Say you pass by a wildflower somewhere on a trail. Its splendor is impossible to miss, as wildflowers truly are like jewels sparkling in what is still dry grass mixed with new shoots of green blades.
If you get close enough and look at the flower head, observe how perfectly arranged all the parts are, how harmoniously distributed the colour, how beautifully oriented to receive sunlight, the only logical reaction is to ask how and why?
I know, we have heard the story a million times over. Spring, renewal, hope, green, warmth… in the end words, no matter how you bunch them together, mean nothing if our minds don’t peek into the very story to get to the wonders hidden in petals, leaves, the dirt hugging the roots and the profound love for every ray of sunshine.
Just think about it: what would happen if you were to spend the time to learn everything you can about that wildflower? The way the plant resurfaces every spring, the way it goes from a fuzzy bud to a vivid colour petal crown dancing graciously with the morning breeze… deeper still, the way atoms (which ones?) are arranged to form complex pigment molecules, the way these pigments break down and reveal a different shade (why at a certain time?), the way a plant cell wall is organized, different from an animal cell (why?) and how the petals and delicate inside parts do not wilt under the strong midday sun but thrive, pulsing with a life current so strong it pulls your gaze into it…
Just a wildflower, which you get to know enough about to cherish. To notice with the corner of your eye, to marvel at, to want to learn to know more…
Just a wildflower. Just enough to get you to love nature so much you’ll never take it for granted…
It’s precisely at 7.30 in the morning that we make our way out. Every morning that is. Routines can come close to boring at times but not this one. Poppy and I take to the trails, each curious to see what’s changed since the day before. Yes, nighttime is a time of secrets and small miracles happening in the tall grasses that sing ever so softly as we walk along, parting them with each step.
I keep my eyes open for flowers – new ones are always a treat. Puppy looks for… well, signs of other dogs. Reminders of time passing from different kinds of clues if you will… Each relevant. I claim no superior knowledge just because I have been assigned to the human category. Every day starts anew in a way that can only be felt as you make your way down the path.
Today I pick but a few Saskatoon berries. They’re getting dry and seedy by now. So many left on bushes, a hint to people being removed from what’s being given to them for free… gifts of sweetness, with a price that is unmatched: gratefulness. An ant climbs on a wrinkled berry and takes the smallest bite you can imagine. It makes no difference to our world but it keeps theirs alive.
There’s scattered berries on the ground, some embedded in tell-tale deer prints. A few steps down the path pup and I stop by a purplish mound of digested berry seeds. Bear? It would not be surprising, but sad in the same way that seeing the occasional deer walking along a sidewalk is.
The trails pup and I find tranquility on are but islands of wilderness in the midst of residential propriety, shaggy grasses and tall bushes attracting wildlife that used to call it home before any of us did. It is all different now but perhaps this is the compromise that can keep things in balance. For now.
The wild flax flowers are rarer these days as it gets hotter. Along wild-growing poppies, their blue is as convincing as the sky itself and just as addictive. My two most favourite. A few middle-aged red-eyed Susan flowers are staring into the morning sun, feeding on its brightness not realizing it will become the heat punishment of later.
There are countless fluffy heads of Tragopogons (meadow’s goats beard as I learned the other day), some seeds so determined to leave their birth place they jump onto pup and I as we brush by. Hidden in tall graceful grasses I see daisies and red clover, a poppy that shines red ever so shyly from behind long thin blades.
There are purple daisy look-alikes that are part of a big family of wildflowers called asters. Shooting stars (also purple, as if that is the choice colour for the wildflowers here) and dandelions, and then, the surprise of a new apparition (yes, purple) delicate looking and of a kind I have yet to learn about.
We stop by the creek where the other day I stumbled upon a raspberry patch loaded with red globes, some drooping heavily in the gurgling water stream. Fragrant and speaking of summer and forgotten worries. A place to steal sweetness from in a most innocent way possible.
We follow the path up into the forest patch. Bugs tasting pollen and sliding on grass stalks, a balancing worth stopping for, there is so much life to see other than where I step next… Mushrooms push out of the dirt in shady areas, making themselves visible to us and the occasional slug sliding its sticky way across the path looking for supper. The very definition of slow food.
We stop at the top to look around. Clouds gather over one side of the sky, hinting at the promised last night’s rain that never came close enough to here. We saw it in the distance, a drape of white steam covering part of the northern landscape, making its way across hills of brown and tired green… a big tease in all…
Poppy runs up and down the slopes, picking up sticks and pine cones and chewing them with the careless hurry of someone who knows there’s more to be found. She returns to check on me every now and then before tumbling down a sandy slope chasing rolling pebbles and asking in a way that I’ve learned to know that more rolling pebbles would be greatly appreciated… I oblige. If dogs could laugh, you could hear her every morning. She does. The boys would attest.
We turn to the paved sidewalks and the leash comes on. A herding dog like her might never take well to moving cars. I keep hoping that maybe one day. Meanwhile, we practice civilized walking, turning around in a circle for a reset every few steps. I am patient and she is too. Love makes it so. I speak softly, except for when I say no. Like a kid wanting to please, the pup correct herself but there’s no telling what she’ll do when the next jumping opportunity comes.
