knocking on heaven’s door

near stump lake

Driving up Highway 5A towards Kamloops, after lunch at the Quilchena Hotel, I felt my heart open up, my lungs expand. The days have been full and I haven’t taken time to pay attention to the sky lately. Haven’t noticed grass. I am not a techie and wouldn’t know what to do with an IPod if I had one. (I don’t even have a cell phone.) But years ago, when our internet connection was still powered by hamsters on a large wheel (too slow for any kind of music download) and Angelica was at UVic with a high-speed connection, I asked her to find some songs I wanted to burn onto a cd (see? That’s me operating at my highest skill level…). She did and then I sort of forgot I had the cd. But it’s perfect for road trips and so it was our musical accompaniment to Highway 5A this afternoon. “Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands” as we passed the townsite of Upper Nicola where much of my first novel, Sisters of Grass, is set and I remembered all the times we camped nearby, stayed in the Courthouse with friends for extended weekends, watched our children grow. Their shadows still linger on the hills beyond Nicola Lake. It was where they wanted their birthdays, weekends in every season, and even now I’m plotting for a way to show my grandchildren the erratics in the field on the road to the campsite, the cows in the fields that all have calves at their heels or else tugging at their milkbags, and maybe buy those grandbabies each a pair of cowboy boots at the Quilchena Store. (I sussed them out today and they’re beautiful.) Then, approaching Stump Lake, it was Bruce Cockburn:

Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by
You never get to stop and open your eyes
One day you’re waiting for the sky to fall
The next you’re dazzled by the beauty of it all

And as a non-Christian, it might sound hypocritical to say that as we drove the last stretch, near Knutsford, I felt like I was knocking on heaven’s door. Or I wanted to knock, to see what might still be inside.





postcard, the Nicola Valley


On a clear day, you can see forever. And this is what it looks like. Suede hills, aspens just turning,Ponderosa pines so particular and iconic that you could look at each one and never think you knew pines in general. The scent of sage. The sound of magpies. An osprey overlooking Stump Lake, the waters green and dusted with the hatch of some insect that had a few flyfishers excited as well as the fish themselves, mouthing the surface of the lake.

And did I say the other day that the road up through the Fraser Canyon was my favourite on earth? Today it’s 5A, from Kamloops to Merritt, winding by the lakes, the creeks, the roads leading off to remote ranches, the Lieutenant-Governor’s home ranch at the head of Nicola Lake in good shape despite her absence, the store at Quilchena as enticing as ever (and this time I had to resist tiny cowboy boots, two-tone, with sensible heels; though if a grandchild asked for a pair, I’d go back in a heartbeat…). So I’m fickle about roads. So I’m contradictory. I have as my model in this the wonderful Walt Whitman, a poet I always think of in the kingdom of grass (lines of his thread through my novel Sisters of Grass…):

The past and present wilt—I have fill'd them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.
Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?
Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?