“Like the symbol for infinity.”

In other Junes, we’ve taken road trips, driving through our favourite landscapes. Windows open, music, stops to look at wildflowers. I feel restless this morning, remembering, but somehow I don’t feel brave enough to leave home. Not yet.

Looking back, I remember the Bridesville-Rock Creek road, how we turned off Highway 3 in 2013 on our way to Grand Forks and meandered through soft grasslands, sweet-scented pines, bluebirds on the fenceposts, and everywhere sticky geranium, upland larkspur, old man’s whiskers. We stopped to watch yellow-headed blackbirds in a small marsh and when this ranch appeared in the distance, I lost my heart.

In my new novella, The Weight of the Heart, the main character encounters a couple who have a ranch near Lac Le Jeune. I had in mind a particular place, though in my imagination it’s further from the road than it is in real life. This part of it is what I remember very vividly:

jocko creek horses

And in my book? I think there’s an intimation that it doesn’t really exist, that perhaps Izzy dreamed it:

He turned his truck and went up over the hill and I followed, followed the road Maggie must have driven with Joey or the Gunnarsons. There were pines, more of the bull pines in the distance, and a shimmer of lakes just off the road. A few weather-beaten cabins back in the trees, some of them pole frames and shingles returning to earth as moss and needle duff. The very cabins were as trees in the forest. I followed, past the Jocko Creek Ranch, which surely Ethel Wilson would have known from her trips to Lac Le Jeune. And just beyond, the Two-Bit Ranch, where Pete and Alice raised cattle and Appaloosas. Their sign, marked with their brand, two circles, side by side, overlapping slightly, like the symbol for infinity, hung between two posts over the gate, which was anchored on either side by wooden wagon wheels.

Like the symbol for infinity. This morning, that’s how these places feel to me. I haven’t been back to the Bridesville-Rock Creek Road since the serious fires of 2015 and 2017. If we could pack the car today and head out, Emmylou Harris on the stereo, is that where I’d want to go? Maybe not. I do know we’ve talked about our favourite stretch of Highway 99, between Lillooet and Pavilion, stopping at the Fountain Flat store to fill our coffee mugs, and stopping along the shoulder of the road to look down at the Fraser River below.

above the fraser

Instead, I’ll prepare copies of my book to send to my children and a few far-flung friends and put a few of the keepsakes John printed into envelopes for others who’ve bought The Weight of the Heart. (If you’ve bought a copy, let me know and I’ll send you a keepsake!) In other Junes, we’ve taken road trips. This year we shelter in place, our memories vivid with rivers, wildflowers on the Bridesville-Rock Creek Road, and the sound of yellow-headed blackbirds on a small hidden marsh. Like the symbol for infinity, they too are anchored, turning a little in the wind.

they leave impressions on the landscape

I’ve been thinking about how we remember — details, stories, the intricate branchwork of family trees.  We gather materials and try to put them into a semblance of  what we imagine the whole complex structure to be. And yet there’s so much we’ll never know.

The other day we stopped by Whipsaw Creek where our friend Liz remembered collecting fossils with her children many years ago.  I’d seen fossils of Eosalmo driftwoodensis, a genus of extinct salmon found in various locations, including the Princeton area. The fossils in the Princeton chert are from the Eocene period, dating back 56-33 millions years. The little museum in Princeton has a good collection but this time we were going to look for our own and I had my heart set on a fish.

Alas. But I was so glad to find this, a tiny bit of flora from the past contained in a piece of rock. (Look at the upper edge of the rock. I tried to get the clearest image possible but I don’t have a camera designed for this kind of photography.)

little fossil from Whipsaw CreekI don’t know what kind of leaf it is.  Other finds in the area include dawn redwoods, ginkgos, the samara and leaves of elms, birches, ferns, and conifers. But to hold this in my hand, something millions of years old, and to think of its origins in that place…How much is contained in such a small remnant of the past.

When you pay attention, the past is everywhere. It might be the immediate past, like this skin discarded by a garter snake sometime in the last few days (and discovered this morning as I watered the rhododendron it was lying under):

empty skinOr this ranch on the Bridesville-Rock Creek Road, about as eloquent as a homestead could possibly be, with its lilacs and bluebirds and weathered boards, the song of the yellow-headed blackbirds in the marsh behind me as I took this shot:


I study these and try to piece together their stories — a ginkgo leaf, maybe, at the dawn of time, a snake easing itself out of an old skin, its new one bright and tender underneath, or a ranch in its bowl of sunlight, remembering the generations who cut the hay and tended the cattle.

stopping on the Bridesville-Rock Creek road for the bluebird (of happiness)

We’re spending a few days exploring in the Similkameen-Boundary area under blue skies filled with tumbling clouds. Today we drove to Grand Forks, taking the winding Bridesville-Rock Creek road through the most beautiful soft forests and grasslands. A charmed landscape. We knew this almost right away, that we’d entered an enchanted place, when a small rabbit hopped off the road and a bobcat bounded across into the trees a little further along. Deer, ground squirrels, a marmot — every one of them looking suprised to see a car, the squirrel waking from a deep sleep in the sunlight  to scamper aside. A mountain bluebird took its time with whatever it was eating. A worm? A grasshopper? We kept seeing wildflowers — scarlet gilia, Indian paintbrush, and then a small thicket of larkspur, sticky geranium (I think it was this one, the Geranium viscosissimum; I was so busy trying to get a photograph while it waved in the wind that I forgot to touch the leaves…). We drove into Grand Forks to discover the Farmers Market in full swing which was lovely. John bought a confit of blueberries and garlic and some pickled asparagus and then we went went to the Borscht Bowl for the eponymous soup and some light vareniki made with buttermilk dough. Amazingly good.