Tuesday, March 13, 2018


More than two weeks after the fact, I am still thinking about the Canada’s bronze medal victory in hockey at the winter Olympics.   I caught the last  ten minutes of the game, exciting in its own right, and watched until the very end of the medal presentation, mesmerized.     

It was clear to me that the Canadian team wanted this win.  After all, the Czechs would be happy to be medaled in their stead.  With three minutes left, and Canada leading by three, the Czechs scored.  Then, Canada took a too-many-men penalty.  The Czechs scored again.  The score was then 
6 – 4 with two minutes left.  Am I watching a CFL football game, I asked myself, where no lead is safe?   In the end, Canada prevailed.  The joy is still infectious. 

The ceremony itself had all the hallmarks of a gold medal presentation.  The only thing missing was the singing of the national anthem.  Blue carpets were stretched on the ice for the dignitaries.  Officials methodically made their way down the line of players, placing the bronze medal around the neck of each player, and taking the time to convey a few words of congratulations.  Every single player beamed.  Each was ecstatic.   Then, they converged to take a group photo.  To commemorate a bronze medal!

I am thrilled for this group of men.   When the NHL announced that it would not release its players, Hockey Canada looked to other professional leagues to build a team.  According to the Toronto Star, thirteen players come from the KHL, four from the Swiss league, three each from Sweden and the American Hockey League, and one from Germany and Austria.  Forward Andrew Ebbett explained the thrill: "What a special honour.  A year ago, nobody in this locker room would even have been given a chance to be here. I’m 35 years old, and I never thought I’d be at the Olympic Games. I’ll cherish this one for a long time."  In his congratulatory tweet, Peter Mansbridge echoed those sentiments.

At average age 31,  these players were a mixed bag of sporadic NHLers, former NHLers and international players.  That so many of them now in their thirties are still active players, though, speaks to their passion for the sport.  For many, it was a career highlight.  Ben Scrivens, the injured goalie, said,  “This is forever,” he said. “This is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”  

For me, the event shone a spolight on two essential life mindsets that, in my view, often get lost in the glare of the media emphasis on winning and being the best.

·   Carpe diem.  Opportunity doesn’t ask permission to interrupt the status quo.   It arrives when you are making other plans.  To seize it requires courage, grit, and hard work.

·  Be grateful.   More athletes left the Olympics disappointed, without medals or even best times.   "Losing is painful, occasionally horrific and, for many Olympians, inevitable," Nathan Vanderklippe wrote in the Globe and Mail.  Best, then, not to put onself on such a pedestal that a silver medal becomes an unworthy crumb.  Bask in the sweet moments of life; they cushion the inevitable disappointments.

In moments like Team Canada’s bronze medal win, sports can inspire at a visceral level.  At those moments,  it can stop people in their tracks to reflect on the intrinsic reset value of private victories that, to general amazement,  bear unexpected fruit in a public sphere.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


My reading life during 2017 focused on understanding the times in which I live, both at home and abroad.  To that end, I read countless articles, both in mainstream newspapers and online publications.  To hang on to my joy, I interspersed fiction runs, some of it pure escapism.  My mind and my soul thanked me.  So, on this last day of January, here are my significant reads for 2017, should some of them pique your curiosity.

Again this year, I made the most of my subscriptions to great newspapers. 
From the New York Times, I always read
·  Paul Krugman (anything he writes);
·  Charles Blow (check out The Lowest White Man);
The occasional columnists get me thinking too.  Try this article by Linda Greenhouse, The El Salvador Tragedy.

From The Washington Post, I usually click on anything by Jennifer Rubin,  E. J.  Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and cartoonist Tom Toles.  Check out the Opinion section here.  Phil Lee has a great op-ed on racism that hits close to home.

At the Globe and Mail, I look for perspectives from Margaret Wente and John Ibbitson.  Refreshing subjects and slants spur reflection on a range of subjects from stereotypes of Americans  to where to eat insmall-town Saskatchewan from Amy Rosen.

I’ve branched out to edgier publications as well, like the Establishment.  Ijeoma Oluo, for example, takes no prisoners in her piece on Trump supporters and white supremacists.

