Montana Wolf

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

O CAN-a-dah: Beauty and the Beasts

This trip to British Columbia was ripe with purpose and possibilities. I had a reading and signing at the Kaslo library, yes, but it was also the last time I'd see Carole and her partner Chris for a long time, given the strong possibility I'd head south for the winter. Over the years their home had become my second home. This venture was bittersweet, and as is usually the case, miracle-laden.

The border crossing north of Bonners Ferry was one of the smoothest and fastest ever. Most of the uniformed Canadian women and men know me by now. And Teak. She doesn't let them get away without giving her a dog biscuit. Once across the border the trip up the 100-mile long Kootenai Lake was a familiar winding, slow ribbon of beauty. Eventually I came to the Balfour ferry crossing that cuts off many land miles. Thirty-five minutes later I was delivered to the other side of the lake and continued 30-miles further north to Kaslo. Kilometers in BC. "Clicks." Or is it "Klicks?" I always get a kick out of the one little village with signs that announce they don't do metric.

Carole & greenhouse tomatoes
Carole and Chris were on the downside of their organic garden farm on Shutty Bench. Most food had been harvested, but we still made forays into the berry patches with thick bending canes worthy of body armor. We snapped off the last of the green beans, collected some late strawberries and picked some tomatoes. The final harvesting will be next month: five lambs in the grassy pasture and the turkeys raised this summer. Their crops and meat carries them through the winter.

View from the house

I was a little nervous as I prepared for the reading of Drive Me Wild. Ironically, my Kaslo friends were out of town traipsing around the Yukon, visiting relatives in Texas or driving across Alberta. Would anyone show up? I put some champagne on ice and joked that with bubbly-back-up, it wouldn't matter. Turns out the event was standing room only, a fun, enthusiastic crowd with questions and vibrant conversation after. In this day of cyber-selling and blogs, authors question the cost/benefit analysis of in-person events. As a writer who spends much time in solitude, I say that evenings like this are salve to the soul. I thrive on the confluence of my words and the light in peoples' eyes. It is an honor that, in this world of multiple demands on one's life, folks make their way out their doors to show up

Toads and Blackberry
The next day: girlfriend time! Carole and I headed west from Kaslo towards New Denver and Nakusp. The destination was the Nakusp Hot Springs, one of our favorites tucked away off the highway deep into the forest. Wondrous as they were, however, the details were in the journey. Drive Me Wild? Ummmmm, yes! We no more than stepped out of the car to picnic on a lakeside when we found ourselves in the midst of 1000's of little migrating toads ... Summit Lake toads, found only in this one place. So it was we sat at water's secluded edge, sipped champagne with fresh blackberries and snacked on Jarlsberg cheese, savory rice crackers and fresh tomatoes. In reference to my recent badger sighting, Carole asked if I remembered years ago at Dancing Raven how I'd said that badger should be my totem. We laughed. We talked of purpose and sacred ground as several dozen trout repeatedly surfaced off shore, moving ever closer in a hypnotic rise. Some toads dove into the lake and headed for the far shore, a seeming suicidal move that only instinct could define. For a few moments we weren't sure if we would pull ourselves away and keep moving up the road. It wouldn't have mattered. The air filled with the conversation of sister-talk. Then we would lapse into the silence of the landscape... the inspiration of magical tiny hoppers, smaller than the blackberries that floated in our champagne.

We did make it to the hot springs, and we ended that day in Rosebury with the worst Mexican meal I have ever had... the perfect storm of bad service and bad food. How did they do it?  A so-called chimichanga that amounted to a toasted flour tortilla folded over with hamburger meat? Carole had green enchiladas with... mushrooms... ah come ON. Chalk it up as entertainment. Or, a precursor to the next day when Teak and I were hiking along the Kaslo River and she got into a ground hornet nest.

She yipped and I turned around to see her covered in bees. I ran to help and then they came after me. There'd been lots of bears around. I reckon they were already perturbed by the beastly visitors. I ended up with about 20 stings. Who knows how many Teak got? At least 100 bees clung to her coat. By the time we got back to the house (1/2 mi fast, leaping run and several miles by car) we were in shock. Teak laid down and her eyes rolled back. Carole dove into homeopathy-mode and brought her back. Once my heart settled down, I dealt with knife-piercing stings. Benadryl does wonders.

I have my theory about this. Teak has some arthritus. Bee stings are a treatment for the nasty stuff. I wonder if she wasn't seeking out her own medicine? Time will tell. She's fine now. My stings have morphed into itchy heaps upon my flesh, primarily on my neck and shoulders.

The trip continued to unfold in sweet visits with neighbors I have grown close to over the years. Turns out artist Pat has an uncle who ranches not far from where I'm staying in Montana. I plan to mosey up there one of these days. But like those toads, I'm ever aware of this time of migration.

Kisses and hugs. Tears. Thanks. I headed down the gravel driveway with spirit-fullness and great sadness. There is nothing in this world like the love of Sisters. Now that distance will lengthen, as it shortens between myself and loved ones south.

Darkness lengthens. The waning moon hangs exquisitely in the morning sky with Venus. In every hello there is an inherent goodbye.


  1. So where will your southern journey take you?

    1. good question! Desert SW; perhaps the Baja. I have work to do this winter... readings and writing (no rith-matic).

  2. From CT who emailed me: Your words and stories, draw me in, just like in your book. They all paint pictures in my mind and heart. I"m so glad that Teak is ok...that was a life threatening experince for both of you. I am allergic to just one bee sting....yikes....

  3. Sounds amazing and gorgeous and scary - all at the same time.

  4. why would you leave montana? there's still so much for you to photograph and share your stories of wonderment and metaphors!!! oh well our lost. look forward to your travels south and new horizons you'll share with us, that only get to dream of your life travels.stay safe and feel the joy of your universe.honored to have met you

    1. Only for the winter for a few months. I need to hit the road for book promotion and position myself to write. As a great general once said (I think): I shall return!