We unplugged this weekend, and drove out on Saturday night to my grandparents’ house in Silver Valley. Grandma & Granpa live “off the grid” in a cedar shingled cottage on the foothills of the Peace River. Today, the scent of kerosene burning brings me back to my overnight visits, where I would devour Nancy Drew’s adventures until the wee hours, as a kerosene lantern guttered on the dresser.
The leaves of the aspens were just at their brightest yellow, and the air was crisp with the promise of an approaching winter, mingled with the underlying musty scent of decaying vegation, toadstools, and the pungent “dirty sock” odor of high bush cranberries. These are all the smells of fall in my olfactory catalogue, and it just wouldn’t be autumn without them.
With the kids settled down for a nap, and hubby and great-grandpa up for child minding duty, Grandma and I made a beeline for the muskeg swamp about a mile from her house. I love the swamp, and it is so beautiful in the fall. The moss is about a foot thick, and heaves up in hummocks sometimes three feet higher. And if you love moss like I do, you would be astounded at the variety of textures and colors.
Though we saw trails worn down by wildlife, probably moose, in the moss between the brushlike spruce trees, we didn’t see any wildlife this time. Squirrels scolded our invasion into their territory, and resented our interruption into their pre-winter hoarding. Last year, I photographed and painted one squirrel’s aborted cache, which you can read about in this post.
The cranberries themselves are jewels of garnet and rose (the less-ripe ones), clustered below some scrubby plant I have not yet identified, and resting on the moss below. Easy to pick, they are one of my favorite berries to harvest from the wild.
I took lots of photos and can’t wait to paint some new “muskeg microcosms” this fall and winter. There’s a mysterious fungus in a eye-searing shade of chartreuse, bleached deadfall trees sunken in spruce-needle studded moss mounds. And the berries, both cranberries and bunchberries (which are a shade of orange that can only be described as fluorescent).
So many things seem so far away when I am enjoying the unspoiled beauty of my home – global warming, terrorism, deadlines, Hollywood, and stress. It reminds me that much of what our society has lost can be found in embracing a simpler way of life.