No wonder, then, with all this heavy stuff, that I often gravitate to what I hope might be lighter fare.  That’s how, about this time last year, I discovered Amy Krouse Rosenthal in the New York Times, with You Might Want to Marry My Husband.  No spoilers here—let’s just say that, after reading this piece, I read as much of AKR as I could find, purchased her books for my grandchildren, and sent a few in my daughter-in-law’s direction.  Although there are so many yet to explore, here are some  favorites:
This Plus that
! Exclamation Mark
Little Pea
I Wish You More
That’s Me Loving You
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

What were some of the fiction highlights?
·  The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, no less powerful because I saw the series first, is an eloquent and stark representation of the speed with which our world can change when we’re not looking, when, as Atwood puts it, we are living in between the lines and in the margins of the newspaper articles alerting us to danger.

·  Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, all four of them.  Ferrante can astound with penetrating insight one minute, as she does in The Story of the Lost Child, where she comments: To carry out any project to which you attach your own name you have to love yourself, and shock you the next.    Be prepared for violence and abuse at the cellular level of family.  These are tough and disturbing reads.

·  The Buried Giant from 2017 Nobel Prize winner for literature,  
  Kazuo Ishiguro, a tale of an elderly couple searching for their past and their son,  as well as
·  Never Let Me Go from the same author,  the story of young people cloned to supply transplant organs to the affluent class.  Both books ask questions about memory.  Ishiguro wonders about the circumstances when either remembering or forgetting are advantages or disadvantages.  

In non-fiction books, I recommend
·  American Fascists:  The Christian Right and the War on America  (2008) by Chris Hedges.  I admire Hedges’ work, having read The Empire of Illusion: The End of LIteracy and the Triumph of Spectacle years ago.   With implacable clarity, he exposes the changes in values the Christian Right imposes on society.  Look for his articles and interviews at Truthdig.

·  The First Coming : How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity by Thomas Sheehan (1986).  A séminal read in my faith life, this account of the life of Jesus centers on his efforts to live the kingdom of God in the present. 

Not much respite in that catalogue, is there?  Lots of heavy reads, reflective of our times.  I wonder if my penchant for disturbing non-fiction combines my sense of duty with a rebuke of all the distractions society provides to keep us from noticing what's going on.  As the Post reminds us, "Democracy dies in darkness."  Best to be as aware as we can manage.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


I don’t always open up the Education Update from ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) the very minute it comes in the mail.  The hard copy still arrives monthly, six months into my practical departure from the official business of education.  So, fresh from a resolve to process the mail just once, when the October issue arrived, I took a look.  10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back, the front page article promised (ASCD Education Update, Volume 59, No. 10, October, 2017), if you’re "battling the October blues."   Although I’m not in the classroom anymore, and it’s no longer October, I thought I might benefit from these tips any old day of the year.   Now that a new year has dawned, and given the layers of treacherous ice caking the streets and sidewalks at the moment, as well as the obscene cold,  today might still be a good time to reflect on  one’s mojo. 

In that context, then,  here are some tips that Sarah McKibbon has collected from 2017 American State and National Teachers of the Year.  I wondered how they might relate to my retired life. (Teacher colleagues, click here for the professional article.)  For me, they’re a useful guide, a sort of secular examination of conscience.

1.              Find Strength in Your  *****
Fill in the blanks for yourself.  For teachers, the recommendation is to find strength in students.  I find my strength wherever I can, mostly in my children, whose courage, resilience, and knowledge amaze me daily.  I think of people I know who have faced cancer and terminal illness with a smile.  Others have emigrated to Canada to start a new life, or started over from zero after losing all their possessions in a cataclysmic natural disaster.  Sources of strength and inspiration are everywhere.

2.             Learn Something New
My harp and I continue to spend lots of quality time together  in concentrated practice and fun.  In baby steps, I work on the exercises and new music I acquired at the Northern Lights Harp Festival in Cornwall, Ontario, in October.   To push myself even more, I memorize.   Here, I’m way out of my comfort zone.  The good news:  my comfort zone is broader than it used to be.

3.             Pull Out All the (Instructional) Stops
I have to accept that, right now, there’s no more room in the day for more pulled-out stops, if I want to do right by those already in play.

4.             Battle Your Boredom
I don’t bore easily, so I’m skipping over this one.  In fact, my daughter confided in me a few years ago that, as a child, she thought « boring » was a swear word.  It might as well have been!

