Aug. 13th, 2015 | 04:30 pm
Aug. 1st, 2015 | 11:01 pm
Jul. 31st, 2015 | 09:21 am
Jul. 30th, 2015 | 10:57 pm
Jul. 28th, 2015 | 09:09 pm
Saturday, July 15, 2000
Warm Southern Ontario night, on the forested banks of the Grand River, down Cambridge way, a place where I have walked many times – but we have driven here. The road ends, and there are picnic tables. “I was here before, when I was 15, and locked out of our house. I slept under the stars,” she says. “I came home late, and my father wouldn’t let me in.” I babble, as usual, about wind and whatever it is we refer to when we say freedom, believing it, believing everything I say, only partially, which, she has pointed out, is desirable. Until this time, this summer, I have, for the most part, wanted to be alone, that is, for 28 years, or thereabout. It is August, gorgeous, and she is leaving for Kingston.
Down the river a few hundred yards, many years before, when I was in grade 4 or 5, I had gone on a winter school trip that has stayed with me, uncharacteristically, as if it happened yesterday. We had had a substitute teacher, a Pollution Probe (remember them?) activist, whose entirely appropriate and innovative teaching practice was a couple decades ahead of its time, and the trip to the sewage treatment plant, which she had arranged, miraculously, the day before, more or less in front of us, leaving the classroom briefly to make, and later to take a phone call, had occurred (a Wednesday, as I recall) during her what I now consider too short a time with us, her week with a bunch of ruddy-faced country kids in a four-room schoolhouse in a village of about 50 people and 15 dogs. Every day she was there we went outside at least once to collect water from the frozen pond, snow from the forest, fallen pine needles, or to practice orienteering, snow shoeing (wherever did she get those?) etc. This was, perhaps, a golden opportunity for her, who must surely have spent most of her substitute hours in city schools, to practice her teaching style freely, with the so-called natural world, or something looking a little like it, anyway, just outside the front door. Perhaps everyone else in the class enjoyed that week of learning like I did, it being a significant break from our regular, David Copperfield reading, recorder playing, pencil and ruler breaking teacher whose armpits were always wet with perspiration. (I remember his name, but not hers, just as I forget everything he ever said, but, amazingly, remember most of what she told us). She had wanted us, no doubt, to appreciate how greatly we effect the world, to understand that not only could joy and knowledge and critical analysis co-exist, but that they must co-exist.
But it was not long after this environmentalist week that the losing of things began, I think, that the world, which had been so immediate, began to recede, to arm’s length, then across the road, then farther and farther, until it became like a distant ocean never heard and never seen, the echo of a world that was. And what remained to refer to it at all was the rarest music, infrequent, fleeting, sad, always sad, nothing but sad. Do the pipers play to keep it that way, I wondered, much later. If they stop will it be right here, and broken beyond repair, around us, not hidden at all?
Sunday, July 16, 2000
Whatever people don’t believe about us, about each other, I think, is always the most obvious, the most undeniable. If we say, for instance, that a bolt of lightning struck a few feet from us, or that we ducked, in the so-called nick of time, to avoid being hit in the face by an arrow, shot, no doubt, by an aggressive relative, they will refuse to believe us, even if there are other witnesses , especially if there are other witnesses. We are, to them, unbelievable characters.
Jul. 12th, 2015 | 11:01 am
On top of this woodland red frizzy morning or sunset that might have been a conflagration of everything but the moment we saw each other this fractious room scrambling for small candies or rubies whatnot strewn path to sidereal guiding sleep until everything echoed kiss me.
It happened and did not happen radial from repose since that precise moment there is one measure love nothing even approaches. Woods parted. Road opening to you. Long ago.
Oct. 6th, 2014 | 02:13 pm
No need to read all my ramblings if you don't want - the meaty stuff is in italics and has headings. Also, I changed tense quite a bit. I'm fixing it.
