Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: hiking

A Taste Of Canada

Originally published as a column on September 5, 2014 in the Armchair Mayor News. 
SilentIt was Saturday morning and the sun was the brightest in a few days. We were planning an overnight hike to a nearby lake, the boys’ first if you don’t count a canoe camping trip we did a while ago.

Six of us, as we had two of our relatives from Europe, hiking enthusiasts who have never been into the Canadian back country. In a very subjective manner, we might’ve mentioned that British Columbia has the best of it. Subjective with a side of love if you will.

We loaded backpacks, fishing rods included, and somewhat delayed by an afternoon storm, started our trip later than planned. We took a forest trail that saw us chat two by two, drenched by sudden rain and amazed at the sight of tiny forest frogs, chipmunks and squirrels. Sudden wing flaps made room for guessing games about the birds we could not see, and so did crunching noises coming from farther away.

We kept our path and hit the lake two hours later. The adventure that followed included hiking through a swampy terrain and finding our way through thickets, thus helping the boys understand what bushwhacking really means. Rain continued, feet dunked occasionally as we stepped over slippery logs, mud abounded, but all six of us kept going.

The youngest of us got to ride on shoulders most of the way because small feet can only do so much in moose paradise. It really was. We found a moose bed and though we didn’t get to see a real one, we knew they were near. Wild and proud, Canada made us mucky travelers humbled to be there.

Our guests loved it, the boys did too (more so after we reached the cabin we were headed to) and we all had the unmistakable feeling of victory as we approached the cabin in what could be described as complete darkness.

CelebrationWe peeled off drenched clothing, the boys huddled in a sleeping bag together for warmth and us adults made a big fire and got dinner going. Restaurant dining and a walk through town would’ve never made our guests see what we truly wanted to show them. Canada at its finest: colours, textures, smells, simple beauty that if seen and felt for real, would make anyone not only proud but willing to work their hardest to keep it like that.

A bucket of stars spilled on the night sky, and we found the brightest ones on the lake surface as well. The chilled air of the early fall was drawing steam from summer-warm lake waters and because dinner was taking a while anyway, we went for a night swim. Try it at least once.

We toasted to great adventures, resilience and togetherness, and then we had a sleep guarded by far away loons and a harvest moon that fit perfectly above tall pines.

Soup for breakfast, pumpkin bread and coffee, complete with fishing and exploring the surroundings. Then we were ready to head back, hoping for a boat to take us across the lake so we can avoid swamp trekking.

Out of the blue, a boat came. We called on it, asked if crossing would be possible and the man graciously obliged. Two by two, we were deposited to the other side, leaving the swamps to the moose, because they do it better anyway.

We asked the man for his contact details so we can repay his kindness. Smiling he said ‘Not to worry, just pay it forward.’ We smiled back and promised we will. We do often; random acts of kindness are the best way to feel yourself human.

We trekked back. Rain and bright sun accompanied us and when we reached the car we knew the trip had become more than we ever hoped it would be. Our guests got to see what Canada is made of. Beautiful wilderness and kindness to start with; two valuable assets we should keep on guarding because they are part of the foundation we build our identity on. It definitely made us proud to say ‘Welcome to Canada!’

It Happened To Santa Too

Santa's steps?This time it wasn’t my fault. More so, I had no idea that it will happen today. There was no warning.

The day started with laziness in bed, snuggles and a big pile of pancakes. A pot of steaming strawberry sauce… memories of summer mornings drowned in fragrant berry smells and perky leaves holding sun and dew in green curled bellies.

Mouthfuls, butter melting, dripping sauce and sweetness, boys joking about all the inappropriate things again and again. This morning will hang in a corner of my soul, for no particular reason, but for the sweetness, the innocence and the roundness of it all.

The hills around have white dusted tops and countless thin trees, black and sleepy and fog-wrapped. Coffee on the porch, soft whispers to go with small sips. Find a place to take the boys. Where to, where to? A snowy lake? Is it snowy? Let’s try.

We drive the licked-clean road through snowy meadows and patches of trees… Do you hear the lone woodpecker? The sky is draping low and white. We park, boys roll out of the car in snow and make us promise snowball fights.

PathThin ice grows from the shores on the black surface of the lake. The path along the shores is padded with fresh-fallen snow and walking on it sounds like stepping on buried drums… muffled thick noises, branches droopy with snow, voices of boys running ahead and the distinct drum-roll of another lone woodpecker.

We walk around the lake, bumping chests halfway with the lake-dwelling dusk and making our way out of the woods as snow starts falling again.