5.             Find Your Tribe
Quality, not quantity, is my mantra around friends.    To those who light up my life, intentionally and unaware, thank you.   I’ve realized that the tribe has a converse, and that focusing on the needs of others gets me out of any funk of mine.

6.             Hit Pause and Reflect
Look back on your accomplishments, the author says.  Save any thank you notes, and reread them when you feel down.   Check.

7.             Never Let Your Flame Go Out
That one needs determined effort, every single day.  You have to fight for your joy.  Many times, I’ve had to paste on the smile, get on with the day, and simply refuse to feel smothered.

8.             Take a Hike
It’s true—exercise is a must, like brushing your teeth.  

9.             Have Coffee with a Mentor
See #5, above.    True confession—I’ve never been much of a coffee-er.  So, there’s some room for expansion here.

10.          Resist the Isolation
It’s fitting that this one should be last in the list, the tip that most applies to me.  As I age, I’m comfortable in my own space, with my people, my projects and my routine.   My passions require a lot of solitary investment—reading, music, writing.  Isolation can be insidious, though.  The trick would be, I suppose, to find the social dimension of those passions and cultivate them.  Stay tuned for an update on how I do on this one.

Out of ten, maybe eight have some momentum?  There’s consolation in that, and some balance.  The take-away from the exercise: Reflect on the accomplishments, and keep what still could be further developed in perspective.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


"Do you know that woman?"  I ask the lady sitting next to me.  "The one with the thin brown hair combed back off her face?"

"I think her name is J.," she replies.  J.  mesmerizes me. I can’t look away.  A beatific smile transforms her face, seems to erase any lines of age.   It reaches into her eyes, which are riveted on my husband.  She is luminous.    Midway through The Girl in the Garden Waltz, I notice, she has inched forward.   Now, she doesn’t have to strain around the other wheelchairs aligned in rows in the common room of the nursing home for the afternoon’s entertainment my husband and his sidekick are providing.  She claps her hands in time.  The smile stays even when the song ends.  It’s etched into her face, I think, her default expression at rest.  I’m envious.

They change it up with Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.  Now, people are singing along.   When they launch into I Come to the Garden Alone,  the chorus swells to not only residents but also visitors who have come to hear Elmer and Charlie play. 

With The Happy Go Lucky Polka, feet swing, mostly in time, and any mobile limbs sway, clap, and tap.   On her feet with the support of her walker, a woman in an orange shirt with matching necklace moves to the music. A visiting couple dances through the labyrinth of wheelchairs, armchairs and card tables.  The resident budgies and the cockatiel chirp along in accompaniment.

Enough with the old time stuff.  Now, some Latin American rhythms with Yellow Bird.  They find the right pieces, says L., in corroboration of the program selections for the hour.  Elmer is always prepared.  He picks a theme, and thinks about the songs that will resonate with people.

An attendant kisses one of the residents on the cheek.  There’s something about a Sunday afternoon that can make a body feel alone.    At the moment, though, they’re not in the common room any more.  They’re twenty again, or thirty-five, at a dance in the local school or barn or community hall.  The music has beamed them to that beloved remembered world for a brief hour.   I hear the strains of the Seven Step, my favorite dance, and wonder yet again why they play a pattern dance for this audience, when no one dances.  I realize that, in this other dimension to which they have been teleported, they are indeed on the dance floor.

Next, Charlie takes over with a perennial favorite, Walk the Line, by Johnny Cash.  He has some fun with the lyrics at the end:
I keep my pants tied up with binder twine.
I keep my fly wide open all the time.
I keep my spirits up with a bottle of wine,
Because you’re mine, please pull the twine.
The applause, guffaws, and chortles from the almost eighty people gathered in that room fuse with the fading strains of "twine".  The naughtiness takes them back, too.  Elmer and Charlie are having fun, and their enthusiasm and joy are contagious.    In that environment, my husband is quintessentially himself.  He knows the subliminal power of music to transform moments in life, and he’s good at making those moments happen.

