Ahhhh... The first long weekend has come and gone. And with its passing, so too have the first round of the thousands of tourists who descend upon the Okanagan Valley each and every blessed summer, starting with the Victoria Day weekend.
But they’ll be back, don’t you forget it:
Those cigarette boats spewing oil and gas into the lake; the squalling whelps making dining out for locals a date to be projected into the after-weekend days. The bumper-to-bumper traffic that makes Harvey Avenue a virtual parking lot the Friday of the weekend; the soul-stunting wads of dough pulled out every thirty seconds for yet another glass of wine or still more fuel to power the endless lines of trucks and RVs.
The Holy Rollers drivin’ hiked-up Hummers from Hardisty have come and gone.
You get the picture.
Wendy and I too enjoyed the time off this weekend. Some time spent visiting my dad in hospice went nicely and eventually gave way to a little time spent on the water in a friend’s boat. Happily the lake wasn’t as clogged with other boats as we had expected it might; and it gave me a chance to take a look around the central Okanagan from a watery vantage point. And, man, what did I see?
Well, it’s become an oft-repeated cliche in these parts that the acronym “B.C” doesn’t really stand for British Columbia, but rather “Bring Cash.”
Personally, I have always regarded this malappropriated acronym as an odious (if still bearing an iota of truth-content within it) bastardizing of the language. But I’m a word nerd after all, and little things like this give me pause. Go figure.
There seems to be some truth to it, no? The “Bring Cash” thing.
Housing prices are through the roof here and elsewhere in BC; and God knows there seem to be endless examples of conspicuous consumption and thoughtless development all over the southern Interior. It’s kinda’ disgusting when you bother thinking about it.
I mean, honestly, we seem to be developing a culture where some folks happily spend more on a driver for their tacky glut of techy-golf-gear than many ordinary folk can afford to pay for their monthly rent. Surely there is a better way to be.
While on the boat we marveled at the large homes on either side of the Okanagan, north of Bear Creek on the Western shore and beyond Paul’s Tomb on the eastern shore. Many of these mansions were stunning examples of LEED standards and could easily be featured in mags like Architectural Digest, or, closer to home, publications like Okanagan Life, or that awful rag appealing to the conscience-barren-hyperconsumers in our midst, ICON Okanagan.
The majority of the monster shacks were empty of course. No one home. Perhaps the owners didn’t even reside here.
It was an eye-opener to be sure. But then we headed home from our day afloat and amazed, and I began to reflect on our time spent off the water and in the hills surrounding the southern reaches of the Interior.
And the words “Bring Cash” began to recede.
We saw a stunningly beautiful California Big Horn Sheep, a steady sentinel atop the bench overlooking Vaseaux Lake below and massive MacPherson Bluff to the south.
We saw a wild herd of horses dusting up the slopes on the lands occupied and controlled by the Penticton Indian Band, staring at us from across a rugged stream slicing its path through the valley to Skaha Lake and beyond.
We heard tell of wineries like Clos du Soleil who buck the we-think-we-can-strike-it-rich-trend that has seen an obscene explosion in the number of terroir-destroying wineries all over the Okanagan and the Similkameen (144 of the damn things, and counting), an artisan winery that knows small is good when it comes to producing sustainable and world-class Bordeaux-style reds.
And we remembered our friends, the Cipes Family, at Summerhill Pyramid Winery where they do literally everything to manifest bio-dynamism, sustainability and certified organic products through their sophisticated agri-business (and have the only Demeter certification in the Okanagan to prove it).
There is no end to the beauty of the BC Interior and the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, if you understand what beauty truly is. And it needn’t necessarily be available only to those who “Bring Cash.”
So I suggest we create a new meaning for the acronym “B.C.”
Instead of encouraging the bringing and spending of moolah like a misplaced mover-and-shaker, and remaining a place where we have learned to love the out-of-towners only for the wealth they spread here, let’s instead appeal to our better natures.
Let’s get with the programme already. Let’s make “B.C.” mean “Being Compassionate.”
The wild horses and the California Big Horns will thank you by remaining in our midst for years to come. Vintners like the Cipes family and the tight-knit team at Clos du Soleil will prosper and, by their remarkable example, encourage their industry partners to tread more lightly upon the earth than they currently require to.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll start seeing a new breed of tourist here too. A tourist that truly is a guest -- a guest as each and every one of us are for our time in the sun. And a guest who will mind her manners with grace and compassion for the rest of us delicate ones that call this place, temporarily, home.
— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer to plays music by day and politics by night