It was a ridiculously magnificent morning in Kelowna today. Earlier than sunrise there was a dusty rose pink across the cloud then the day was born into open blue skies and a golden sun that cast rays of warmth and welcome into the forest. It’s true, that’s just how it was.
The snow is whiter than white and it’s at least the second big dump we’ve had since winter started. Check out that rain gauge. I suppose I could empty it at some point and actually use it for measuring snowfall but I’m a bit partial to the cone on top. I’m thinking some critter will wander by someday and lick that thing right off. Now wouldn’t that be something.
Between a warm sun and a gentle breeze there’s bombs. Heavy with snow, the branches up high let go their load and down through the forest the lump shatters, pulls itself apart, ice-dust dropping silently to the floor. That’s the way bombs are, a little warmth, a little breeze and the next thing you know you’re falling.
I suppose the good news is, there’s no other way but through, and whatever life that lump had way up high on that branch, it’s over now and the new one can begin.
we’re in the time of icicles here
a melt a freeze a bend and twist
taking the shape of wind
whatever wind may blow
and if it’s not a gust
a breeze or a Beuaforte 5
it’s an up and down in the mercury
that warms and cools the innards
into a curtsey leaving frozen water
stopped, mid drop
panniers up a scabbard as if
Victorian ladies straddled and climbed
leaving their knickers behind
day and night, sometimes in the middle
there’s a woosh and slide
when it all gets too much for
fickle roots of snow that feed
these sabres. It comes from
a pitched metal roof where slips
can be fatal and a fall after all
ruinous to britch-less ladies with
nothing left to lose
but their transparency
The last leaves are about to fall from the maple at the edge of the pond and I know these days of blue skies are almost over. The wood stove has been burning for over a month now, it’s a drafty old house but that sort of thing comes with the territory. The Woodhaven seasons weave through each biogeoclimatic region as bridges arching from one way of being to another. There are secrets in these woven woods, pockets of conversation passed onto the ones that know how to listen. Watching over it all are the remains of Jim and Joan Burbridge, their ashes scattered in a precious resting place at the heart of one of these archways.
There are 61 listed shades of green, I see at least seven in this photo. The forest is vibrant right now as it urges in the nutrients required for winter dormancy and sheds it’s summer skin. Mid autumn is my favourite time of year when all the tones that settled into their comfortable belonging begin to mutate and recast their veins as the rains arrive. And then there’s the dirt to consider.
Underneath your feet is an entire world that shifts in this season and the most obvious way to see this is to be particularly observant of the fungi and mushrooms that pop up all over the place. On fallen trees and in gullies, and especially in Woodhaven there’s the old flume that becomes habitat for October spores that make their presence known. Right now there’s a magnificent fungus growing on the log poem in the cedar forest. It’s known as ramariopsis kunzei, it’s a species of coral fungus that I haven’t seen here before. If you’re wandering through in the next week or so bring a camera, it’s quite stunning and you can’t miss it.
October 4th there were visitors here, the 1st Creekside Orchard Sparks Unit came for a walk in Woodhaven. That’s Nora in the pink jacket, her Grandma lives across the road so she’s in here quite a bit. I’m thinking she’s been in here since the beginning and that would be about 5 years ago in her world. Nora has painted stones to leave on the Log Poem and she’s visited the pond when the salamanders are hatching. Nora and Woodhaven are a natural fit. Nora’s mom is the artist Shannon Wilson who turns out stunning landscape works on canvas, hosts art and wine workshops, and most recently starred in an award winning Okanagan film, Out of the Darkness by Shri Ananda. She also coordinates the Red Barn Artisan Market at the Okanagan Mission Hall (coming up October 22). Shannon is a busy woman. It’s no wonder Nora is inspired by nature and no wonder she has the compulsion to make painted rocks for the Log Poem (I think it must be in her genes), besides, she’s safe here, welcome, and we’re buddies now.
First Creekside Orchard Sparks Unit wasn’t just a herd of 16 girls, it was all the moms, the sisters, and the siblings in strollers and the like. We found some feathers on the path, someone bit the dust. We found a place where humans had gathered yellow pine needles and plopped them into piles, humans mark their journey. There was a rain that came and we took off the hoodies to feel it in our hair then listened for the sound of rain in a forest. “You need to remember this, how the rain sounds without houses or cars, without pavement or buildings, the forest rain only falls on trees and earth it carries a memory so lock it in.”
Those strollers and the sisters and moms went over the dry hillside and all the way down to the cedar forest. We walked in a line and held space in a group when the feathers, the pine bundles and the log poem came upon us. What a precious hour, what a gift to give and receive this teaching/learning time.
Shannon Wilson can be found here: http://www.shannonwilson.ca
She is a Sparks leader, Nora’s mom and a stronghold in the artist community in the Okanagan.
The Raymer/Burbridge cabin has all sorts of quirks just as any old building will have. It also has features that bring home the past in a way that has come to live in my bones. For me, a much loved feature is the french doors. They are made of wood with two-over-six, eight-by-ten inch panes, and brass hardware with a skeleton keyhole. There’s something in the simple gesture of opening those doors in the morning and closing them at night that often brings me back to all the hands that have done this before me. I think of the hands of Harry Raymer who installed them and Winifred Raymer who inherited this place. I think of the countless times Jim or Joan Burbridge swung open those doors just like I do and stepped onto the flagstone porch to greet the day. Although the others may be gone, their presence resonates in the wood and stone here. This little cabin is a place of belonging for the humans that watch over both the forest and the visitors who come to walk. It effortlessly tucks in, taking its place inside the legacy along with everything that is precious about Woodhaven.
Photo: Janice Henry
These are troubling times. Once again it seems a wave of harm is being done (not that it ever stopped) from Standing Rock to Aleppo. Closer to home there’s the betrayal of agreements made in good faith with First Nations and disregard for opposition to old growth logging and LNG plants. And here, right here at Woodhaven, we’re in our own particular flavour of that wave, cresting so it seems. The dismissal and eviction of Security Contractors in seven Regional District parks has landed here. But it hasn’t just landed within the confines of the fence line, it landed in the neighbourhood that lives at the edge of the forest and beyond. It landed on all the people who come for Easter Sunday walks, for quiet and private conversation, for uninterrupted peace, self reflection and learning. The other six parks affected by the dismissal of Security Contractors have other ways of being, all unique, all important. If the Security Contractors go the land will still be here but what will be missing is the care and concern, the safety provided by on-site caretakers and the relationships that can only be had in the lived experience. I have questions.
In the rubble of the last 15 days since I was delivered notice, the question I most ask myself is, “What do I need to know?” I took this question to my advisor yesterday and here are the answers.
Walk softy on rich black earth the cedars so kindly provide.
Remember the smell of the meadow.
Wait a while on the bench and listen for the hunting owl at the cottonwoods.
Notice where the pine needle sprays have been gathered into lumps along the pathway. A human has been here and made a mark, a remembrance.
Walk effortlessly under the archway that was carefully trimmed in the spring by the workers who honour your shape and form while still doing their assigned tasks.
Step over the stone that the bear turns once in springtime searching for ants.
Take off your sandal and brush the tips of water-laden moss with your bare foot.
Study the hoof scratchings of a doe in flight.
Approach the place of honour where Jim and Joan are remembered and help yourself to a little of the resilience they offer.
Skip a little on the downward path home with finches and black capped chickadees. They will tell you the rest.