August 19, 2011

A Week Away

A few days ago I returned from a week away. 'A week away' has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? It just rolls off the tongue like 'Back in a minute,' or 'Make yourself at home,' and opens up vistas of possiblilty in the imagination. A regular week around here goes by in the wink of an eye, and is usually made up of a list of Monday to Friday chores, weekend activity, and whatever is good on TV. A week away, however, is a completely different thing: another place, a different scene, another schedule entirely. A week away from being in charge of things at home is a real vacation. For seven days I stayed at a house where someone else thought about watering the garden, someone else made the coffee and asked me if I would like tea, and where someone else did the majority of the cooking. Don't get me wrong, I did plenty of dishes, helped with the cooking and with the entertaining of the many cousins who congregated there, but that is not the same as being in charge of it all. For a whole week I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that the end of summer was coming with its back-to-school shopping, its recommence of volunteer and paid work, and fall cleaning, but I could cast those cares aside for later. I was on holiday.

Earlyish on a Monday morning three of my kids and I threw our bags, coolers and pillows in the back of our minivan. My husband was not able to join us and our eldest was in Europe, so we were able to spread out and be comfortable travellers, each with their own bucket seat complete with arm rests and adjustable back rests.  We stocked up with cold water, music, snacks and a packed lunch, and hit the road. We drove up through the twists and turns of Manning Park, our first mountain pass. The air was cool when we reached the summit, fragrant with the scent of alpine trees and flowers. Once in Princeton, we drove alongside the shallow ripples of the beautiful Kettle River, through ranchland and fruit-stand territory. We stopped for lunch in Osoyoos, which is in the northern part of the Sonora desert. With irrigation, Osoyoos has become a fruit and wine-grape growing hub dissected by a long, warm lake for swimming and boating. We sat in the shade on the beach just below the tourist strip and a couple of us went for a swim in the mid-day heat. I thought about what my friend had said a few days before when she had returned from a trip across the province. She said that every two hours of driving brought her to a completely different geoclimatic zone, and how fascinating that was. I agreed.

One of the many Osoyoos wineries

Stopping for lunch in Osoyoos

We continued on through the dry sagebrush country, following for a time a rather uncertain recreational vehicle driver pulling a boat that wove back and forth, and passing him at the first opportunity. We picked up fresh peaches for my parents along the way and refreshing drinks for ourselves, and after a few hours the scenery became green again and we began another climb up into the mountains to the Blueberry Paulson - a destination for backcountry skiers in winter -  and down the other side. Finally, we arrived at my parents' house in my hometown in time for supper. I was offered a stein of my dad's homemade beer, chilled and with a large head of fluffy foam. It was delicious and most welcome after a full day of driving.

Comfortable beds had been set up for the girls and I out on the porch, the place I slept with my sisters and brothers all summer long when I was a child. My son slept in the attic which my parents had converted to a sleeping/storage loft a few years ago. The nights were cool and scented with the herbs of the surrounding gardens. We kept my parents' hours, retiring early and rising early, too, enjoying the effect of a second cup of coffee on the energy of the conversation around the breakfast table. Nelson has a downtown full of interesting shops so the kids were eager to go most mornings, and since my parents' house is only a few blocks up the hill, I could help clean up the breakfast dishes and relax a bit before I walked down to meet them. My son bought several vinyl albums at second hand shops and enjoyed the chocolate mousse cake at one of the fine bakeries.

My kids' favourite bakery cafe
My teenage daughter shopped for clothes and found some unique pieces, and also enjoyed buying treats she couldn't find at home. My youngest shopped for books with her savings, and bought a bizarre foam substance that bounces whatever shape she moulds it into. I didn't shop much. I was there to visit family, to talk, to share stories, go for walks up and down the numerous hills and to see a couple of old friends.

My brother arrived on the Friday with his boys and the next day he took them and my son for a hike to the brand new cabin in Kokanee Provincial Park, where a celebration was being held for the 100th Anniversary of British Columbia Parks. My mom was also at the cabin providing historical information to the visitors. I took all the girl cousins and my sister to a favourite beach for the day.

My teenage daughter would have liked to hike with the boys, but she had forgotten her sturdy shoes. I promised her a hike up the the top of the town the next morning. "Can we come?" said the girl cousins. We ended up taking the boy cousins, too.

The view from our hike to the top of the town

A few more beach days, a few more walks and visits, a morning of shopping for a few presents for my husband, and it was time to pack up for the return trip home. Tears from my youngest - "I want to go home and see Daddy, but I don't want to leave Grandma and Grampa" - and a promise from Grandma to come and visit us, and many hugs later, we began the journey homeward. We stopped in the orchard country again and picked up peaches for home this time. We ate lunch in the car and stopped for ice cream instead. We drove down from Manning Park into the Fraser Valley in the late part of the day, shadows of the forest stretching across the ribbon of highway, and the sun low enough to shine into my eyes.

