Spring on Mt. Doug

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Like the flowers, I am finding my way back to the mountain. This Easter hike led me to the blooming skunk cabbage, a path and view I had forgotten about, and to a place where rocks define a space. Curious about the rocks in this setting; I’ll try and find out more.

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Similarly, in searching for a publisher for the long work (to my mind it will only be a novel when it is published and in book stores) there have been a few discoveries––a few inconsistent rejections, kind personal publisher emails, ‘we like it, but aren’t sure it fits with our list.’ Like the mountain hiking, this pursuit is leading me along some interesting paths. Rejection is hard, but keep believing in the work. Keep the long view in mind.

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

October Endings and Beginnings

Spring is my favorite month, and many days these past few weeks have felt like March. There are new shoots of perennials poking their heads through the old growth, as I take down the garden and plant bulbs. I haven’t spent much time on the mountain, but yesterday was too beautiful a day to miss––bright, crisp, cool.

As with writing goals, sometimes the path is difficult to see.

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I didn’t go looking for them, but there was a crazy abundance of mushrooms everywhere. I used to pick and eat wild mushrooms as a kid, but none of the ones I saw resemble those. I suppose one day I should make a point of consulting an expert on whether or not any of those in Mt. Doug are edible and also why they grow where they do.

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These posts try to connect my writing life to the woods where I hike. Some observations may be products of my own imaginings, but in my wanderings and encounters with this mountain, I sometimes have insights that I can apply to my writing life.

I’ve started to shop my novel around to agents and publishers. I even received my first rejection. What next? Can I figure out where the path is leading despite the heavy leaves? Is that one lone mushroom in the woods like my own work waiting to be discovered?

Lone mushroom

 

Mt. Doug hiking and thesis writing


We are half way through the second year of this MA course and I am nowhere near where I want to be with the completion of the thesis, but two friends wanted to be introduced to Mt. Doug’s trails, and I could not refuse.
Oh look, some new boardwalk and tarmac-like material to ride over the once muddy paths. What do I think? I like some of the boardwalk, and it does the job of making the trail more accessible in winter, but the tarmac-like spongy, cementy stuff they have paved into the forest is intrusive and, honestly, quite ugly.


Can I live with it? Let me compare it to the thesis.

Two years should be enough to complete a long narrative, but I wish I had more time. The more you learn, the better, hopefully, the work gets. I could always use more time for research, refining, and a deeper exploration of the topic, but there is a deadline and I have to complete the project.

For most of us who hike Mt. Doug for the natural beauty, some of the new trail covers are less than an organic addition. It makes me wonder how much time and effort was taken to research, explore and refine the best material–and if the Friends of Mt. Doug were consulted. Perhaps there was a rush to a deadline.

Tree-hugger friends breathed in the forest air and were surprised at how deep into a forest you can go while still being 10 minutes from downtown. They joyfully took in the Douglas fir and spruce and green buds, despite the renovations, and now I am back to the solitary work of the long narrative. Trying to do the best work possible, without feeling rushed.

First Hike of 2012

A bright sunny morning and I head up the mountain for my first hike of the year. (Lucky I did so then, for now the sky has returned to its depressing gray.)

I check in on a few familiar spots and then find a path I had either forgotten about or haven’t been on.

It surprises me how quickly my body forgets how steep the climb is, and the small plateaus and trees which I, from habit, use as landmarks. The sky is clear and from the east side of little Mt. Doug, I can see the Saanich observatory and the Straight of Juan de Fuca. There are a few frosty patches but the paths are fairly dry. It would be fun to play a little longer on this plateau, but I have other work to do.

I stop to film a woodpecker, take in the Gary Oaks. Mostly, I’ve longed for some Vitamin D and the forest air. There are some brilliant spots of green, from the moss to the lichen ladies.

Back at my front door, I see the green of a daffodil poking its head up out of the ground. Won’t be long now.

Reading Nature

When I can’t drag myself up the mountain–my theory is that it has something to do with the change of seasons, or perhaps it is the consuming MA work–I turn to literature and what it says about our experience of nature and being outdoors.

Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, the 1998 Booker Prize winner, tells of a “reluctance to be overcome,” because of a “a sense of scale habituated to [by] the daily perspective of rooms and streets,”  and which requires an “act of will… to keep walking away from the nearest people, from shelter, warmth and help.” Does my sitting at a computer for hours on end reduce me to a “cringing state” as his character Clive describes?

Do I feel threatened by the dangers of the mountain, when there is only “elemental indifference”? I know, just as Clive knows, that my hikes on Mt. Doug remind me, as they reminded Clive in the Lake District, that I am “part of this order and insignificant within it,” and that once I am deep in the forest, I too will be “set free.”

But today with my daffodils in full bloom–amazing how planting 150 in the fall, don’t look like that many more in the garden–I recited Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and from the comfort of my living room sofa, “wandered lonely as a cloud,” and “my heart with pleasure [filled] and [danced] with the daffodils.”

I think of Sharon Butala‘s The Perfection of the Morning, and how for me, as well, there is no “separating my spiritual journey, my life, from the reasons for and the effects of my daily contact with Nature.” Even this, though, does not urge me to lace shoes and head out.

When the sky turns gray, I turn to Wendell Berry‘s Fidelity, and I reread how Danny takes the dieing Uncle Burley Coulter from his hospital bed and returns him to the “woods and darkness” where he belongs. But it is Spring, let me return to rebirth.

In The Nature Notes of An Edwardian Lady, I look at Edith Holden’s beautifully drawn daffodils and Hedge Sparrow and think about the birds of my forest that are about the business of gathering leaves and twigs for their nests. This simple lovingly written journal is never far from me.

The mountain is green from my window and my lawn needs mowing.

I need to be outside and up the mountain.

Soon, soon.

Mt. Doug Snow Pictures


I couldn’t take six months of -25 and the blowing cold we had last night, but with the sun shining and a good crunch on Mt. Doug’s paths, -5 is wholesome. Much better than the gray of yesterday, thank-you.
Little snow up on the mountain, in the Sooke Hills, or Blenkinsop Valley, at least as seen from the top.
Few hikers, only six, and as many cars in the lot which holds three times that many.
A lot of branches down and even some broom at the top was whipped up out of it’s roots.
This funny little bird was hanging around the cave entrance, and if I had brought my big Nikon, I probably would have gotten a better shot of it. Can’t stand lugging that camera though; the point and shoot will have to do.
It sounds like we are in for a few of these snow systems this year, and now that I’ve located the mitts and toque, I hope to put them to good use.

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