Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Of Mountain Shadowlights - and Tarantulas, Rattlesnakes, Black Widows :-)

Southern Okanagan Valley - beauty ...
I've told this story before. Back in 1971 when I was very young (24) and a recently first professed Sister of St. Margaret, I spent the summer working at Trinity Mountain Camp in western Connecticut. Word came via friend Phebe Jacobs (who had only surmised it - but it had a ring of truth) that I was going to minister in Haiti in the fall. Acckkk! For one thing, I had high anxiety about going away from home. And another: I am terrified of spiders (ok - so you're not terrified of anything?) - to be more precise though, they are technically not spiders, but who's being picky here? - I was terrified of meeting tarantulas on dark and stormy or not stormy nights. BIG! Hairy! Ugly! Bite! Hang out on door handles and under things...


Well, those of you who know me know I went to Haiti in spite of the fear - out of obedience - and LIFE changed. Life became real. I loved Haiti, the people I worked with, the people in general, the earthiness of life, the beauty, and the country in all it's tragedy, joys, and challenges. I am still terrified of tarantulas, and am thankful that Sister Anne Marie and Sister Joan who got up in the middle of the night (almost) to pray before heading out to their respective schools discovered a mama tarantula had given birth (or whatever tarantulas do) to hundreds of tiny babies that swarmed all over the chapel door opening into a courtyard.

And now - 2015. My childhood friend Cheryl lives in Okanagan Falls, BC - in the southern desert-y part of the valley. She and her husband Arthur visited us in Montreal in June. As I was planning to stay a few days with them after my PWRDF Sharing Bread workshop at Sorrento (up the road), I asked if they really had rattlesnakes. "Yes," says Cheryl, "and scorpions and black widow spiders." AAACCCKKK!  Be brave, Ros. You can do this. You may not sleep the entire time you're there, but be brave. 

Did I say that along with the rest of the world's adults, I'm pretty grown up but still working on it? 

So, July 11th, friend Kay drops me at Costco in Kelowna and Cheryl and Arthur pick me up. Check surreptitiously under car seats for little black spiders with red hourglass on their backs. Nope. Check around car for rattlesnakes when we alight at their home. Nope. Scorpions - well, they pretty well  hide out ... but be sure to shake out slippers in the night. I don't wear slippers. OK. Actually, in all the years Cheryl and Arthur have lived in the south Okanagan, they've only ever met one rattlesnake - 6 feet of snake - under their wood pile. One's enough - but better than lots. They've never seen a scorpion. And there were no black widows to be seen. 

When we stopped at the First Nations winery, I asked the woman at the counter about black widows - "They don't come into the house, right?" Her response: "Do you want me to say yes or no?"

 Nary a one - rattlesnake, scorpion, or spider... found a neat sign about rattlesnakes, though - and apparently the land is becoming so developed - housing and vineyards - there is concern that they are disappearing. 

Like what person in his or her right mind is going to pick up a rattlesnake or harass it??

Now you can all feel self-righteous that these little things wouldn't bother you - so - go for it :-) 

And surprise, surprise - my experience was beyond words. Let the photos speak for themselves. 

The Okanagan is so dry and brown and grey and grey-green and desert-y that I thought (preconceived notion) I couldn't possibly live there. I'm more of a tree-covered mountains, turquoise glacier-fed lakes, snow and/or ocean kind of person. And then - wait for it...  

It is exquisitely beautiful. Every few seconds the landscape changes - shadows, clouds, and sunlight play with each other putting on a spectacular show every moment of the day into evening on the raw mountainsides - covered with gorse or bare rock ... see photos. Haze from the forest fires added to the mystery. 

And then there were irrigated vineyards (apparently a drop of water a minute through black tubing) and still peach and cherry orchards... though orchards are fewer than in the past - competition from the US and other issues.

It just goes to show I shouldn't make up my mind about beauty or what I like and dislike a-forehand. I was still careful about where I put my feet and didn't reach into any dark corners without checking for eight-legged beasties.     ;-) But - it was awesome. 

And - the best peach I have ever had in my entire life - stood over the sink and let the sweet, sweet juice dribble down my chin, over my hands and up my arms. A glorious, heavenly mess. If there's no snow in heaven (whatever or wherever heaven is) at least I hope there are Okanagan peaches. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your account of overcoming fears :). I'm with you on the spider thing.
    Also, I went to that Nk'Mip winery, desert walk and cultural centre last year (May 2014), and I agree: exquisite scenery, incredible (and unexpected) colours. The Nk'Mip visit was wonderful; what a nice setup. It was a treat to see photos of that scenery again.
    Didn't see any snakes on our walk; but I did see a rather scary mass of what looked like destructive ants.