We stop to say hello to the traffic ladies, our friends on the road. They see Poppy grow, admire her foxy looks and laugh when I tell them that someone thought her a wolf the other day… We talk about the unfairness of killing wolves to rectify our wilderness-invading wrongs, about the absurdity of grizzly bear trophy hunts and there’s mentioning of bees and pesticides. How refreshing to not have political correctness stop relevant topics from unfolding.
Pup sits and gets gentle petting and sweet words, and I am grateful for being in the middle of the road chatting with people I should only barely know yet somehow I know better than many other I’ve known for a while as acquaintances. I am grateful for smiles and for the bits we share as the days go by. We’re a friendly team, pup and I.
We get home and it’s quiet. In a few days the boys will be back home and wild ways will remind me again of how lucky I am to be humbled by love, laughter and all the slices of life that come in colours ranging from purple to humbling and everything in between. All the things I try to remember as I walk and listen and see. Life to wonder at, sip after sip, step after step…
Last year in May the boys and I hiked to Gibraltar rock near Paul Lake. It was sunny, we hoped to see chipmunks and we also love the view from up there, all perfect reasons to venture up the trail. What we did not know was that on the way up we would spot some fairy slipper orchids.
I am far from being a wildflower expert but I succumb in fascination to any wildflower I encounter. Every one of them is a reminder of the magic that unfolds constantly around us and we are rushed enough to ignore. Kamloops has a richness of gentle beauty, I came to learn as we hiked on many hills in spring and early summer. From yellow spring bells to buttercups, to the bright yellow symphony of arrow-leaf balsamroot flowers covering an entire area, and the gracious mariposa lily, it’s a carousel of wonder that will never stop, unless…
I guided the boys to kneeling gently close enough so they can see their absolute grace but careful enough to not harm them in any way. They did so, but giggled also, pleasured to see my penchant for wildflowers, again, knowing they will likely see them framed as photos in our home.
Another time while hiking in Valleyview, we came across yellow cactus flowers. It was a first that left us breathless. It was a most serene yellow and a most delicate collection of petals, surrounded by the sharp prickles of the cactus plant.
I went back a few days later to see them again. And then again, until they withered and became dust. I took photos of the flowers and the green bees collecting the pollen. Yes, green and shiny, as if the bees I’d known forever just decided to get new armour. Quite the scene.
The landscape from there was beautiful. The Thompson was winding its way through the wind-carved hills on both sides and distant mountains in shades of blue and green stole my gaze. The cloud-stitched sky was the kind of intense blue you feel happy for no reason just by looking at it. No reason to hurry, not even one… And nothing taken for granted, not even one thing.
I often get reminded of my first impressions of Kamloops and the areas that surround it. It was hot and dusty that day and I missed the green lush Coast even before getting out of the car. But I was also of the opinion that every place has its secret beauty, if only we are patient enough to see it, curious to follow new paths and keep our eyes open to both large and tiny worlds that we come across.
Since moving to Kamloops we have been discovering places and their treasures, and countless times I have been reminded of how no place is ever devoid of nature magic.
I was recently humbled while hiking on the rather stark looking hills guarding the lake near Savona. Nothing was stirring and it seemed that every living thing had fled long before we got there. A few gnarly looking trees and the clumps of tired cacti made me think of old cowboy movies where bones littered the ground, which was, of course, cracked and dry. Yet a sweetly sounding bird song shattered that deadly silence and filled the space with life.
Then, out of nowhere, four mountain goats appeared on the cliff above us. They stopped, studied us with as much interest as we studied them, and continued their trek over cliffs, gazing back at times. Magic was there, I was all too blinded by expectations to see it. Tiny purple flowers lined the path every now and then and, as we made our way back, the sky was alight with orange glowing clouds. A symphony of some sort, just in a different tone.
And yet, all is not ideal not when we set out on our adventures. On some portions of the River Trail we notice bags of dog poo left behind, and they are more than just eyesores. they spell the kind of ‘I do not care right now’ that has no place in the world that shelters beautiful blue skies, gracious flowers, and countless wonders that are so selflessly shared with us humans.
As we walk along the river or on the shores of Kamloops Lake, we see various garbage bits, from cans and bottles to plastic bags and other plastic debris, new and old, equally sad and depressing. We collect as much as we can and repeat as necessary. An endless pit of despair really, yet coupled with an ever growing love for the world that so patiently allows us to be.
More so, since my sons have been born, I have been discovering the world through their eyes, skipping a few steps ahead trying to imagine what the world will be like when they grow up, striving to keep it as beautiful as we have it now, as worry-free as I once believed it to be when I was first opening my eyes to it, and for all of that, no effort is too small or insignificant.
On any given day, whether I peek at the dance of the magpies in the front yard, or kneeling to observe the almost surreal beauty of a flower ever so gentle yet sturdy enough to withstand the wildest weather elements, or paddling on lakes and windy canals that feed them, I am constantly reminded of the reasons for writing about topics many consider uncomfortable or less pleasant, and for making certain life choices that allow me to look in my sons’ eyes and say ‘I did what I could, to the best of my knowledge’, and also to immerse myself in the most beautiful and wildest of places knowing that I see their worthiness but I am also responsible to preserve it.
The world… It is never ours to trample over, but live in gently and pass it on, because truth is, we are alive and well only as long as our world is. And that is reason enough to do what I do, and reason enough to try to convince others to do the same.