The strains of Sentimental Journey remind people all too soon that the hour is over.  The sincere applause, the smiles, the joy, the conversations over coffee and goodies afterward dispel the stiffness in the musicians’ fingers and wrists  from three gigs in as many days.  But it’s the misty glaze Elmer and Charlie notice in the eyes of many of the residents still between dimensions that stay with them, and the reason they’ll be back here in a few months. 

J., L., and the residents wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Friday, September 22, 2017


Yes, when we travel, the sites and the experiences stay with us.  The truly transformational aspects of our journeys, though, grow out of the personal encounters with people, some planned, most coincidental and spontaneous.  It’s time to say thank you to the people whose openness to conversation brightened up our trip to Northern British Columbia, Haida Gwaii, and a few points south.

"I have some galoshes you can use for the trip," my daugher-in-law offers, the day before we leave.  Up the stairs she comes, with black and white polka dot galoshes with a saucy black bow.   A little youngish for this Memère, I think at the time, but why not? Their edge only enhanced their usefulness,  beginning in Prince Rupert, when the serious rain began.   I thought I could continue using the galoshes incidentally—night trips to the bathroom, hikes along damp trails. The day I stowed my runners and adopted the galoshes as my go-to footwear on Haida Gwaii, though, I turned a corner.  Not because everywhere I went, someone complimented me on the boots and I was able to acknowledge my daughter-in-law’s generosity (and her great fashion sense!).  At that moment, I embraced the essence of the rain forest I was visiting.  It’s as if I became one with what’s done there, what the climate obliges in outerwear included.  The galoshes have become the quintessential symbol of awareness by osmosis.  
Haida Carver Leo Gagnon

Leo Gagnon
In Old Masset, many Haida carvers work out of their homes.  They hang their shingle, and welcome visitors.  We happened upon Leo at work in his shop, and were delighted that he engaged with us on his career, his carving, his work with the next generation of Haida carvers.

Sarah, Jane, Marilyn
The server at the Island Sunrise Café in Masset Sunday morning indicated a half hour or so wait for a table for brunch.  Not problem, we had loads of time.  We could wait.   Books and devices in hand, we made ourselves comfortable on the bench in the entrance.  Just as we two were escorted to a table for four, two ladies in for brunch as well prepared to wait.  "You’re welcome to join us, if you like," we offered. 
"There are three of us," the woman we later came to know as Sarah said.  "Can we pull up a chair? We're actually three." 
"You bet."  
We exchanged stories and plans,  like old friends.  On our last day, at supper in Queen Charlotte Village, we waved at them through the restaurant window, and had a chance to trade more stories about our experiences.

Grant and Jane
In Spirit Square, a conversation that began over a car my husband noticed grew into a two hour discussion.  Again, fate intervened.  We saw them once more at supper on our last day.  That’s right—in the same restaurant as Sarah, Marilyn and Jane.  What are the odds?

Bunkhouse Campground Great Room
The owner of the Bunkhouse Campground in Queen Charlotte Village has invested a lot of time and ingenuity in replicating a backcountry experience.  The campground greatroom conjured up what my vision of a prospector’s cabin or a lumber camp might be.   Thanks to Sid, more discussion to churn the reflections.

We stopped at the Visitor Information  Centre and Museum in Port Clements to locate relatives of relatives that my husband wished to see.  Bridget, the receptionist, not only knew exactly who we wanted to see, but engaged in a delightful discussion that we will never forget.

Ted and Donna
Relatives of relatives in Port Clements, Ted and Donna made a leap of faith and decided to talk to people who knew people they knew.  What followed for us was a rich hour and a half  exchange.

George and Corinne
At Kleanza Creek Provincial Park, where we turned in to wait out the projected three hour highway closure, we met George and Corinne, who were there for the same reason.  With these seasoned travelers who were on a cross Canada journey, we compared travel experiences, made mental notes of tips they offered, and simply enjoyed their company.  This time, a drizzle turning into rain prompted us to trade addresses and say goodbye.

At her gallery in Old Masset, Sarah could have simply rung through my purchase with a smile and without comment.  She, too, engaged, and we are the richer for the time she gave us that day.

Jasper, Antonia, Oliver
At the park in Oliver, BC, we stopped for a rest before a visit with my cousin.  Next to our old van was its older blue and white cousin.   As I enjoyed the sunshine and the heat after almost two weeks of rain, one of the van occupants, a trio in their early twenties, I would say,  asked me what year our van was.  That initiated another exchange about travel with the entire trio.

