Cakewalk Chronicles – Our music, our mountain… and our weather

Esther Darlington MacDonald's monthly column of whimsical wanderings about life in small town rural BC.

March coming in like a lion

The communities seem to emerge from winter’s hibernation come March. Not that we were sleeping exactly through those winter months! But when the snow starts to melt in the valley below Cornwall Mountain, and the water starts running in the streets and avenues, plans are already underway to make March’s day calendar pretty well filled.

I am involved in two events. Selecting 16 paintings from my collection for the Rotary Club’s BC Grapes and Hops Annual Wine and Art Show scheduled for Friday, March 7, and the Bernie Fandrich  oral and visual presentation based on his book Majestic Thompson River, March 23, I have plenty to do to keep me out of mischief.

Paws ‘N’ Tales

My Gosh we are fortunate to have first rate classical musicians near enough to be able to provide our villages with concerts like Paws ‘N Tales! Tales from Alice In Wonderland set to music, and some Baroque in Scarlatti, Mozart, and the more romantic Debussy and Grieg, with a couple of contemporary composers at the end, Clifford Crawley and Catherine McMichael. The musicians got a standing ovation at St. Alban’s Hall on Feb. 16. Pianist Dimiter Terziev has become a well known figure in our area, and of course, in Kamloops, and in Vernon. I’m sure he felt the warmth and appreciation of his audience in Ashcroft. I am enjoying his CD The Beginning and End of Classicism. I also enjoy his disc of Chopin Nocturnes, which I purchased at a previous concert in Ashcroft. These are first rate recordings.

Cornwall Mountain

Not Mount Cornwall, if you please. I don’t know. That mountain that overlooks us all, for sheer grace of form and the movement of the weather, deserves the name we give to other mountains, like Mount Waddington, and Mount Baker. We may not ski on Cornwall, but we have been known to fly off the top of it with wide wings into the wind currents. Down in the valley, looking up, Cornwall is a barometer of the weather coming, the weather going. The mountain marks our territory. We determine when to plant peas, granted a mundane thing. But there is nothing mundane about that heart shaped apex that is either naked or cloud covered. And when a full silvery moon hangs over that mountain, and the sky reflects the silver, the total effect is a masterpiece.


Oprah, as everyone knows, is one of the world’s wealthiest women. Grew up in poverty. Suffered the brunt of Southern racism. Oprah once devoted a whole show on Gratitude. Not surprising, it is a quality that seems strangely lacking today. We complain, we criticize, we harp on old wrongs and wounds that don’t seem to heal. That’s what they call “human nature”, I guess. And there is nothing wrong in speaking out about injustice, perceived or otherwise. But gratitude, that age old word meaning a feeling from the heart, put simply, is an emotion that encompasses family, friends, community, and the land and the air that provides for us all.

Last Christmas, I pondered gratitude with my granddaughter, Ayisha. I wondered aloud, “Why some people, many people, really, lack gratitude?” Her reply: “Because they are thinking about what they do not have.”

That’s a pretty basic statement. But the more I thought about it, it made sense.

Which brings me to the Zion United Church Friendship Tea held on Feb. 11. It is a free, annual event.  The Friendship Tea is an appreciation for the support and good will of our communities. It is a gesture of gratitude. It is a fun and casual event that you don’t have to dress up for. Nevertheless, Anita Ladoski, who designed our costumes for the play, Midsummer Mid Term, brought a boxful of crazy but wonderful hats for our table ladies to wear. The church ladies waited on everyone “hand and foot”. Or should I say, “head and hand?” Anyway, it made for a happy time. And, I am grateful.

Two inches of snow

In the state of Georgia in the U.S.A., two inches of snow fell recently. The resulting chaos was unbelievable! Traffic stopped, slid, smashed, overturned. Up here in Canada, one broadcaster marvelled that two inches of snow could create such disaster. In Hawaii, where palm trees sway and sandy beaches, turquoise coloured seas, attract millions every year seeking to escape the rigors of winter, for even a couple of weeks, snow fell. The National Post cartoonist depicted the image of palm trees and falling snow in a recent issue. I guess, for those people in Georgia, snow was not a joke. For Hawaiians, – they are still shaking their heads in disbelief.

Chinese New Year

Daughter Nadine tells me that Chinese New Year in Maui is a big event. “Feeding the Lion” is part of the festivity. I received a picture of great granddaughter, Lauren trying to feed the lion. Even from the back, she looked pretty nervous. The “lion” was a huge paper, feather and felt creation that opens a wide jaw. Orange, red, yellow, tower over the little ones. Pretty intimidating for a 4 year old. I was born in the Chinese year of the Horse. Hey! The analysis of character is pretty dead on.

E mails

Going on the internet, learning all the ins and outs of cyber communication, in other words, being dragged into the 21st century, was not the simplest thing I ever did. Like so many seniors who depended on the telephone, and pen and paper, it took a little effort to adapt. But the effort has paid off tenfold. For years now, I have been able to communicate with distant relatives. To exchange pictures. It really is not difficult. It’s a mere mogul to jump over. And once you do, the freedom is wonderful! Not to mention the knowledge, boundless, and crucial. At least it is for anyone needing to research a subject. You’ll find it all on the Internet.

Val Carey of Walhachin

We recently learned that Val was a passenger in a vehicle in an accident near Juniper Beach turn off and suffered serious injuries. She was rushed to RIH, and has been in and out of ICU. I called her good friend and fellow organizer of events in Walhachin Hall, Colleen Bick. Colleen tells me that Val had not been well since September. She is, of this date, in an induced coma. A moment of silence was made at the Paws ‘N’ Tales concert to send thoughts of healing for Val.

Val has been a tremendous organizer. Putting that hamlet on the map with events that celebrated the history of the area, events that attracted many from other towns and cities, was something that gave Val and the rest of us, a lot of enjoyment and information. Val was always looking for talent, people who could provide the history and the colour of the area to the public. International Womens’ Day for instance, is Val’s gift to the area. This event celebrates the achievements of women in a number of venues, in the arts and in the crafts. Val is an Activist with a capital A. She’s in Kamloops marching for Peace.  She is anywhere that the performance arts flourish. Never misses a show, a concert. She heralds the arts, like no one else I can think of. And her tastes were eclectic..everything from bluegrass and rock to a performance of classical music like the one we enjoyed recently.

In summary

I interviewed a pioneer of Walhachin some years ago whose name was Mrs. Reid. She had reached the age of 100. I was asked by her daughters to interview and take a picture. She had operated the post office in Walhachin for years, and her husband had once worked on the Anglesey Estate. Mrs Reid’s mind was still lively, and I knew she had lived a lot of history. I interviewed Mrs. Reid all right, took a nice picture of the group. But when I asked Mrs. Reid about the past, she told me in no uncertain terms: “I do not think of the past. I think about today.”

Here she was, a happy, smiling lady, still mentally alert and clearly enjoying “the moment”. Just glad to be alive.

It’s that ability to be grateful. Again.

Esther Darlington MacDonald