In the summertime, Okanagan Centre buzzes with activity. Speed boats zip up and down the lake like crazed water-bugs with too much power. The narrow road that follows the shore is lined with poorly-parked cars and the beach is polka-dotted with families. Kids hold each other’s heads underwater and scream while their parents spread out on the shore and slowly burn next to bags of chips, bowls of blood-red cherries, and coolers of lite beer. There is most likely a dog with them, who is most likely tied to a scrubby willow and digging a hole. Everything is hot, the rocks, the air, even the damp towels.
Now, it is winter, and the people are gone. Expensive vacation homes sit empty, with no cars in the driveways, and the boat launch is deserted. The patio café that sells ice cream has closed for the season. People who live here year-round stay indoors, though it is quite mild compared to the rest of the country.
I walk the shoreline and shiver in my boots and my hat. A smattering of wet snow covers the ground but surprisingly the place retains its colour. Red ponderosa bark, yellow bunch grass, green Oregon grape, speckled grey stones, and the dark blue, blue lake that stretches out in front. The water is calm and cold, with nothing to disturb its surface. I am tempted to throw one of those grey wishing stones out as far as I can and listen for the plunk.
At first it seems strange, this empty world with no people, a little eerie. But the further I walk, the more natural it feels. I like this version of Okanagan Centre. The one that knows quiet and stillness. The one that has dark nights and long stretches of beach and the occasional winter storm. The one that waits, ever so patiently, for the busy summer already on its way.