Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Sad Tale

Cherries are legend here in these valleys. Back at the turn of the century, and when I say that, I still mean the one before last, the cherries grown here were reported to be as large as plums and equally sweet and juicy. They were famous for being the best in all of North America, even better than the Okanagan which now grows many of our cherries. They were famous right across the country. J.T. Bealby, a Nelson fruit rancher, was quoted as saying:
"One of the most wonderful sights in a British Columbia orchard, and more especially a Kootenay orchard, is the cherry-trees when laden with their snow-white blossoms. Every branch, from its divergence from a large limb or the main trunk, right away to the outermost twig, is thickly feathered with clusters of blossom, and tufts of bloom cling even to the main trunk and large limbs. This is true of every variety of cherry alike, sour as well as sweet. The crops are, as a rule, enormously heavy -- so much so that the trees, and this applies to apples, pears, and plums, as well as to cherries -- have to be well supported with props to prevent them from breaking down under the loads they carry, and even then it is not an unusual thing for one or more branches to split off before the fruit can be gathered."

Indeed that bit about props is true. My parents have two very old apple trees in their yard (well over 100 yrs by now...they were put in shortly after the house was originally built) and last year that is essentially what happened. One of the branches on one of the trees was so heavy with fruit that the branch broke and my father had to prop it up and mend it hoping to save the apples on that particular branch long enough for them to ripen. But it is an old tree, so some years it takes a rest, but then there are years like last where there is a real bumper crop. Not bad for an old tree whose trunk is almost completely hollow that it totally baffles us that there is any fruit at all. But back to the story of the

Unfortunately, about 1933 a mysterious cherry disease hit destroying the thriving industry. The first symptoms were noticed at Willow Point, just around the bend from where I live. At the time, it was called, "Little Cherry Disease." Most disheartening was that infected trees only became obvious about two weeks before harvest. By this point, the damage was done, the
cherries were small, lacked taste and sweetness, and were for the most part wormy. Once a tree was infected, there was nothing to be done but to cut it down, as the cherries from then on would be as such. By about the 50's the disease had decimated the industry and all cherry trees were ordered to be cut down to try to stop the spread which by now was determined to be transmitted by infected insects.

At the time, the source of the outbreak was not known, but it has since been determined that Japanese Ornamental
cherries were carrying the disease in symptomless form. There were three specimens of these trees growing not far from the original outbreak on the property of Selwyn Gwillym Blaylock, the rich vice-president and general manager of a mining smelting company which later became known as Cominco (this property is just a ways down the road in the other direction from me). He had a passion for gardening and had beautiful grounds surrounding his estate. The grounds purportedly featured one of every species of tree native to Canada as well as many other ornamental trees and flowering shrubs. Blaylock encouraged frequent guests, including foreign dignitaries to bring gifts of trees and shrubs from their native land to add to his collection. But this was not how he had acquired the particular trees in question. They had been imported by Blaylock himself. He had officially inquired about the importation of Japanese Ornamental Cherries and had been told that the trees were diseased and not to be imported. He decided to smuggle them in anyways.

So thus is the story of
cherries in the Kootenays. Infected trees were to be removed, but it was tough as there were and still are so many wild cherries growing out in the woods which of course, by this point has probably also been diseased. Cherry orchards have since been re-established around Creston, the far end of Kootenay lake, and indeed the cherries are good. But the industry has never gone back to what it once was.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Visitor

This cute, thieving little bandit decimated my tulips a couple weeks ago. I apologize for the photo...but dusk had already fallen when I took the snap, so I had to lighten it, giving it a rather grainy texture. Animals are quite abundant at this time of year. As soon as spring hits, they make their way down the mountain side looking for some tasty morsels after the bland winter fare. One evening I came home to find three in my yard, or rather on the outskirts. This one was a loner who was quite startled when I opened the door to try to get a shot...shot with my camera that is. He immediately took off at a trot, but not before he had bitten off almost all of my tulip heads. Tulips are apparently quite sweet. Ironically, they never touch the daffodils. I have a ton of them. Deer aren't the only beasts lurking about in the spring. Last week a bear took apart my compost box trying to find a good feed. I didn't actually see the spectacle as occurred, but witnessed the mess later. Luckily a kind neighbour put the box back together for me. There was a Grizzly just this past week who was wandering about a neighbourhood just a few miles out the lake. A conservation officer had to be called in as apparently nothing was scaring this fellow off. These aren't overly common occurrences, but do occur regularly in the spring.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Easter weekend I received a call from a good friend, and in the spirit of Easter, she ended our telephone conversation with, "may all your sins be forgiven." I can't recall anyone ever having said that to me before and I've never known this girl to be at all religious, so initially, I was a little taken aback. However, the more I thought about it, the real message of Easter is the hope we have of experiencing the grace of forgiveness, and certainly, there is not much that is more freeing than being forgiven and being able to forgive.

Forgiveness is a lesson that took me a long time to learn, not that I didn't want to forgive, but that I didn't truly understand it. Forgiveness is not at all for the transgressor but rather the person who is doing the forgiving. Forgiveness is the act of untying oneself from the thoughts and feelings that bind us to the acts committed against us. It is a conscious decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge and to move on with one's life. It is the ability to pick up our shattered self and move beyond in a quest to find that centre of peace which makes us whole again.

Forgiveness, however, does not mean that one denies or condones the wrong committed against them or others. Forgiveness also doesn't guarantee reconciliation nor does it absolve the transgressor from restitution. Reconciliation is a much larger process of which forgiveness plays but one small part. Now that last point is probably where my confusion began. At one time, I believed my forgiveness was what was needed to bridge the chasm created by the transgressor. But alas, it was the responsibility of the transgressor to rebuild that bridge. In the process, I've learned to listen to actions rather than words, as for some, sickly lies come easy, but the body always reveals its true intent.

Undoubtedly, you have now realized that the threads of another story are quietly weaving themselves within the layers written upon this page. Now is not the time for me to go into all the lurid details, however, know that the road is never smooth when one is called upon to proclaim the truth in the shadow of her tormentor. These coming days are gray and I cannot yet see beyond the bend in the road, so if you can find it within yourself to say a prayer on my behalf or throw a positive thought in my direction, I would be most appreciative.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


We do not keep the outward form of order, where there is deep disorder in the mind.

~ William Shakepeare