Homburg hat appeared, with his convoluted message. The bombardment of messages from different beings...I could not, after awhile, ignore them or explain them away.

Even as my faith grew, it wavered with doubt...but the doubt and negative thinking is fast disappearing with the synchronicities being displayed.

It appears my path in life is taking a thrilling curve...and I guess I'll go along for the ride.

And when I come to this realization, this knowing that I can let go and let God...I remember how, as a child, I would come to a point where I had done all I could to receive a much loved item that would be mine on Christmas Eve. I would sigh with relief...the fever pitch of excited anticipation and the patience required to wait had quite worn me out.

So it is today. Now. At this moment. What's done is done. And the waiting is part of the test.

“Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.”

Samuel Smiles quotes (Scottish author, 1812-1904)

I wait. With hope and faith and finally, acceptance of the outcome.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Memories

Years and years ago, when I was a child, Santa Claus came on the day of Christmas Eve. By seven or eight o'clock that night, gifts had been wrapped and placed under the Tree...which was behind closed doors.

Always, I heard the jingle of Reindeer's collars on the roof. Always, in my youngest years, there would be a sister who would tell my youngest sister and I stories, to keep us occupied.

Santa disappeared, I was told, if children caught a glimpse of him, when he delivered presents. Along with all the gifts.

After a meal, we were allowed to view the Tree in its splendorous, bedecked glory, with gifts underneath piled high. As our family grew, the gifts did, as well. At my youngest age of memory, it was overwhelming...I remember well how difficult it was to just stand in one place.

But we were expected to sing Christmas Carols. Before opening gifts. This was one of my mother's favourite traditions...the singing of Carols on Christmas Eve.

As I sang, I calmed down a little, I felt myself lost in the beauty of the old German Carols we sung. I especially remember hearing bells in the heartstoppingly beautiful renditions of the music playing on the record player behind us. Those songs that were played will forever remind me of my mother.

And then, as the spell of the Christmas music consumed me, it was time for gifts. My mother would hand them out, and we were expected to wait until she regained her seat, and able to watch us open them.

I was never quite sure how to react when I opened a gift, and so I resorted to enthusiasm and smiles, regardless of what I privately thought of the gift. And thankfully, attention was never centred on me for long, as there were many family members at home on Christmas Eve. The celebrations lasted long into the Night; Christmas Morning was for sleeping in.

When I became a teenager, Christmas Eve and the gifts I received did not seem as important or as thrilling as when I was a youngster. Could I play with a Sweater or a Skirt? I still wanted new toys, toys that could be played with and assembled and imagined with. I wanted books and art supplies, along with the Sweater. For years, it seems to me, I could not quite clear that hump to adulthood...Christmas was a time for the complete child in me.

One who still wanted to play.

And then, the day after my twentieth birthday, my child was born. And Christmas was forever given over to my children, after that day. The child in me delighted in my children's awestruck demeanour, at Santa Claus, at hiking for a Christmas Tree, at the music that filled the Air. At the toys and books and craft items I could make sure they received. The ones that I really wanted to play with.

My favourite gift is still something I can play with over the Christmas Holidays. A book is always a welcome gift, but for the day after, when adrenaline still runs high, I need to work energy off. I think the Cuisinart I received years ago was a great gift. More vegetables were chopped, pizza dough created, cheese grated over the holidays following receipt of this gift than any other time.

Gourmet foods fairly flew out of the kitchen, with my children and their friends being easy targets that year.

When I married, Christmas traditions I had grown up with, where we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, changed to celebrating on Christmas Day, with gifts opened in the morning.
And in so doing, I lost the wonderment of lighting the Night on Christmas Eve, for a time. I lost some of the awe I felt as we sang those songs...Kling, Glockchen, Klingalingaling...I can hear the words now.

But that is the thing about memories...they are always there, when I want to grab them for a look. And as an adult who knows her own mind, I can play these wonderful old songs, and remember the awe and wonder I felt, so long ago, when I sang them.

In memory of both my parents who have passed on, my mother just recently, I have decided I will find a CD with songs similar to the ones that were sung on Christmas Eve during my childhood. Those were the best Christmases, the ones where childlike innocence still reigned. They were the early years in my life; before bad memories superseded and Christmas became, during some years, a trudging climb to get over.

As I read Sheila's post recently, wherein she spoke of favourite Christmas melodies, the memory of my mother's tradition, where her children sung her favourite songs, with voices clear as bells, on Christmas Eve, came clearly to mind.

With it, came the memory of how wonderfully excited I felt, how the anticipation seemed so much better than the real thing.

Once a year, those memories take me back to an innocent time in my life, where the world's experiences lay ahead of me, and there was nothing to fear, nothing to regret.

And there is no greater gift than that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

December Storms

A foretaste of the Storm was to hit Wednesday afternoon with viciously cold, bitingly strong Northeasterly Wind and freezing temperatures. Snow crippled the roads for a time, then the weather cleared, with a breathless hush, as if lying in wait...

Then the Blizzard hit, swirling down from the North, following Wind and blowing icy Breath over the entire landscape. Dark and menacing, this was no Winter Wonderland...

Heavy and wet at times, and with crystal clarity at others, the Snow Flakes obscured the camera lens with regularity. Menacing blasts of Wind, sending clear icy drops into my face also hampered the photo opportunity.

I mused on the photos I took last week, of Rose and Passion Flower, even after two or three Wind and Snow storms still holding their Blooms up to the Heavens...shouting their defiance at Winter's coming cold.

It snowed for the next three days. At times, the Snow Flakes slowed their hurried descent, becoming like graceful, plump pillows of down floating their way down to join their fellows.

At other times, the Snow Flakes joined into one billowing mass...sending furious, stinging energy clear into my consciousness, bringing clarity...

Sounds were muted...only the howling and whistling of Wind and the swish of the snow ploughs broke the silence. Winter was awesome in his wake up call to the dark, silent Nights to come.

And then...another weather alert. This time for massive flooding to begin, right after the Snow Storm ended. Record rainfalls and melting snow warnings were posted, and there continues to be a River Watch in effect.

It was awe-inspiring, to watch the swirls...the complete circles of weather change. My body did not adjust, for a time. Sinuses were bothering me, arthritis acted up and then disappeared...the weather barometer moved from clear and dry to heavy rainfall and warm, moist weather the next. It was a roller-coaster ride.

Within hours, we moved from frigid Arctic temperatures to warm, breezy Southern ones...the ones that remind me of early Spring. The Snow melted, right before my eyes.

For a time, we had Lake front property, as the back garden area flooded with melting Ice Water, with the run off ditch plugged. The dogs moved delicately through the Lake, trying to sniff out their familiar grounds.

Thoughts ran through my mind about the gentleman in the Homburg. This stranger who was not a stranger is a showman, I think. His warnings and his introduction came before a huge Storm, which ran the gamut from cold to moderately warm...all in the space of a few days.

The backyard Lake was due, in part, to the run off from the Park.

His arrival signals another life change, another big event arriving soon. I will look out for him during the coming months.

And there are other signs of change...a Snowy Owl flew low over Grandfather Tree the other day; five Eagles soared and flew low over the House, inciting Lucky to a grand hysteria; my dreams have a particular urgency and flavour.

What other surprises await for me with this wild advent to December storms?