Changes

The Lessonslearnedinthebush Blog was created as a place for me to put down stories of the time I spent living and working in the bush.  For a time, after losing my second child, it became the safe, anonymous place for me to probe my feelings without having to approach my grief in a face-to-face fashion.  I could come at it from the side, exploring my thoughts and feeling using events that had happened to me years prior in a happier unrelated time.  However, the past few years I’ve struggled to continue in this way, finding it harder and harder to keep looking back and relating stories from then to the now.

I’ve come to realize that I need a space to just write about the here and now without having to relate it to a specific theme of the wilderness or the bush or things I used to do.  It’s been years since I’ve lived and worked in the bush as a fancy-free, single Western-Canadian girl.   I’ve changed– grown and matured (hopefully). Now I’m a wife, a mother, a school bus driver and a acreage owner.  I still cook, but instead of paying guests, I feed kids and dogs and cats and chickens.  I still ride, but instead of horses, I ride a bike, mountain bike that is.  I still hike when I get the chance, which isn’t as often as I’d like.  And I still explore, maybe not the untouched wilderness, but that areas around my home.  I’m tied down in ways that I wasn’t before and life in some ways doesn’t lend itself to such exciting stories like those I wrote about when I was Jake, but exciting or not, now I just want to write as me, Heather Renee in the here and now from my little lilac-surrounded acreage near Markerville in Central Alberta, Canada.

Maybe you’d like to join me anyways over at my new site as I endeavor to Write it Down https://heatherrenees.wordpress.com/

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Posted in Horse Wrangling in the Yukon | 2 Comments

Singing the Darkness Away

It was late in the season as we moved camp for the umpteenth time to a remote site bordered by snowy mountains in the pristine wilderness of the Yukon Territory. By now I was well-broke in to wrangling horses in the early mornings, heading out with a guide and hunter for the days, and doing camp chores in the evenings. I was tired all the time to the point that if we stopped for any length of time longer than 10 minutes I was nodding off in the saddle, or finding a bush to lay down under for cat nap, yet my body had grown accustomed to the hard work and long days and for the most part I was in excellent physical shape.

The weeks previous we had shifted camp all by packhorse, from Hyland Lake to the Yesezu Camp to the Grayling Lake camp, to the Caribou Camp, situated on a broad plateau that the caribou migrated across. This would be the furthest north I had traveled in my time horse wrangling in the Yukon. Continue reading

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A Change of Mind (Cast Iron, Soap and the Messiah)

When I first started cooking in camp, I was taught the “proper” way to care for cast iron pans. I was told that it was strictly forbidden to wash cast iron with soap, as it would take the seasoning off the pans. I embraced this instruction wholeheartedly, because what they said made sense to me. Soap is a de-greaser and since the seasoning on the pans was oil rubbed in to the iron, it made complete sense therefore to not wash the cast iron in the soapy water because it would take the grease off the pan and damage the seasoning that protected the pan.

I became an ambassador for the proper way of taking care of cast iron. I preached to my mom, who for years had been washing her pans in soapy water. I taught this to my cook’s assistants over the years and I educated people that I came across along the way who were caring for their cast iron wrongly.   I was sincere in my efforts and genuinely believed everything I was telling people about their cast iron pans, just as I was religious in following the rules myself.

Then I came across some science that revolutionized my way of thinking. Apparently it’s a myth that you shouldn’t wash cast iron pans in soapy water, because even though the soap is a de-greaser and the seasoning is comprised of grease, the grease or oil on the pan has been polymerized. In plain English, the oil has been broken down or changed into a plastic-like material that has bonded with the surface metal of the pan. It is this thin layer of hardened oil/plastic that coasts the pan and gives it it’s non-stick properties; and since it is no longer grease covering the pan it will no longer be affected by the soapy de-greaser.

Lightbulb! Whoo hoo! No longer have to stick to the rigid rules of no cast iron in the soapy water! Freedom! And so instead of struggling to scrub out a dirty pan with plain water, I find myself giving it a proper good scrub-out with soap and getting a nice clean pan before I dry it off and re-oil it.

