Gillard Forestry Road

“Are you awake?” From behind the closed door, I heard Santana reply cheerfully. I eased the door open a crack.

“I think I want to go out for a drive today. Do you want to come along?”

Santana tilted his head, a slight frown on his face.

“I thought you weren’t comfortable with the idea of driving?”

“On the highway, no. But I’d be okay with one of the forestry roads.”

“What brought this on?”

“I figured if I am going to lose my sight, I’d like to get out at least one more time first.”

“That’s morbid,” Santana said, as he swung his legs out of bed. “But sure. I’m in.”

Morbid, maybe. But also a very real possibility.

It happened on Thursday afternoon, at the very worst possible time. I was at the sink, filling up a water bottle, when suddenly, I lost vision in my right eye. Immediately, I was off-balance. I found a chair and sat down, waiting for the dizziness to pass, for my sight to return. But my sight didn’t return. Instead, all I could see were purple snowflakes made of yellow lightning bolts. Maybe I just needed to lie down for a minute. I was still suffering the aftereffects of a nasty fall two weeks earlier. I felt my way down the hallway to my bedroom and lay down. Nothing changed. I could feel panic, rising in my chest.

Reaching for my phone, I called the health line. I don’t know what I expected. I guess I was hoping the nurse would tell me to put a warm facecloth over my eye or something. I wasn’t expecting her to tell me to get to the hospital immediately.

So that is how I ended up missing the launch of my very first book.

When it became clear I wasn’t going to be released in time to make it to the event I had organized for National Poetry Month and the debut of my first collection, Santana went in my place. He, along with my very good friends, Michele and Jaki, ensured the event went off without a hitch, even going so far as to get on stage and read a couple of my poems.

In the meantime, I was learning the probable cause for my loss of vision was an “eye-stroke.” I had undergone eye tests, ultrasound, a CT scan, and bloodwork. My vision had fluctuated between the purple snowflakes, what looked like a photo negative, to bright outlines, to only seeing light and dark. I was told my vision may never return to normal. Oh, and there’s a small mass on my brain – probably nothing to worry about.

It wasn’t until the next morning over coffee I found myself weeping, feeling sorry for myself, and wondering what I must have done in my last life to deserve everything I’d had to endure in this one. (Yes, I am a closet drama-queen.)

But here’s the thing – you can only feel sorry for yourself for so long before it starts to feel forced. And at my age, I don’t have time for that. So, on Sunday morning, I was ready for a little forest therapy.

We headed up Lakeshore Drive, past where it turns back toward the lake, and on to the Gillard Forestry Road. My eyesight was almost completely normal when we started out, although I was finding the brightness of the day a little painful.

Being Sunday, there was lots of traffic on a normally quiet road. Cyclists and off-road enthusiasts and their vehicles lined the gravel road in clusters, and every so often we’d come upon a group of people just hanging out having a beer in front of a campfire. There was plenty of dust in the air.

The higher we climbed, the less traffic there was, until it seemed we had outrun them all. We reached the turnoff to the Chute Lake Lodge, but it was obviously too early in the year to tackle the road without four-wheel drive.

After poking the nose of our vehicle down a couple of other roads to see what might lie beyond, we eventually decided we had gone as high as we could go and began the slow descent back down the mountain.

We hadn’t been out for more than a couple of hours, but already my neck and ribs were aching, and my right eye was starting to get a little wonky. It wasn’t too bad driving, but trying to see through the view finder on the camera was challenging.

That didn’t stop me from appreciating the flowering saskatoon bushes, the pair of red-tailed hawks, the forest, the rocks, and of course, the Columbia Ground Squirrels.

It was good to get out, to step away from myself, and just breathe the dust and the forest. I may end up losing my sight. But if it happens, I will still find a way to feel life as it happens. I will still find a way.

Beauty, Born of Pain


Author: Featherstone Creative

Sally Quon is a photographer and writer living in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, where she is blessed to live, love and grow on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx people. Her photography has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and in Nature Alberta’s various birding brochures. Sally was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul - The Forgiveness Fix and was long listed for the Vallum Chapbook Award. She is an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets. One of her photos was chosen for inclusion in the Photographer’s Forum “Best of 2018” Collection. She has two beautiful, almost grown children and a cat who loves her.

3 thoughts on “Gillard Forestry Road”

  1. Sorry to hear of your latest health set back. As you know Murray has been blind in one eye since 2011. About 2019 when we were driving to Edmonton to see the eye specialist for his regular check up, he lost sight in the other eye for about 30 minutes. They did tests while we were in Edmonton and then had to go back to see a heart specialist as it was diagnosed as an eye stroke. His eye cleared and he has not had any problems since but he was put on lipids for high cholesterol although his cholesterol was not super high and also on aspirin 81 mg. a day.

    Glad the book launch went ahead even if you were unable to attend. Great job Santana! Is there a way to get a copy of your book?



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