Tales from Otter Lake IV

Herewith be Part I,   Part II,   Part III

These tales are sad. It was a sadness that was part of the truth the forest around us. So much is written about the beauty and grandeur of the woods, but there’s so little that reflects the great losses the trees suffer, which I suppose is why these stories came to me.

****

Her name was Kerpy and she started life many long years ago as a tiny threadling, a mere wisp of lichen, attached to the topmost twig of the tallest pine tree in the little glade. Of course, back then her tree wasn’t the tallest. As it grew, so did she. When her tree reached it’s prime and really was the tallest in the glade, she was as plump and green as a lichen could get.

Many seasons passed and she and her tree shared many stories and laughed with the chittering squirrels that came up every summer to harvest the pine cones.

One fine blustery day, the wind brought news of a plague coming across the mountains and up the valleys from the south. Her tree prepared as best it could, and Kerpy sent as much energy and thoughts as she could spare through her branch to help in the fight.

Perhaps her efforts helped, because it seemed like the plague passed through the valley, leaving the glade, and her tree, untouched. Then one day she noticed one of the low branches, so long that it almost brushed the ground, had lost its needles. They were scattered across the forest floor, all dry and empty of life.

She twisted around and saw that other branches low down were looking ill as well.

She sent her thoughts to the tree and asked what was happening. The tree sadly swayed in the breeze, and in her heart, she knew.

At first she ranted and raged at the tree, telling it to fight, to push the invaders from its body, to stem the flow of its lifeblood from the wounds the beetles left behind. It was battling the invader the best it knew how, so she hung from her branch and sent more energy, but one day, a bright summers day, she felt her tree succumb.

Her grief tore at her, but what could she do? She was only one piece of lichen at the top of a dying tree.

Winter came and Kerpy closed her mind and her senses. Perhaps the cold would kill the invader.

Winter passed and the next summer too, a cool one, and she wondered if her tree might be one of the lucky few to survive.

The plague was halfway up the trunk when that first branch to lose its needles, the lowest one, cracked and fell away.

Dead.

Lichens live for a very long time, and Kerpy knew she’d survive a fall from her tree and then spread her threadings across the ground until they reached another tree, but it didn’t seem right somehow, to leave her friend. So she stayed with her tree as the plague beetles rose up, up its trunk, sucking the life out of it.

Kerpy and her tree had long conversations that lasted for months at a time. They told each other stories of old things, and green growing things, and rocks and rain, and snow. Her tree was glad of the company, but there came a time when it withdrew, and faded away.

She was alone.

Death crept along the topmost branch, her branch, but it wasn’t going to get her, not yet.

She wafted back and forth in the breeze, loosening her anchor to the branch.

A beetle crept closer, its nasty clacking mandibles snipping at the dead bark seeking a soft spot to burrow in and lay its eggs.

Kerpy broke free and floated down to the branch below her. It too was dead, but she hung there, pirouetting in the wind, Celebrating the long, long life of her tree.

From branch to branch she went, around and around, closer to the ground with each branch, remembering every moment of her life, of her tree’s life.

She danced and she laughed, and put every bit of her spirit into her stories. The wind blew her about and carried her stories away to the other trees and animals and plants of the forest.

It took her many long weeks to finally reach the lowest branch on the tree. She was tired and withered, but she was satisfied.

It was time to fall.

The wind gently shook her free, for she was fragile and dried out. It dropped her to the forest floor among the rustling needles that had fallen from her tree. She snuggled down into them and sent out tiny tendrils of her essence into the soft cool earth.

The last thing she felt as she surrendered her Self to the Cycle of Life was a giant crash that shook the whole glade.

Her tree had fallen.

Kerpy's last branch

Kerpy’s last branch

Tales from Otter Lake III

Here are the first and second tales.

There were days when the temperature topped 33 degrees, even underneath the mottled shade of the towering pines around our campsite.

We indulged in siestas or fell into a sloth-like torpor and moved as little as possible. Once the sun set (and the skeeters came out to play – I swear there’s a skeeter waiting for me on Mars!) below the high ridge, there were still several hours of light in which to frolic and gambol. Or at least go for long leisurely walks along the tree shaded trails.

I walked between the old, old, trees and entered a world that’s only nebulously connected to this physical reality. (that sensation of being someplace ‘else’ when you’re walking quietly through a forest)

I delved down below the forest floor carpeted with generations of pine needles, old cones, and sloughed bark. Down to the caverns beneath the world where the roots of the trees tap into the Spirit of the Land. Where they intertwine and tell each other their stories.

Their conversations were sad, but tinged with the wisdom of the bones of the earth.

The beetles were killing them, they said, slow and sure. Some were wild with fear and spent all their energy whipping their branches about in dismay and had nothing left to confront the enemy with.

Some slept so deep they barely had time to get their sap flowing before their doom rose up through trunk and branch and needle.

“But what will you do?” I cried, my heart breaking as I witnessed their stories, one after another, after another. “The damage is so great, and there is so little time.”

A venerable grande dame ‘tsk’ed’ at me for my haste. “We,” she said, gesturing through the caverns to where the deep roots withered away. “Cannot win this battle. Here in our valley we strive to hold back the tide so that others, elsewhere, will survive. It is an acceptable end to our story.”

****

Dendroctonus Ponderosae. aka The Mountain Pine Beetle

Dendroctonus Ponderosae. aka The Mountain Pine Beetle

The pine beetle is one of many species able to exploit this new world around us.

Forests are being replanted with a variety of species the ill-thought out forestry practices of the past neglected in favor of the quick-growing soft-wood pine trees.

