I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me. She was not thrilled about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn’t like the damp climate.
“I’ve raised seven children; been butchered up by the doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times,” she likes to remind us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. “Vancouver weather just makes my bones ache.”
But mom agreed to move in with me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor. “The bird cage,” she quickly dubbed it. She loved the views, the sunrises, but hated everything else about it. All that said, mom’s health improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we made, and the love received by her grandchildren. She didn’t like going out much, and I’m no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked on the computer during the day.
That Christmas she went to ‘visit’ her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by refusing to return. I can’t say I was surprised.
Mom only lasted two weeks with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend. She stayed there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again. The doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few months, and I know it was hard on her.
Finally a place came up in downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting to leave pots on stoves, etc.
It wasn’t long before mom said she didn’t like their food, and didn’t’ seem to engage in any of the social activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was depressed. All of her children, live in BC except my brother who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care. If anything urgent were to happen with mom’s health, we’d have to fly in. I continued to express my concern about this with her. Finally mom agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.
We found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in when we wanted. My brother drove out to get her things and put her on the plane. This was the spring of 2015. Within only weeks at her new place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff. She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no bathtubs. She’s been a bathtub girl her entire life. Again, I could hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my brother who lives in Abbotsford.
Then our roommate moved out of our home, and in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with me. I talked to my siblings about it first. We all agreed she had to stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my home .
When I asked her if she’d move in with me again, she burst into tears. “I thought you’d never ask me again, after living with you the last time,” she said. She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with me last year in September.
This Friday mom turns 83 and she’s finally calling our place ‘home.’ She stopped answering the phone saying, “Robbin’s place” and now just says, “Good afternoon.”
Mom’s been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain times, even though I told her she’s living with family now and we are all busy. Things will not always be on time, and she’ll have to learn to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.
She’s eased up a lot, and her health is getting better and better, although her short term memory has not improved much. She’s begun sharing her stories (over and over as she forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts. I truly believe that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our family stories get passed from generation to generation.
I started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting our parents in their final years, my writing seems to strike a chord with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the insight of what to expect. Some of my writing is touched with sadness, but much of it is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.
Taking care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in great health and has her mobility. It is now her time to rest, reflect, share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to. I often want for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her … and she quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or not.
She’s one stubborn woman, but then so am I…
Here’s one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:
Tucking in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said, “Oh my that feels good. I don’t get many hugs these day.”
Then she said, “Thanks for taking such good care of me.”I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom. #ParentingourParents
[To find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit ‘Return’ – please note that there are others using this hashtag also.]
Because we instinctively know that nature is good for us on many levels, it’s not unusual to feel powerfully drawn to it.
I can truthfully say that nature has provided me comfort, more than anything these last few years. My work at the creek or walks in the forest, or hikes up the mountain provide much needed breaks in my maddening days of internet, typing, writing, and the busyness of my life as a mother of four, and now the caretaker of a senior parent…
“In this modern age, we spend so much time indoors, focused on the busyness of our lives and disconnected from the earth. But much of what we truly need can only be found under the naked sky, alongside tall trees, on open plains, or in the sound of running water. Spending time in nature allows us to commune with other living beings and to find comfort in the nurturing embrace of Mother Earth. You can’t help but experience a different sense of self while walking in a wood or traversing a mountainside. Being in nature connects us to the earth, grounding us as we walk, unhindered by concrete, upon her. Surrounded by other living beings, both bigger and smaller than we are, we remember that human beings are simply one form of life in this vast universe.
“Because we instinctively know that nature is good for us on many levels, it’s not unusual to feel powerfully drawn to it. Even if you live in a city or find it difficult to travel to a forest or the countryside, there are a myriad ways to reconnect with nature. When you step out of your door each morning, pause for a minute and close your eyes long enough to let your senses absorb your surroundings. Listen and breathe deeply, until you hear the wind rustling through branches, smell rain on damp grass, and see the reflection of leaves brushing up against windowpanes. If you have time, crouch down and closely examine any nearby grass and soil. The sights, sounds, smells, and sensations we experience that are part of nature can remind us of all the gifts Mother Earth grants us each day.
