There are places you pass through on travels and you dream of them ever after. Two years ago John and I were ambling through Boundary country in the southern Interior of B.C. and saw, on our map, a road meandering off the main highway and rejoining it further east. The Rock Creek-Bridesville Road — though we took it backwards, so to speak, leaving Highway 3 (the Crowsnest Highway) at Bridesville and driving the most magical route through pine forests, along soft gravel, through grassy meadows, past several peaceful farms where deer grazed among cattle and bluebirds sat on fenceposts watching us as we tried to take their portraits. There were wildflowers in glorious bloom, a young bobcat crossing the road in front of us, yellowheaded blackbirds calling across a marsh, and a sense that here was paradise.
Last week terrible wildfires swept through this area. I’m not sure if this particular road was affected — I’ve looked online, trying to find precise maps — but many homes were burned in the Rock Creek area, campsites were evacuated at a moment’s notice, the highway was closed, and the news was full of stories of people setting their animals free before they had to flee their farms.
I think of that beautiful landscape, the Kettle River running through it, the ranches anchored by history and long occupation, the birds, dense stands of fir and pine, and everywhere the meadows, the scent of wildflowers. I hope for the best for all the people who lived there, many of them able now to return to find what was left of home after days in temporary shelters, fed by the people of Midway and Kelowna and other communities which opened their doors, and I remember a poem, not about this place exactly (you’ll note the references to ocean), but about how such landscapes enter memory and come to us unprovoked, in dreams:
A Bend in the Road
In a dream, a road leads to my new life.
I am riding a horse. Around the far bend
is a bay and by that, a house. I am planning
for food, a garden, an occupation.
My family has never occurred.
The ditches are bright with poppies and hawkweed.
I am thinking I have been here before,
in a dream, or not, but long ago, I remember
the fields of daffodils swept back
from the road in sunlight, the horse’s sweat
and the swish of its tail.
What I don’t know is the house.
There are visible boats, a pier,
the sweet smell of tar. When I wake
to find my children in my bed, a guest
in the downstairs room, blue cups on the counters,
no water in sight, the black horse dead
all these years, I grieve for the bend
in the road and beyond.
–from I Thought I Could See Africa (High Ground Press, 1991)