Up the River

About a year ago I began to write a new novel about an oil spill, based on a fictional tar sands oil pipeline going through eastern Kentucky. But this year has been busy with more books than normal being published at my press, the upkeep of this site, and continued monitoring of our community discussion group. That, along with my full-time job, has left me with little time to write, though I think the novel is potentially more important now than ever as oil sands mining is controversial due to its excessive contributions to climate change, its proposed invasions into the rainforest up here as well as other protected areas such as wetlands and drinking water aquifers, and its forward movement into unceded First Nations territories. It’s just: every time I go to write more, I am distracted by other things.

Over the weekend I was reminded of the novel again when my husband and I traveled to the West Kootenays to visit family. On Saturday morning we wanted to run and found a nice park trail that parallels the Columbia River. We ran one way on the river, admiring the beauty and the way that parents here and there were showing their young children the beauty of the river–going down onto the gravel beach, skipping rocks, pointing out trees and plants.

On the way back, I noticed that there was a clear view of the smelter in the town of Trail. While I have no idea if it pollutes the river in any way, it was such a juxtaposition to the view the other way, which was serene and perfect!

uptheriver
Smelter in Trail, BC

This scene reminded me of my novel, which has a tentative title of “Up the River,” since an oil spill happens up-river. The original phrasing “up the river” had to do with the prison Sing Sing being literally up the river on the Hudson, and the phrasing means you are in trouble now. In my novel, the oil spill happens up-river as well. Here, we had been running along this wonderful shoreline trail, seeing nothing but a clear river and lots of trees, and heading back were treated to such a different view. I thought of it again on my run today.

Our trip was short but sweet. On Saturday, after our run and a shower, we headed up to Nelson, which is an artsy town, and then further up to the Slocan Valley. I had never been there before. My husband has family in New Denver. By the time we hit Silverton, and I noticed the snow-capped mountains reflecting off the big blue of Slocan Lake, it was time for a pull-over, so that I could take photos. From the time we entered New Denver, I felt as though I had found my personal shangri-la–an idyllic village on the beautiful, cold lake. The lake is 28 miles long and very very blue. In places it is so cold it almost looks like metallic blue. New Denver, my now dream town, is on a bank of the lake. There are just over 500 people living in the town. Being so small, you can walk everywhere in the town. We walked down to the beach, up a trail, and around town. The homes seem to be character homes or historical. There is a museum, a farmer’s market each weekend, and some places that had closed up for the winter. One store had three old benches in front of it, and it reminded me of when I was very young and visited lost ancient towns in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky–where old men chewed tobacco and sat on similar benches. The town of New Denver, on a smaller scale of Nelson, ventures into the artsy kind of culture. I fell in love, and that night, driving back to the other relatives’, I sadly watched the full moon and hundreds of star pinpricks in the black sky, unhindered by city lights, and did not want to leave. My husband drove slowly due to so many wildlife crossing signs on the small highway that bent through the mountains. We saw a family of three deer at one point, and stopped, and just admired their grace.

It feels like I have lost an old friend by having to leave that place. I am a dreamer and wish there would be a way for us to move there, though there isn’t much in the way of jobs, of course, and my husband likes the tech industry and has a good job here. But sometimes you just come across a place that feels like home. I could really imagine being there, away from traffic, away from crowds, away from everyday distractions that prevent me from writing. I could really picture myself retreating someday, maybe when we retire!, to a place like that. But, really, it’s just a dream and I feel like we already live in a dream place as well. On our way home we entered into the misty green mountains of the rainforest, and I know, having traveled into the depths of the forest, it, too, is a sight for sore eyes.

My idea now is to re-invent my home here. My office overlooks a green yard with cedars and pines. I am working on organizing this room so that it is simple and beautiful, with very little outside my wooden filing cabinet and workbench for binding books. I think that writers and artists get inspired by natural beauty and windows to nature. I know I sure do. What I could ever do in New Denver, or any other idyllic town, I can do where I live too. Fortunately we also live in a pretty quiet area, and have a nice view of the mountains outside our windows. So, my goal now is to finish creating that good writer’s space, open the windows when it gets a tad warmer, and work more on Up the River.