The other day I was puttering around the Tawatinaw River valley with my lovely nieces and a small herd of dogs that were loving splashing in the water on a warm summer day.
We headed up to one of my favourite ridges where I often sit and watch clouds roll across the valley and immediately I noticed something bright orange sitting along the ridge line. I muttered under my breath thinking someone had left some garbage up there but was silenced quickly when I realized it was a memorial marker.
That afternoon at the hairdresser I Googled the name on the rock and found a lovely obituary for a man close to my age that had some struggles in life, but seems to love and be loved well. One of the things he loved was this valley.
I roam this bit of the Tawatinaw valley on a daily basis and there is not much of our 160 acres of land and the land surrounding it that has not been touched by my footprints, sled runners, my snowshoes, quad tracks, bike tires, and the paw prints of a dog or two or four or 16 that seem to always be tagging along with me. My love for this spot began the moment I first set foot on it, as many can attain, and hasn’t waned even a touch in the 19 years since.
It is extremely rare that I run into other people in the valley, but sometimes I find signs of their presence - empty beer bottles (which disgust me), smashed bits of vehicles that folks tried to squish down trails intentional keep too narrow to accommodate them, footprints, crayfish traps, remnants of fires thankfully well put out, and images from our game camera.
And then there are the signs of those that inhabited it in a different generation - graves (at least 4 scattered around the property), fragments of old bottles and metal that sometimes work their way up to the surface of well worn trails, old house sites with their dug out basements/cold storage spots, and the likes.
And, of course, the signs of the MANY animals that have and do call this area their home - moose, deer, bear, coyotes, wolves, cougars, fishers, bobcat, lynx, skunk, porcupine, rabbits, eagles, herons, foxes, elk, beavers, otters, and many smaller critters have all been documented on the property.
And if you have sat in my infamous ‘Chairs’ out along the trail, you were in the presence of the ashes of many amazing sled dogs - and some truly awesome pets - that have shared my life.
As much as I think of it as ‘my’ corner of the world, it is not. I am just one of thousands and thousands of souls that have been connected to this land and will be connected to it in the future..
Years ago I ran into a lady whose Great Uncle lived in the area. We did the ‘where did he live?’, ‘where do you live?’ Game and it turns out we were talking about the very same place. He lived here during the Depression and passed along the fact that his young brother contracted an illness and died here - one of the small graves, I’d suspect. I wish we had kept in touch and I could have found out more.
I know brief tidbits of the valley, like the story from the woman I ran into and some of the older folks that lived in the area and berry picked down here their whole life. Stories of fires, stories of going to school, stories of the old shingle factory, crossing the Tawatinaw with oxen and wagons heading to settle the Peace Country… The folks we bought the property from had grand plans cut short by his heart attack and death here (the lilac in front of the house was planted in his memory by his children). A few years back a Mother and daughter stopped in to see the place. The daughter had fond memories of picking blueberries out here with her Grandma. She reported that Joyce had sadly passed a few years back. I told her she was welcome out any time to pick berries.
Connection to land is special thing. I am grateful to have experienced it and have that thread of community that runs behind, through and eventually beyond me via it.
I doubt I’ll spend my whole life here. It feels like there are still new adventures out there for me and different landscapes to love and explore but for the time I’m here, I’m going to love it as it deserves to be loved - and when I leave, like Tom Parker, a bit of me will likely stay behind.
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