Home

Springtime… and Longer Days… on Lake Okanagan

2 Comments

okanagan scene.jpg

 

Jerry P. – grey mane a ruffled nest atop his head – rumbles by on his rollicking old red Massey Ferguson tractor and twinkles a toothy oversized wave hello.

Jerry’s getting older, maybe in his mid-70’s now, but his childlike gregariousness hasn’t dwindled a bushel or a peck over the years that he’s orcharded his peaches and apples on this spot in Summerland.

The Blossom Fruit Stand his long-gone Dad built, has been a stolid landmark on the graceful meandering highway towards Penticton for more than half a century.

The locals and tourists stop to buy fresh, juicy cherries from Jerry while oohing and aahing at the big floral display of scented roses encircling the parking area.

Jerry grew up here, schooled, partnered, procreated and toiled here. One day he’ll die here in this Okanagan Valley.

The sight and sound of Jerry rattling along these days is as much a sure sign of spring and incoming summer as thirsty chirpy robins at the bubbling pond, or darting calliope hummingbirds at the flowering almond in the backyard.

hummingbird.jpg

Are you, like me, feeling like a child on Christmas morning with the days growing longer, like Donald Trump’s nose?… even the sun shines into our bedroom window at 5 am now, simultaneously both wonderful and irritating because who wants sun blazing in their eyes at the break of dawn? There are greater horrors I know… such as…

… the dark days of December and January.

Shortened winter days are a perennial struggle for me, a passage in a dusky, shadowed tunnel, constantly looking up and forward for the radiant glow that I know awaits… finding purpose in making the days pass productively in the headwinds of underlit hours and weeks.

Seasonally affected? You bet. It’s like (BEWARE: Gender Appropriation ahead!) patiently awaiting, then shedding the monthly feminine menses that afflict and inflict, to reluctantly tolerate the discomfort, but never blissfully embrace.

I was reminded this week – struck actually – while driving down the sloped hill on the winding, paved road from the Summerland Ornamental Gardens, of how my soul yearns for spring… the long, sunbathed days… the mild, garden-perfumed air.

My spirituality, my inner enthusiasm, lives and thrives in the burgeoning splendour of springtime.

The view of the Okanagan Valley and lake that spreads out when coming down from the Gardens is beyond my ability to decently describe, almost like my inability to recount my first sighting of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate overlooking the Incan treasure.

The Okanagan vista is a precious watercolour painting awash in royal blue water, white incisions of late snow, hunter green treescapes with slashes of raw umber rock and soil on the hillsides.

Okanagan sailboat.jpg

The undulating hills that hug the lake are infused with 5 o’clock shadow-stubble of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir; a few scattered Western larch, sage and rabbit bush fill gaps like puzzle pieces in the landscape.

Lush greenery abounds in the vineyards and orchards holding ground close to the lake, the Spartan and Ambrosia apple blossoms filled with the busy humming of bees doing their perennial work before French-Canadian kids and Mexican temporary workers take over to finish the job through the season.

The vernal freshness and blueness of the water below sucks you in. The big lake, while fairly narrow, stretches like a towering basketball player 135 k. in both directions, from Penticton in the south to Vernon in the north of the valley.

The lake is incredibly… dangerously… high this year.

A huge collection of logs and tree stumps have washed down the creek, overflowing from melting snows, ferociously rinsing the creek beds of anything not solidly held in place. The flotsam and debris and logs have crashed into the lake like a messy pileup on a foggy highway.

For the next few weeks at least, it will seem like a thousand bumpy wooden Ogopogos (local version of the Loch Ness Monster) have come to the surface to feed on insects and larvae. Canada Geese will line their fluffed goslings up to rest on bobbing bannisters.

Soon… tender, melodious spring will fade into searing summer like blossoms blowing from the peach trees, and it’s a sweet lover that leaves me behind, a lover I’ll forgive and welcome back again and again.

Logs on Okanagan Lake

Spring is where an atheist like me encounters the greatest struggle – the redness of tulips and the sharp golden sunsets, the music in ecstatic, twitterpated birdsong – how is it that somehow, miraculously, a random beauty springs from ethereal blankness?

Yes, spring is here in the Okanagan.

Jerry is happily out and about on his tractor, and my heart soars with the Ospreys as they take wing, feathers tickling the azure sky.

Andrew Greeley writes:

Perhaps the worst thing which can happen to us humans, is to lose our wonder. The tragedy of closing your mind and heart to the wonders of Spring … the wonder of a new born baby … the wonder of love … the wonder of Christmas … Unless you learn to cherish the beauty of Spring, you will never be free from your poverty of aesthetic appreciation.”

blossoms.jpg

Starting Near Zero

3 Comments

bmo-marathon-finish.jpg

WOOHOO… Way to go!!

