Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: Bella Coola

Places Like That

CirclesThe lady you met in downtown Bella Coola said don’t drink the water by the petroglyphs unless you want to return, so I set out to not drink the water…

I didn’t. It was crystal clear and I didn’t.

I resisted the beauty of the emerald valley until the last day when we said goodbye. It was no longer worth resisting.
Countless cascades tumbled down every mountain like long white arms grabbing the very edges of my heart pulling it all in like one does a drawstring bag. Inside, all the joy I did not let out fully during our trip to Bella Coola.

I found reasons not to, you see… It’s too far, too isolated, too this or that. But that never works. Because…

It’s beautiful.

It’s peaceful.

It’s a world apart…

It’s a world that calls you to it and if you’re not careful you’ll answer its mermaid song.


GiftIt matters less that I didn’t drink the water. In a rainforest, the mist envelops you and you breathe it in. You don’t need to drink the water, you breathe it and then you realize its primal call is already tying your heart to that mossy path in the woods that you followed because you wanted to know where the place came from, how it all started and how people lived back then.

Simply, you find out… you listen and find out.

The old man sitting by the river, rubbing his hands in delight as the young fishermen tango with the fast moving river in their aluminum dinghies, tells of the simple life. It still is, yet many years after the white people came, many things have changed. As always, some for the better and some for the worse.

Back then it was dugout canoes that slipped as if on ice on the shiny surface of a river that misleads the ones who don’t know its powers.

Back then they were still as connected to the land as they are now.

Back then, the river was swollen with fish and the ocean too.

Back then there was a glacier on top of one of the guardian mountains. The old man points to where the glacier was. Gone now.

The next morning, the lady at the small gas station says the same. She came to homestead here 35 years ago, the glacier was shining blue like a droplet of sky, now sorely missing.

PeekingYou know you’ve heard this story before. Worlds disappearing, worlds we take for granted. You know it’s not fair. You know it’s a privilege that you could be here.
You know you’ll be back, though you did not drink the water. In fact you’ll return because of that.

 

 

portraitYou’ll return because you want to drink it. To know more, to understand more and to cherish more.

The journey will have been a humbling one. So much to learn, so much to understand about simplicity, beauty, new beginnings and resilience. About yourself.

Doing Right By The Land And Its People – Why It Makes Sense To Love Our Land

(Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday May 23, 2014)

RoadWe left Kamloops on a rainy morning, set for a long trip to a place we’ve never been before: Bella Coola. The best kind of road trip; heading into a territory you don’t know, you cannot find enough information about and knowing there’s nothing like seeing it all up close.

Rain trailed alongside to Little Fort and then to Williams Lake. Everything was dressed in emerald green and cloudy fog.

We drove on a perfect ribbon of a road, left the rain behind and got to see grass so green it sparkled, and a horizon so inviting that you could not stop driving just so you can see what’s beyond it while the eyes were stubbornly glued to the surrounding beauty.

PeekingThe evening sky turned light blue and that’s when we saw the first of many beautiful painted horses, young colts hiding behind their mothers. Running free, most of them skittish yet curious, because when we stayed long enough by the side of the road to look at them, they came closer so they could look at us too.

Fair, no?

We passed communities so small they make you wonder how can they sustain themselves and why would people choose to live so far into the wilderness.

Countless birds studded the glittery surface of marshes, taking off suddenly to calls only they could hear. The sunset glazed gold and burgundy on long lazy clouds as we drove by burned forests, trees sticking up like ghosts… Among them, new forests were growing; tiny evergreens ready to write new stories of a land that could never grow too old.

SleepinessWe passed Alexis Creek, Tatla Lake, and decided to stay the night on the shores of a lake that is as calm as it is big, one of the gentle water giants of our province. Anahim Lake.

We talked to locals and found out about the suspended ferry service that hit the communities of Anahim Lake and Bella Coola hard. Tourists from all over the world would take the ferry up, they said, but few do now. Struggles the rest of us know little about.

We hit the road again, traversed Tweedsmuir Park and wondered at its pristine beauty. We spotted a fox with a fur coat that matched the surroundings.Gotcha!

HopeMore road, more burned forests, more exploding green seedlings. Hope.

Awed by the picture-perfect snow-clad coastal mountains, we descended on the serpentines affectionately called ‘The Hill’ by the locals, keeping a careful eye on the dirt road that is the result of much persuasion of the government by the locals, back in the ‘50s.
A distinctive feature of small isolated communities; determination.Truth

Hagensborg and Bella Coola opened up in green lush forests and thick grass every which way. The coastal mountains with their perpetually snowy tops guard the fertile valley.

LostWe hiked, saw petroglyphs hidden deep into the rainforest, sloshed our way through a flooded estuary that held life and death in perfect balance, and sat down with one of the elders by the side of the river one windy evening.

The old man was anticipating the arrival of a few fishermen down the fast river. Invited to join him, we sat down. Half an hour later the river brought a couple of dinghies with it. Sure hands casted nets into the murky waters. Fishing for spring salmon, but this is not the big run yet, the elder said.

More people came to watch, a seasonal ritual we were now part of. Someone mentioned the long-gone e
ulachon, the fish that were the reason for the old Grease Trail trading route.
They’re mostly gone now, but the Nuxalk people still hope for their return, the elder said. Shrimp boats caught tonnes of them as by-catch over the years and now the abundant runs ran dry…

PrayerA new totem by the river, a young boy holding his hands as a prayer to bring back the eulachon, was recently put up by two young carvers. Hope.

The fishermen were long gone but we stayed to chat. We found out about the industrial projects the community fought hard to stop just so they can have their salmon and their land the way they’ve always had them.

It’s more important than any money industry brings, the elder said. You can’t bring nature back so easily after they damage it with who-knows-what resource exploitation.

A car stops and the lady driver tells of a deer that just sprinted on the other side of the river. The old man squints to see it. He missed it, but happy to know it’s there.

You’ve seen so many during your lifetime, I told him. He smiled, looking far into the thick forest that cradles the invisible deer. It’s not about one deer, but every animal, bird and patch of land.

SurprisedThey are reminders that the old place they call home is renewed every year with new life. Hope. You have to respect all animals and the land that feeds them; the same land feeds you too, he said.

It’s about choices and compromises, he says, just as long as you can address the needs of a community without hurting the very land they live on and off of.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading back home, realizing yet again, that we are blessed with a land so rich it transcends imagination; rich not in resources to be gouged out, but to protect and help be, hopefully forever.the winding road

Hit the road, see the beauty and say it isn’t so… I dare you.

 

PS: For more road trip photographs please visit the recent Chilcotin/Central Coast/Bella Coola gallery

 

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