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PostPosted: Tue Oct 31, 2006 1:30 am 
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Location: Over there.
The road to Miracle Springs:

Today is another in a long lovely string of splendid days. I was up earlier than usual because of the switch back to Standard Time, and when I went out to get the paper the ground was still white with our first sharp frost. The wind is from the East, and there is no foul smog between me and the mountains in any direction, the east wind pushes it back onto the city and for once our country air is as clear as it should be.

Every other Monday I have to go out to a trout farm North of us, on the other side of the river. It’s always a pretty drive, but today I wish you could all have come with me to see how beautiful it was!

We live on a hill above the Fraser River, but we can’t see the river from our house. I have to drive east down onto the Matsqui flats to see it, and then go north across to Mission. The Fraser is one of the world’s important rivers, draining a hinterland bigger than all of Europe. It rises in a little glen hundreds of miles up country, between two of the seven mountain ranges between here and the Rockies. The river takes a long circuitous road to get here, cutting its way through solid rock for a lot of its journey, but when it gets to the head of the Fraser Valley at Hope it spreads out, brown and broad, seemingly sluggish, sprawling through some of the lushest farmlands on the planet and down across the Delta to the Pacific.

Down the hill to the flats, a narrow winding road where you have to pay attention. But it was hard to look at the dull pavement when there to the east was the volcanic cone of Mt. Baker rising up from the lower hills in perfect purity and whiteness against the sky, lovely enough that if I try to describe it I fall into cliches of “beautiful” and “majestic”, and it is so beautiful and so majestic that those words just don’t touch the splendour of it.

I crossed the bridge to Mission, built directly across from the hill I live on, a kind of sturdy finger pushing down to the river with valleys on either side driving back into mountains behind. How I wish I could have stopped on the bridge and leaned on a rail to watch the water flow beneath; the river was wide and calm as a lake, bordered by narrow sandbars covered with golden cottonwoods, the air so fine and clear I could see every golden leaf by itself alone. Beyond, the hills were spread out for me like a painting, all dark firs and golden maples, layer upon layer, rock upon rock, and behind them rising the first of the seven mountain ranges, some that run north to the Arctic and south to Mexico, range upon range as you go east, ending in the splendour of the Rockies. I could see forever as I looked to the east and the north, into the blue distance.

The trout farm is up one of the little valleys, above a bit of flat called Hatzic Prairie. Hatzic Prairie isn’t particularly pretty, many of the farms are run down, much of the land spoiled with clumps of Scirpus reed and overrun with blackberries. Here and there are prosperous farms, some devoted to blueberries. It is a sight, to see 100 acres of blueberry bushes gone scarlet with the autumn, as scarlet as a cardinal’s robes. I even saw a bull in a pasture with cows, a lumbering red beast as big as a buffalo and as rare in these days of the A-I man in the truck.

When I got to the trout farm no one was about. I parked the truck and waited by the trout pens, and listened to the water. “Miracle Springs” Hans calls his farm, and just there at the foot of a sheer rock wall at least 300 metres high, the icy water pours into a concrete well he made to catch it, and then is piped into the various pens. No need for pumps, the water pours forth in a stream as big around as a tree trunk, 1,800 gallons a minute, icy cold, pure, a miracle. Near where I parked was the pen with the breeding trout in it, Rainbows two feet long, moving lazily in the long pens, ferns and wild violets growing on the concrete walls, shading the water. I looked up and there was a hawk circling, watching, baffled by the netting over the pens.

Hans and his wife Lee made Miracle Springs by themselves, building it all bit by bit over the years. All the concrete is dark and softened with greenery, there is nothing industrial about it, it seems organic, sprung from the earth. All you can hear is the sound of the water, at the top end pouring from the living rock and at the other end rushing from the spillway into the creek; from there it runs swift and bright across the flats to the river.

The air was like wine, no, it was like Miruvor, clear, precious and intoxicating. The light was like the light of Lórien.

On the way home I paused for a minute to look at the field I dream about buying one day. It is about 100 acres, worth “more than the Shire and everything in it” I suppose, open and sloping, with mature maples and firs scattered across it. Once it was a farm, but you can’t really farm on this land, there is only about an inch of soil over the bedrock, huge boulders that aren’t boulders but are part of the mountain make it picturesque but mean you could never work it. Still, my imaginary log house would look grand perched by the biggest bit of rock, and the view! Looking south over the river winding across the flats and there is Mt. Baker again, lower slopes hid by a trick of the landscape, shoulders and the peak glittering against a sky of Mediterranean blue.

Going back across Hatzic Prairie we come to Xà:Ytem, where there is an interpretive centre run by the Sto:Lö people. Inside a longhouse is what the first white men here named Hatzic Rock, but Xà:Ytem is its real name, or rather that is part of its much longer name. And the name is much, much longer, for the Sto:Lö people have lived along the shores of the Fraser for over 10,000 years, people of the Salmon and the Cedar. If I could have one trip in a time machine, this is where I would come, here, before the first white men came and cut down the forests and fouled the river. I would want to be here before Simon Fraser, before the Oblate fathers who founded the mission, before Captain Vancouver had found the harbour that now bears his name, before the Spanish, before the perhaps mythical Japanese traders.

I would want to see the great temperate rainforest, the Douglas firs, the red and yellow Cedars, great towering glorious trees such as were found nowhere else on Earth, that once marched from Alaska to California, from the sea to the mountains, up the long fjords, covering the islands, a wilderness so grand it is almost unimaginable, and now it is mostly gone, fallen to the axe and the chainsaw in little more than one man’s lifetime. Those trees had stood in splendour for centuries, for millennia, and the Sto:Lö people lived with them for all that time. The trees grew up since the last ice age scoured the land bare; beneath the canopy the forest floor was open and shady, the people trod on mosses, there was no undergrowth. Ferns and orchids grew from the trunks and branches, and the long golden beams of light pierced the high greenery like the light falling through the stained glass windows of stone cathedrals on the other side of the world.

