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