Dead trees standing.
As kids, my sister and I made countless trips with our parents or grandparents through Alberta to BC. I confess, I often had my eyes in an Archie comic back then, unaware of the majestic surroundings on either side of the station wagon. I would be prodded to enjoy the scenery, and I would look up every once in awhile and try not not puke because of the curvy roads and comic books being experienced simultaneously.
I never truly appreciated the emerald lakes, the sparkling blue rivers or all the mountain animals decorating the rocky outcroppings that would spark the story of “Falling Rock”. We would listen politely as Mom or Gran would tell us about the little Indian boy who was going through his rite of passage when he was becoming a man. The same little boy that was sent away to survive for a summer on his own, but failed to return to his tribe. Ever since then, travellers were asked to keep an eye open and “Watch for Falling Rock.” I always imagined how heartbroken his mother would be in his permanent absence. Now, as a mother, I don’t want to imagine that heartbreak.
Now as a mother, I find myself making those same treks with my two boys; Finding adventures where I can. Having instead of a pub crawl, I find myself combining my grandmothers roadside picnics with peanut butter sandwiches out of the trunk of her gas guzzling beast of a car with bunwiches in my minivan in small town parks so my boys can get their “beans out” and I can have five minutes without them shrieking at each other within 5 feet of my bursting eardrums. A picnic & park crawl if you will.
This summer’s adventures started with a friend’s small town wedding before we made our way through the Rocky Mountains. Many people advised us on the dangers of this trip as this year the forest fires seem to be swallowing up small towns along the interior of BC and more than 40,000 people are displaced already. Stopping in Jasper before the trek West our animal adventure tour guide educated us on the dangers of the pine beetle. I could not link together how a beetle made a forest fire worse, until he explained the beetles were killing the pine trees by drilling holes in their bark and injecting a venom of sorts that prevented the sap from healing the holes. Slowly the trees were dying, and then it became faster and faster until today as we descended from Jasper’s world famous skytram, it looked like autumn had arrived in the Jasper valley. It took me a minute to reconcile the fact that the EVERGREEN trees were much other than green. Brown, red, and grey more than dotted the scenery. It was on the verge of dominating it. I could almost feel the panic in the forest as I am sure each healthy tree was mourning the loss of it’s tribe surrounding it. The townsfolk in each place we visited expressed the stress and worry of losing their homes, their land, their memories.
I am happy to be able to bring my boys through these majestic mountains, for if they fall prey to either the pine beetle or the fires, they will not the same for many decades until they regrow to what they are now. I just hope instead of the comic books that captured my attention, it isn’t the electronic devices that steal this experience from them. Perhaps I will become the mom that shrieks at them to look out the windows, like my Mom once did. 🙂