Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Last summer in the Slocan
I said to myself, if this
Place is hard, everything's hard.
A woman, mother of three,
Ex of three local men, burned
To death in a cabin fire
One day while her oldest child

Was at the lake with her dad
And the two youngest children
Were at the house of their dad.
The cabin was on a farm
Gardened collectively. No
Other houses on the farm
Burned. Volunteers stopped the fire,

Which had apparently spread
From a wood stove. The woman
Herself was listed missing,
Unaccounted for two days
And a hush fell over talk
Around the lake villages.
Then her remains were announced.

A pile of belongings heaped
Outside the house suggested
She had died going back in
To rescue more of her things.
Folks said predictable things.
The literal atmosphere
Was volatile that week. Storms

Sun, showers, winds, and wildfires
Alternated. Some people
Were on evacuation
Alerts, but the choppers doused
Enough wildfires for the rain
To do the rest. No homes burned
Except that one from within.

The lake remained breathtaking.
Motorcycle tourists toured
The motorcycle tour routes.
Children went to music school,
Dance camp and theatre camp,
Performances at week's end.
In the ghost town of Sandon,

The museum was open
And Gary Wright, ex-mayor
Of one village by the lake,
Volunteered as curator
And explained the miners' lives,
The fire that burned the boomtown
Of five thousand to the ground

A century earlier,
The avalanches, earthquakes,
The unions, brothels, saloons,
Showed my daughter a tunnel
In the bedrock and then played
Her "A Whiter Shade of Pale"
On the antique pump organ.

Cole and Muriel Harris
Had us over for dinner
Up at their historic ranch
And at the end of the week,
While camp kids were performing
In one village, Cole lectured
In the other to grey heads

About the early boom days,
The "hard, hard lives" of miners
Who mostly moved on or died,
The smallpox epidemic
That had obliterated
The native Sinixt people
Before the miners arrived,

The Japanese internment
Camps of the Second World War
When 1500 displaced
Japanese Canadians
Were housed among 300
Remaining white citizens,
Sandon already a ghost

Town high in the dark mountains,
The little lake villages
Barely hanging on,
Mostly logging and farming,
A few local services.
While Cole spoke this history
The children did their dances

At Memorial Hall, down
The road, and, after debate
During the peculiar week,
Went ahead with performing
The ladybug song's gestures.
"Ladybug, ladybug, fly
Your way home. Your house on fire,

Your children gone, except one
Named Ann, who crawled underneath
The frying pan." The next day,
The sun high on the glacier,
We picked garden raspberries
And my daughter delighted
In a yellow ladybug.

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