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.