Tuesday Sept 16
Pemberton Taxi took me only 700 metres along Blowdown FSR on a very warm Tuesday September 16th - about 29 degrees. After adjusting my 20 kilogram pack and making sure my skin was protected from the sun and adjusting the bear bell so it made noise as I walked along the road, I set out at 1 PM for Blowdown Lake, 13 kilometres away. Halfway and a couple hours up the road, two "Eco Tours" trucks with wagons in tow containing the packs of the people inside the cab drove by. "Is this a sign?" I thought. A couple other trucks were at the parking lot at the end of the 2WD section along with the tour trucks - these had bumper stickers that indicated some semi-official purpose in the park. From the bottom of a steeper section that switched back once before heading straight for Blowdown Pass that marks the actual Western border of Stein Valley Nlaka'Pamux Heritage Park, it took another three hours to reach Blowdown Lake. Initially, as I heard many voices across the water, I wanted to keep going to the pass, but on encountering a truck that had braved the rougher section of the road that was gone a couple hundred metres on, and after talking to the two fellows were gathering their stuff from the cab, I decided to camp on the shore of the lake as they were in spite of the lively tour group at the cabin, who we could hear distinctly. I set up camp and ate hurriedly, chatted briefly with one of the guys camped 60 paces away, and wanting to get an early start so I could beat the group to Blowdown Pass in the morning, went to sleep. No dreams.
Distance 13.9 km.
Wednesday Sept 17
On waking, I walked around the lake and took a few pictures, looked up at the pass, about a kilometre away and a bit over 200 metres up. Made coffee, packed up, and walked back to the path that took the place of the collapse road a little higher up the side of the mountain. The road closer to the pass was still in great condition. Just before reaching the pass, however, maybe 150 metres from it, I could hear voices behind me. The tour group was no more than 600 metres behind, coming up the slope. I picked up the pace as I did not want to be overtaken by them. They were packed for only the day - they'd be going up Gott and Gotcha Peaks, probably, which I had wanted to do, but not with them around. I motored straight through the pass without stopping for photos, and didn't look back until I was a good 800 metres beyond the pass. Sure enough, they reached the pass at just that time, and I took a photo of the last people I'd see for three and a half days.
The meadows just below the alpine were colourful and quiet. So late in the season there were no bugs, and as I descended into the forest, the only sign of any wildlife was a single Grizzly scat. Around noon I rested near the collapsed bridge at the Silver Queen Mine turnoff, where there was a tiny fire-pit and three log seats (more on this later), a blue umbrella, and some pink rope laid out on the ground - marking the trail south to the mine. I thought about going up there instead, but was worried about the group behind. What if they decided to come this way? To Cottonwood Junction.
Lots of photos of various wooden surfaces signed with a black marker conveniently left in the bear proof steel cache. I sign “DF solo Sept 18, 2014” just below “RCMP patrol, Sept 17, 2014 – Smith Drouin.”
Distance 13 km.
Thursday Sept 18
Slow getting started on a cool morning, as it had rained and the tent fly needed to dry out a bit. Went through my backpack because something was missing. After an hour I realized the extra batteries for the camera must be sitting on the kitchen table back in Vancouver. Fine. Batteries for the T3i are very good and last 500 or more photos. Nonetheless, it began to feel this hike was not about taking pictures at all, even though I had been saying it was.
It was 12:30 PM before the tent fly was dry enough to pack up, but making my way through the forest was wet going still – really should have put the gaiters on, as the undergrowth was soaking from the rain the night before. And and there were thousands of spider webs to be brushed aside with hiking poles. This section of Cottonwood Creek after the junction leading to the Stein River is known as the most difficult section of the mini-traverse, but I think it was compounded by the fact that the much of the section was burnt five or six years ago. Alternate pushing one's way through (still wet) undergrowth by the water taller than oneself with following a flagged path higher up through blackened forest for three or four kilometres. Occasionally I saw the footprints of the two RCMP officers a day ahead of me.
Up the first of two ascents on the way to where the Cottonwood meets the Stein, through more burnt forest on a vague, dislikable trail partly cairned and partly flagged and partly flashed. It was already late - at least 4 PM. What had I been doing? I decided to ignore the bright blue marking and sidehill for a bit. The view is actually quite good across the valley, and the sound of Cottonwood Falls was loud – no doubt because the trees were all burnt. But of course it was difficult and slow off trail, though I saw footprints where someone had gone before – and eventually it became clear I'd have to stop somewhere up there for the night, with half a litre of water (forgot to fill it by the creek earlier). I chose a small flat area above a 40 metre drop between two debris channels, set up the tent in an area roughly twice its size, ate a small amount and had a gulp of water, and went to sleep to the sound of the river 300 metres below.
