There is hardly a week or weekend that goes by without news of car crashes on our highways or within city limits. One too many of them are fatal. Whether you are a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian, once you’re out on the road you get to see it up close and it is scary.
(Originally published as a column in The Armchair Mayor News on February 21, 2014)
On the way to Wells Grey Park last spring we spotted a ghost house and its adjacent barn and we stopped. The boys would not have it any other way. We walked through tall green grass all the way to the house and looked inside through rickety windows. Speechless was the only way to do it right.
An old fireplace, wooden slabs chewed by various bugs lay asleep on dusty floors and from somewhere in a corner, the chirping of new baby swallows. A nest was safely glued to the ceiling and beady eyes peeked at us.
Photos are never able to convey the feeling of being there. The boys ask questions; some answers we know, some we look up together and some we will never know.
We have been trying to get into some other old establishments in Sandon for a while now. It is not exactly a bright star on everyone’s map, but it is on ours. Until we get to explore it fully with the boys, that is. And afterwards too because it holds a piece of the province’s history that children should know about.
As the boys grow, we will keep the list of places growing too. Soon to visit is Bella Coola, and The Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena.
When time has to be squeezed for bigger trips, we put in all our might, because it matters that the boys see and know.
We took them to see the pictographs up at the caves near Savona, and though the hike was a gnarly one, they both declared it worth it when they got to the top.
We take them to see old towns where the new is slow to come and for a good reason. People are not ready to part with the good things that worked well for so many years.
We take them to see remote areas with no sign of civilization, we take them to old quiet forests where the only steps are those of animals, and then talk about it all. Questions abound, then other topics tumble through their curious minds, but we see the places we visited reflected in their games.
Outside games, muck and sticks and expeditions so adventurous they make their eyes sparkle with excitement. All in a day’s game…
We want the boys to see the face of the world in its entirety, not just in its novelty. Because no matter how well designed, progress and novelty are but part of the real world, and they will never offer the big picture just by themselves.
Children need both sides. They need to see what a place looks like, they need to understand why, and they need to understand what the future holds should changes occur.
The world is changing fast. Forces other than needs – think economic growth and not necessarily for the benefit of the province or country – dictate how the future unfolds. The recent dismantling of science libraries by the Harper government sent a chill through many a spine in the country. If we erase or are made to forget the past then the future will be built on sand and that’s a short-lived future.
Knowing where you come from shapes the way you take as you advance through life. It applies at a personal level as well as a community and society level.
We will keep on taking the boys along for rides. From near to far, through snow-clad old forests where old mines and forgotten train tracks lay forgotten, to visiting our museum here in town, we will keep on adding pieces to the big puzzle that will be one day called a responsible citizen.
One that acts with grace and possesses the understanding of how he came to be. With gratitude towards the people who walked ahead of them and responsibility for the ones that are to come. Because life was never intended to be partially erased or forgotten.
Because there is more to life than being in the present. There is minding of the past and the future and building the bridge to link them with all that we learn along the way.
What I know is that children learn best when they do it hands on. Eyes on too. The hearts and minds follow every time.
If you follow Westsyde Road all the way to the McLure ferry — the shortest ferry ride around — keep driving until you hit Highway 5. Drive toward Barriere and just before you enter town, turn right onto Agate Bay Road.
You will find yourself among beautiful, peaceful hills with trees touched by the breath of autumn. Every now and then there’s a farmhouse with a trail of smoke climbing into the overcast and you might be tempted to feel envious of their perfect surroundings.
We did. It was Saturday morning and the world seemed slow paced.
We spotted herds of deer that stopped, turned their heads and stared at us as we drove by. We stopped the car rather abruptly a few times because of some ruffled purple flowers that had to be photographed. Or clouds.
Black cows and calves peppered the fields draping the sides of the road. Everything was calm and quiet and green.
The road ended into a fork that hugged Adams Lake and said Chase on the right side. We turned left and started driving on a slick dirt road all the way to our chosen camping spot: Gordon Bay rec site.
It rained on and off, but we set up the tent and took the canoe for a paddle. We docked on islands and shores that had nothing but driftwood and rocks. We discovered a beaver’s dam and paddled around, looking at mysterious entry tunnels and imagining the busy pitter-patter of feet walking through muck and carrying branches every which way in a never-ending effort to improve the half-submerged home.
The boys have learned to paddle by themselves this fall, so they paddled along the shores and into a small bay. They had secret missions to accomplish and seafarers dialogues to carry out while we got the fire going. We ate, roasted marshmallows — “can we have one more?” is the refrain that comes with us on every camping trip — and then we went for a night paddle.
Try it. Water plants seem asleep as they sway with the gentle canoe wake. If all headlamps are turned off, you will find yourself suspended between the glossy, dark, perfect lake surface and a sky ballooned with ghost-white clouds.
We woke up late and lazy. I went to photograph dew on old summer grass, slugs eating mushrooms and rocks hugged by the gentlest lapping waves.
The sun burst out an hour later and all four of us paddled to the other side of the lake to a sunny rocky shore where we found a baby garter snake, no bigger than a pencil and cuddly if you cupped your hands over one another just so.
We drove back the next day, stopping by Roderick Hague-Brown Provincial Park to see the salmon run, a celebration of life and its immutable laws.
It had been a good two days.
We got home by seven.
It was the dead quiet that almost gave it away; our house had an eerie feeling to it. It was cold inside, as if windows had been left open the entire day.
“Why did you leave the back door open?” the boys asked as we stepped in. We had not. But the door was wide open. Shudder.
Our trip had all the good things a camping trip should have: lake to paddle on, islands to paddle to, baby snakes to wonder at and hold if you’re so inclined, rocks to collect.
The only thing that did not belong to the trip was finding our home broken into and our computers gone — with them, work and memories.
The people who broke in looked at our photos on the walls; they wrecked the collage with my sons’ baby footprints and their smiling faces, probably thinking it was the gate toward some secret treasure-laden safe.
We had a hard time settling in; eating; going to bed. Our home was hurt and we were hurt with it.
The boys kept asking if the people are still inside or coming back and we kept reassuring them. Memories of the camping trip almost melted away in sadness. How could anyone do this?
It took a whole lot of will power to do the cleanup the next day, as if someone had severed us from our own home. But we did it so we could all have our warm place back.
Then we looked at the trip photos knowing that there are things no one can ever take away.
Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on October 12, 2013