You can take the ski lift to the top of Mount Washington in the summer-time on Vancouver Island.
A quick trip aboard a jump-seat places you at 5200 feet (1590 meters) and presto: you can see 360-degrees in all directions.
Views of the archipelago carved out centuries ago by shifts in the granite and mud make you feel big and small at the same time.
You can see islands and forests and beaches and boats and small towns dotting the landscape.
On a warm and sunny summer afternoon we hiked down about a thousand feet—some parts carefully, others at a jaunt—picking fat mountain blueberries along the way.
My two companions pointed out a silhouette on a rock, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a teddy bear in profile, frozen while we tiptoed past.
Turns out the teddy bear is a marmot (Marmota vancouverensis), a now-protected critter native to the island, whose populations dwindled as a result of two-legged and four-legged predators and habitat changes.
Once we were out of the marmot’s view, the critter let out a whistle, a shrill cheep that thanked us for leaving.
As we legged it, a bee buzzed around my torso.
Although bathed in sunblock that morning I neglected the insecticide and the bee decided to keep me company.
I dipped in between purple fireweed (Epilobium augustifolium) and Douglas fir, and just when I thought the bee left me, it returned, buzzing around my shoulder.
My annoyance turned to acceptance as I realized the bee would keep me company for the entire journey down the mountain.
And it did.
No matter my pace, no matter the branches that required a scramble, the bee skirted me.
We stayed together, me on my toes, the bee on wing, until we reached the rocky bottom.
“Is the bee still there?” my companions asked, as we headed for the car.
Once I safely reached bottom the bee returned home.
I savor the gift of the protector bee.
Photograph of artwork by William Wadsen Jr. from the Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria, Canada. Wadsen is a member of the Namgis tribe, according to the Gallery website.