Distance - about 5 km.
The First Dream
Walking the alley in an older section of town I see the tortured face of a tiny black woman peering out of a small unglazed window in a wooden door. “Hi. You look a bit sad. Are you okay?” I ask her. The face disappears and immediately a large white woman with a broad face opens the door, and explains that the woman whose face I saw was acting. “She's just playing a role. She's not sad at all.” The black woman I'd seen is to the left, hidden by the now open door. I notice in the background to the right there are a bunch of people holding scripts and walking back and forth, apparently memorizing their lines, but also obviously aware of what's happening at the doorway, though they say nothing. Heads bent over their scripts.
Friday Sept 19
I woke about 8 AM thinking that dream was about the mechanics of racism, and ruminated on this while packing up. Only when everything was done and I turned toward the ascent I had to make did I realize that before me was a slope of slightly greater than 60 degrees and a distance of 80 metres back to the trail. (Through binoculars I saw a flag at the crest of the hill a bit further south.) With a 20 kilo pack this is was slow process, and all my senses seemed heightened, even though the dream I'd had was clear in my mind and wouldn't fade as I ascended. Sooner than I thought it would the trail was gained, however, and immediately it descended again, switching back to the base of Unnecessary Knob, the final hump before reaching the Stein. One good thing - the trees on the other side weren't burnt! That, at least, deserved a photo.
I should have eaten then, but didn't. I drank a litre of water from a swiftly running little creek, climbed up the steep section before me, checked out the view from the top, but took no pictures, and then descended the boulder field to Cottonwood Camp, which I reach by 1 PM.
I was halfway through the hike, but the section before me to the trailhead was easy compared to where I'd just hiked. Was I too fast or too slow? By what clock could I judge? The photographs I was taking were becoming more about the landscape and some internal state of mine than about prettiness or beauty. Perhaps this hike was an internal one as much as a test of will or endurance.
Cottonwood Camp was lovely, and a short hike to the falls to the north and to the cable crossing to the south. I intentionally left the camera at camp.
Distance - about 5 km.
The Second Dream
There is a house at the edge of town and five men are living in the top floor. The house had been abandoned. We are all dressed in black (the Black Block?) but there is some internal strife. I can hear the couple downstairs, who appear to be from the business world, going about their lives also in the abandoned house, but up here one guy is ripping off his shirt and challenging another to a fight. No idea what it is about. “Guys, we don't need to do this. No one needs to get hurt,” I say, but it is useless, and there is a fight. My son, about 8 years old in the dream, appears suddenly, and I think his ears are hurt, but he points to a fresh cut beneath his right eye.
Saturday, Sept 20
Well, that's about the mechanics of violence among the disenfranchised or dispossessed, I thought.
The next section of the trail was a bit unpleasant at times when near the Stein in thick underbrush, but the forest sections were lovely. I decided I was ahead of schedule and made camp at Ponderosa Creek where, at 5:30 PM, Roy and Sophie from Vancouver shout hello. The have come here from the trailhead in the morning and are tired, but eventually decide to go 2 km to the previous campsite, which is down by the river and beautiful, they tell me. These are the first people I've seen since Wednesday about 11 AM when I looked back toward the hikers at Blowdown Pass. They are actually quite delightful people, and I'll run into them again.
Distance - 8 km.
Sunday, Sept 21
Don't remember any dreams from that night, but in the morning as I made breakfast a memory from high school flooded my mind.
A Memory of High School
At 3 PM on a Friday in spring I hear him call out to me where I'm standing by the high school exit “Pak Pak Pakeeeee!” (It is the mid seventies and there are many Pakistani refugees seeking a place to live in Canada.) I run up to him and push him hard. “What the fuck did you say that for?” He pushes back. “Take off your glasses. I'm going to punch you and I don't want to take your eye out,” I say. He says, “what?!?” Adjusts his glasses and then walks away with his friends. I yell behind him, “you're a racist prick!” About a month later, when the high school creative writing publication we started up again comes out, he tells me the poem I wrote for it is good. It is an appology.
