It’s Remembrance Day

So far, so Canadian.

Hopefully I have been able to put a few revealing scratches into the surface of What It Is Like Up Yukon. And they are only scratches because the Yukon-ness of Yukon runs deep and wide. Turning glimpses into gazes is ongoing work. At the same time, for those who have never been to Canada, especially west of the Rockies, most of my descriptions and commentaries have perhaps addressed aspects that were within the realm of the expected.

Now I am back in Ashcroft, in Sun Country BC, and I am savouring a landscape and a climate that is far from many people’s stereotype of Canada. By the end of this post readers will be aware of circumstances that make this a short update. So I will just run through an improvised impressionistic list of coming back here for my third visit (I spent nearly 2 months here in 2007 and much of my book is based on events here).

baked pyramids and cones of dunes overlapping like mountains in Chinese paintings…wetter than usual Spring makes a bottle-green sheen on the hills and the dark pink dunes…tall, plump sage brush bushes pump out an iced matt blue backdrop offset by pale yellow mustard flower banks…all clouds must remain very high and present themselves in clean white cotton at all times or just disappear and leave the impossible blues to get on with it…railtracks (big but dwarfed by the landscape) sandwich the main part of the small township…I sleep under a single sheet in the warm night and am woken up by blaring freight train engines (they have to bellow twice into the darkness when approaching a level crossing) but am immediately lulled back into slumber by the gentle, unhurried rumble-rock of the mile and a half long freight liners, supplemented by the electronic flatlining chants of the crickets…intricate plateau shelves of mesa separate the dirt-dunes, covered with sock-torturing prickly pear cacti, juniper, bunny-bush and sun-scented sage…roadrunner quail (a.k.a. chuckers) and gophers stitch the gullies and flats with holes and in-and-out scamperings…rattlesnakes stay shy but are there, likewise bull snakes, coyote, deer, horses, black bears…the land is dry but try saying the word ‘arid’ to the churning Thompson River that gives a sinuous spinal column to the whole wide valley…Gold Rush service station history idles in artefacts and a trove of a museum, and in the corner of the eye a much more ancient First Nations presence flickers on at a mingling point of various Secwepemculecw (Sushwap) bands, particularly the Bonapartes…the rocks and willows and cottonwoods of the Slough (‘slew’) are cradled in an amphitheatre of sculpted hoodoos, turrets and buttresses of eroding clay…on the hills the pine-beetles’ toll makes dark brown reading, but in the gardens the wealth of greenery and blossom and fruit and berries startles and smiles…businesses come and go and people come and go and community persists and makes itself felt to the awake being, and as in my references to Whitehorse and the scattered enclaves in Yukon, it is the warmth and openness of the people that completes the sense of connection…oh, and one day the Ashcroft Opera House will rise again!

There are many more aspects of the township and the surrounding area that deserve mention, but I am only here for a short time and these are the impressions that have surfaced for me in a couple of days. There’s a strong arts community here too (if you check out just one check out the website of Royden Josephson). And if you stay anywhere, stay at the Blue Sage b’n b. Plugs over!

*                    *                    *                    *

My re-connection with, and remembrance of, all things Ashcroft, has been curtailed by news from home in England. I had planned to explore the Okanagan Valley, and spend some nights in the extreme splendour of Valhalla National Park in the Slocan Valley, visit friends in San Francisco, and finish up back at Gabriola (with a climb of the Golden Hinde, the highest peak on Vanvouver Isalnd, as a finale to the trip)

My Mum has Alzheimers Disease, amongst other ailments, and there has been a sudden and serious deterioration for her. No need for details, but the upshot is that I am heading back to England pretty much immediately to be with my sister, my Dad and my son and the family.

I am thinking of my Mum’s life as a river. For 87 years the river has laid down a bed of experiences, occasions, events, unhappinesses, comforts. It has worn and sculpted banks of memories and interactions with the world. For better and for worse that river has teemed with life. Now dementia has made that flowing water crystal clear and sterile and devoid of nourishment. It is as if the water is still coursing down stream, but not touching the banks or the bed, not connecting with the past, the present or the future.

It has been a long process, but to witness the outcome is still tough stuff in the moment. That’s for the rest of us…what is it like for her?

We sing about “precious memories”, but memory is no more resilient than a heart or a tendon. Luxuriate in, and celebrate memory…make it into a material that works for you and connects you to the right, compassionate, empathetic stuff…make yourself vulnerable and stupid through it as well (as I do in this blog): emotional truth is more important than factual recording.

I am definitely continuing with this blog, so please do subscribe, comment, email etc etc…I really enjoy writing it and the interactions it has led to have been truly wonderful. Clearly the focus on BC, Yukon and Alaska will shift (but will still be very present – I’ll be back, he says in best Arnie voice) but I shall scribble away about all sorts, including trying to get published and all points between here and somewhere funny, stimulating, communicative, connective.

