May 31, 2017
City Mouse, Mountain Mouse
I was so exhausted after work Friday I forgot the onions and garlic for the Shepherd's Pie I was set to make the next day. We were gathering up clothing, food and supplies to take up to our place at the mountain resort where my husband is employed, and where our daughter and I would also spend our weekend. I had the recipe in front of me and read it over to make sure I gathered all the ingredients. (I also ended up forgetting the rosemary.) For some stupid reason I had awoken that morning at 4:45 and could not, for the life of me, fall back to sleep. Instead, I had given in, got up, made coffee and taken care of some emails. I never sleep to my 6:20 alarm on my work days, but 4:45 is ridiculous. Fourteen and a half hours later I was pushing through my foggy haze to get organized. Fortunately, my husband had come down to pick us up, and I would not have to drive the hour and ten minutes to the resort. He was also trying to be helpful in a 'let's hurry' sort of way.
Once we were on the road I could relax. A beautiful evening drive was in front of us and a mellow and quiet weekend was something to look very much forward to. The weekend before my husband had come down with the stomach flu and a few days later our daughter got it. I had successfully fought off the flu, but I was truly spent after looking after my family, working, and surviving on the interrupted sleep I seem to get nowadays. As we left the freeway behind and began the gradual winding climb to the resort I felt every cell in my body breathe a sigh of relief. I enjoy my job, I like the convenience of living in a mid-sized city and appreciate all it has to offer my daughter and me by way of cultural and educational opportunities, but I was born and raised in a town perched on a mountainside above a long and lovely lake, and the scent of lake water, evergreens and cottonwood are part of my DNA.
The first thing I do when I arrive at our humble little place in the mountains is fill my lungs with the sweet, fresh, fir and pine scented air. Next, I fill a glass with delicious mountain water and drink it down. The city where I live used to boast some of the best drinking water in Canada, but now it has to be chlorinated. After my ritual of inhaling and water drinking I put my stuff away and my husband made some popcorn. We sat down in front of the laptop and watched some comedy on YouTube. My husband has lately discovered a Brit comedian named Michael McIntyre,who is very funny but also incredibly fast talking. After about forty-five minutes of trying to keep up to Michael McIntyre I gave up and went to bed. I slept the deepest, longest sleep I'd had in ages.
My daughter was up before me the next morning, which almost never happens. I got up about 9 and made coffee, which I am confidently sure I would never forget to bring no matter how foggy I am the night before. My husband doesn't drink coffee, he wakes up ready to go which is a completely foreign concept to me, and doesn't keep it on hand. My daughter was still feeling a bit rough so we kept our ambitions of activity low and wore pyjamas until the afternoon. After lunch we ventured out for a walk on one of the many trails in the park and came across a couple of snowshoe hares, their feet still white but their bodies turning brown for their summer camouflage. They seemed to be chasing around in some sort of mating ritual and kept darting across our path. The air was warm, but not nearly as warm as it would be down in the valley. Still, we stuck to the shade where possible and put our hands in the cold rushing stream dissecting our path. We returned early to our place and I began to prepare our Shepherd's Pie. I soon realized I lacked the required onion and garlic. I wondered if the Resort chef would spare me some, and made my way out the door to walk the ten minutes to my husband's office. I had barely gone fifty meters when I saw our neighbour pull up in his BC Parks truck. I called out, "Do you happen to have an onion?" He said he did, at first thinking I was a tourist before recognizing me despite my lack of winter garb, and we proceeded to chat about Shepherd's Pie and cooking in general. I offered him a piece in exchange for the onion and garlic, and he took me up on it. I had met him and his girlfriend only once before in the winter, but familiarity is quick in somewhat isolated resort communities, I find. I think it has to be.
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner. The simplest meals seem to taste best in a camping-type environment, where the flavours mingle with fresh air, wood smoke and sunscreen. I remember making Sloppy Joes, which is basically meat sauce on a bun, for my family when we were camping on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, and they begged me to make it at home. I made the dish a couple of months later and the kids were disappointed, even though the ingredients were exactly the same as when we were camping. After the dishes were done, my husband made our first campfire of the summer and we sat around it in camp chairs and talked of this, and that, and burned an old insect and mold damaged paperback nearly page by page. My actor daughter and I read selected lines from the pages by way of a eulogy for the book. We let the fire die and went back inside to watch more Michael McIntyre and then we had another long and satisfying sleep.
The next morning I got up before my husband left for work. Our daughter was up early, too, so I suggested we aim to leave the house by 10-ish since we were both feeling a whole lot better than the day before. We packed a simple picnic and drove the four kilometers up to the lakes. The May morning shone on the blue-green of the lake water and the verdant green of the shore. I knew a path circled the lake so we set out upon it. We stopped several times to exclaim at the tree-perfumed scents of the forest in which we hiked, the birds and especially the ground squirrels that so delighted my daughter with their winning/food begging ways, The walk was longer than we anticipated, and very glad we'd brought peanut butter and jam sandwiches and apples we stopped to sit on a log overlooking the water to enjoy our lunch. Happy people in canoes and kayaks paddled by in front of us and ducks and geese floated and fished. A dog came to visit us and I jumped because I had been bitten just a half hour before by another dog I had been assured would be friendly if I said hello. This particular dog was an adorable puppy and only made a muddy mess of my leg as it raced around us. I was grateful to put my throbbing and bleeding hand in the cold, clean lake water (no motors are allowed on the lakes) before we continued our trek.
We drove back to our place and made tea and ate more food. We decided we had earned a movie and chose Johnny English. Although the hike around the beautiful lake had made me feel blissful and somewhat romantic about life, the dog bite had brought me very much back to reality and I thought a laugh would do me good. It did do me good, as did the antiseptic wipes and the Advil. We made another simple but enjoyable dinner, packed up and drove down the winding descent to the freeway. We arrived home to a very warm apartment and flicked on the air conditioner. Our daughter caught up on the rest of her homework (she had already done plenty on the weekend after missing school for three days), and my husband and I watched an episode of Miss Marple.
I woke up the next morning at 5:30. The traffic had started in earnest on the thoroughfare by our building and the Tim Horton's drive-thru had already been open for an hour and a half. Not quite ready to give into the city's ways I suggested to my husband who was now on days off, that we drive the few minutes to the river and go for a walk before the heat of the day set in. The cottonwoods were shedding their fluff and giving off their heady, honeyed scent. Acres of pink and purple phlox bordered the pathway and the sun shone warmly down. The river swollen from the spring runoff raced along beside us. I was very glad to carry on the nature therapy a little longer so near our city home. I know we are very lucky to live where we live. The cares of the weekdays would come soon enough.
Later that day I went to the second hand book store and bought another copy of the burned novel.