The funny thing was, recently I was “caught” by someone I had taught about cast iron years ago. They were watching me wash my pan in soapy water and the horror on their face was so funny and yet, I knew exactly what they were thinking, because not long ago I had been there. I had to tell them I had changed my stance and why, and I’m not sure if they got it or not and if it’ll change their “life” like it had mine, but hey, I’d done my part.

There is a story in the Bible that I came across that shows a similar need for a change of mind. Jesus was on his way to Caesarea Philippi with his disciples, after he had restored sight to a blind man in Bethsaida and fed 4000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fishes. He asked them while they traveled along, who the people saying he was. The consensus among them was that many were saying he was John the Baptist; though others said he was Elijah and still others, that he was one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them who they themselves said he was, and Peter proposes that he is the Messiah—the Savior that all the Jews were waiting for. Jesus warns them not to tell anyone and then proceeds to explain that this Messiah that they were all waiting for must suffer many things, be killed and then after three days he will rise again. He refers to himself here as the Son of Man which reminds his listeners that day of the prophesies of Daniel that point to “one like a son of man” who is God’s anointed one that would come in power and glory and all authority to set up an everlasting kingdom on earth. (See Daniel 7:13-14)

At this Peter, takes him aside and begins to rebuke him in the same tone that Jesus earlier used to cast demons out of people!

Why?

Why would Peter, who just moments before identified Jesus as the long-awaited for hope of Israel, turn on him and condemn him so vehemently!

As Timothy Keller explains in his book “Jesus the King”, “From his mother’s knee Peter had always been told that when the Messiah came he would defeat evil and injustice by ascending the throne. But here Jesus is saying, ‘Yes, I’m the Messiah, the King, but I came not to live but to die. I’m not here to take power but to lose it; I’m here not to rule but to serve. And that’s how I’m going to defeat evil and put everything right.’”

Peter, like the rest of his people, had never before connected suffering with the Messiah, their Savior! It made no sense at all, even though they knew of many scriptures regarding a mysterious Servant of the Lord who suffers, they had never connected the dots that those texts were describing the Messiah. The anointed one of God was supposed to come in glory and power and triumph over the ugly, the vile, the nefarious and set everything right in the world, how then could he be tortured and killed? That just seemed ludicrous to Peter! All that he had been taught and what made sense in his own mind was now being challenged to it’s very core!

Jesus turns and rebukes Peter just as strongly and says that Peter needs to change his mind because He’s only thinking in his limited human capacity and not with the mind of God. And even though Peter walked and talked and lived with Jesus for a years, it took until the hard evidence of Jesus actually suffering, dying and rising again that Peter was able to change his thinking from what he had been taught all his life to what was really true and of God!

A light bulb had come on! If you must say, a tongue of fire danced on his head! And he was free to live unconcerned about the religion that had restricted his habits most his life and was able to live and act in the freedom he found a Savior that needed to suffer, be killed and rise again three days later in order to set everything in the world right.

There come moments in life when we reach a point where we are compelled to think differently about what we thought we knew was true––just like Peter and myself were confronted with a need to change our stance on what we believed to be right. We were faced with a choice to stay with what was familiar rather than embrace the new approach; mindsets are difficult to change even when confronted with evidence to the contrary.

I changed because it made my life easier and lessened the restraints I was adhering to. Peter changed because he was compelled by the overwhelming love of a man he came to know as not just his friend but as the Savior of the world. He was moved by a hope that even if it all seemed backwards to most of his countrymen, God truly was at work to set things right. He was so convinced by this revelation that he spent the rest of his life telling others who had grown up with the same ideas like him, that they too needed change their minds about who the Messiah was and what he was really about.

