The Visit (May 2015)
Richard and Our Granddaughters Azure and Emeline
and their Uncle Stefan
(See Klopp Family Tree, Chart I – III, IV & V)
For as long as I can remember from the days after the war in Germany, Christmas has always been the most important event in our family. More than anything else it symbolizes the light that came into the world. For the men, women, and children, who survived the horrors of World War II, this light shining in the darkness had special meaning in a time of hopelessness and despair. For me as a young boy perhaps six or seven years old, there were three traditions that brought the Christmas message of peace closer to my heart.
The first custom actually originated in Germany way back in the 17th century. My mother would take tender spruce or fir branches and weave them into an Advent wreath, on which she would place four red candles, one for each Sunday in the Advent season. Later on in the mid 50’s we moved together with my aunt Marie, who enriched the short celebration by playing a couple of Christmas melodies on her recorder.
The second custom that I really liked was the Advent calendar. It was not an ordinary calendar. It was only used in the month of December and came with 24 doors. Starting on December 1st, I opened the first door to see what picture lay hidden behind it. The pictures were all associated with the upcoming event and would display stars, candles, the Christmas tree, angels, toys, and so forth. On the morning of Christmas Eve, I finally opened the last door, which was a big double door, behind which I would find the manger-scene showing Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the three Wise Men, and, of course, Baby Jesus in the manger.
My wife and I carried on with these traditions after immigrating to Canada. While our children grew up, they became acquainted with the third and in their view most important custom, the celebration of Christmas Eve.
After singing a few Christmas carols both in English and German and the reading of the Christmas story, they were allowed to open their presents. Needless to say, they liked our Christmas better and were the envy of the kids in the neighborhood, who had to wait till morning to receive their gifts, which they would find under the tree.
On my Yamaha scooter I made several exploratory trips on the nearby forestry roads. The one that grabbed my attention was the Power Line Road so named because it provides access of the BC Hydro crews to the transmission line that carries 500,000 V electricity across the border to the highest bidder in the United States. It is a steep and winding road leading to a ridge from which one can view the Valkyr Range. I heard that the hydro tower on that route has at 2000m the highest altitude in the entire province of BC.
My aim was to ride my scooter to a viewpoint, from which I could look down onto the lake and see the mountains to the south. When I checked later on a map with contour lines, I found out that I had climbed a total of 1000 m to reach my destination.
The magnificent scenery can hardly be put into words, and the photos on my post can offer only a glimpse of the beauty that I experienced with all five senses, the amazing colors of the valley and the Arrow Lake below, the rustling of dry grasses in the wind, the scent of the wild flowers, the cool mountain air gently stroking my face, and the bitter-sweet taste of wild black currants growing on the sun bathed slopes.
One can imagine how excited I was coming down from the Valkyr range frequently stopping to take pictures, happily whistling and, yes, even singing a few German scout songs that unexpectedly popped into my head, until quite suddenly at the very bottom of the road two giant trailers blocked the access to the campground.
Anxious to tell Gertrud about my adventure I attempted to maneuver my scooter past these two monstrous recreational vehicles. Everyone knows that when you are riding on two wheels and bring your speed down to zero, you lose your balance. So to make a long story short, I fell off onto the rocky ground with the foot guard of the scooter falling on my right leg. Without really knowing at first I had broken my fibula bone slightly above the ankle.
The consequences were altogether unpleasant to say the least: Gertrud’s anger with my stupidity of going into the mountains without wearing more protective clothing, the physical pain I suffered, my frustration over being severely curtailed to a life of inactivity for more than six weeks, and a lot of regret. Fortunately, my spirits were rising in step with the gradual easing of the pain in my right ankle.
While I had to spend many hours on the couch with a so-called aircast on my right foot, the thought occurred to me that the accident may have prevented something much worse. Perhaps I would have become too bold, taken greater risks with my scooter on the following days, and driven even farther away from help on some remote mountain road. Then there were these devastating forest fires in the Southern Okanagan with smoke so dense that air quality alert were being issued at the time we had planned for our vacation at Hedley. So while I was languishing on the couch, I had at least the time to reflect, ponder, meditate and pray. And in itself that was a good thing.