Mea culpa, I didn’t get your name, although I know you’re originally from Onion Lake SK.    I did share my grapes and cherries, and I’m grateful that you stopped for a moment to talk.  Thank you for the smile and wave good-bye.   

Vic and Aruna
I hadn't seen my cousin and his wife,  owner of Gravelbourg vineyard in Oliver, BC,  for more than fifteen years.  He accompanied us to Church & State Wines, across the way, who transform his Gravelbourg chardonnay grapes into wine that flies off the shelf.
Sandra and Rick
My husband had never met his cousins, children of his mother’s brother.  That happens when life takes siblings on different paths in faraway places.  Still, Sandra and Rick welcomed us, shared stories and photos, accompanied us to dinner.  I felt my mother-in-law’s spirit at the table, as we chatted. 

I had last seen my cousin in 2010, at my father’s centenary celebration.  He had come all the way from Kelowna.  As we chatted over lunch, we recalled that celebration, as well as the bond that our fathers shared during their life and the stories of their wild youthful escapades.

People, then are the third element of the collage on the découpage that represents my experience in this most recent journey.  Thank you is all I can say to a host of special people for sharing of themselves in a variety of ways.  Through the gift of your time and your words, and probably without even being aware, you presented me with more pieces to my personal puzzle.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


One third of the area of my découpage canvas assembled after a trip to northern British Columbia and Haida Gwaii  features examples of spectacular natural beauty as I described in my last post.  This second third will highlight often obscure, little-known places that I will always remember poignantly because they impacted my world view.

Museum of Northern British Columbia, Prince Rupert

 Our visit to the Museum of Northern British Columbia in Prince Rupert, just up the street from Cow Bay, began in double practicality:  refuge from an incessant deluge of rain, and an activity to stroke off the must-see list.   Lucky for us, another couple showed up for the tour at two, meeting the minimum requirement for a go.  The guide was wonderful.  Not only did she show us bentwood boxes and clothing woven from cedar, she explained how those processes worked.  She oriented us to the Haida world view and emphasized the importance of generosity in Haida society.  In fact, she said, the only reason to acquire wealth in that culture is to give it all away and start again.  A chief holds a potlatch feast for that very purpose.  I kept thinking, The world needs more Haida.  Thanks to her, and to the rain, we began our visit in Haida Gwaii the next day well-grounded in the history and culture of the Haida.

Haida Heritage Centre, Skidigate, Haida Gwaii

Totem carving at HHC
The HHC, as the locals refer to it, is a magnificent longhouse-inspired structure that houses a museum, meeting places, grounds with breathtaking views, and a totem pole carving area.  August 19, the day we visited, marked not only its ninth anniversary, but also a celebration of a solar energy project.  People from government and the community gathered to inaugurate a transition in the centre from diesel power to solar energy.  As impressive as that project is, it’s the small things that usually stick with me.  On this occasion, the form of address speakers used impressed me:  Chiefs, Matriarchs, Women Held in High Esteem, Good People.   Throughout our stay in Haida Gwaii, we heard those phrases:  good people, precious friends.

HHC was also a stop on our last day in Haida Gwaii.  We participated in an intertidal walk facilitated by Parks Canada resource people.  After an hour, this landlubber could find gueyducs poking out of the sand and dungeness crabs burrowed among the grasses on the beach.  I got a look at sea cucumbers and various kinds of anemones. 

The bus bakery
Perfect rainy day hideout!
A few kilometers northeast of Masset on Tow Hill Road, we stopped at this treasure, a bakery housed in an retrofitted school bus.    The perfume of fresh cinnamon buns, muffins, and cookies that wafted through the door on another cold, rainy morning provided instant comfort.  The photos tell the rest of the story.  On the left side of the bus, a few tables and chairs to complement those in the exterior pergola, unusable at the time.  On the right, the preparation area, with gas stove, sink,  counter tops, and shelves for the goodies.  The hospitality is as warm as the baking.  Although we arrived an hour before opening, we were still able to get a day’s supply of coffee, cinnamon buns and cookies to take out,  served up with a smile.

