I love a good bit of research. I’m a geek–it comes naturally. Much of the time I rely on the old interweb, but that’s often not enough. Like that novel idea set in Bali and requiring intimate knowledge of the beaches, cuisine and how it feels to be a carefree, willfully-unemployed loafer. Right. But one of the WIPs filling my head at the moment is set in Pemberton, BC, a stunning valley about 40 minutes north of Whistler (itself an hour and a half north of Vancouver). DH wanted to get some mountain biking in on the Whistler trails, so it worked out perfectly that Little e and I drove into the setting of my novel and poked around a bit.
I’ve been inspired by this place for a long time. When I was in high school I worked for a few wonderful, crazy weeks at a horse ranch at one end of the valley and loved every minute of it. The muddy Lillooet River winding through grassy fields and thick stands of alder, cutting wide sandbars where we’d race the horses and sometimes scare a black bear or two back into the undergrowth. The way the flood plain stretches evenly and then suddenly stops as the mountains rise up on all sides. The late summer fires we’d see glowing on the shoulders of the mountains, smoke blowing to us faintly on the wind. It was an impossibly romantic place to me then, and still is, in the same way that first love can’t be tainted.
But about this research. There are farms growing all kinds of crops (and making delicious things with them), and Little e and I can never resist stopping in when we pass a sign for one. I’m curious how young people, a farm, a river and a hot summer in the valley would all mix.
One day, Little e and her mother went to North Arm Farm. They went there for research purposes and took a lot of photos of the scenery, livestock and buildings. It was way too much fun for research. (Or maybe that’s just the best kind.)
Then they discovered the farm had u-pick blueberries. They decided to take a research break.
Little e enjoyed holding the bucket, but didn’t much like putting berries in it. She specialised in hand-to-mouth blueberry picking.
The romanticism of this place is so strong, it astounds me. Maybe my partiality to bucolic-meets-wilderness is to blame. Maybe it’s the adolescent fantasies that were strengthened all those years ago when I was a city slicker ranch hand. I’m guessing there are troves of stories, big and small in the Pemberton I see. The one in my mind and the one that’s really there.