or how wanting to post the image below, triggered the following story…
I’ve been to the center of the universe. And no, I don’t mean Toronto.
I realize that stating something like this makes me sound a bit whacked. The statement does sound a bit whacked but I tell you that I am not whacked, nor that I was the first to make the claim; to have found the center of the universe. That distinction falls to some unidentified Tibetan monk. Perhaps he was whacked.
It was while listening to some radio show that I first heard tell about this place, this ‘center of the universe’. It was a few years back and the story was intrigued enough not to forget it and to file the claim away as a charming marketing ploy to attract visitors to some out of the way place.
Story has it that one day a Tibetan monk showed up on the doorstep of the owner of that particular piece of land somewhere between Cache Creek and Kamloops, British Columbia, claiming it had been determined to be the center of the universe, the core of existence based on instructions of his master. This after performing various Bhuddist rituals and ‘the revelation’ that this place was it.
Long story short, the owner refused offers to sell, even though the amounts offered were said to be well above market values and monks continued to arrive; some in limousines, to experience the place and its energies for themselves. The owner never said why he refused the offers but said that on various nights while camping at the exact place where the monks had practiced their thing at the core of the universe, that he heard a ‘heavenly chorus’, akin to a Mormon choir but sans words “somewhat earie but also very beautiful”.
I was game to see this place for myself.
And as it also turned out, it was way out of the way for someone accustomed to city streets; even if the Canadian geographic distances was another thing I am accustomed to. Getting from point A to point B can have long seemingly desolate stretches in between.
Ok, so you might concede that such a claim about an area within reasonable driving distance in relation to where I live might stir some interest. More than a little curiosity it stirred in me and I felt that visiting this place would be an interesting experience if nothing more than to chalk up a visit to a place most of us never would think of visiting in the first place; it being something so outside the norm and so far into the realm of science fiction so as to stretch credulity if not the normal thinking mans mind beyond its normal elasticity. And I for one am no science fiction buff. Not at all.
When the time was right I invited my German girl-friend along; a friend who had never heard the story or suspected that I knew where the center of the universe was said to be. Pretty heady information if you think about it, hehe. Pretty presumptuous too if you take logical thought a bit further still. Either way … we were going to visit the place.
I have to say that this was my second attempt to find the center of the universe … the first time I went looking did not meet with success and was a tentative exploration … with a smart car. Who in their right minds goes looking for the center of the known universe in a smart car? Me.
My first attempt took me in the right direction and ended without success in the gathering gloom, and soon it was pitch black around me under a near clear night sky, parked along some seemingly god forsaken stretch of back woods dirt road, the darkness and uncertainty of what lay out there in the blackness keeping me inside the tight confines of that small car. The early morning light a welcome reprieve after a near sleepless night, my aching body stretching tight muscles groups as soon as I was able to see enough to get out of the car. And that fresh cup of hot coffee I brewed was pure bliss, a dark and strong celebration of early daylight.
When I’m on the road I always bring along my own coffee fixin’s. I insist; knowing that what passes for good coffee in some places is not always good coffee. Long story short, I cut that exploratory road trip short based on the fact that I was navigating along an unknown road with no spare tire, no jack, no nothing (cause that’s the way Smart cars come) should I encounter a flat tire so far from anywhere. The decision to head back registered a bit of disappointment but it was the smart thing to do.
Now, I am not generally someone who has to go to or is attracted to ‘must see‘ places to say that I’ve been. However this place, this notion, this distinction seemed odd enough and interesting enough to pique my curiosity. No, I go to places as I am led to them. I don’t have a tourist mentality nor am I a place ‘collector’. That I was, curious and open to the experience. If I had had to fly or endure more than 12 hours of car travel, I probably never would have gone, but this was a place I could get to, easily.
Ok, so I packed up a much larger borrowed car, my girl friend nested into the passenger seat and we set off to find the center of the Universere. We had reservations there and a I a better idea of the route and distance.
Our time together that summer had already consisted of wild and beautifully isolated places, out of the way spots that take your breath away for the sheer simple and all encompassing wilderness that is all there is to see, be it dense still forests or some lonely shoreline, the powerful pounding sound of pounding ocean surf as the eye strains to make out shape and form in the vastness that is all around.
As we drove my girlfriend saw even more trees than on our last drive, more mountains and rocks and rivers and wilderness than her native Germany could compete with. Maybe she got bored with all the wildness out there but never let on.
At Dead Mans Canyon we turned left, off the country highway and headed north towards our unseen goal. Having driven a stretch up the canyon before, I knew what to expect and what we were seeing made it all worth while. The original trail along these parts was part of the gold rush experience many years back and now farms and ranches nestled into their chosen locations and the dirt road winding between them from one side of the narrowing canyon to the other as the river dictated. Lots of horses and some cattle, old homesteads and lovely countryside.
