#52 A tale of two landscapes
March 21st, 2016
Last week I had to appear before the Spanish Inquisition in Campbell River. I won’t bore you with the litany of woe which unrolls whenever I have to go see a dentist. It never gets better and the dentists seem to grow younger.
By the time the ordeal was over, I was a total wreck. It is not a pretty sight! So Todd, who drove me, and who is without doubt one of the heavenly angels sent to earth, bought me a vanilla milkshake, and told me he could guarantee the world had not come to a sad end.
We’ll have a side trip, he promised. So off we went, looking for Pipeline Creek. Just before you get to Gold River, there’s a bridge over Pipeline Creek. Just over the bridge you can turn right onto an access road. Or a skidder trail.You go along it a bit, not far, and there it is.
This is the old Pipeline route. It’s called that cuz years and years ago there was a massive wooden pipe built by the good folks at Hydro to take water from the creek. To make electricity, I guess. Then they dammed Strathcona Lake and altered a few other lakes and didn’t need the pipeline any more. They removed the dam.
They could have just upped their tools and headed off, leaving the cleared swath to Mother Nature. Seeds would have landed on the ground, seedlings would have sprouted, the logged-over area would have grown another crop, birds could sing, squirrels could do whatever it is they do. Some sort of life could have continued.
But no. For reasons known to Hydro they’ve trucked in buhzillions of stumps and rootballs. Huge stumps, massive rootballs, most with dirt and rocks still trapped in the tangle. Not ten or twenty or a hundred ugly corpses of once living trees but uncounted heaps, probably miles of them. It is the most ungodly mess I’ve seen. It is an abomination.
Surely, we can do better than that!
Now, back in Tahsis, there’s this big yellow thing in the sky this morning. Maybe it will encourage the pussywillow tree which has uncharacteristically neglected to make any kittens at all so far this year. Usually, my tree is the first in the village to flaunt her silvery budlets. Usually hers are much bigger than the ‘wild’ ones. Not this year. Not so far.
But the Chinese plum has blossoms. The alders out back are flushed red and the salmonberries are making their deep pink blossoms. This morning we saw the very first pink curly lily!! The trumpeter swans are back, too, more of them this year than last, and someone insists she heard a cougar calling out behind my place. I’ve only once heard what I was told was a cougar, and it sounded surprisingly like a house cat meowing. I thought there was a kitten lost up the bluff a ways. I was all set to go and try to find it and fetch it home and my neighbour hollered at me.
So today my “daughter of another mother” and I went on a therapeutic perambulation with our aging dogs. It was a far, far cry from Pipeline Creek.
We found a type of lichen I’ve never before seen. It’s a strange thing, mostly dark brown with a light tan border and ittybitty needles or spikes or…something…coming from the edges. It is not beautiful and yet it is oddly fascinating. We looked at it, talked about it, puzzled over it and I decided that yes, I might be getting very old, and it’s true tempus fugits, but there’s always something new to be seen, something different over which we can marvel.
I was looking for, but not spotting, any pink fawn lilies, when we found some behind a log. We celebrated, and now have plans to take the nippers and re-open our purported path down to Moss Rock. It isn’t much by way of a path, and without the nippers we’d be stopped in our tracks by the tangle of blackberry and other vines which determinedly press from either side.
Year after year we hack and curse our way back down to Moss Rock, and year after year the growth persists in trying to close the faint path. Down that path, well hidden, are entire plots of pink curly lilies. They are so fragile seeming and yet they return, more of them every springtime, growing in a place where you’d expect there to be nothing but moss and lichen.
There’s something very uplifting about seeing them, it’s like reassurance that whatever else might go on, whatever deviltry and nastiness we might inflict on each other—or on mother earth—here, at least, is something beautiful.
Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.