Sunday, September 12, 2010

BC 2 -- Road to Transition

BC 2 -- Road to Transition

The drive took me about 5 ½ hrs, weaving my way up along the Columbia River and then on to the Okanogan River. With each turn, new rock formations came out along the rivers edge. Exposed as it would seem by the relentless sawing action of these rivers. The Columbia makes it's turn as it flows around the edge of the Grand Ronde flood basalts. This great mass covers most of central Washington and makes it's mark. As the road weaves along the deep canyon formed by a crack in this rock shield, there is flood basalts on one side, and the core of a mirco-continent (aka. terrane) on the other. Here the sharp contrast of twisted and tortured rocks that have been slammed against the continent show through. Large dikes, pink and orange rock, layers that seem to fold on top of themselves, all with in the vantage of a passing truck bound for the north. Again and again, I stop to collect rocks and photos. Reminding myself that I will take the time to go and read through the Geologic Maps of this area and gain some insight into what I find just beyond the pavement.

I arrive in Omak, a place that spells of the American West with every painted sign and frontage building. Somehow the Wells Fargo Bank seems to be as I would have expected when it was a stage line to the Cariboo Gold Fields in the North. In the park besides the bank is a farmers market, where the local orchards and Indian farmers of the Colville Reservation show what is in harvest. There is nothing quiet like fresh veggies to stir fry and create with the accent of sesame or olive oil. I pick up a few peppers, onions, bok choy and carrots, knowing that soon I will have a garden to pick from full of every type of pepper and cucumber that one could dream of. This is one advantage of a farmer that has a passion for eating well. In the end, if you can cook, you will eat well too...

Back on the road and heading north, I make it to the Border. It is a curious thing, the closer you get to the 49th Parallel, the more desolate the towns seem. Here away from the hearts of Urban America, it seems that somehow we give up at times. Yet as I cross over into Canada, Oosyoos bounds with life as verdant as if I was in Wenatchee. This is Canada's warm vacation spot. If you think of the Snow Birds of Washington, this is where the Canadian version come to flock. Vineyards, lakeside condos, orchards and golf courses. In someways not what I typically look forward to when I vacation, but the lakes good veggies, local butchers and European bakeries. For one with a love of food there is much to be had here. The first thing to catch my eye is an Indian restaurant, with most of the signs reading Dahwahl and Punjab. This fact that such a high South Asian population living in this valley can only mean one thing... Authentic Indian Food! Remembering places other travelers have told me about, I began to understand the differences compared with the burger stand of Oroville, USA.

The CBC Radio speaks to me with that curious accent, something that I have never been able to quiet put my finger on. It is the classic rounded vowels that seem to give a warm tone to the announcers voice. A piece about the Haida Gwaii Culinary Co-Op, gives tales of pickers of chantrelles and shituki mushrooms on this rain-swept island. Pickers heading out to their favored spots, secret only to the knowledge passed down from generations of Haida Indians, who use this Hunter/Gatherer culture still as a way of life in the face of modernity. The local buyer talks of how they have been able to reach a fair price for their workers, and as all seasoned merchants, entices the listener with the sounds of recipes to saute, bake and craft a meal out of each of the varieties the find on their island. To me hearing stories like this from parts of the province brings me into the present of where I am. Somehow a new view from one held just a few hours earlier.

The rain begins to pour down as I round one out of Oliver. Working my way into the slow lane to allow the hectic busy people get home, I spot a hitch-hiker on the side of the road. Seeing the storm that is yet to come down the way through the valley, I pull off to get him out of the squall. It takes him a minute to realize that I pulled over and with a run, he jumps in to the car...

“Where you headed?”
“As far as you can take me...”
“Well I am off to Kelowna, will that take you closer?”
“I would have been good with anywhere out of this rain, but I am off to Kamloops to find something new. And so Kelowna will be great!”

I turn the heater on and offer him a towel, fighting to keep the windows from fogging up. Idol chat of the weather opens him up to tell me of a recent fight with his woman. Seeing that there was no resolution he decided to hitch back to his old home up North. I say little, but allow him to talk. He brings up that God always taught him never to let things get too bad before you make something new for yourself. Without close or bag, he decided to take to the road and see what he might be able to find. I find that his conversation bridges much to the struggles that he had been going through but a good sense of optimism is part of his tone.

