Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Mountain

The best thing about going back to the place where I grew up is that nobody can find me unless they really try.  There is no Internet, no cell phone service, and it's a hundred kilometres from any town that anyone has heard of.  You can fly over the property in an airplane, soaring across the Selkirk mountain range in southeastern British Columbia, and not see any sign of human existence for more than half an hour.  I love this place.  Six acres of wilderness that's almost as wild today as it was when my family moved there in the early 1970s.   

We did manage to tame it a little bit. Dad created our own electricity with a Pelton wheel and 1000 feet of pipe, harnessing one of the streams that tumbles down the mountainside. Mom tilled the clay soil, mixed in a lot of goat dung and created several gardens that have thrived for decades during the short growing season.   Today, there's a verdant front yard full of clematis and rose bushes where there used to be thistles and rock.

But many other things remain untamed.   Grizzly bears and black bears still wander across the property from spring until hibernation time.   On winter nights, coyotes still perform their eerie vocalizations outside the bedroom window.   Five meters of snow continue to fall between November and March, turning the wood-frame house into an igloo-like tunnel.  Like clockwork, the sun disappears behind the mountains in the second week of December every year, and emerges again in the first week of February.   And the only communication is still an old-fashioned landline.

As a journalist and television producer I have travelled to some of the remotest corners of the planet and have encountered very few places that feel as technologically remote as my childhood home.  Many of my friends are in media, and based in big cities around the world.   For those who visit, it takes time to adjust to life on the mountain.  Some of them don't adjust.   "So there's really no way to get a signal here?" a colleague asks with no small amount of irritation.  Sure there is, if you want to spend thousands of dollars hooking up a big satellite dish near the top of the tallest cedar tree at the top of the property.   And we've considered it, if only to make it easier to work from the mountain.   But so far, we've decided against it because we know it will change everything irrevocably, and we aren't ready to give up the delights of disconnectedness-- a rare place where the outside world, and its expectations of instant responses, can be put on 'pause'.

The BC government has promised that every resident of the province, no matter where they live, will soon have access to the Internet.  It seems to be a reasonable promise in one of the world's wealthiest countries.   And I'll admit that life on the mountain will be easier once I'm able to connect more readily to my city-based work.  (I'll even be able to post blogs!)  But I also know that letting the world in with a single click will irrevocably change what I love most about life on the mountain.

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