Driftech Mechanical Services, Masset
Our camper van comes through!
By the time we arrived in Houston, BC, for the night, on Day 2, our 1978 camper van was complaining rather loudly about something.  Trouble is, no one could pinpoint the cause of the ailment and it wasn’t telling.  Worried not only about making our ferry booking, but about our visit on Haida Gwaii and getting home after that, we crawled to Prince Rupert, and, once on the island, hobbled around as far north as Masset.  Here, Lawrence at Driftech noticed that the belt on our dead air conditionner continued to turn, causing the racket.  Why not snip the belt, he suggested.  It wasn’t connected to anything else.  Well, a pocket knife did the trick—no more noise, and, even better,  no more worries. 

Shady Rest RV Park and Campground, Houston, BC
Best campground ever—wonderful hosts, and eight separate self-contained bathrooms.  Yes, that’s right—four for women, four for men: toilet, sink, shower, shelves, everything you need in separate units!  The laundry was just as pristine—new machines, no rust, lots of room.  What a find!!

QueenB’s Café, Queen Charlotte Village, Haida Gwaii

Queen B's, Queen Charlotte Village
Hidden in the heart of downtown Queen Charlotte, a stone’s throw from the Visitor Information Bureau, this great café serves up homemade everything.  I had hearty soup and a warm biscuit, perfect for another rainy day.

BC Ferries at Skidigate, Haida Gwaii
Hats off to the employees of BC Ferries at Skidigate, who direct people onto the ship with a smile, as if those vehicles are the only ones they’ve had to place all day.  At this terminal, Elmer had to back in onto the ship deck from the dock—a challenge he was up for.  As the attendants guided him in place, they congratulated him on his expert driving.   There’s a lesson here on the effect having fun at work has on everyone we meet.

Steakhouse on Main, Smithers, BC
We pull in to Smithers around 7 pm.  We’ve been up since the ferry docked us safely again in Prince Rupert at 5 am.  We’ve visited Kitselas canyon, soaked in the primeval energy of the Skeena River bursting out of the gorge, and seized the opportunity a three hour  highway closure created to discover Kleanza Creek and make new friends. We’re tired, and we’re hungry, and we don’t want fast food.  Like most of northern British Columbia, this steakhouse is not pretentious.  It has a buffet bar, plain tables and chairs, and servers with a smile.  It’s full when we get there, still, at 7 pm, a good sign.  People are enjoying the buffet and the regular Friday night prime rib dinner.  I order chicken quesadilla, with salad instead of fries.  My meal is perfect, just what I need.  The salad is crisp, fresh, overflowing with freshly grated carrots, tomato, cucumber, and celery.  Not one rusty or slimy bit of lettuce, like you find in some restaurants where they get their salad greens in giant bags, and no one sorts through it before it his the plate.  The quesadilla has real chicken, just enough cheese,  and no taste of oil.  This plate has been prepared with TLC.  I convey my gratitude to the server, the chefs, anyone who will listen.

Medici’s, Oliver, BC
On the way to my cousin’s vineyard just outside Oliver, we find a wonderful Italian café that serves paninis, homemade sorbetto and gelato, and specialty coffees for any taste.  This renovated church replicates a corner of Italy in a southern British Columbia wine town.  What a delight!

Of course, in all these locations, we have encountered affable, congenial people who graced our days.  They have a prominent place in the découpage and in its cumulative effect.  Stay tuned for Post 3.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


An artist I know works in découpage.  On canvas, she layers cutouts that she covers with a think layer of glue.  She will add a photograph, or part of a photograph, and then extend that image with paint or watercolour.    The work of art she creates is an amalgam of those three techniques, and its effect is dependent on their interplay.

My experience of Haida Gwaii resembles that découpage.  Rather than cutouts, photograph, and painted forms, however, my canvas is the product of in-your-face macro nature,  particular locales, and, of course, inevitably, interactions with people. The reflections that have ensued ground me and challenge me.  Here’s my canas, shared over three posts.

Remember, I am neither an outdoors person nor a travel writer.   I am just a retired person, a teacher, a reader, a musician, a writer.   On those islands, I didn’t fish, scoop up crabs on the beach and cook them over a fire, or make it out to locations where an 1978 camper van couldn’t go.   I bird-watched,  did accessible hikes, and let the sea mesmerize me.  What I did experience during those weeks brought me joy, connection, and truth.  Including the road trip on Yellowhead Highway 16 from Prince George, British Columbia, to Prince Rupert, these are the macro natural highlights for me.

