Upper Arrow Lake, BC - Cassidy McFadzean

My watermark is Upper Arrow Lake, a widening of the Columbia River just off of Blanket Creek Provincial Park in Revelstoke, BC.

Each summer growing up, my parents took me and my three brothers camping throughout Alberta and BC. While initially we visited many different sites in the Rockies where we enjoyed rock climbing, biking and swimming, eventually we began returning almost exclusively to Revelstoke. What I remember of Upper Arrow Lake is the water that funnelled into the campground lagoon and that we spent hours each summer swimming in. Warmer than the frigid lake water--but still numbingly cold--the lagoon felt like our own private pool. Each year, we observed the tadpoles and frogs that bred in the lagoon, dug out the mica-rich mud from the bottom of the water that adhered itself to our skin, and cleaned out driftwood that gathered from summer storms. Often, we emerged from the water, gleaming with the sparkling mica fragments that were impossible to wash off, or fluffy cottonwood seeds that floated on the surface of the water. Often, I would spend afternoons reading with my mother on the beach while my brothers went rock climbing with my dad. Long days sweating in the summer heat were always followed by an evening swim in the lagoon--often running in from the beach with a crash. In earlier years, I remember swimming across the lagoon with my brothers, running around its perimeter, or swimming to its centre to see how deep we could dive.

When we ventured to look out at the lake from the campground pathway, we traced the changing water levels. Certain years, the water rose up high on the pathway to the shore, while other years revealed the plant life at the bottom of the riverbed. I remember one year the water was particularly low, revealing plant life not unlike prairie wheat fields back home. Crickets chirped from the sand and it felt surreal to wander around in what would ordinarily be covered with lake. Upper Arrow Lake was a backdrop to our yearly pilgrimage and features in photographs, memories, and my artistic re-imaginings of this place. I believe these summers without Internet or TV were formative in our development as artists. All four siblings have become artists and writers, and I wrote about the lagoon and lake in a poetry chapbook "Farwell" (JackPine Press, 2012), illustrated by one brother. Most recently, I returned to visit my parents who have become volunteer campground hosts at Blanket Creek. The devastating BC fires made it difficult to see the mountains on the other side of the river, and a thick haze hung in the air. The water was just as cold as I remembered.

Amy Wilford
Cassidy McFadzean

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Upper Arrow Lake, BC