The crowds lined up behind the fenced barriers are cheering, clapping loudly, happily for the ragtag mixture of runners:

  • the hangdog ones scraping their exhausted feet over the pavement
  • the energetic gazelles with beaming smiles
  • the coolly oblivious with their iPod buds firmly affixed in their ears
  • the proud Moms or Dads pushing their sleeping wee ones in jogging strollers

The FINISH line banner arcs across Vancouver’s West Pender Street like a welcoming Pot O’ Gold rainbow.

Hallelujah!

This is my favourite time of the year.

Spring.

IMG_7744.JPG

Candy-scented pink and white fruit blossoms unfurling like little cocoons releasing their multi-coloured butterflies everywhere.

Leaves laying a carpet of emerald green across the sky overhead.

Furry tan-toned marmots along the side of the road tilting their heads upwards to their gods seeking the warm sunshine after their winter nap.

Even the backyard chickens look like they have bigger Disney smiles on their beaks at this time of year.

It’s also the time of year where I start out once again from near zero.

I’m talking about my drive to exercise – to sweat intensely.

sweat2

 

In mid-winter I’ll sweat in the gym most days, but my levels of enthusiasm and drive drag and slow, as if the plow blade is digging into rocky soil making the workload heavy and cumbersome.

I manage to continue because it’s become a well-ingrained habit and part of what makes me, well… me.

But the fitness peaks I attain each spring and summer begin dwindling bit by bit over the autumn and winter. The daylight length shrinks in concert with my muscle strength and stamina.

And even though I rarely think about it, the inner knowledge of my parents’ relatively early deaths (ages 61 and 73) from heart disease spur that internal drive; the drive to do the things I can and am able to do to stave off the Grim Reaper for one more day, one more year play quietly but insistently in the back of my mind.

In early spring, my physical activity motor revs and builds more and more until it crescendos like an orchestra reaching the climax of the symphony. My energy levels and desire to push myself grow Viagra-like day-by-day in concert with the lengthening of the daylight hours. I love it.

Every year for a long time, I’ve entered running or triathlon races of varying distances… the shortest would be 5 kilometres but I’ve run lots of distances … 5 k, 10 k, 15 k, half marathon, full marathon.

Running has taught me lessons about life. There are lessons to be found everywhere we look, in everything we do for pleasure or for work.

Akin to looking out over the flat prairies and thinking that there’s nothing to be seen, some things are just more subtle and require a closer examination. The prairies are teeming with activity and life and visual excitement when observed more intensely, and so are the days of our lives.

And one of those lessons is that every race is just as tough as the next, no matter the distance.

Every running race – like all of life’s real challenges – is difficult and demanding.

graveyard runner

People say to me, “oh, it’s only a 5k, that should be easy”. Yeah… sorta. On the surface that would seem to be the case.

Shorter distance, easy. Longer distance, hard.

Makes sense, right? Not really…

It’s all about pacing.

A long race (eg. half marathon, marathon) means a slow steady pace, carefully doling out energy in small measured dollops so our legs can carry us the full distance. It takes conscious thought and self-knowledge to make it to the finish.

Too many flame out and “hit the wall” (I should be embarrassed by the number of times I’ve “hit the wall”) from over-confidence and endorphin highs that trick us into believing our superhero capes will magically carry us through.

Shorter races (eg. 5 k, 10 k) call for a different strategy where speed-work and mental toughness play major roles. Running at a near breathless pace for just 20 minutes to 1 hour  demands a huge mental effort and inner strength. It’s like running on a tightrope where a tiny excess of running speed will knock you down hurricane-like, wind rampaging through a forest. It calls for fine-tuning and finesse and a willingness to tolerate a taste of blood and vomit mixing in your mouth.

All of life’s “races” demand inner strength and stamina and self-knowledge.

Sometimes we succeed in measuring out the perfect amount of energy required. Heavenly exhaustion.

Sometimes, we push too hard and burn and crash, learning harsh lessons about ourselves and what we might do differently next time out. Devilish curse.

Sometimes, I might even add often, we grow cautious and move too slowly and underestimate our ability and strength and never accomplish the higher possibilities that lie inside us. Zootopia Slothdom.

Two Sundays from now, I’ll be lining up in Queen Elizabeth Park alongside 15,000 other nervously hopeful half-marathon and marathon runners.

The light embracing scent of a hundred well-used Porta-Potties will waft delicately in the early morning air. We’ll all sing O Canada together and anxiously listen for the sharp bang of the starter’s pistol.

And two hours later when I see that beautiful encouraging FINISH banner, then feel the weight of the Finisher’s Medallion around my neck, I and 15,000 others will have learned a whole new lesson – whether starting from Zero or Superhero – about ourselves.

Life's race