We all have those moments, when things hit the breaking point. Whether we like it or not they are part of being human. Conflict seems to always stem from misunderstandings that plague our inability to really share what we feel. They also come from not accepting the world for what it is and fighting it on every front. It seemed as though he had come onto a little of both. Yet these were things that he knew, and seemed determined not to take him down. Talking of the need for Faith to guide him, he talked as we passed Pentictin and moved up along the shore road of Okanogan Lake. I thought to my own pass, when the load of the world came upon me so heavy, that to move on anywhere down the road seemed the best option to keep from exploding. I mentioned that each life has suffering, and to not accept that was a false view point. He agreed and soon talked about how he would change things with his woman.

Some how by the time we reached the Hostel at Kelowna, I thought he was in better spirits then when we had left Oliver. He hopped out and waved goodbye and soon was inside the Hostel's Lobby. Later that evening, a reading in my meditation devotional brought it home. It spoke about reverence and the power of potential. That it was the moment of choice when an ocean of ink sits on a brush. The paper below is still clean as when the page had been first turned. It was at that moment that we still the hand and take a moment to breath, reflect and clear one's thoughts. From there reverence springs, after which the brush begins to make forms with the drop and movement of the hand. But in that moment of transition, taking in the place that we are before beginning is a source of power and insight. So as I pulled into the driveway in Kelowna, I realized I had arrived for the next few weeks to a welcome experience.

Monday, September 6, 2010

WA Harvest 1 - Wenatchee Valley Dreams

There has always been this blurred memory qrunning through my mind that somehow fits now. When I was in high school, there was a deep sense within to roam. Setting out with tires along the highway, the groves in the pavement setting a beat pulling one forward. It was with those trips that I remember one of the first memories of the Wenatchee Valley. It was evening, and I was weaving myself down out of Blewett Pass. As I passed Ingalls Creek, I began to pass orchard after orchard. Trees extending up the hillside carpeting the valley in atheir foliage everending. As the sunset was setting the hillside aglow, I watched as silent figures walked with bag and ladder in hand, moving along the road back to home. Pilling into cars and following us on our journey east. Somehow, I always thought to myself what it must be to work among these trees all day, enclosed by their boughs and harvesting the fruits of a summers labor. It was my young romantic dream to travel and learn more of these people.

A French Canadian woman gave me the first taste of this life a few years ago. Myself, I remember that first orchard with love. Somehow my dreams and description of the pickets life always flow back to those days. An old Hungarian, riding his tractor from picker to picker. Talking politics, economics, and most important food. Wine seemed always to be on hand. And at the end of the day, we all came together and talked of our travels and where our next great leap would be. After this lt week, I have come to find this was indeed a special place and time. Yet the act of picking is indeed the same, with much of the same pleasures.

To reach up into the tree and a take hold of a pear is to make a connection with production and source. I feel part of the flow of food rather then just a rote consumer. To know where your food comes from, and to give it the care needed, is a special act of meditation. While picking all day the trees and rows blur. Bins fall unto bins, and soon, you just become one with the act. Like those silent wary figures that I seen years before, each evening comes with a sort of worn feel, yet it is different then those given from city work. To feel a sense of physical connection to what gives you your livelihood, there is a gratification in the fatigue of the arms and back. For these hands grasped... For these arm reached... For these legs supported... And these eyes did gaze over countless rows. It is enough to gain just a slice of the larger picture with each day... This is part of why I love picking fruit.

This year I have taken on another into the fields. Teaching her how to pick, carry her bag, set her ladder and work around the tree. She seems to have taken to it like I did my first time. At the end of the day craving once more to pick the fruit and be among the trees leafy arms. I believe that once a person gains knowledge, they must begin to give it away. Knowledge is someone not to be kept close and secret, but like good experiences shared with one another. Here was my opportunity to give back the gift that Line had given me two years ago. One of the secret joys of a Vagabond. To take the work and to become part of it, in that moment...