(formerly Fort Kitwanga)
Located between Hazelton and Terrace on Highway 16, Battle Hill National Historic Site entrance looks like a rest stop on the side of the highway.  Be sure to turn in, and if you can manage an impressive set of stairs, go down to explore the path of an ancient trading route as well as the hilltop location of the fort built by the warrior Nekt  as a strategic defensive site to control the local trade.  Your reward is twofold: the longhouse placements etched on the hilltop, and a magnificent view of the Kitwanga river.  On the way back, you will notice a path leading away from the hill.  Follow it right to the end.  The rope that stretches across the path betwen two trees is not a barrier, but an aid to lower yourself down the embankment, through the tree roots, to the river bank and another spectacular view.

As you travel highway 16 from Prince George through Prince Rupert, remember that this is the Highway of Tears, along which more than forty indigenous women have been reported missing or murdered.  I noticed two billboards (only two?) along the 720 km route to remind me of the sorrow along the road I traveled in peace.   The last stretch from Terrace through Prince Rupert ribboned through the mountains along the Skeena River, every kilometer just as breathtaking, even in a light mist.

Spirit Square
·  Spirit Square, Queen Charlotte Village, Haida Gwaii

This peaceful spot on the bank of the inlet next to the Visitor Information Office provides a gathering place and a rest stop for travelers and locals alike.


Agate Beach, Haida Gwaii

Agates on the beach
Follow Old Masset Road east to Agate Beach.   Stroll the beach to select your collection of smooth stones nestled in the sand.  Admire the workmanship of the sea over infinite tidal surges.  In the provincial park, find a campsite overlooking the sea, and wake to its roar.  Sit on the felled logs strewn along the beach to watch the eagles and the waves, to read and write, or just to be.  

Tow Hill, Haida Gwaii

When you’re finished at Agate Beach, it’s just a short jaunt to the Tow Hill trail head.  A boardwalk makes the trail wheelchair accessible to the first viewing platform.  It continues up through the tidal bore and on to the summit, which offers a spectacular view of Rose Spit, and, in the distance, a few islands in the Alaskan panhandle.   A rarity in our time on the islands, more than five consecutive hours of sunshine allowed us to soak in all the heaven of Agate Beach and Tow Hill.

Kitselas Canyon at Gitau

It took two tries and a visitor information worker in Terrace to find this treasure about twenty kilometres east of Terrace, and even then we almost missed it.  Look for the Gitau sign to turn north, and then take the gravel road when it appears down to the canyon and the national historic site under construction.  The four longhouses of the Gitselasu (People of the Canyon) and totem poles are beautiful.  Enjoy the outstanding accoustics of that bowl-like area.
A trailhead near the maintenance building leads through the forest.  If you persevere right to the end, you will get to examine a mounted Haida canoe,  and study four totem poles.  A boardwalk on the left leads down some stairs to the lookout overlooking the canyon and the turbulent Skeena River.  So worth it.

Kleanza Creek Provincial Park

It took two drive-pasts and a vehicle rollover that stopped traffic on the 16 for more than three hours to get us to this hidden treasure.  Although this provincial park was mentioned in the literature, its vistas and design are, in my view, vastly underrated.    An innocuous sign announces its presence about a kilometre west of Gitau, on the south side of the highway.  Campsites dot the gravel road, as you drive in; nothing unusual or even particularly beautiful in a land that normalizes stunning vistas.  I wasn’t prepared, however, further down the gravel road,  for the extraordinary opportunity of the the day visitor site.  The creek spews out of a forested gorge a  Picnic tables line the bank, and a bench is tucked into a corner in front of a tree on the edge of the creek.  Imagine hours on that bench, to read, dream, and contemplate.
nd gurgles parallel to the road, but hidden behind the high banks.

These places are one third of the cut-out base layer of the découpage, to be covered over with a think layer of reflection.  The photographed image is my self, and the painted lines the resultant extension of that self.    The next post applies to the base the snippets of unforgettable experiences in unique locations.