May 28, 2010

Bridges and Tunnels

Lately, various family crises have kept my mind off my work, off my creative pursuits, and have succeeded in casting me down into a place where hope seems, if not lost, awfully delayed. But, just when life is particularly challenging, little, graceful things seem to arrive to pick me up and carry me along.
With a mind so occupied and a heart so full, much grunt work was accomplished in the garden this past weekend, with the action of pushing the shovel into the bed of weeds to transform it into an ordered thing of beauty as some blessed kind of remedy. Hostas and impatiens in the shade garden, and violets under the red maple tree. Herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers ready to grow in pots on the hot, sheltered, south-facing deck. The garlic bed weeded and scapes soon ready to be harvested, chopped and tossed into stir-fries and frittatas. The raspberry bushes showing a great crop of hard, little green berries after my husband's restaking them in the fall.

In Canada, we celebrate Victoria Day on the fourth Monday of May, to honor the birthday of Queen Victoria - so Monday was a holiday. After we worked in the garden half of the day, we decided to take a drive to one of our favourite spots, taking three of our kids with us. The fourth was working with the horses that afternoon. Our eldest thought about staying home for some rare time alone in the house with his instruments, but decided in the end, to come with us. We gathered bottles of water and my new camera and drove east to the Othello Tunnels on the Coquihalla River.

The Othello Tunnels were blasted, starting in the late 1800's using the extremely dangerous methods of that time, out of solid rock faces which were impeding the track of the Kettle Valley Railway, and are linked by wooden trestles that span the narrowed, rushing river far below. The landscape of British Columbia is the result of a hugely dramatic geological history. I am no scientist, but it thrills me to think of how the pioneers set out with necessary optimism to carve settlements and the links between them this side of the Rockies. We almost didn't become a part of Canada due to the rows and rows of mountain ranges running north to south in our province, which cut us off for generations from the rest of the country. The Othello Tunnels, a prime example of what drastic measures were taken to tame the wilderness in this part of the world, are now a part of the cyclable Kettle Valley Trail (the train tracks were removed long ago), and are an historic site, visited by thousands of people every year. The day we visited, eight tour buses arrived filled with students representing a myriad of nations; cigarette smoke and heady perfume mingled with the scent of cottonwood and fern.

When we visit the tunnels we always spend some time down by the river, and if it is warm enough, we sit with our feet dipped in the icy water. We reaquaint ourselves with climbing down the embankment and rediscover the joy of hopping from boulder to boulder to achieve the best views. Our small one gets a little braver and stronger every year and soon we will be able to take her on longer hikes. Our older kids usually start the adventure with, "The Tunnels AGAIN?" but after the first ten minutes, they are trying to outdo each other rock climbing up the faces along the trail and breathing in the beauty and freshness around them. After our walk we treated ourselves to ice cream at the Hope Dairy Queen and on the drive home we passed around the camera so everyone could see the photos I had taken.

Today, family concerns weighing on me still, though somewhat eased, I am thinking about those tunnels, dark, cool and dripping with moisture. I am also thinking of those wooden bridges that link them together, their railings warm in the sun with a view of the wild waters below and the open sky above. There are times when we have to enter tunnels of a sort in life, too, temporarily blinded and groping our way carefully along until we reach the next opening. We linger on the bridges between the tunnels, resting in the comforting warmth of the sun, enjoying the solidity of the trestle beneath our feet, knowing there will be another dark cave ahead, but also, another bridge in the light to follow.


  1. Okay, I got through the first three paragraphs before shrieking ensued somewhere in the house. I'll be back later when life is less, er, lifelike.

    Love that the eldest chose family over alone time. :)

  2. Ok, I'm back. Lovely. I am in a tunnel now myself. I don't know if you have noticed the dearth of posts over on my own blog lately. Thank you for a refreshing way of looking at it.

  3. I hope whatever is causing your despair is eased very soon.

    That first photo tells quite a story.

  4. Beautifully very true. I am feeling in a tunnel myself these days. You are so right that a bridge is up ahead. Love the analogy, and your photos, and your sharing your family day which sounds perfect. I hope your troubles are sorted out soon and you find that sunny bridge over sparkling water. Symbolism aside, you live in a gorgeous part of the world!

  5. I loved this Rebecca!
    And I wish that the tunnels were closer to my own home, I'd love to visit them. Your photos could be part of a tourist brochere!

    I hope the worries you have leave soon.

  6. Thanks for all the great comments and good wishes. A lot of people I know seem to be in 'tunnels' in their lives these days...

    The people in the top photo are my husband and our youngest.

    There's a comic song about the landscape in Canada. It goes something like this: 'Rocks and trees, trees and rocks' You get the picture!

  7. Rebecca, I've loved both your travel guide and your thoughts about life - especially the way the two link. The boys and I are reading Little House on the Prairie at the moment and they are so moved and astonished by pioneer life - they thought a story about a little girl would be soft, and they are suitably impressed that it is not so!

    Thanks for your comments on my blog too. My mum lived in (and adored) Canada as a child and young teenager, because her father was the British naval attaché to your country. Her younger brother has chosen to move back to your neck of the woods as a rather nomadic adult, so Canada really left its mark on both of them.

    Thinking of you,


  8. I read somewhere that men go to caves, women in wells when they need to regroup. Is that stereotyping? Your bridge, tunnel metaphors are so poignant. Also how interesting to get a glimpse of the beautiful countryside.

  9. I had another look at that photo, the top one.
    I was about to ask you a question, but remembering my own youth and the direct questions of accusation towards my mother on her feeding regime for me and my ability to convert vast amounts of food into the shape of a nail, won't. However, what's your excuse with him. :~)

    Oh, fyi, there is an Irish Lambe being held by the IDF at the moment.

  10. Floss: My mom read the Little House books to my brother and I when I was ten and he was twelve - I think that is about the age of your boys? Anyway, we were both riveted as there is plenty of excitement to answer both genders' desires for entertainment from a story! And thank you for answering my question about your mom and Canada. I'm thinking of you as well.

    Paul: I don't know. I was just watching a bit of a PBS special on Dr. Christiane Northrup's theories about women's health. She would certainly back you up and completely honours our differences as men and women. Very interesting looking book she was promoting: Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom.

    Vince: Ah Vince, my husband and I were both skinny tall kids who ate our mothers out of house and home. My mom even asked me once if I thought I had a tapeworm. My kids have our genes, and my eldest is just now starting to get some real meat on his bones. It is certainly not for lack of food for any of the kids, but for my husband? He is one of those high-functioning A-type personalities that burns up calories just being. He's also a cyclist and, until his knee gave him too much grief, a soccer player/goalie. But you have given me something to think about...

  11. If you have time to write a novel, you should. :)
    Do you have a manuscript collecting dust? Or a book that needs promoting.
    Your story makes me look forward to a hike along the river not far from where I live.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!