I've known for some time that this person has gone into a field not known for activism and change and attempted to make it so, insofar as that is possible, in particular in work with aboriginal organizations. I know the incident in the schoolyard had an effect on me. Surely it affected him too?
These thoughts take me to Lower Crossing (I passed Roy and Sophie's tent at the increadibly well-situated Lean-To Creek at 10 AM – they'd gone back to sleep, they tell me later) a bridge to the south side of the Stein and the biggest campsite yet, and a great site for group camping, where I have an idea.
There is a large fire-pit and enough stumps and makeshift benches to seat 20 people. In some ways, I think, the most intimate thing you could tell someone is who the other 19 people at your campfire would be.
That's it, but it strikes me as somehow singularly important.
Also, I'm determined to make it to Loop Camp by dinner, 2 km from the Trailhead. This is 20 km from Ponderosa Creek but pretty moderate. There are beautiful views all along this section of the trail, but I want to be in Lytton to catch a bus to Vancouver Monday.
Roy and Sophie caught up to me around 2 PM after I'd stopped for lunch at Earl's Cabin 3 KM before. Earl's Cabin is another very pretty campsite. They motored on ahead, but an hour and a half later they come up behind me again just above Devil's Staircase camp (in all honestly quite an easy section, especially compared to the boulder field on the south side of Unnecessary Knob). They had gone off trail to see some pictographs. I caught up to them again later at Loop Camp, where I told them I was staying one more night in the park.
Loop Camp was huge and has graffiti, being only 2 km from the trailhead. It is lovely and close to the river, and here I notice that there are no fire-pits – at least I haven't seen one – with only two stumps or makeshift seats. The minimum is three. At Loop Camp itself there are four sites with three seats, and the rest have 5 or more.
Distance - 20 km.
Is three a more dynamic and creative number of people, some kind of threshold for change? (I mean so much more than I can immediately make clear.)
It took me only 3 hours to get to Lytton, and the only interesting thing on the way was the river-powered ferry. In town I ate about 3500 calories in two hours, and then waited 4 hours for the bus to Vancouver at 5 pm. Frank, James and Sticko popped in and out of the park where I sat making notes. In the mid afternoon a 62 year old Quebecois man who had been biking across the country and parts of the USA for 147 days responded to my shouts. Raymond joined me in the shade and told me he is a semi-retired French to English, English to French translator, freelance but also worked for a long time for the Quebec ministry that translates legislation and so forth into English on request. He told me just that morning he was watching mountain goats for half an hour, high
above the road, and had to cross a bridge where he'd seen a brown bear only minutes before. The bear had slowly walked away as Raymond rang his bell a few times from about 100 metres away. I gave him a bag of dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries I'd brought but not eaten. And then I got on the bus to Vancouver, waving goodbye to Sticko who was saying goodbye and waving to everyone.
Distance - 8 km.
Tuesday, Sept 23
I didn't know what to do. All the things I normally did during the day seemed arbitrary and strange. I did make a wonderful carrot fennel soup, though.
Wednesday, Sept 24
The Third Dream
A city of the near future, things seem smooth, things figured out. But what is this huge dark circular object moving to the centre, and crushing things in the way, overpowering everything – heavy, cold, black?
People flee the center, but somehow it seems all important that we all get back there to the center, that leaving the centre will destroy all that has been built. Even as the city crumbles around us, I try to get people to move toward the collapsing center.
Jun. 9th, 2014 | 10:31 pm
sun from the south
and a garden full of friends
who lean toward you
they hand you raisons and lemons
envelopes full of wind
scented with saffron and cloves
a procession of longing
the great fires of the world
are a veil between us
as I watch them pursue
the bright gazelle of your words
the one true solid
May. 1st, 2014 | 06:15 pm
Whenever I take photographs or videos now, no matter how bright and pleasant the day seems, when I look at them, the don't seem true until they have the look of something destroyed.