Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sun-Oka Beach

At the south end of Summerland, across the highway from the Ornamental Gardens, you’ll find a Provincial Park with a beach that Mike and I have claimed as our favourite. Despite this fact, it’s the first time we’ve visited Sun-Oka Provincial Park since we stumbled up on it two years ago. There is something very appealing about this family beach that keeps it in my mind despite the fact that it's a good 45 minute drive away. Sarson beach, Gyro, Rotary and Strathcona are all within ten minutes of our house but I think that can be a disadvantage in a way. You sit on the beach for a few minutes then run into the water to cool down. If it’s a bit too hot or crowded, it’s easy to take off back home again where all those chores await, rather than letting your impatient brain wind down until those splashing kids are amusing rather than annoying and if you wait just a bit longer, perhaps a you can grab a shady spot when another group leaves.

It ended up taking us an hour to get to our destination on Sunday, mostly due to the fact that we came to a long stretch through the construction zone where people had slowed down to a snail’s pace. At one point were driving 10 km/hr. Not because there was ongoing construction, but because there was a 50 foot section of gravel that had everyone fearful of rock chips I guess. The heat had render us rather disorganized earlier on in the day, so the red light on the dash had me in a bit of a panic as we crawled along with no knowledge of how long this woul
d last. After the stop for gas, we visited a fruit stand where ripe apricots bowed the tree branches and tumbled down the hillside, into the parking lot. We bought some sweet cherries to munch on at the beach and I purchased my first field tomatoes of the season.

When we finally arrived, I was disappointed to see how full the parking lot was. Between the lot and the beach a crowded green and shady area was filled with families sitting on picnic tables and blankets, rummaging in coolers and giant potato chip bags, looking cool and contented. Our parking spot was near the busy entrance so we lugged our chairs, beach bags, camera and cooler towards the far end of the beach. Despite the initial crowded appearance, it was easy to find a spot on the sand, but still under the shade of a tree. People were far enough away that we couldn’t easily hear their conversations.

I sat in my chair reading my book without much focus, observing the bobbing children and ducks, breathing in the smell of wet sand and sunscreen while I tried to figure out how someone so determined to avoid crowds had been drawn to this popular spot. Perhaps it was the cozy comfort I felt while looking out at the water, contemplating the stunning view down the lake towards Penticton. 

To the east a sandy point curves out into the lake. Behind you trees shelter you from the highway noise and to the west the waterfront curves around to where the highway hugs tall bluffs. I feel Mother earth envelop me in a protective hug as tension unspools between my shoulder blades.  I fight my natural tendencies to analyze everything. It’s time to just be.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wind vs Sun

The wind blew through here like mad yesterday. It knocked our power out for a few hours and spread pine leaves and loose branches everywhere. Castanet says there were 70 incidents reported in a two hour period - trees fell on houses, cars and electrical lines. Two fires started by fallen wires were quickly put out up the hill from us. There was a deluge of rain, which I think helped dampen the fires. The Terrace fire is now 50% contained and some of the evacuated have been allowed back.

This afternoon we will drive past the scorched earth of Glenrosa for the first time since the fires and I wonder how that will feel. We'll head down to what we call our favourite beach despite the fact we've only been to once. It's in a Provincial Park called Sun-Oka just south of Summerland. We stumbled upon it two years ago and fell in love. Used mostly by the people camping in their trailers in the park, I think Sunday afternoons are fairly quiet on the beach. It's just a little too far to pop down to for a couple of hours, so we have to make a concerted effort to go. Today we are.
Ribs are marinating in lemon, oregano, olive oil and garlic as I type and I will barbecue them shortly as part of our dinner picnic. Hennie's famous potato salad is also in progress...with new red potatoes, green apples and green onions, sweet Vidalia onions, crunchy celery, and feathery dill. We'll stop at the side of the road for some fresh cherries, peaches and tomatoes along the way.

I'm looking forward to sitting on the beach, reading my book. I will wear by bathing suit (but NOT my bikini!) and remove my cover up at least. I may even end up putting a toe in the water... or not, time will tell. Relaxation is difficult for me to achieve some times but I recall it wasn't a problem on our last visit and I was able to keep myself from checking my watch for more than an hour. If I get restless I can always walk up and down the beach and take some photos. Pop by in a day or two and see what I saw...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Now and Zen

I’m wilting on the steps of Kelowna’s Rotary Centre for the Arts, in the heat of a cloudless July afternoon. My thoughts turn north towards Tugboat Beach …yes, that’s what I need, the beach where’s there’s water and cool breezes and a lounge chair with my name on it. Where there’s people…lots and lots of people. And children, noisy children… and girls in bikinis….flaunting bodies that have yet to succumb to the affects of gravity and childbirth. Ah… the beach. I do not need the beach. My mind and body do a quick 180 (surprisingly quick in this sluggish heat) pointing me in the direction of what I truly need….the tranquility and peace of Kasugai Gardens.

At the south end of the Cultural District, on the shady east side of City Hall, weathered pine doors are propped open, welcoming me into a beautifully tended sanctuary named for Kelowna’s Japanese sister city. Even as I step through the doorway of Kasugai Gardens, the din of the busy transit centre on the Queensway is muffled to dull background noise and I’m struck by contrasting sights and textures integral to traditional Japanese gardening. Pathways of crushed stone draw me past beds of pale pachysandra, into mini forests in shady corners, and around lush tama-mono pruned in a way that puts me in mind of a green mogul field.

A traditional Japanese bridge crosses the reflecting pond in a graceful curve. This is the garden’s centerpiece where spotted koi nibble on lily pads, jostling waxy pink blossoms. Through a veil of weeping birch leaves I spy a small turtle basking in the sunlight, while three crows strut along the river rock on the opposite shore.

Benches are scattered throughout in both public and secluded areas. Seating myself in a shady spot, I feel the tension drain away. Once the mental distractions are gone, I soon discover that peaceful does not mean without sound. Water spills from a bamboo spout and splashes into a shallow basin near the garden entrance while gentle birdsong wafts through the air. From under a bridge at the back of the garden, water rushes over large stones into the reflecting pond. Human generated noise is minimal as most people seem to arrive on their own, and those in pairs or groups speak in hushed tones, instinctively protecting the serenity.

With a sigh I wiggle my feet out of my sandals, close my eyes and take a deep breath. My nose is filled with the scents of green plants, damp earth and sunshine and I feel more carefree with each passing moment. A little more time in this sanctuary and I may even visit the beach this afternoon, sporting my vacation bikini. Who knows, I might even dare to remove the cover-up.