He was doing exactly what Jesus had been saying right before he was called to become a disciple. Jesus was preaching the good news, “The [appointed period of] time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life] and believe [with a deep, abiding trust] in the good news [regarding salvation].” (Mark 1:15 Amp)

Disclaimer: I wrote this for my church this past Sunday and I just want to qualify that this is not about changing your mind on a whim.  We are confronted with lots of ideas out there and not all of them require a change of mind, but if you think you are facing such a change, it is a good thing to talk with others and most importantly to pray and ask for wisdom from God.  It is not to be tossed about like a boat on high seas, but a studied, well-mulled over thought process that takes into account evidences you have experienced.20150322-IMG_2607

Posted in Daily Life in the Bush, From the Here and Now, Tips and Tricks from the Bush | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Way of Freedom

Poppies Against Blue SkyToday is Remembrance Day and my Facebook feed is flooded with pictures, thoughts and gestures of remembrance to our veterans who fought for our freedom here in Canada. I watched one special done by CBC about why the Dutch people love Canada and near the end of the show Peter Mansbridge told how he asked a Dutch mayor back in 1995 why the Dutch have never forgotten Canada over the years. The mayor responded,

“You have to have been occupied to appreciate what freedom really means, and when you do, you never forget who gave it to you.”

Think on that for a while, because I sure did.

I sit here in my simple, yet well-appointed, if not luxurious home, 70 years after the conflict and I have no idea. . .   Absolutely no idea what it would mean to be occupied in the sense that the Dutch were during WWII. Trying to explain that to my son, well, I could tell he really had no understanding, just like me, really. It’s like I can imagine, but I can’t ever really understand the horror of it. And yet, I really do appreciate the freedom we have and live in. I would never give it up willingly!

Not only have I been a Canadian all my life, I have been a Christian too. Literally all my life. I grew up in a loving Christian home, attended a private Christian school and was surrounded by great Christian friends. A bubble really, but not one that I resented or even regretted. I live in this freedom that Christ won for me on the cross, but I have no real understanding of it, other than in abstract. When I hear others talk of what Christ has done for them, how oppressed they were in their lives and how he came in and liberated them, I cheer but I have no idea really of what they are feeling. I feel an overwhelming pride in being identified with Christ and of welcoming them into freedom! But after hearing what the dutch mayor said to Peter Mansbridge, I realized that how I feel as a Canadian is how I feel as a Christian. I’ve always been on the “free” side. I really have no idea what it’s like to be on the oppressed side. I can imagine. Oh boy can I imagine. But I can never really know. Truly KNOW, you know.

Maybe like me you have never lived under occupation and then been set free. Maybe like me, you’ve always lived in freedom.

How then do people like us, truly understand?   How can we realize the depth of sacrifice that the liberators went through to free people and the depth of gratitude the liberated feel?

As a child, I couldn’t even begin to imagine. I just lived in my freedom. It was all I knew.

As an adult I’m starting to imagine, to put myself in the other person’s shoes, to wonder, to realize the depth of sacrifice and courage it took for those people in Holland and those people who fought to free them. And I’m starting to get an inkling of what Christ had to go through as he went to the cross and died for all of humanity.

I may never truly appreciate freedom the same way the Dutch people appreciate the Canadians for their liberty. I may never truly have a grasp of what Christ has set me free from.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t live in gratitude and in a way that brings honor to those liberators.

And what does that honor look like?

What would honor our veterans the most?

What would honor Christ the most?

We who live in freedom don’t have the right or the excuse to do whatever we want. This is the quickest way to destroy freedom. Instead we need to be using our freedom to serve others, to look after the rights of those oppressed, and lift up those who are needy. Freedom only grows and expands when we put others before ourselves. It is when people are selfish and greedy that freedom is oppressed.

I think of how much time is consumed by promoting and protecting our rights, when instead we should be consumed with compassion for others––not needing to force our way upon others.

Selfishness is the enemy of freedom.

But love. Yes, Love is the way of freedom.

This will bring honor to our veterans, to our Saviour. Go live a life of love. And may you always be free!

"Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom."  Galatians 5

“Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.” Galatians 5

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“Go Live in the Country” They Said

“Go live in the country.” they said.

“It’ll be fun.” they said.

These thoughts were running through my head as I attempted to dig down to my septic tank. Apparently, according to the septic guy I had over to clean my tank, (that I had conveniently not checked for 6.5 years) someone had buried the access and now it was up to me to find it for him. I asked if I should call in a mini backhoe, but he said that a shovel would be best. So five by five feet later and 3 feet down I was back at the little square plate that had been resting above ground. The little 4 inch by 4 inch square plate that I had pointed to and said, “There’s my septic access.” (Though of course I wasn’t super sure because I had never yet bothered to check on my septic tank––I was content to ignore it as long as it as long as my toilets still flushed and nothing was coming back up).