Ted xox

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22 comments

  1. Dear Ted
    I’m so sorry to hear about the sad circumstances of your sudden return to England. Your analogy of your mother life as a ‘river’ is very poignant,
    Alzheimers disease is devastating for sufferer and family alike.

    For what its worth my own belief is that although your mothers river flows but fails to touch the banks or connect to past memories; in time a different river will emerge where she can be free, and earthly pain is left behind – and so a new life will flow again for your brave Mum.

    Kindest best wishes.
    Myra

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  2. I’d just logged in because I was finally going to get around to adding a comment (to your previous, midsummer, entry) and I am sorry to hear that your trip is cut short and the reasons for that. A difficult time for you and your family, but you will be okay.

    I have had great enjoyment from reading these blog entries. Never having been to the parts of the world you’re describing, it is great to be taken there in a way that is both vivid, emotional and philosophical. Such a contrast to the redbricks and urban trains which make up my current life. Midsummer was nevertheless celebrated here in Levenshulme with a wasteland walk, a good sunbath and a meal comprising of food ripenend in the sun. We were blessed with hot, bright light all day.

    Hope you’ll be blessed with some of it too when you’re back, as it certainly helps to soothe the edges.

    My mind is boggling at “sculpted hoodoos”…

    F x

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    1. Great to hear you’ve caught up with the blog, Fiona, and solstice in Levenshulme sounds fab! Some photos of those “sculpted hoodoos” going up on the flickr site soon…
      Ted x

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  3. Ted, I’ve so enjoyed reading about your encounters and looked forward to seeing you in person in sunny downtown Ashcroft. Last night I phoned the Josephsons and heard that you were returning to England on the morrow. In reading your blog, I hear your voice and enlarge my vision. I’m sorry that the face to face was not possible. I’ll savour your comments on memory and celebrate what I’ve got left.

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  4. Hiya. As Steve highlighted, that’s a very special line: “emotional truth is more important than factual recording”, from this blog. Puts so much into perspective.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, and am reading your book too, so the combination has given me a rich insight into learning and understanding that the paths we are on have much brevity, and that making most of connections (be it people, places or moments) is crucial to be porous to.

    Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    Love you. xxx

    Jack

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  5. Ted, I checked out Royden’s site and plan to make an appointment to visit his studio next time I am travelling through on the way to or from Prince George. Safe trip home and I look forward to following your progress.

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    1. That’s so good, Kari…you won’t be disappointed, seeing those paintings in real life and real time beat the on-line images. Royden also has an exhibition in Castlegar, from around the end of July through most of August.
      Thank you for the radar watch over my flight home too…it worked!
      Tedxx

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  6. Thinking of you Ted; a”hard rain”‘s on its way,let this warm and giving energy from your loving living ones fulfill you when you need it

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  7. Have so enjoyed reading all your wonderful descriptive prose, and very sorry to hear your trip is being cut short. There is never a right time for losing a mum…so very sorry to hear you have to return home in sad circumstances. x

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    1. I’ll still be blogging, I hope…and, yes, sometimes a person is ‘lost’ to their loved ones even if they are still physically alive…I guess that is the essence of Alzheimers. Thanks, Alison,
      Tedx

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  8. There’s some classic lines in this blog Ted – ’emotional truth is more importantant than factual recording’ is a thought provoking blockbuster! Really sorry about your Mum! I’ve often thought that words are too banal for the emotional complexities of losing a loved one, but in your case that probably isn’t true! Have a safe journey.

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    1. Thanks, Steve…..safe journey accomplished, and I will be attempting to write a little about my mother. I know that I won’t get close enough to reflecting on the emotional complexities, but I know that every single reader brings their own knowledge and feeling and experience. I guess that’s how poetry sometimes works for us.
      Ted

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  9. Dearest Ted

    I am sorry you won’t make it back this time to see us in San Francisco but you will always be welcome when you can. We have enjoyed your blog tremendously when we have quiet moments on our own journey. I usually keep my own journal while traveling but your blog has inspired me to make a more conscious effort to keep it up. Memories are fleeting and even at the end of a single day they dart away from me (like the mosquitoes I keep trying to slap) just out of my grasp. I hope to share some more of our moments with you down the road.

    Our love and thoughts are with you, your mother and family.

    Carole

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    1. Thank you for these words, Carole. I will make it to SF one day. Ironically, seated next to me on the 9+ hour flight home were 2 folks from SF who kept telling me how great it is!
      Really enjoying the emails from you and Pat on the Italy and Hungary experience.
      Tedx

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