But hectares of blighted trees rend the heart, non-the-less.

 

Tales from Otter Lake II

I firmly believe that any sort of camping, be it with a tarp and a blanket, a tent and a backpack, or an RV, you need at least three days on either end of the actual ‘holiday’ time.

It takes three days at the beginning:

To arrive and get set up.

Resolve the inevitable equipment failures.

Do some creative engineering to replace the (also inevitable) things left behind. I’m a firm believer in wire coat-hangers, duct tape, and pegs – if you can’t make do with those three items then whatever it is you’re trying to duplicate isn’t worth the effort, or you need to head into the nearest town and buy a new one.

And finally sit quietly (or exhausted) in front of the fire and breathe for at least an hour.

The three days at the end are for:

‘One last visits’ to the things/places you didn’t get to see/do.

Finding a way to get everything you bought with you back into the same receptacles you packed them in. Including mysterious items that magically appear out of nowhere, as well as the items you so valiantly tried to duplicate with your pegs and tape and wire.

And wind yourself up for the journey home and re-entering your life. Which at this point you’re either desperate to get back to, or wondering how far up into the mountains you can get before you run out of logging roads.

And then there are the stories.

I’m a night owl, (it’s when I do most of my best writing) but the nature of camping, at least for me is that I can’t sleep much past sunrise, or even earlier.

Otter Lake valley runs North/South, and is very narrow and deep, so it takes a while for the sun to appear over the mizzen-mast, let alone the yard-arm.

We were up early one morning waiting for the fire to mature enough to cook breakfast, sipping our tea, and watching the world around us come awake.

The forest is a mix of the usual suspects and lodge pole pines that have died or are dying from the pine-beetle infestation that has devastated swathes of woodlands, and millions of trees, both sides of the border.

A crow had taken up residence at the very tip of one such skeleton, and sat there, occasionally preening, cawing to others of its kind deeper into the forest, but mostly it seemed to be waiting for something.

Once the sun peeped over the high bluff above us, the crow flew away … and I wondered …

Crow has come to make Sure the Sun rises over the Mountains to the East For Sun is Capricious today And may decide to rise elsewhere Or not rise at all

Crow has come to make
Sure the Sun rises over the
Mountains to the East
For Sun is Capricious today
And may decide to rise elsewhere
Or not rise at all

 

Many thanks to the wonderful  Susieee Mac and her artwork ,for inspiring me to take my coloured pencils with me and play with them again, after far too long away.

Tales from Otter Lake

 

You might’ve noticed I’ve been a bit ‘missing in action’ this summer.

Assorted crappy health-ish things, combined with a couple of major self-publishing and Spirituality training summits managed to keep me otherwise occupied. More on those later.

And then … Mrs Widds and I had our (what has now become annual) camping trip in our RV. This year we decided to scale down things a tad. (After our 2015 peregrination across the entire country, anything less could be seen as ‘scaled down’ –  If you want to read of our adventures, scoot over there to the right and check out the ‘2015 Road Trip’ category)

A lake with a view

A lake with a view

Otter Lake is set in a beautiful valley in the North (Canadian) Cascades about 35 minutes north of Princeton, here in British Columbia. Up in the hills the land is quite arid, but once you drive down into the valley, via one of those backroads that’s also used by logging trucks, a whole different landscape emerges. (try driving one of those winding mountain logging roads with an 8 meter (25’) trailer behind, and meeting a fully loaded logging truck coming the other way … on the narrowest part of the goat track. Nerves of steel, that’s us!!!)

Lots of room on this part of the road

Lots of room on this part of the road

 

I was reversing the trailer into the site and Mrs Widds was directing, when another camp-ee said to Mrs Widds as they passed by, “It’s a true test of a marriage,” to which Mrs Widds firmly agreed. We didn’t get any more than a bit scritchy with each other, but it was late in the afternoon and we were both tired, so only to be expected.

We got our trailer into our site with a minimum of fuss however, bought firewood from our most magnificent campground hosts, Betty and Jim, boiled the kettle and watched the local residents, a pair of squirrels and their spouses, or offspring, gather pinecones for the coming winter.

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

 

One day I was walking back from the pit toilet (the cleanest, best smelling one, this side of the Rockies, thanks to Betty) when I spied Mrs Widds acting rather furtive behind the truck. She mouthed something to me and pointed over the hood.

Not getting any closer ...

Not getting any closer …

... Maybe a little bit closer

… Maybe a little bit closer

Betty and Jim had mentioned there was a brown bear who used the campground as its highway from its foraging grounds to the lake for its afternoon ablutions. I didn’t expect to see one this close. Bruin was busy stripping berries from the bushes on the side of the road, and occasionally glancing at us to make sure we stayed put, then it ambled through a few empty campsites and trundled down to the lake.

Even in the midst of the heat and the pine-beetle devastation life continued unabated.

Mother Nature never wastes a pattern

Mother Nature never wastes a pattern

Itty bitty wild strawberry – we think

Itty bitty wild strawberry – we think

Different species got along rather well

BFF's

BFF’s

 

We had some trouble with the trailer battery, so a big shout-out to Ernie in Tulameen for helping us out.

South along the lake with Tulameen in the distance

South along the lake with Tulameen in the distance

We’re getting the hang of this RV camping thing, but I doubt my cellphone camera is going to be up to the task for much longer.

Of course, when we got home who should turn up on our doorstep, get in our faces, demand cuddles, and then head to the nearest bed for a nap?

Coco, the Community Cat!

Coco, the Community Cat!