August 6, 2017

Smoke and Magic

Sometimes in life we get to take part in something magical. Last night was one of those times, although I have no photos to prove it.

My daughter and I spent the first part of Saturday morning packing up enough food and clothing for the BC Day long weekend which we would spend with my husband at the resort where he works and lives part time. By ten-forty-five we had gassed up and merged our way into the stream of vehicles heading East for holiday time away. The drive is a fairly quick one in good weather so we arrived at the resort by noon. The smoke from the interior forest fires had been heavy all week and we were hoping to drive up, up above the smoke into clear skies. No such luck. We had to content ourselves with the thinness of the smokey layer up in the mountains and make the best of it. We arrived at the main lodge and immediately spotted my husband in the parking lot talking with some very good friends of ours, the kind you want to see when you are escaping your busy life for the weekend. They had come up to the resort to spend the day. That was magic moment number one, come to think of it. We all embraced and made plans to spend the day together. We would meet in an hour and a half at the lake where a barbecue and lantern festival was happening. My daughter was tired from a long and energetic week teaching theater camp and chose a nap and a quiet afternoon in our cool cabin instead.

Things did not go as planned. Somehow our wires got crossed and the friends and I didn't end up meeting. We spent about three hours looking for each other. I circled the beach area twice and then, hot and a bit worried, decided to commence a hike around the lake with a first stop at a favourite little swimming beach from where I could hear people on the path above and be able to intercept my friends should they walk by. I dove into the beautiful, clean, clear water and swam for a quarter of an hour. The physical relief of swimming in a lake after being hot and sweaty is something I have always considered the penultimate in outdoor activities. No sign of our friends, though.  They, too, as it turned out, had hiked around the lake in search of me and had also gone for a swim. Somehow we missed each other but at least we all got a hike and swim in. We also enjoyed a pleasant dinner together. Saturday happened to be Leo's birthday and we toasted his years with a beer for him and wine for us. They left for home at eight and my husband, daughter and I changed into warmer clothing for our evening activity, which was to be volunteering at the lantern festival with other staff.

We had to be at the boathouse at eight-thirty so we could launch all the canoes and kayaks while there was still daylight. Within minutes about twenty staff members were assembled and choosing PFDs (life jackets) and paddles. We chose a canoe and hurried to get in and push off to make room for everyone else to do the same. The lanterns would be launched at nine-thirty from Spruce Bay, which is the beach for the lake's main provincial park campsite, so we had plenty of time for a paddle down the lake. The smokey skies had greatly suppressed the wind in the past few days and we enjoyed a calm surface in which to dip our paddles. As dusk settled bats flew above our heads and the dark outline of duck families floated past. Those with lights on their canoes switched them on. Earlier in the day families had attended a lantern-building workshop on the grassy lawn by the lake. They constructed wooden frames with a holder for a candle and covered the frames in coloured tissue paper. On my last walk around the beach in search of my friends I caught a glimpse of an impressive 3-D maple leaf lantern receiving its finishing touches in red tissue paper.

From the water we could see and hear a large crowd gathering at Spruce Bay. The lanterns would be launched a few at a time and let drift with the current. Our job was to keep them from drifting into shore and also, after they had traveled far enough to gather them up, blow out the candles and place them in our canoes. We would then paddle to the bay and return them to Jo and the other staff members who were standing in the water waiting for us. The families could then retrieve their lanterns and take them home if they wished. Approximately seventy glowing lanterns in all shapes and sizes were launched. The designs ranged from a white Pac Man replica to a tall lighthouse to a beautiful pink whale with pink and purple scales. Two maple leaf lanterns, one with 'Canada 150' emblazoned on it, were set adrift and glowed proudly red for the occasion. Such a beautiful sight! My daughter, ever cheeky, started singing a song from the Disney movie Tangled, which features a lantern festival, and saying, "See, it is Tangled." 

And at last I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted

Except in this instance it was smoke, not fog.

As the night set in completely, I kept an eagle eye out for other boats and my husband steered us in and around the lanterns. We gathered a boat full and brought them carefully back to shore. The usually boisterous and noisy young staff seemed a little subdued by the ceremonial aspect of our task, as if we were all honoured to be out there on the lake in the dark returning lovingly made creations to their rightful owners. After the last lantern was gathered and the last candle blown out we all turned our canoes and headed back to the boathouse. An orangey-red orb of a nearly full moon was rising up over the hills and accompanying us as we paddled across the blackened lake. Keeping an eye out for the log boom we found the opening and steered through it to the dock, my husband calling out to the other boats, "Watch out for the log boom!" Earlier in the evening I had chuckled after hearing one of the young men on the staff call out jokingly to my husband, "You're not my real dad, you can't tell me what to do." My daughter and I put away our paddles and PFDs while my husband helped with the canoes. I had been warm out on the water, but now with the extra insulation of the life jacket gone, I began to shiver a little. After a short chat about a successful event - no staff members had flipped their canoes or cursed (water would carry sound to the families on shore most effectively) - with Mike, the resort's GM, we drove back to our cabin.

After my active day sprinkled with little bits of magic I fell gratefully into bed and slept until my husband arose for work. As I write this the clock stikes ten, and my daughter is still asleep - she rarely sleeps in late. I suppose she was sprinkled with some magic dust last night as well.