“Nooo. That’s not a septic access. I’m looking for 2 big round concrete covers.” He was adamant that what we were looking at was NOT my septic access.

“This is all there is. This is what I was told was my septic access!” I was frustrated because I had been on this acreage for 6.5 years and knew there was nothing like what he was searching for.

So we scraped back the over-grown grass from the bolts and worked at getting the bolts out and then tried to pry the lid off to no avail. He insisted that this was not my septic access but a base for a tower or something and that is why I was shoveling a massive hole in my backyard to find the supposedly buried access. But alas, I was right. The little square plate connected to a pipe, that obviously connected to the septic tank I had exposed the top of. I know, because I fully exposed it. Enough to realize that the concrete was crumbling a bit at the bottom of the pipe and if I poked my finger into the hole, vile gasses wafted upwards.

My exposed septic access.

My exposed septic access.

I was not exactly happy. Problems were being created that I just didn’t need to have. In my head, the bill for the simple septic flush I had ordered skyrocketed from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.

I got on the phone and on the computer and before I knew it, I was learning far more about septic tanks and septic companies than I wanted to know. With my husband working away from home, I called my dad and then my brother-in-law for help and it was a darn good thing the brother-in-law answered and had an idea of what needed to be done.

He was quick to come help the next day and despite being told by another septic company (I had sent pictures of my exposed septic access to them) that I needed to get a welder to cut the bolts on the bottom plate and borrow a tractor to rip off the old pipe access so that they could “hopefully” install a new access and modernize the cover, he helped my repair the original access I had and assured me that I did not need to go to all that trouble.

He stayed there, a calming influence, as the new septic guys came and groaned and fussed about the tiny access, but made sure they got the job done and I didn’t come away with an exorbitant bill. What a great guy!

Anyway, all this got me thinking of how often we leave things that are so essential and foundational, buried until something or someone makes us dig it all up and then before we know it we are in a whole lot more trouble than we figured. It’s so easy to forget things that are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, so easy to forget how important they are to our well-being. And I’m not just talking septic tanks here, I’m talking about our emotional well-being and our spiritual well-being.

If you are anything like me, sometimes it’s just easier to ignore things that are buried, rather than go to all the trouble of digging them up. Life is good and floating along just dandy, but always in the back of your mind you know you should really take care of that thing––you know that thing you’ve stuffed down, pushed back, said you’d deal with when you have the time or the strength or the energy––that thing that is some day gonna rear it’s ugly head and take a chunk outa you.

So one day you get proactive and you start digging. You ask people for advice; people you think should know about that kind of stuff; people who advertise knowing about that kind of stuff. Professional people even. But they are USELESS. Worse than useless. They give you faulty advice, because they aren’t very knowledgeable or only have limited experience, but apply that limited experience in broad strokes to cover all areas. It causes damage and unnecessary spiritual or emotional excavating that leaves gaping wounds.

So you scout around, a little more wary. You start asking better questions. And you get a avalanche of answers and stories and advice. As you sift through it all, you start to get a better picture of what needs to be done, and you are more careful to double check what people are telling you to do––not so quick to take it as truth just yet.

As well, you become more adept at telling people your situation. You don’t just throw a bunch of words out and hope someone understands, because that isn’t going to happen you realize after being burned once or twice. You need to be more clear, more precise, more certain of what you need done. You gain knowledge and understanding and eventually if you are lucky you end up with someone at your side, who is trustworthy and has a clear understanding of what you need to do––what is necessary for healing and what is unnecessary.   And when you find that someone, realize how blessed you are for having them in your life! These people are the ones who can help you deal with that thing; they can support, they can give wise counsel and they can keep you from following faulty advice.

So from septic tanks to buried emotional baggage, be careful who you listen to and take advice from; not everyone is qualified to speak into your life.