At the end of the day, the Bartlett Pears completed, we drive the long lines of orchards. looking at the pears and apples as the run by, calling them out and noting their ripeness, d'Anjous, Galas, Golden Delicious, Pink Ladys.... bins lining the rows, and finding the orchard owners. at each stop, we ask about his crop and when he thinks the next harvest will come. Each is like a proud father, nurturing their harvest, and speaking with pride of the size and color of his crop. In the end we wait, till later in the week when the rains and the sun will play their magic and bring the sugars to full richness in each pome... Then we will pick again... But for now, to enjoy a river afternoon of Wenatchee Valley Fall...

-- Ridgewalker

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CB 1 -- At Camp's Silent End

I sit besides the lake as the sound of bull frogs seem to echo its surrounding theater. The mist off of the bog seems to rise with the evenings light, and the deeper sound of silence settles into this place I have called home for the summer. A loon sets its path over the trees flying over me for a moment and then disappearing on his southbound path. Gone the sounds of laughter of the youth that filled these places. Now as Camp fades towards peaceful times, I am filled with memories so thick you can only reach out with both hands to clear them away.

There is something about this place that takes you in fully. There is no in-between, you are apart of everything that abounds. It fills your spirit, your days and brings a smile that resonates deep within, when the tidings are kept good through the years. For those outside of this, I have been absent and missing. But as all things in life, there is a season, and after 9 weeks the camp comes to a close. People head off in their own direction, and those who remain behind are left with these parting moments and subtle turns. And like the silence that fills the camp, Charlie now roams with his spirit full in each moment.

Soo many faces have passed before me recently. Far to many to count, and a few I will never forget. Camp is a nexus for many, a place to live life for a week as we all wish to live it through the other days we are not here, as a community. Watching parents and youth enjoy each moment makes you feel connected to a larger scope that is not just about the day to day life. This is the place when life comes alive. After all Re-Creation is about bringing yourself into a present state of being.

So I sit and remember. Dream of the next year to come, and know that as my life flows, so too will this. Fall in my backcountry season, and the mountains do call. The snow will soon fly and I will find myself working their slopes. But for now, the last fading rays of summer fill my heart and I hope to catch their light to keep my fire burning thought those lone wintry night. Till next summer comes once again, and this forest below Mt Pilchuck is filled with laughter again...

Seek the Pipe and Heed it's Challenge....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

SEA 2 -- Northern Belle

SEA 2 – Northern Belle

There is a solemn tone today at port. A few boats ready their lines, pack on the last of their goods to go north and head out to the Locks. Family members wishing each other off, men casting off for adventure and a living, while women, children and lovers remain behind. The sound of grinders on Steel and hammers resonate within the harbor, taking off a season of rust from the Steel Seiners that will soon make their way out. Yet there is a fleet already plying the waters of SE and SC Alaska, chasing the Herring returning for the season to spawn. This is the prized fish, gaining up to $1000 per ton, just to gain the roe for delicacies in the Far East. Yet this is dangerous days on the Sea, for the churning of storms out of the Gulf of Alaska, swirl, bringing their cold blast occasionally to NW Homeports. These storms create waves that are the likes of large freight trains. Rolling through the dark waters, combining with some to make calm flats, and then releasing to great 4 story towers threatening to toss a boat. It is these waters that claimed a Herring Tender this week, one in which I knew the captain and the crew well.

I heared about the sinking, from a friend in Ketchikan that forward me a Seattle Times link. He forwards me news from the Fleet every-so-often, but as I read through the names began to ring a bell. Such like Northern Belle, Robert and Baxter the dog. As I read through, I remembered standing along the North Dock of Ballard Terminal Talking to Rob, about the coming Herring Season, still trying to decide if the money and the opportunity was good enough to head up for another Season on his boat. With things proceeding here in Seattle, I decided to remain behind, and shook his hand before he left to go pickup his load along the Duwamish. I had not heard from him till now, and this time to hear that his boat was capsized and down off of Cordova. Reading those words took me back to the open bays of Dixon Entrance, and a roller of a wave that about took the Pacific Queen while I was at watch.

