My friend, Lee, made up his mind at the age of thirteen who he was going to be. Not what he was going to do for a living – that’s only a fraction of who we are – but who he was going to BE. And true to his vision, he became that person. At the time of this revelation, although I never voiced it aloud, I was critical. His thirteen-year-old plan didn’t account for any changes in his life, no room for growth.
I owe Lee an apology.
In my judgment of him, I failed to realize that I, too, knew the person I wanted to be, by about age twelve. The difference is, I allowed myself to be distracted, thrown off-course, and it hasn’t been since the last five years of growing into the person I want to be I realized it was the same person I wanted to be at twelve.
There were certainly a few changes made along the way, and some lessons hard learned. But I am closer now to my twelve-year-old self than I’ve ever been.
It was with a sense of elation I set out on Sunday to do what I wanted to do, be who I wanted to be.
The air was hot and thick, and there was no way for me to predict what would happen, as the sky seemed to hold clouds of every colour, but I was determined to have an adventure, and see what there was to see. Maybe if I looked at rocks, I would find some BC jade.
As I headed into the mountains, the air was sweet with sage and Ponderosa pine. I could hear crickets and watched as the gentle breeze bowed light golden grasses. But once I turned onto McCulloch Road, it didn’t take long for the scenery to begin to change. Sandstone cliffs turned into rock walls, Ponderosa pine made way for Lodgepole pine and Cedar.
The aroma of trees and wildflowers filled the air. There wasn’t enough of a breeze to blow through the Chev, and I found myself sticking my head out the window as I puttered along at 23 km/h, trying to inhale as much of the forest as possible.
The heart of the wildflower season doesn’t begin for another month or two, but there were still plenty to look at.
Wild Roses shouted deep pink from the roadside.
Cinquefoil, canary yellow in the shade.
I even saw what I think are cherry blossoms out in the middle of nowhere. Tiny Wild Strawberry blossoms were everywhere.
Butterflies rose from the road in front of me. Tiger Swallowtails, Mourning Cloaks, Painted Ladies, and the disappointingly named Orange Tip.
But wait a second! Was that a bear ahead? Or was it a cow? I’ve made that mistake before, and with my eyes in their current condition, I couldn’t tell for sure. I stopped the car and grabbed my camera, using the lens to zoom in. It was a bear! He was gorgeous, cinnamon coloured with four black feet and a black stripe across his nose. Before I could press the shutter, he turned and headed back into the deep forest. I was left with a fuzzy photo of bear butt. Or a photo of a fuzzy bear butt, depending on how you look at it.
I pulled forward to where he disappeared into the woods, but he had vanished, as if he had never existed at all. I waited for a while, engine off, to see if he would re-emerge further along the road, Alas, he did not.
This journey had become a creature feature and I forgot all about looking for jade.
Instead, I admired the stink bug that crawled onto my foot as I was trying to take a photo of the rushing creek, stepped away from the pile of deadfall when I noticed it was crawling with spiders. Shared space with pollinators as we competed for the same flowers.
I nearly won an inadvertent game of chicken with a red squirrel who came out of freaking nowhere!
Of course, there were birds, yet I didn’t get a single photograph. I thought I did. I thought I found a strange new woodpecker I had never seen before. Did I mention I’m still struggling with my eyesight? Learning to take photos with my left eye?
That is not a woodpecker.
I watched from a high ledge as an eagle circled the tops of the trees in the valley below me. I didn’t even try to get a photo. It was one of those moments I just had to feel, rather than capture. (You’ve seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, right?)
My god, I felt so alive! How lucky I am to be in the midst of such beauty.
I made my way to my de facto destination – Browne Lake.
The water sparkled blue in the sunlight. Other than a couple of guys fishing out on the lake, no one was around. I sat for a while, absorbing my surroundings, and then walked to the marsh edge of the lake to look at the lilypads floating on the shallow surface, glimmering like jewels over the shoals.
Hot, sweaty, and totally fulfilled, I made the journey home.
I know now why Lee was always so positive about his life. The closer I move to the person I always wanted to be, the less I have to complain about.