And you don’t have to follow everyone out there even if they are sincere and genuinely adamant in their opinion––even if they are a professional. Find those people who care about you more, than just getting the job done, and surround yourself with them.

On the other hand, give leniency to those who’ve hurt you in advising you wrongly––who’ve caused unnecessary damage or unknowingly wounded you––because it is likely they are only acting out of their own limited knowledge and experience and didn’t realize that their suggestions didn’t fit your situation.

As well, if you are the one doing the advising, don’t assume you know it all! Make sure you are listening and not just talking. Be careful that you aren’t just taking over, or taking advantage of them while they are trusting you to help them figure things out.  Be straightforward and honest with what you know and don’t know.  I have found this goes along ways with people looking for help in all kinds of situations.  And I know because I’m usually the one looking for help!

So I hope you won’t find yourself digging holes in the near future, but if you do, know that I’ve been there (both physically and spiritually lately) and it all works out if you have the right kind of people helping you!

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What do Mosquitoes, A Monk, Caribou and the Church Have in Common?

It’s been a long and busy spring and summer and I apologize for being so long in posting anything new.  I wrote this little piece a few weeks back for my church and I’m just now finding the time to post it!  You can thank a rainy day giving me the time off from the garden.

My poor attempt to capture the swarms of mosquitoes around Carson's head on a hike we did one night up on the Nakina

My poor attempt to capture the swarms of mosquitoes around Carson’s head on a hike we did one night up on the Nakina

Mosquitoes and the North go hand in hand in the summertime. Rarely will you find one without the other and it is especially bad when you are close to water. A lot of energy and expense and thought go into repelling mosquitoes in camp. There are mosquito sprays and mosquito nets and mosquito jackets and mosquito hats and mosquito patches and mosquito clip-ons and mosquito coils and mosquito candles and of course the ultimate toy, a tennis racket that zaps mosquitoes in mid-flight with a snap and a spark.  Still it is impossible to completely eradicate the vicious little biting creatures.

zapperEvery morning, usually an hour or so before I had to get up, and usually just after the first birds of the morning start trilling (which in June in Northern BC starts earlier than five), a faint humming whine stole into my semi-consciousness and I spend a good amount of pre-awakeness trying to slap a mosquito that had found it’s way in to my net and was trying to settle on my nose or my ear. (This is where the zapper came in handy, as I learned to sleep with the thing in reach and I would groggily find it and wave it around blindly until zap! fizz!  Gone mosquito!)

I read a story recently about a man called Brother Joseph Zoettl, most famous for his lifetime of work creating a “Jerusalem in Miniature” at the St. Bernard Abby in Cullum, Alabama.  You can see some pictures here.

Brother Joseph, born in Bavaria, nearly died from a flu that swept Europe in 1891. He was left with complications from that flu that hunched his back. However, that didn’t stop him from signing up with the monks of St. Bernard Abby of America a year later, who were looking for candidates in Europe at the time. When he joined the abbey, he was told when he arrived at the abbot that he could never fulfill his dream to be a priest because of his hunchback and instead he put to work in the quarry on the abbey grounds, then became a housekeeper that travelled to different parishes across the Southeast. Eventually he ended up back at the abbey to become keeper of the abbey’s powerhouse. Here, for thirty years he worked seventeen hour burdensome days with hardly time to attend mass––stoking fires, shoveling coal, monitoring gages and troubleshooting all problems that came up. He hated the work and related his troubles to his fellow monks and in his journals. Then he came across the writings of Therese of Lisieux, known for the “little way”. He was inspired by her take on living that he could now go about his menial tasks with love and joy.

He started building small grottos, using his scarce free time and whatever materials he could find. Using concrete, glass, trinkets, shells, stones, jewelry, wire, marbles, ash trays and even toilet bowl floats, he constructed a city in miniature that eventually took up over 4 acres of abbey grounds. The St. Bernard Abbey is now famous across the world for the Ave Maria Grotto that little hunchback Joseph built in his little way.

