That realization comes to me easily on wonderful sunshiny summer days, like what we have enjoyed this past week.
Like many of you, I have reason to cruise around our region for either work or play several times a year.
And continually I am left in awe with just how breathtaking this place we call the Okanagan Valley truly is.
As a child growing up here, I was constantly told by a visiting relatives and other tourists how we in Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley “lived in paradise.”
I got tired of hearing that after a while.
As a young man, I never really gave it a great amount of thought except the smug acknowledgment that while I did live somewhere very nice, I still looked forward to ‘getting away’ to somewhere better, bigger or more exciting.
I sensed that indeed Kelowna was a special place but never fully appreciated it until I traveled around a tad.
Though never a worldly adventurer, my treks around North America soon opened my eyes to my good fortune.
Between the marvelous climate, ideal location, and above average lifestyle and opportunity, the Okanagan was certainly a special spot.
The more I went to other places, the faster I wanted to be move back here.
And so it was Wednesday as I floated about with a fishing rod in one hand and a cold beverage in the other, accompanied by a dear friend, that I reminisced about a youth spent growing up here.
I can’t imagine having enjoyed a more pleasurable childhood.
Mother Nature provided the perfect environment for such a splendid upraising.
Once tagged as the ‘Four Seasons Playground,’ the Okanagan Valley truly offers something special weather-wise year-round for residents and tourists alike.
Wintertime, of course, meant hockey and though fortunate enough to be enrolled in minor hockey I was also lucky enough to spend many a day on the frozen edges of Okanagan Lake playing shinny with the neighbourhood kids.
Though financially unable to take part in some of the more expensive sports such as snow skiing, I was blessed enough to have friends whose family regularly adventured up to Last Mountain or Big White where we would spend hours tobogganing and frolicking in the snow.
When not trundling through snow filled mountains the winter climate in the valley bottom was warm enough to allow for a full day’s fun out doors with road hockey, snow fort building, or other such adventures.
Spring and fall brought a plethora of seasonal sports and hobbies from hiking, camping and fishing in the gorgeous, largely unscarred landscape to artifact and arrowhead hunting with grandpa or planting gardens and working the land with mom.
Life was good, safe, and fun. But summer was always best of all.
Without question summer in the Okanagan was and is akin to life in the tropics, the coast of California, or the warmth of Mexico.
I remember fondly as a young lad my swimming days would begin on May 6 (my birthday) and I never left the water until late September.
The beaches around Kelowna were my kingdom, and my friends and I never missed a chance to be in the water or roam the mountains and hills with freedom and joy.
Spoiled local kids such as myself soon learned the quiet special spots to hang out if we were wanting to avoid the flocks of tourists that started to arrive on the May 24 weekend and never seemed to go home.
I still recall counting and keeping track of the number of yellow (Alberta) license plates arriving in town compared to those from Saskatchewan (green and white) and those from the U.S. states.
Naturally, we all complained about the influx of visitors, but there were two bonuses to the strangers arriving.
Businesses were thrilled with the potential dollars, and the young local teenage boys (and girls) liked the arrival of the cute newcomers. Ah yes, summer love and fun.
The warmth and joy of Okanagan summers has always seemed to smooth over or heal any of the physical and mental strains on the mind and body inherited the rest of the year.
A few hours on a blanket at the beach or lawn chair near the lake holds amazing healing ability.
Fortunately, I have been able to spend the majority of my life in my hometown.
As I start to wind down my spin on this planet, I realize that there really is no other place I want to be in the twilight years ahead.
Yup, a comfy canoe, comfy company and warm sunshine on a calm Okanagan Lake—life does not get any better than this.
I would be remiss to not catch up on a few belated best wishes and congratulations overdue from the month of July.
First and foremost, a great big thank you to Teresa in celebration of our anniversary two weeks ago. I am confident living with me is not the easiest thing in the world. In fact, I’m not sure I could do it.
I am blessed to have found someone who shares my bizarre sense of humour, my love for animals and gardens, and the shares in the joy, comfort, and pleasure of simply spending time together in quiet conversation.
You have stuck with me through thick and thin and I can only hope you have enjoyed the adventure as much as I.
In addition hearty birthday congratulations are overdue for daughter Lisa Dirksen, and dear friends Jim Krahn, Trudy Janicki and Marlene Lang.
Funeral services for Marietta Lightbody have been set for Aug. 5 at First United Church, commencing at 3 p.m. Marietta passed away peacefully at home July 21 after a courageous struggle with cancer. She was a wonderful, warm person who I was very fortunate to get to know.
She had an ability to see through people and issues and had a wisdom and wit which served her and others well.
My condolences to her husband Wally Lightbody and their family.