The possibility of bighorn sheep in rut lured Marc, Maggie and me out to Dewdrop Range several weekends ago. November’s beginning in Kamloops is as fickle as March’s ending: sporadic warmth belying cold’s imminent possibility. Rather than climbing up into the hills, we dropped down over the side towards Kamloops Lake and found a hidden valley–really just a eroded gully–with more than enough natural history to keep us busy for most of the day.
Selaginella and Homalothecium grew in dense mats atop a talus slope; a Hairy Woodpecker gleaned from, of all things, a mullein stalk.
As the day wore on, the sun slipped behind and then in front of clouds, casting long shadows across steep slopes.
Running this way and that, bighorn tracks and scat litter this landscape.
When it is time, I pack up pens and paper, brushes and paints, feeling the deep satisfaction that comes with paying close attention to the more-than-human world. A good way, I think, following our new dog Freya up and out of the valley, to spend a Sunday.
View across the North Okanagan from the Mt. Swanson Overlook
Now, when the first snow flies, the leavings of summer I find earlier in my field journal warms my skin and me reminds me of the linkage between the seasons. Winter–summer: different positions on the same orbit. It’s a thought hard to hold as the the wind blows hard against the house and big snowflakes fall. I think so often of my field journal as the tool that allows me to explore the present. Today I am reminded how it can also bring the past forward: a week removed from normal time, surrounded by family, on the north end of Okanagan Lake. This valley is terrain I shared with my sister and brother in our childhood and it feels right to be back here with my siblings and our extended families. Over the course of a week we make time for beachside reading, bird walks along field margins, and a uphill climb through the wetter forest leading up to Mt. Rose and Mt. Swanson. It’s a landscape I know better in memory than in current time, but the view from the Mt. Swanson has surprisingly pull–even now more than 35 years after I once called this valley home.
The fall of Short Creek, cascading down over steep rock is rivaled only by the incline of the wooden steps climbing its height. What a surprise to find crossbills and pine siskins gleaning insects from the watery seeps lining the cliff face. It’s not until I read my notes from our last climb that I remember how hot our visit here was with last summer’s record breaking heat. In summer I wished for the chill of winter; as winter descends, I long for hot August. Is this what I do? Wish away my ability to revel in the present?