There are bursts of colour at the foot of the mountain that strain the eye.
Across the gun-metal blue of the lake, the scarlet, orange and yellow wave like banners, and there’s a regal quality to the morning air, like a fanfare for the aware and just awakened. Late September. Summer’s glory reduced to a thin wavering note.
There are strange birds now. They arrived overnight and take shelter in the reeds and the clumped brush at the shoreline. Their calls are odd after a season of coots, grebes, mergansers, loons, red-winged blackbirds and geese. They’re more nervous than our regulars. At the sight of the dog and me, they cheep in alarm and duck deeper into the tangle of branches so it’s hard to see them fully.
This fall will cascade slowly into winter. For me, soon to turn 53, it’s a time of preparation. There’s wood to chop and stack, winterizing windows, the final clearing of gutters, replacing batteries for the torches, replenishing candles and hauling in supplies from town. It’s taken years to get here. This season of reflection and replenishment. I’ve aged well and I like the feel of change on my hands and face.
But these are difficult times. The global havoc of the financial markets has caused a lot of consternation in our house. It’s like you can feel the general panic at the windows like the scratching of a feral creature. We don’t carry a huge portfolio but there’s money sunk into the wealth machinery and it’s been hard-earned and precious. The dips and dives of the market and the huge fiasco on the American credit front have been hard on us. Riding it out takes a premium on our faith.
Then there’s the gas prices. While we watch the price of oil fall, it still takes a chunk of change to fill our tanks and keep us rolling. Someone somewhere is raking in a lot of shekels while ordinary people suffer and there’s no clear explanation of why the situation exists. No one says a word that makes sense and we pay out and pay out simply because we have to. Riding this out takes a premium on our trust.
Of course, there’s an election just around the corner. Here in the hills there’s been no knock on our door from erstwhile candidates eager enough to make the drive from town. There seems to be a total lack of communication and we aren’t even sure who’s running in this riding. We do know that there isn’t anyone stepping up to ask what our issues are. Or what they can do to help. Riding this out takes a premium on our loyalty.
There are a lot of issues. Simply being alive and functioning as a taxpayer in this country means there are a lot of thorny sides to our life and living. Political things. They all are.
There’s the doctor shortage for one thing. We have to make a four-hour drive to Vancouver because there are no doctors in town or the surrounding area. The idea of making that jaunt while afflicted is debilitating in itself. In the region where we live there are 16,000 of us without a family doctor. And one of the walk-in clinics is closing. For a country whose identity is built so much on free health care, we wonder what happened.
Surrounded by mountains, we’ve come to know and understand that global warming is not just a rumour spread by juiced-up conspiracy theorists. You can see it in the trees. You can see it in the behaviour of the creatures. You can tell by the alteration in the rhythm of the seasons. Most importantly, you can see it in the quality of produce in our markets. But you have to look for it.
The issue of homelessness is getting bigger. Even in small towns off the beaten path like the village we toured last week, set back in the interior mountains, there are the dispossessed. We saw them and it shocked us. Because it’s not just a big-city problem anymore. It’s become possible, given the flux of world stability, for anyone to become deprived. Anyone. That’s the square truth of it.
A great man once wrote that ‘this is the winter of our discontent.’ He was referring to the fickle temper of the times in the late 1770s but the words are apt today. This season of change that’s coming is the winter of our concern. But the greatest gift of political things is that they make you hunker in. Make you pull the ones you love around you, make you feel the value of family and home and belonging.
The wind is blowing and a change is coming. But spring, like hope, is eternal.