1. Okanagan Spring
Just a week ago, a slushcoat of snow covered the rocky hills. The next day, as I drove along the Naramata Road, my neighbour Gary waved me over. He opened his hand slowly to show me a bouquet of sagebrush buttercups, waxed petals like curls of butter.
“Picked ‘em this morning. ”
Is this just your average March? The back and forth of snow and sun? Does the wind always snort up Okanagan Lake just after you bring the deck chairs back to the porch? Spring everywhere signals rebirth, hope, respite from the cold.
Spring here usually means pruning, and cherries, and spring run-off, the return of migratory birds like Sandhill Cranes, skies blue, the sooner-or-later reappearance of rattlers, and bear tracks in the road. But what makes the South Okanagan transition to Spring unique?
Spring in Naramata is especially sweet because of its short duration and its contrast to the dry terrain. Spring brings vivid colour -- pink, yellow and green – soon overcome by the heat of rock-oven summers. The display of wild blooms in the grey-brown dun of sagebrush landscape is a reminder of the natural diversity in this sparse landscape.
At the end of February, Chute Creek is still rimed with frost. The cleft of Creek upstream from my place slices deeply into the earth, back away from the sun and into the cold, an ice age resisting the onslaught of spring.
A week later, March rototills the soil from frost. It riffs the branches of antelopebrush with a furry hue just bright enough to call green. Buttercups sweeten south-facing slopes. The carrot-tops of lomatium, spring gold, unwind a lacy filagree between sage and rabbitbrush. And this is just the beginning!
Up Chute Creek is a portrait of Okanagan landscape and people like no other. It is alternately passionate, joyful, heartbreaking, lyrical, quirky, and always wise, and always human, in the best sense. This is a book for the people of the Okanagan, both new and old, to treasure and to share.