Last summer I gained the highest respect for the Sea. For she is the last great wilderness. As man seems to advance himself in technology, he claims control of so many things of nature. He brings oasis to the desert, roads to the sky, clam to wild rivers, and builds his temples to his might in the cities. Having cast out the gods from the Pantheon and replaced it with consumption and technology, there is a certain disregard in the day to day life of the power mother nature still holds. Yet, it is still on waters that all this technology many help you, but ultimately you are still at the power of Neptune's whim.

When you sit in a boat, and begin to take your course across the open sea, you are still bound to all she will give you. Your eyes keep to the horizon, as you are pitched about at 45 degree angles. Quartering each wave, to commit the boat to a smother roll rather then a dramatic chop that threatens to break the keel in two. There is no way around it, and at 7-9 knots an hour depending on the tide, you are sure to endure this for hours. No place to run, no place to hide, just you and your watchful eye, looking out for that roller to try and quarter to make it not your last. For the most part, you get used to the small ones, but you never get used to the ones that come up from behind while you are off your guard.

I read over the list of reasons the boat went down. Too much weight, unstablized load, bad seas, and what not... I suppose those here in the comfort of the city life will cite this as just a greedy captain risking his crew. Or want to enact more regulation to keep people from getting hurt. But they will then go on with their lives, and worry whether the Batista forgot to add sprinkles to their Mocha. Somehow I still feel connected with the life at see and the men who ply the waters. There is something vital to that life, and one who has not been on the waters cannot know it's allure. The sea is deadly and you cannot order a nice day. What is one day a good sizable load, the otherday can be a problem. The men of the sea are always pushed to produce more, and more, it is part of the allure.

Did the captain take on too much? Maybe? But every run across the Gulf of Alaska is a roll of the dice, for her waters are some of the most treacherous there are. Once you make your way out of Icy Straights, and round Cape Spencer, the wild game begins. Some will take their chance and head on a direct bearing for Seward across the Gulf. Others will follow the coast finding refuge from the waves every so often at Lituya, Yakatat and Prince William Sound. Between these places, the highest mountains send their glaciers down to the Sea and a mass of ice the size of Connecticut gives no safe harbor for about a day. Yet each bay, cove and harbor are marked, with names such as Graves Cove, Calm Bay, and Cape Caution. Speaking to the dangers of heading out upon these waves.

Having heard the news I talk with Paul and his brother about Robert, for a day we thought that he was the lost man of the boat, as they only talked about the Captain. We remembered how much a miserable cuss the man was, but a fine fisherman and a man lost for his heart to the Sea. It began to question all that I felt was vital. And the news that he had spent time putting a life vest on his dog Baxter, the stupidest mutt you ever seen, seemed fitting. I reminisced watching him jump into the frigid waters Seymour Canal, to save the dumb mutt that missed the boat while jumping from the Northern Belle to the Pacific Queen. And yet today, I found that the news was mistaken and that it was one of his crew that died. Should that change the way I thought of it all? I don't know? For certain, my heart goes out to the mans family, and yet those you ply those waters know if you do it long enough. If the seasons stretch on to years, one of these days the cold icy waters of Alaska will be your grave.

It is with these thoughts that I talk to the fisherman preparing for the coming Salmon Season here in Seattle. They have seen one of their own go down, and it will not be the last. The sea for all her dangers and risks, has a spell that weaves into these men that a common city habitat could never know. For life while simple seems to make more sense out among the tides and the waves of Mother Natures hand. A place for those who need to feel the visceral qualities of life first hand must go. And yet somehow I find myself remaining behind. Watching those seiners follow north...

Monday, April 5, 2010

SEA - 1 Bear and Raven Steal Fire

Long ago when the earth was new. It was a time of silent darkness,
when there was no light to illuminate across the land at the shores of
the Salish Sea. The people lived at the tide-line of Wy'luge, a great
body of water snaking it's way through the inlets and bays between the
two great mountains. They had lived there many long years, after the
great ice flows had retreated back to the land of the Wind. Huddled in
their lodges, covered with blankets of deer and goat who roamed the
forests. They sat in darkness waiting for the dawn to raise. For
there was no light of fire to illuminate their faces in the night, and
no heat to keep their lodges warm.