So when I came across this old African Proverb, I thought of Brother Joseph and smiled, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito”

When I was in Whitehorse earlier I picked up a book for my son called A Caribou’s Journey by Debbie S. Miller. It is a beautiful book designed to bring awareness to the lifecycle of a barren-ground caribou in the Porcupine Herd that migrates thousands of mile each year between Alaska and the Yukon.  I highly recommend it for it’s pictures alone; though the story is very informative for all ages, as well.cariboujourneybook

There is a page that details the two summer months spent high in the Arctic where the sun never sets and during these endless days the caribou spread out to roam the open tundra foraging for food. It tells of how they share the land with a great many birds that migrated north to nest and hatch chicks, and how the air is filled with clouds of buzzing mosquitoes.

The birds eat the mosquitoes, who eat the caribou; apparently “a caribou can loose up to one quart of blood in a week’s time when the mosquitoes are at their worst.” However, it is the maddening swarms of mosquitoes coupled with the relentless hot sun that drives the caribou together by the thousands. By shoving in tight together, each caribou has less exposure to the biting bugs. And as they group together the caribou feel the urge to leave the coastal plain and return to their winter grounds.

That whole part of the caribou’s story fascinates me; how something so small and minute as a mosquito, joining forces with others just as tiny and minute, can eventually drive a great herd of animals (who are hundreds of thousands times bigger than themselves) together and move them a very long distance. Now I’m of the mindset, that I think the Creator designed the mosquitoes for such a purpose. (Which answers the age-old question: Why did God create the mosquito? To feed birds and make the caribou migrate, of course.)

This all makes me think of the church and it makes me think of God’s kingdom and our task to move people towards God’s kingdom. Maybe you don’t think you can make much difference, but I suggest you look at the picture of the clouds of mosquitoes swarming together driving a massive herd of caribou, and I think maybe you’ll get the idea of the church––not that we need to inflict pain to move people, or being annoying pests, but rather that small, insignificant people joined together can certainly make a difference, if it’s by the Master’s design.

So joining my two stories and all my thoughts together:

Small, seemingly insignificant things done in love can make a big difference especially if you join forces with small, insignificant others who are guided by the Master’s hand.

*Brother Joseph Zoettl references taken from “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans pages 175-179 and the Ava Maria Grotto Website.

Posted in Cooking for a Fishing Lodge in Northern BC, From the Here and Now, Tips and Tricks from the Bush | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wintergreen, Saskatoon Berries, and Northern Bedstraw

The season was drawing for a close at Northern BC Heli-fishing Adventures on the Nakina, so my son and I took advantage of an afternoon left alone in camp. After fishing for a while down at the Home Pool and the kid catching a rainbow trout, we decided to hike along the trail above camp to the east and see how far we could get. I was especially curious as the trail curled north along the Nakina towards the country I used to work in for another big-game outfitter over a decade ago.

We hiked along the narrow path through the woods above camp, skipping over top of some old bear scat and puffing our way up a steep incline making joyful noise. A little Canadian coo-eeing and yodeling may or may not have been happening. What can I say, you got a keep a kid entertained and scare the lurking critters in the bushes away!

Further along the path, down in a more boggy section I spotted a low stalk of delicate pinky flowers nearly hidden by the greenery surrounding it. I didn’t have my plant identification book with me, and because of the shape of the petals, I thought it was an orchid called Elephants Head or something of the same nature because of the spike that extended down from the petals that looked like an elephants trunk.

Common Pink Wintergreen

Common Pink Wintergreen

It was only when I was back in Alberta taking a walk through the gardens of the Canadian Danish National Museum near Dickson, that I saw a marker beside another bloom that looked exactly the same and realized that what I had seen on the path to the Nakina was actually Common Pink Wintergreen, not an orchid.

Looking into Pink Wintergreen (Pyrola asarifolia), I found that the leaves, which stay green through the winter, can be moistened or chewed for a natural source of painkiller since they are high in methyl salicylate. You can chew the leaves up into a paste and then put on a wound or around an area that is hurting. The Native people have used wintergreen to make decoctions of the leaves or roots to treat a variety of ailments from rheumatism, shin splints, and an effective eye wash, to coughing up blood and liver or kidney complaints. One thing about the flowers that I will have to watch for next time I come across them, is that the flowers will open and then close up daily. And though they are humble in their uses compared to some of the other wildflowers I came across up there, there little pink petals were a very beautiful and delicate addition to the forest path I was walking along.

