Every year or two, we drive Highway 1 between Kamloops and Cache Creek. This morning, on our way home from Kamloops where John taught a poetry workshop yesterday, we took that route. Sometimes we see big-horn sheep near the Deadman River but not today. Sometimes we take the little road down over the bridge where the ospreys nest to Walhachin but not today. In the years I was writing The Age of Water Lilies, I spent many hours on that bridge, walking along the Thompson River, trying to imagine myself into the community there as the Great War approached and everything changed forever. There are moments when the sun is right, the shadows generous, and you can almost hear music coming from the windows of Miss Flowerdew’s hotel, her brother Gordon still alive, the orchards thriving, and the days stretching out ahead into the century, mild and orderly.
Something remains, even on a morning when you don’t drive across the river into the past. Stopping on the side of the highway to admire a small band of horses grazing among the sagebrush (you can see them if you squint. One mare has a foal beside her and she kept looking at us to determine whether we were trouble or not…), I saw a seam of the old flume, built to carry water to Walhachin from a lake up the Deadman River Valley. It dates from 1910, or thereabouts, and in the dry air of the Thompson Plateau, it’s lasted this long. But every year a little more of it disappears, like the houses in Walhachin and the memory of those who lived there and thought they’d come to paradise.