A snowman perhaps? But the snow is powdery and stubborn, there’s no sticking. Snowman head and tummy crumble, we leave but two snow angels by the side of the road, taking our own with us. You need them when you drive through curtains of snowflakes, when you know you have to say thank you, again, for the simple beauty of new snow.

As snow-covered layers come off, Sasha’s big eyes turn and stare into mine.

Boy. Wonder“Mom, is Santa real?”

I stared back, I pondered, I listened to the voice that said “Be true” and pondered again. Will that take the magic away?

“What does your heart tell you?” This is how shy truth-teller me goes about it. I’m barely an inch tall.

“My heart says it’s not true.”

Truth-teller bows to child’s wisdom, eyelids drop in approval and then the promise snuggles in between our hearts “We can keep Santa with us though, magic and all…”

JoyYes we can. If new snow can sing to us every time, so will Santa and its wicked trail of make-believe. Truth and magic can live together if they’re done right.

So that’s how it all happened. Truth-teller honor.


Clouds and Caves on Top of the Mountain. Flint Piles. And Home Again

I’ve never seen a grouse before. Neither have the boys. I was expecting them to be bigger but this one is no bigger than an average size chicken. Not a fast bird but gone by the time I get my camera out. Drumming its way through bushes, it gets out of sight as we’re starting our hike to the Savona caves. There are pictographs there and well, there are caves. Boys and caves go very well together, but you know that.

There’s patches of snow here and there and dew, late morning magic water. After a few hundred meters on a thin ribbon of a path through autumn-bitten woods, we bump into steepness. The very definition of it. Let’s agree on a 60 degree incline for the first half of the ascent, to be increased later. I stop for photos and Tony sticks around. Sasha takes off, he’s set on seeing the caves and nothing can slow him down. He gets excited over rocks “Mom, is this jade?… we’re walking on jade!” I foresee pocketfuls of rocks and pebbles. Theirs and mine. We do that, you see. I am known to have dragged twisted dirftwood home, and also big rocks. Back when Sasha was two or so… one sunny day at Tower Beach in Vancouver, the equation looked like this: beautiful rocky beach, one remarkable rock, round and impossible to leave behind, child in sling, and 360 steps or so to the car. Well, the equation was solved… I still have the rock.

We keep going up. The cave is a just a black speck that we see through trees and low clouds. “Do you mean we have to go all the way up there?” Tony sounds worried. Or puzzled. Not sure. It is steep, it seems daunting, but impossible is not the word I want to use today. Sasha keeps hopping uphill and his voice wraps around trees and rocks. It’s just us four, the sun and the mountain with open caves like eyes overlooking the forested valley. If fairies and pixies existed, this would be the place.

The hike becomes a scramble up the mountain. Sasha leads the way, holding on to big boulders and roots and low-lying branches. Undeterred. We’re a few steps behind. I worry about steepness, wrong steps and the mom brain thinks ropes and such. Yes, to tie them onto me, so they don’t slip and fall. But that encourages carelessness, it does. They learn to not calculate steps because they’ll think you’ll always be there to catch themare you? How then? What if? You hold your breath, they’ll be fine…

We reach the cave after crawling up a slippery slope. Camera on my back, eyes on the boys and wishing that my voice would not give away my worry. There’s exhilaration and fear. There’s a lot of mountain to roll down off should one take the wrong step. Tony looks at me and smiles. “This was worth it, mom.” I know he means it. The pictographs are special. “Who made them, mom? And why? And why here? The cave is not even that big.” A good shelter but so far up. I don’t have all the answers but that’s part of the magic. I feel privileged to be here. It’s easy to feel like an intruder but awe prevents that.

There’s clouds tangled in trees, powdered with midday sunshine. There’s piles of flint and I know the boys won’t leave without a few samples.There’s room in the backpack. Holding onto roots and rock corners, sliding on muddy slopes, the four of us make our way down the mountain. It’s misty and chilly now. Water drops sleeping on leaves and thin blackened twigs. The grouse’s home. We’re guests. Somewhat uninvited. Cold moist air chases us out of the magic woods. Pictographs are left behind, for others to find and wonder.

The boys are tired and quiet. “Mom, I love you for this hike.” Sasha’s voice is hugging me softly and dearly. I guess my two boys will always be nestled in a secret soul sling I’m carrying along. A good load. We take the long drive home through Logan Lake. The mountains around Kamloops are painted in orange sunshine. So uniform it looks like someone was busy painting all afternoon. They look warm. Home. It is. Good to know.


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