One week after we had returned from Victoria I pulled our little trailer the 10 km distance to our favorite campground at Taite Creek. Over the years word about this oasis at the Arrow Lake had spread all over the land. Outdoor enthusiasts from BC and even from the neighboring province of Alberta were flocking to this little paradise in the sun.
Gertrud and I were lucky to have found a vacant site in the middle of the summer. When we started camping, campfire bans were in effect due to the unusually hot and dry weather. What is camping without that romantic ritual of sitting around the campfire in the cool evening air, sipping a glass of wine, and having a good and relaxing time with your neighbors and friends? But Gertrud and I have learned to be content with what we have and not pine for the things we lack. In other words we made do with the given circumstances, enjoyed our daily swims in the refreshing lake, took canoe rides, went on photo excursions, spent some time with our camping friends, and played crib before retiring into our cozy trailer for the night.
Every other day quite early in the morning I drove home to look after our yard and garden and to get fresh food supplies for our camping needs. On one of those trips I got very lucky. A buck was standing on the side of the road. I immediately stopped the car hoping to capture his majestic image on my digital camera. Alas, the camera was stored away somewhere in the back of the vehicle. I opened the door very quietly and stepped out on the road. The buck did not move. I walked to the back and opened the tail gate. The buck still did not move. I quickly grabbed my camera and aimed it at the buck, who was still standing at the same spot and then as if he wanted to pose for the picture turned his beautiful antlers in my direction. Then to my utter amazement he allowed me to approach him, while I was taking one picture after another. At 20 m he decided that I was a bit too close for comfort and trotted leisurely off into the forest. This encounter with one of the finest specimens in the animal kingdom made my day and I proudly shared his image on Flickr with the rest of the world.
As always when you are enjoying the presence of good company, friends and family, time is slipping by way too fast. In our case it wasn’t just the relaxing walks along the numerous beaches of Victoria, the trip to the harbor, the ferry ride past sceneries of colorful floating houses, marinas and the Legislative Assembly on the way to the inner harbor.
It was indeed nice to feel like honored guests. But the best part of it all was to be included in Tony and Lisa’s daily routine. I was especially happy to help Tony with the painting of a table and do the digging in Lisa’s flower bed to prepare the soil for the new flowers she had bought. Getting to know Lisa’s sister Sarah and her lovely family was also a highlight during our four-day stay. I instantly connected with her husband Mingo. His charm, sense of humor and rapport with his children impressed me very much.
Soon it was time to say good-bye. Tony and Lisa’s heart-warming hospitality, their fantastic gourmet meals, the pleasant conversations, all these things and much more will stay in our memories for a long time to come. On the way home we had to make an unexpected detour and change our travel route. The Coquihalla Highway was closed because of a raging grass fire. So we took the Trans Canada Highway instead, a longer, but more scenic route. In the late evening light we traveled on the winding road alongside the awesome Fraser River past Hell’s Gate all the way up to Cache Creek, where we stayed overnight before heading home.
A definite highlight of our visit was a trip to the Victoria harbor, where Tony went shopping for our evening meal at the local fish market. Wild Pacific salmon and halibut are so fresh – so I am told – that only a few hours before they land in the customer’s shopping bag they were still roaming in the nearby ocean waters. In the meantime Gertrud and I took in the colorful sight of this busy tourist attraction at the water’s edge. Some brightly painted homes here were actually boats that were permanently moored at a huge ramp-like structure, which looked more like a street with a board walk.
Early in the morning, when everyone else was still sleeping, I sneaked out of the house and strolled down to the beach. In the cool air it took me less than five minute.s to reach the ocean..There my friends, the seagulls, greeted me with their raucous cries.Canada geese seemed to have made Victoria their permanent home. On another morning I was lucky to encounter a blue heron, which was feeding at low tide on the barnacles clinging to a concrete wave breaker. Accustomed to human beings it allowed me to come close enough for a great picture of this majestic bird.
To be continued …