Let’s start with the hail.
Or maybe we should start with the green sky…or how the wind changed directions. Or the way that all of the sudden it was completely dark at 5 pm.
Or maybe I should start here, from our hotel room in Whitecourt, Alberta. Our day off got moved this week and we’re back in town 3
short long days later.
I was reading a “People” magazine on the way back to camp after our last day off (an impulse purchase chosen to ward off some anxiety I had about the upcoming week after we’d learned that our 6 am breakfast would be moved to 5:30am) and I read about how the singer Pink named her new baby Willow because willow trees are the most flexible kind of tree- they can withstand a lot of pressure but they don’t break, they bend and sway, but they are strong. Pink said that she wanted that kind of character for her daughter, for her to be strong and able to bend without breaking.
I should have seen that as a sign for the week ahead- or perhaps it was more like a mantra- “be flexible, you can bend and you won’t break.”
Flexibility is the name of the game out here tree planting. Everything is always changing.
I already told you that our breakfasts got moved until 5:30 am. That was stressful because we don’t usually eat dinner until 8 and if you want to get 8 hours of sleep that leaves very, very little down time.
Day one- 5:30 am breakfast. Drive to the block. Plant more than 3000 trees in 12 hours. Thunderstorm. Hail. Extreme heat. Get home at 8. Eat dinner late at 8:30. Go to be exhausted.
Day two- 5:30 am breakfast. Got to the block. Plant just under 3000 trees. Sky darkens. Like, gets really dark. So dark I can no longer see the trees. The sky turns an eerie green. Lightening everywhere. Then, hail starts falling like rocks from the sky. Actually like rocks. The hail is the size of golf balls and for the first time I wish I was wearing a hard hat. Jussie and I begin to run to our cache to seek cover under the tarp. Thankfully two guys on our crew see us out in the middle of our piece and run out with boxes to shield us from the hail. The four of us sit under the trap, adrenaline pumping. We’re bruised, but we’re fine. One of the trucks? Not so fine…the hail cracked the windshield. Leave the block at 6. Unload a GIANT transport truck full of 960 boxes of trees for an hour (with only 14 people). Eat dinner. Rain. Camp meeting- we find out that the forecast is bad, very bad. There is a lot of rain expected. We’ve got to finish the contract, get the trees in the ground. The boss tells us that tomorrow (Saturday) is going to be our day off and we’ll come back for 4 more days to plant out the contract before heading back to BC.
Day 3- It’s raining. 5:30 am breakfast. I break out the rain pants for the first time. Head to the block. 9 am- we’re soaked through. People on the crew begin heading for the trucks, to0 cold to plant. A handful of us hang in and plant together. 12:30 pm we’re called off the block and we’re back at camp by 2.
And now, here we are. After a nice dinner, Matt and I are sharing a room with a friend from another crew. Most of our crew stayed at camp, but we opted for the hotel. We’re exhausted and we need a good sleep-in. Tomorrow we’ll meet the rest of our crew for laundry, breakfast and coffee shop. Matt will see Transformers 2 with some of the guys.
And then? Well, who knows. Like the willow tree, we’re learning to be flexible. To breathe deep and know that everything is going to be ok and that if we don’t pay attention we’re going to miss it all. What a lesson and what a test to be fully present- to be uncomfortable, wet but to feel your body working, your legs moving, the rain dripping off of your face. The present is all we have and today that meant being very cold and wet. Not too pleasant but we were present. And we’re ok.
The forecast is calling for an obscene amount of rain, but let’s hope, like nearly everything else, that that changes.
*updated to add: it’s Saturday now and the roads have been washed out so the rest of our crew is going to another little town called “Fox Creek”- Our ride is in Edmonton until tonight–so we’ll see about how we’ll get back to camp…the adventure never ends.
***updated even later to add: The roads from camp to whitecourt AND Fox Creek were washed out and the rest of the gang drove around for hours before finally reaching another town- Edson. Sooooo, looks like tomorrow is another day off. Exciting and kinda bad because we’ve got a LOTof trees to put in the ground and we’re taking a 2.5 day break.
**updated even further to add: Word on the street is that our camp supervisor will be taking a helicopter tomorrow to see if the roads to camp are passable. Epic.