Inside the longhouse sits the rock named Xà:Ytem, an erratic as they call them, not part of the mountains, but a boulder dropped from the belly of the last glacier. The Sto:Lö marked the rock with their signs and signals over the centuries, it is the most treasured artefact of these people. Once the farmer who settled the land wanted to dynamite it, to make his field smooth, easier to plough and mow!

If you had a bow and an arrow and strong arms, you could stand on the roof of the longhouse and shoot that arrow up into the bell tower of the Benedictine monastery on the hillside above. The monks built there just as they built in Europe, on a hill overlooking a river and rich farmland, and then they raised ugly, ugly concrete buildings like a prison. Ugly except for the bell tower, it is tall and slender as a tower in Italy, arched and pointed in the Gothic manner, open at the top to the four winds. Once, a long time ago, I went up there and will never forget it, no castle in Bavaria, no chateau in France could have such a vista before it. Then when you climb down all those stairs again, there are the buildings: the dormitories and the dining hall, the barns and workshops, and the chapel, bare, flat, and plain. The stained glass windows are world famous, the monk who created them could have been a rich artist “in the world”, I am told. But I’ve seen them, and I hate them, they are nothing like the lovely pictures in old windows, they are odd and modern and geometric and say little to me of joy of worshipping God, rather they could be signs in an air terminal or mental hospital, stick figures posed like dancers in a Martha Graham ballet.

As I cross the bridge to go home, I wish again I could stop the truck and get out and lean on the railing. The wide Fraser is deep and swift, though it looks calm and easy. There are still sturgeon in this river, and it is still a highway for salmon seeking their spawning beds. Right where the bridge pilings rise out of a sand bar on the north bank is where the Sto:Lö used to have their summer camps and drying racks. The Adams River Sockeye run through here, and all the other Salmon families that enriched this land from time immemorial. The fish still go upstream, swimming through water that was always brown, but is now dirty as well. They swarm in from the cold Gulf water through the Delta, up past the bridges and the trestles and on up the valley to Hope where the mountains squeeze in. Up through Hell’s Gate, up through the Fraser Canyon and on into the Thompson and the Lilloet, to all the little streams that have the precious gravel beds. The Canadian Pacific Railway blasted through here in the 1800’s, once they dynamited wrong and a slide blocked the river. The people of the canyon, kin to the Sto:Lö, carried the salmon one at a time in their hands over the slide, saving the Adams River run that year.

The farms on this side of the river are prosperous. There are hundreds and hundreds of acres of pasture full of black and white Holstein cows, acres of corn stubble, and acres of grass cut for silage. The farmers don't usually get such a late cut, it won't dry for hay but makes wonderful green feed. There are now also fields planted for the miracle berry: blueberries. Most of the blueberry farms are owned by Indo-Canadians who build enormous manor houses for their extended families, mansions that led a kind of European weight to the flat land, and would be much lovelier if they weren't all stuccoed. Stucco looks wrong here, and sad to say within a decade most of these houses will be fighting black algae in our soft climate.

So now I’m nearly home, going up the steep and narrow road through overarching Big Leaf Maples and across the railway tracks and around the corner onto my road.

I've been pottering about all afternoon, writing this and doing odd jobs, and now it is dark and a half moon is astonishingly bright in the Southern sky. It is cold, and it is going to freeze hard again. Tomorrow is Hallowe'en, of course, and it looks as though we are going to have a fine night for Trick and Treating.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:16 am 
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Best friends forever
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Location: Over there.
We did have a fine night, as it happens. And the fireworks show put on by the local firefighters was wonderful. I wonder why it is that we have fireworks on Halloween here and no one else does? Not even in the rest of Canada.

It's cold, another frosty night. I haven't been able to talk anyone into going for a walk with me, so here I am at the computer instead!

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:37 am 
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TTBK's cemmie
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I would walk with you, dear friend. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 6:01 am 
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I saw that same astonishingly bright moon on Tuesday as well, vison.

And the fireworks display our island fire department put on from the Coast Guard dock in Ganges was mirrored perfectly in the still, blue-black waters of the harbour.

But man........was it cold!

It's always wonderful to read your words about places that I know from long ago, this time conjuring memories of car rides over the bridges and ribbons of highway that connected my West Vancouver family to our favourite uncle and aunt and cousins in Mission.

From a North Shore girl to a Valley girl........thanks. :hug:

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2006 7:21 am 
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Living in hope
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I don't know those places, or didn't know them, but now I think I do. A little. I come from the same part of the world, after all, only a little farther south.

Thank you, vison.

I've said this before: I wish more people could read your words.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 9:44 pm 
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ta'veren'
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I think this and your other words should be published.

truly your name reflects your words as I envision the landscape and the people.

Why not get Cem to go with you and take photos, I am sure a joint venture could be profitable.

:love: I love your way of writing.

edit: typo's (dagnabit TIGGerty paws, hitting the keys in the wrong order)

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Last edited by TIGG on Mon Nov 20, 2006 2:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 5:10 am 
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Best friends forever
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Location: Over there.
Thank you, TIGG!

Well, if cemmie and I could get together, we'd maybe give it a shot. Who knows?

Glad you enjoyed it, anyway.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 3:33 pm 
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Oh, vison. what words, you angel, what words!!

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