And on we drove, carefully steering our wheels around sharp rocky bits in the hard gravel surface. And then as we edged our way along the eastern side of Vidette lake, we knew that we would reach our goal at its far end, still in late summer afternoon sunshine, that warm soft glow.
When we had parked the car and stretched our travel sore muscles, we watched as humming birds flashed in the sunlight, dazzling like liquid metal droplets as they zipped up, down, left and right as if to greet us as we arrived at the ramshackle ‘resort’, a collection of various dissimilar out buildings and cabins.
We had reservations for one small one, one that looked like a stranded wooden rail caboose car with wooden porch. Quaint and just what we needed.
So … this was the center of the Universe? Kind of anti climactic if you must know, no bright flashing signs or neon arrows pointing the way, no shuffling lines of burgundy robed monks along the long and dusty road leading to this place. No, not one single indicator.
The day was not done with us yet and after finding the owners and checking in as it were; very un-resort like but welcomingly down to earth surrounded by swarms of hummingbirds, and after our questions about this mysterious center of the universe, we were given directions to the top of a hill, more like a plateau to the immediate north and up out of the deep canyon that held the long thin lake. As soon as we’d unloaded what need to be unloaded from the car and had eaten our evening meal, we followed up the directions given, clambering up a steep trail away from the homestead like setup that was also once a gold mine and up onto the plateau.
Pine trees gave off their sweet dry warm summer scent, that pleasant almost incense like aroma I can’t get enough of when I smell it. I felt happy. We felt happy and excited to discover … we didn’t know what. But we were there. Where? A place on a map, a spot in a vast province in a huge country, but at a very special location, it turned out to be.
My girlfriend and I made our way up the gently sloping wild grass covered ground towards what seemed the top. For some reason we approached from the east and stepped between a low boulder and a short shrubby fir tree of some kind; the only two obstructions on otherwise clear ground. Later on, it was explained to us that we had intuitively entered the space/place through the ‘eastern gate’. Nice feelings followed that news.
The spot itself; if the center of the Universe can be marked by a physical spot on our planet (and why a certain spot on our planet should be home to that center is also a mystery to me), was indicated by an assortment of small things. Things that are generally carried in pockets, bags and the like. I saw rings, amulets, bracelets, feathers, stones, coins, flowers, candles, bandanas, sweet grasses, ear rings, crystals and tobacco. It did not look like a mini junk pile but the spot had been marked and duly noted by others who felt compelled, drawn to that particular spot.
As I stood there in the late afternoon sunshine under blue summer skies and looked around, tears began to trickle from my eyes and soon I was crying like a grown man cries. Perhaps it was all just a little too much, perhaps I was feeling something. I knew I was feeling something but I could not understand and still can not say what, but something touched and triggered my emotional core. I felt calm, even though I didn’t understand anything other than the landscape around me looked beautiful. No noise, just stillness and the rustling of the wind in nearby trees.
Someone had set a chair close to the spot an I took a seat and just sat there for a long while. My girlfriend sat on the rock we had passed by. We spent some time in contemplation, just being there. It felt good. As good as it would feel to hang out anywhere else that offered a calming view and silence perhaps, but we were there, in that moment, in time.
We were silent as we decided to head back to the cabin. I left the silver ear-ring I had worn since my mid teens … a token of appreciation, to mark the moment. It had had an effect. What this effect meant I do not know, still do not know, but I am thankful to have felt whatever it was.
The next day we explored the area beyond the resort. I was all wild flowers, poplar trees, birch trees and pines, scattered cattle and horses in lush treed fields, the dusty gravel road snaking this way and that. I could understand why someone would want to live there. I wanted to be there.
My girlfriend has a thing for horses, she loves them. Driving along we spotted three or four of these magnificent creatures at the far end of a big fenced field and stopped to look at the scene. We got out of the car and stood at the fence, just looking at the far away horses. Then one of them casually raised its head from where it had been feeding along the tree line of a sparse woods and looked in our direction. They were at least a couple of city blocks away. And then it made its leisurely way directly towards us. The other horses stayed put for a while and only followed suit when it had covered half the distance towards us. This horse walked right up to my girlfriend and extended its head towards her. She smiled. And then she told me that this was the horse she had been looking at. It was the horse that had made her stop the car to get out. It was another special moment.
We spent two nights at the resort, the long, cool narrow lake nearly black in color; an inviting antidote to the hot summer temperatures. I didn’t much like paddling the rather wobbly canoe which wasn’t as ridgid as it could have been. Truth be told I wasn’t too keen on being plunged into the lakes dark waters should the flimsy shell of fiberglass decide to come apart mid lake. Ok, so I was a bit out of shape at the time and hadn’t kept my swimming muscles up to date.
The time we spent there together was a wonderful experience on many levels and I think that I will head back there sometime to check it out again. Knowing that there are places that touch us deeply is something wonderful, a gift. I know of several places that make me feel like that and try to connect when I can. Living in a city tends to disconnect us from what is real.