Cakewalk – Crossing cultural and political bridges

Esther Darlington MacDonald's view on small town life in the Interior.

The Energy in the Room

Went up in amperes when the Bifuka group entered Ashcroft Hall on Sunday, Aug. 4. The day was warm. One of those old time Ashcroft summer heat kind of days. People languished, somewhat, waiting. Then they came in. Jet lag notwithstanding our visitors from another culture and another continent, quite unlike our own, the country that has given so much technological strength to the planet,  endured countless earthquakes, Tsunamis, catastrophes that could have devastated and laid low any other country for years, brought that resilience and energy into our little town. If only for a few days.

And as we sat at the tables so tastefully set up for us, complimentary bamboo fans were quickly grasped to lend a little respite in that warm evening at the end of a very warm day.

It isn’t easy to listen to a foreign language being translated. The pleasantries, good will, the polite circumstance of the occasion; but the audience listened, remained attentive. And the youthful energy of every visiting member held the whole evening’s dinner event together. The energy of the organizers, volunteers, no less a contributor to the success of the evening.

The whole purpose of twinning towns and cities to unite cultures across the globe could not have been more tellingly successful. We have been a sister community of Bifuka, Japan for nigh on 20 years. We are already planning for next year’s twinning event. This time to be held in Japan.

Friend Hiroko Kanamaru arranged for Mr. Nagaki, the visiting artist who created the large mural in our park, to visit my studio, look at the work which he did slowly and thoughtfully, and left as graciously as he came, with the characteristic bow and clasping of his hands. I called him “Kaz”, and mentioned the work he was doing to brighten and restore the mountain scene on the park mural. Altogether, it was a memorable event.

The by-election

Voter turn out for by-elections has always been notoriously low. Ashcroft’s, to fill the council seat left by newly elected MLA Jackie Tegart, was vulnerable on two counts. Mid-summer, and anusually lengthy heatwave, when many are either on holiday, or planning one. With this in mind, some voters took advantage of advance polls and a goodly number turned out for this. One hundred eighty-six, to be specific. On voting day, Aug. 11, only 183 turned out to vote.  A rumour was going around apparently, that only four had voted on Aug. 11. Rumours are amazingly able to circulate and strike those kind of chords that like to shock or dismay. The truth is so much simpler, but, no doubt, kind of boring.

Doreen Lambert conducted a good campaign. Posters went up at least two weeks in advance. The newspaper ads likewise. What’s needed in any campaign has always been visibility. Posters that carry a message and a positive image, posters that can be seen at a distance of at least 30 yards. Doreen’s presentation at the All Candidates’ meeting earned full marks for brevity. She was smartly dressed. Apparently, cool as a cucumber. During the question period, she admitted frankly with gestures, that yes, she was opposed to the Wellness brand. Her mind hadn’t changed on the subject. But she promised to work for the community as a whole. I got the impression Doreen wanted to assure people that she was more than a “one issue” candidate.

It didn’t come as a surprise that Doreen won the election. But what was a surprise was the slim margin of votes that gave her a victory. Jessica Clement, after all, is an established community worker whose ability to chair a large meeting with people with differing, views might be considered unusually mature for a person as young. She did her homework and the legwork needed for the busy Winding Rivers Art Society for several years. Jessica lost the election by a mere 15 votes. She says she’ll run again. We hope that she does.

Municipal councils today deal with many issues. Some are complex and reach well beyond municipal boundaries. Councils are often asked to support issues that arise in other communities, some of which effect our own. Fiscal, personnel, public works, maintenance in every sphere, liability factors, – the newly elected official often finds that there is no such thing as an easy answer. What seems infinitely practical and easy to figure out before an election, – given the facts and a more complete picture, turns out to require compromise, common sense, and the ability to participate in a reasonable debate. The opportunity for growth is immeasurable.

Blue Earth Lake

It isn’t a stretch to feel some sense of what we call “romance” about an alpine lake tucked away in the wilds high above the hurly burly. Especially a lake given what might be termed a poetic name. I refer to Blue Earth Lake. And the harder a lake is to get to, the sense of remoteness increases for the traveller intent on a mission to fish, or to simply let the scene before you unfold in all its aloof majesty. Of course there are other lakes in the territory. Lakes that are remote. Lakes with names like Dairy, Blue, Green, 6 Mile, Okay, to name just a few. Lakes with names that are not likely to stir the imagination. Yet all have their character, and anglers have never ceased to fish these lakes and enjoyed what they had to offer. As they say, “What’s in a name?”

Yet, still, that little gem rippling before you in the limestone wooded mountains above Venables Valley is, somehow, an assurance to the romantic heart. Assurance that such lakes still exist. Can be, with a good 4×4 and some very careful driving over corduroy stretches if needs be, laid over fresh mud after a heavy downpour, become the subject of writers and poets. And, ardent outdoors men such as the British poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, and the environment studies SFU professor Ehor Boyanowsky, a long time steelhead fisherman and a regular visitor to Spence Bridge, find in Blue Earth Lake an inspiration lofty as the lake itself. The men are long time friends.

My friends recently took their 4×4 up that precariously placed road that hugs the side of a mountain with slopes that would challenge the extreme skier, and exclaimed to us over coffee what had transpired so magically for them at Blue Earth. They spoke of not only the lake, but the persons who had ventured, like themselves, to it.

I have enjoyed that trip myself at least on two occasions. Well, enjoyed might not be the most appropriate word. The trip itself was indubitably, an adventure. But once there! A sense of freedom impossible to describe, something like flying, maybe sums it up a bit. You lay branches down under a tree and go to sleep in a night of indigo blue with stars twinkling above much like Van Gogh’s balls of fire set so far above the choir of angels that they seem benign.

Yes, Blue Earth Lake can give you trout to fry in a salted pan over a rusty grill, something to eat with your fingers because you forgot to bring the forks. It can also lay there supine and eerily defiant out there under the sun.

A lake with a life of its own. And, if your heart is poetic enough, and your sensibilities refined enough, the memory won’t fade when the sun goes down and leaves you with a blackness transparent as the black in a Rembrandt painting.

Geese on the move

It is a sign that autumn is upon us. The other day, working in the garden, I heard that lovely honking high above. They flew in a straight line. One after the other. I stood there and counted them. Twelve, exactly.

Other signs of the changing seasons, the proliferation of grasshoppers. The white butterfly versions mating in the dying alfalfa. Weeds, cascading, falling in every direction, rusting and brittle. Tomatoes, ripening too quickly to be eaten every day. And how delicious they are! What a difference from those GM tomatoes you get in the stores! I’ve been making tomato sauce with herbs from the garden. Eating peaches, my favourite fruit. Plucking that first ripe tomato off the vine and devouring it right then and there. Thinking what I will be doing with the garden patch next year. (And it won’t be wild flowers!) Watching the light changing on our mountains and mesas.

And those sunsets! Magentas and crimsons stretched across the sky with the broad brush that only Nature can paint.

Have a great September and enjoy the view!

Esther Darlington MacDonald