We can spend a lifetime exploring our own back yards, or chase rainbows in other countries. Lucky folk, like us, somehow manage to do both.
Several years ago we left Clearwater just as spring began here. A couple of days later we arrived, groggy and jet-lagged, in Melbourne, Australia where it was autumn. In Clearwater new leaves were beginning to tinge the trees; there, the gum trees display their long, odoriferous eucalyptus leaves all year long – instead they shed their bark in the fall. Temperatures were similar in both countries at the time of our landing. Here they would warm to the highs of summer; there you’d be pushing it to add in a shiver as winter approached, especially since we gradually headed north to the tropics. We Canadian travelers seldom wore jackets other than early morning and in the evening – to the dismay of the Aussies. In Australia, there really are only two seasons: hot and not quite so hot!
It doesn’t snow in many places in Oz so there isn’t the lovely winter cover-up or the emergence of that old/new world in spring displaying all the things we forgot (?) to deal with properly before they disappeared for months. As it all shows up once more, it’s like looking at the world afresh.
When I was on a recent wintry walk to Brookfield Creek, still totally hidden under pure white snow, a single brown leaf hanging from an otherwise naked deciduous tree took my mind Down Under once again, this time to a tour boat that docked near mangrove trees growing on an island in the Great Barrier Reef.
“What color leaves do you see?” the guide asked us. The majority of the fleshy leaves were green with only one or two yellow ones.
“The yellow leaves have absorbed the salt from the tree’s saline water supply,” he explained. “You see them floating below, having done their job. Their life is over but the rest of the tree is healthy and can thus take its sustenance from salt water.”
On one early spring B.C. trip, we observed machines sweeping the sidewalks of Osoyoos and Greenwood clear of the winter’s sand and salt: one man, one machine clearing long stretches effortlessly. My mind jumped to Cancun, Mexico where we had seen a virtual army of workers, using only hands and hand tools, cleaning up the green space and gardens dividing the highway stretching from downtown to Hotel Row – ocean and sandy beach on one side of the long curving spit and blissful blue lagoon on the other. No machines – just muscle and manpower. Conversely, a day or two later, we were amazed at the size of the monster machine producing a strip of concrete highway, perhaps two lanes wide, to replace the existing hardtop south from Cancun towards Playa del Carmen.
In a day of driving or hiking, one can “change seasons” many times in going from B.C.’s lush green valleys to the spectacular mountain tops where the avalanche lilies are valiantly pushing their pretty yellow faces through the receding snow. During that same spring trip to the Kootenays we saw some folk skiing at the top of the Blueberry-Paulsen Pass on Highway 3 while others had been pruning the fruit trees in the Osoyoos.
So many weird and wonderful comparisons are evident as we take in our surroundings.