Not much further along we came to a steep gully that we had to scramble down and cross a nearly dry creek that was shrouded in heavy greenery. Here I stooped for a closer look at wee little stars-like flowers sprayed against the lush green of the leaves around it.

Northern Bedstraw

Northern Bedstraw, note the translucent spider just below the middle of the picture on the one of the blossoms.

Northern Bedstraw, named so for the fact that it was used to stuff mattresses because it’s hollow stems don’t crush so easily and it gives off a pleasant newly-mown hay scent when dried. This plant’s leaves are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked and a tea can be made from it’s flowering stems as a weight loss aid that is said to speed up metabolism of stored fat. Actually, this plant is related to that other popular hot drink, coffee and it’s said you can dry, roast and grind it’s seeds like coffee beans to make a drink in substitute. Though continual use can irritate the mouth and people with poor circulation or diabetes should avoid the plant.

The Bedstraw plant was used to make hot compresses that smelled sweet to stop bleeding and bring relief to aching sore muscles. That sweet scent it gives off comes from the chemical asperuloside which can be converted into hormone-like compounds that affect the uterus and blood vessels. This little innocuous plant is great interest to the pharmaceutical companies. Of course I didn’t know any of this at the time and I just admired the fragile beauty of the tiny blossoms that would soon fade in real life but stay imprinted on my SD card and give me a chance to look up their profile when I was back at home with access to books and Google.

My son was already half-way up the other side of the gully before I caught up to him. We broke free of the heavy brush onto the side of a steep hillside that rose sharply above us and dropped steeply below us to the surging Nakina River. The path continued straight ahead around the corner of the hill, urging us to check out what was around the corner.

The Kid on the hillside checking out the scenery

The Kid on the hillside checking out the scenery

The hillside was covered with low Saskatoon berry bushes and we scavenged for berries as we worked our way along the path. In another couple of days the berries would be out in full force, but we would be heading back in the helicopter for civilization, so we made due with the few berries that were already ripe. I’m sure in a few days as well the bears would be out feasting on the hillside too.

Saskatoon Berries a few days before prime picking season

Saskatoon Berries a few days before prime picking season

I know Saskatoons well, having grown up on the prairies in Alberta where they grow abundantly on bushes in the cool of gullies and beside rivers. A bit of a woody-textured berry compared to the blueberry, but I still find it’s sweet/tart taste a delight, especially when you are foraging in the wild. When I lived up in Yellowknife I was amazed to see what I thought grew only on low bushes, thriving in tall tree-like plants that were bigger than some of the houses they were planted beside. I couldn’t believe my eyes that there was such a thing as a Saskatoon tree! However, on that hillside we encountered only the low bush variety of Saskatoons.

The Kid showing off a double berry just before he tossed them in his mouth.

The Kid showing off a double berry just before he tossed them in his mouth.

Eventually we rounded the corner of the hillside and the path dropped steeply down into a tangle of bush and trees to the river and it was obvious it hadn’t been cut out in a while. There was no point in going any further. I looked northward towards the mountain far in the distance––a mountain I had ridden in search of goats years before––and a part of me yearned to keep on walking.

The backside of the mountain that years before I had ridden in search of mountain goats

The backside of the mountain that years before I had ridden in search of mountain goats

Instead, we turned back for camp and in the swampy part just past the gully I realized that I had lost the lens cap for my camera as I stopped to take a picture of pinky, bell-shaped Twinflowers draped over a rotting log and crowned by dwarf Dogwood. So we hiked back up to the hillside watching carefully for the sign of a round black disc lodged somewhere in all the vegetation and rocks along the trail. It was of no use and we turned back again, running a bit late for dinner preparations, my hands carefully shielding my exposed camera lens. I would have to figure out some sort of device to protect it, until I returned to civilization, where I would find myself picking Saskatoons grown in a U-Pick Orchard with no worry of a bumping into a bear, or the lure of a mountain yonder.

Twinflowers and Dwarf Dogwood

Twinflowers and Dwarf Dogwood

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