Happy to reach home at last, we unpacked the van and put the organic peaches, the Nelson Chocofellar chocolate, the Nacho chips we seem to only be able to find in Nelson, and an edition of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine on the table for Dad to find when he came home from work.

We came home on Tuesday. Today is Friday. With my head still full of the doings and enjoyments of 'a week away' I am reluctant to pick up the threads of all there is to do here at home. Sure, I've done laundry and the cooking, read my emails and even answered a few, but a part of me, a big part, is hanging on to that holiday mind space. Everywhere I walked and ran in Nelson there was a view, of mountains, of the glacier, of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake.

I was so impressed with these gardens in Lakeside Park.
They are like a painting.
Nelson, already full of natural beauties, is also a place which honors its past and celebrates its culture. Old houses and buildings are renovated and restored, and art is everywhere you look - starting with my parents' front hall:

Food and healthy living are major focuses of both my family and the community at large. One day we had Florentine paninis for lunch with homemade foccacia bread and homegrown spinach. Another day I cooked the organic roast I had brought from my own freezer and my mom and I made a potato salad and a green salad with all the ingredients harvested from their wonderful garden. The kids and I know how good it was to be away, but we aren't talking about it much. I think we are all still there for a few more days, in our hearts anyway. Nelson will always be a part of us, and we a part of it. We don't have to live there to know that.

So much of who I am is explained by the way I was brought up and by the place I was fortunate enough to be brought up in. I love to go to my hometown to reconnect with that place and those people I love so much. I enjoy every minute of it. But then, after a while, it is time to come home and dig in generously. I try to take some of what I am and spread it around in the place I live now. I hope I make a difference, even if it is small (which it undoubtedly is), to the people around me.


  1. Perfect - just perfect!

    A fine description of the regular week and the importance {and difference} of the week away. It was nice to travel with you cross-country {glad you got past that pesky boat on a trailer}

    I want one of those beers and to look at the albums your son bought. I bet I'd enjoy the conversation around the table and the town sounds great.

    Thanks for taking me along Rebecca......


  2. beautiful! and, trust me, you do make a difference - even here in the blogging world. =)

  3. It sounds like a wonderful weekend away, and Nelson sounds like the kind of place I would like to visit one day!

  4. When you wrote about this place before I looked it up. It seems somewhat like Oregon in attitude. A place that was into flower-power in the 60s -70s and where the only real difference today is that these 70 year old's Nelsonians(ites)insist you bring your own bong.
    Sounds like you all had a brilliant time.

  5. Alistair: You are kindness itself. I'm so glad you enjoyed my ramble across my lovely home province (there is so much more, too!)

    E.P.: Gosh, thanks. That makes me very happy to hear.

    Diane: I hope you do get there sometime. It has so much to offer visitors.

    Vince: Yes, I would say Oregon is a good match, particularly Portland - although Nelson is quite a bit smaller. As for the bong...I wouldn't know anything about that :)
    Actually, the real difference is that the town is incredibly spruced up compared to back then. The stone buildings were mostly covered up in 50's aluminum siding and it wasn't until the 1980's that an architect decided to take on the project of revealing all the historical beauty.

  6. Great story Rebecca - brings back lots of memories.
    I've tasted that beer (still fresh in my mind)
    and been through that front hall ... I miss Nelson!

  7. Rebecca, I LOVE your writing. It awakens all of the senses in me:) Not many people have such an appreciation of both their childhood and their return(s) to the home of their youth. Everything about you makes the world around you better, from your smile, your enthusiasm and your involvement. Your children have the same love of life. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Love this Becca!
    And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE seeing that pic of your folks house. So many great memories; especially sleeping on the porch in the summer...or at least pretending to sleep but really just whispering and giggling and most likely annoying your brother. Heehee ;)
    Thanks so much for sharing. It really made my day :)

  9. Lovely post, Becca! I've driven that route between Nelson and the coast so many times, and it's all full of familiar little places. I would tick off each mountain pass along the way, each one unique and interesting. It's been many many years since I've driven it now but it's still familiar.

    And sadly it's been a few years since I've been back to Nelson. Thanks for this little mini-trip back home, through both your words and pictures. I'm all homesick now!


  10. In the ten minutes or so it took me to read this, I felt like I was away too. Beautifully done.

  11. i need to have me a week away in place like this...smiles. got the book too by the way and as soon as i finish the one i am reading i am on it...

  12. Thanks, everybody. Have a beautiful day :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!