I see her on the corner of Bernard and Pandosy Street, busking – a flower child, as if carried there like a feather by some early breeze of spring. With peace on her fingers and dandelions in her case, she is a portrait of 1969 in painted dress, amulet and flowing tresses. She poses for me, a gentleman in newsboy cap and receding hair who remembers a youth in faded denim at the Cache Creek junction - peace sign outstretched to the highway on the long hitch-hike home.
I’d been mercifully rescued from a dead-zone on Highway 97, a stretch of Harvey fenced by tourist traps like Flintstones and the orchards dotting the sequestered terrain. For hours I was stalled on my way to the great white north where a summer job and my mother’s home cooking awaited.
In ’69 Kelowna was a sleepy little town that didn’t believe in hitchhikers let alone the invasion of hippies in summer. It was a town of practical farming folk shaped by cycles of bounty and loss. They didn’t stop for long-haired youths like me. But one of my kind drives me as far as The Creek, a bone-dry confluence of three directions where my hope for a quick passage north is disappointed.
Cars swoosh by, and I wonder whether my defiant vow to beat the bus from Nelson has been worth it. A Volkswagen Beetle stops near my post and releases a young man with the unkempt look of the time. The rules of the road dictate that he find a spot somewhere in back of me; when he doesn’t, the idealism of my generation dissolves and later sheds itself in a Prince George haircut.
I snap the photo of the young woman on Bernard and hand her my card. She is not privy to the memories that she has released within me. And I imagine that her romance with freedom and the streets will dissolve like mine. Meanwhile, each of us is carried, again and again, to the shore of some uncharted land where we may grieve the death of one life and be born anew.