The people had remembered brighter days, when it seemed the sunlight
would go on for all time. Yet a darkness had settled into Wy'luge.
Both the sun and fire had been stolen by a great Siskiutl, (split two
headed sea-serpent) that lived at the mouth of the River. The people
of Wy'luge had grown too fat on their prosperity in times before,
taking little care of the world that surrounded them. They had
forgotten how to carve cedar canoes to go out to the waters to fish,
for the salmon came right to their lodges along the rivers edge. So
one day while all of the sententials of the clans were off in play at
a great potlatch, the Siskuitl had taken the Sun right out of the sky
and stolen the fire from their unprotected longhouse. This is how the
dark days came to the people due to their own carelessness. For they
had polluted their waters, and forgot to teach their young the old
ways. The Siskuitl began to eat all the salmon coming near the river,
thus no Salmon went beyond here to the place where the longhouses
stood. Since the people could not go out on the Sea, the grew very
hungry and week, eating only roots and sweat sap, without the strength
of the Meat of the Salmon Spirits.

In those days, the spirits of the world roamed and lived among the
people of the Salish Sea. They would change form to look like man,
during the evenings, but would return to the forest to take on their
wild form during the day. There was two that lived in a village near
the edge of a small river that flowed from the mountains near Tahoma.
These were Raven and Bear. Raven and Bear had been friends for a long
time, since they had been young. Since there was no day, they rarely
took their wild forms, and so began to lose spirits and only longed
for the earlier days of the sun. They both saw a suffering in people,
while some would not see it themselves. Knowing how they came to this,
they set out to the Sea to take the sun and the fire back from the

Bear and Raven knew that the Siskuitl could not take his fire out of
the box, in his home at the mouth of the river. Yet Siskiutl, loved
the taste of salmon smoked upon a cedar fire. He would lash is great
tail about in the deep waters of Wy'luge to create storms and winds
that would force the people of the Salish Sea into their Longhouses.
It was then that he would head to the Sandy beach there at the mouth
of the river, and smoke his salmon without worry of anyone noticing
him. So one such night as the winters came to the mountains about
Wy'luge, Siskiutl whipped his tail in a frenzy and created such a
storm. When wave after wave of rain and wind swept the people back to
their lodges, he emerged towards the fire-pits that lined the shore.

Bear and Raven waited at the edge of forests, changing into wild form
and watching for their moment when the Siskiutl was finished smoking
his salmon, lost in the joy of eating each juicy piece. At that
moment, Bear bolted out and put his great paw on the Serpant's tail,
keeping him from protecting the fire, while Raven Swept down and
grabbed an ember of fire from the still burning coals. Clutching them
in his craw, he flew higher, while his great white feathers were
turning to black as the smoke was fanned into flame. Burning his claws
hard black, he could not stand to carry the ember any more and dropped
it in the smoke hole of the Salish People's Longhouse. Thus giving
back fire to the people.

Mean while Bear struggled to keep hold of the Serpants Tale and the
great Siskiutl return to the Sea near a point of land called Alki. In
his furry, he tipped over the box containing the Sun, casting it out
along the shore, turning the sand to rocky stone at the waters edge.
Bear, seeing his moment reached out and threw the sun up in the sky,
bring light to the land once more. Yet the fire of the sun, also
singed his fir black, except for his brown muzzle that still had
salmon grease covering it.

Dawn rose across the waters of Wy'luge and the Salish Sea. The rains
of the Serpent, Siskiutl diminished and the people began to come out
of their longhouses, to see the new light.

Bear crept back in the forests. Only to come out and watch the people
from a distance in their wild form, while he began to relearn the old
ways that had long been lost in those dark days. Raven remained flying
about the people, always the trickster in their midst, watching that
the people were learning those old ways as well..

-- Adapted from a Salishan Tale

-- Jorj