Monday, August 23, 2010

summer discovery.

The crackling of dispatch--"first-aid checking in, all ops-normal, next check in 2300"--over the comms when you're lying in your sleeping bag. Outside your tent, once strangers, now huddling friends, crank their necks back to gasp at shooting stars--glorious with the absence of light pollution. Some people make wishes, while others are acutely alive, maybe for the first time.

It's solitude until you hear someone cough in the tent behind yours and a man whispers "I love you, I miss you, and thanks for understanding," to his partner who may or may not be crying softly on the other end of the patchy connection. Two weeks can quickly turn into four months.

It's all lived experience. It's doing and growing and witnessing nature be reborn. It's hugging strangers because you trust their souls. You listen to their stories as concealed diaries are cracked when they see green patches on your red, government-issued shirt. You smile along to boasting stories from some of B.C.'s first female firefighters (who now shop at the Fields in Lillooet).

Sometimes death and mourning birth everlasting bonds not understood by the deadline-driven journalists who interview us moments after aircraft crash and collide with the steep terrain of the canyon.

Life is the exhilaration and lust to embrace nature from soaring altitudes. To view pristine lakes--turquoise and pure. To dive over glaciers then glance down at the lumber Jonathan milled for the home he's building with his own hands. You don't mean to pry or spy but everything is captivating.

Just breathing isn't living; being alive is the community they've built, grown and cultivated.

The lofty air in town is a canvas painted with 'hellos' and 'how are yous,' 'pleases' and 'you’re welcomes.' But at night it's all still.

At dawn, we take turns waking up to miscellaneous alarm clocks: cell phones, watches, the rooster up the road. We smile as we cross the coarse field to the bathroom, no need to speak until the coffee is poured. We politely ask each other how we slept the night before over watery oatmeal and greasy breakfast sausages. Sometimes a married man will miss his family and confess his fidelity; others aren't so admitting and continue searching for temporary companionship. Nonetheless, sensitivity prevails when the bravado subsides.

A three-hundred pound humming bird chats about death and divorce and, in the same breath, bursts with spirituality and prayer. A wiry man with a face full of smiling wrinkles has a cigarette for breakfast, although his devotion to our comfort never grants him rest. "Hey sweet cheeks," he calls from under the canvas smoking tent. "You are looking quite radiant today."

You embrace femininity with a new awareness: one more natural rather than the superficial ideas sold to you by "reality" TV programs. Settling back on the foamy, your heart gets lonely when you can't see the sky; however, your days are spent romanticizing in nature, living experiences with humble paticipants.

"I feel like I'm nestled in the womb of the earth," says a man as rugged as the Fraser Canyon but as gentle as the magenta fireweed in the alpine. "It's like mother nature is cradling me. In the prairies I always felt like I was going to be blown away."

Poetry lives in a pristine valley abundant with organic agriculture and personalities. Perhaps unconventional to the Jones' who stopped talking to their neighbours decades ago. The cultivation of not only food, but of ideas and an education you won't find in public schools. A challenge not to conform to the status quo.

Growing up suffocated by suburbia, you've longed to see that alternative in action--taken out of books you've read, the ideas you've fantasized about. Even if you're not frustrated with mainstream society's affluent mediocrity and hypocrisy, alternatives force you to meditate on your own habits. Observe a different kind of wealth.

So as you settle back into the comforts of mattresses, bedroom lamps and cell phone service, you'll be surprised to learn how much you miss that mental, physical and emotional escape; an appreciation truly heightened when you reminisce on all the love you discovered in places you never knew existed.