“Spending time connecting with nature nourishes the soul, reminds you that you are never truly alone, and renews you by attuning you to the earth’s natural rhythms. Taking a walk under the stars or feeling the wind on your face may be all it takes for you to reconnect with nature. Remember, you are as much a part of nature as are the leaves on a tree or water bubbling in a brook.” – Daily Om
Once I had a vision: I was a young native man, and I was walking down the mountainside to the water. I could see my canoe down at the shore. As I walked down the bank I noticed a bear in the distance. I placed my canoe on the water, got in and took my paddle. A wind came up suddenly and the skies darkened. The water turned choppy and I felt the rain spray across my face. I became afraid. So afraid, that I thought I might die. I remembered the bear, and I found peace in my uneasiness. I began to focus on the shore across from me, and found my rhythm in paddling. I became one with the waves, and before I knew it, I was safe upon the shore across the inlet. As I stood solidly upon the river rock, I heard an eagle’s cry. I looked up to see the clouds had opened, to blue sky…
I am new to canoeing, but I am registered to begin training with Nothin Dragon, a 50+ paddling team that trains in Port Moody, BC, close to where I live in Coquitlam. Being a director of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society and I manage their social media pages, I try to keep in touch with other like-minded community groups.
Last Friday, while winding up my work day, I received an email from Rivershed Society of BC about FraserFEST, a 3-week event created to educate on the Fraser River’s history, culture, and the issues threatening its health. The mighty Fraser is the longest river in B.C. The email advised that spots were still available on a 25 km canoe trip from Fort Langley to Coquitlam that coming Sunday.
I thought, how perfect it would be to get a taste of being out canoeing, before I start with the dragon boat team in October. Within minutes I had registered for the Sunday morning event (even though my mother was moving in on Saturday night), and later on Facebook saw that they still had openings available, likely due to the foreboding weather, so I tagged my eldest daughter and encouraged her to join me, which she did.
“It is no coincidence communities and cities are built on large and healthy waterways tend to also have healthier financial foundations with more abundance of wealth and prosperity to go around.”
A solid number of intrepid cyclists and paddlers showed up on August 20th at Colony Farm Regional Park, which is located on Kwikwetlem First Nations territory at the Coquitlam River, and served as host site for the Coquitlam festival portion. The forecast called for rain, winds and possibly lightening, but we were all geared up as ‘west coast’ people know how to, and were ready for an adventure.
We were treated to coffee and yummy Uprising Bakery goodies. I was not aware this was the inaugural event, nor that cyclists would be joining us. They would be pedaling along a trail on the north shore of the Fraser as we made our way by water.
The group was welcomed by Kwikwetlem Band Council member, Ed Hall, and founder of the Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, who is also an environmental activist, and local politician. Donnelly is well known for swimming the 1,400 km length of the Fraser River twice, and was our excursion leader for the day.
I had heard Fin speak before, and I introduced him to my daughter, asking him to tell her about his historic swim and the annual 20 day trip that he leads each summer providing young adults the amazing opportunity to travel down the Fraser River.
Later, bikes were loaded into a transport vehicle, and we boarded the school bus to Langley. Being new to canoeing, I was a bit nervous about the weather, which worsened as we crossed the Port Mann Bridge. After meeting a few people on the bus, I learned I was not alone with those feelings.
“FraserFEST’s goal is to increase watershed awareness of those who live, work and play in the Fraser River Basin, through river adventures and community festivals blending music, art, speakers, food and culture…”
In Langley we were greeted by Wendy Dadalt, Manager, Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. Bikes were offloaded, and cyclists mounted up and were on their way along the 25 km trail beside the Fraser.
The rest of us were traveling by canoe, and we were joined by Jay Lundy of Voyageur Adventures, who expressed that the canoe is a symbol of Canada’s culture. He spoke of the early years and spirit of Canada, and how we still rely on our waterways, to connect us, providing us food, energy, and enjoyment. “As Canadians, we are diverse and we are explorers,” said Jay.
It made me think of my Canadian-German grandfather, who was a Hudson’s Bay trapper. I wondered if he ever went by canoe when he would head out and lead trapping exhibitions in the 1940s. I bet he did.
My trapper grandfather Heintz married a Metis woman, and I noticed Jay Lundy wore a Metis sash on his hat. Jay made sure we were educated on the basic canoeing strokes, and showed us how to do a ‘voyageur salute’ with our red paddles, which was fun.
Amid a heavy rain, we got seated in the 34’ voyageur canoe which are built in Alberta. I sat up front behind Fin, and my daughter Loryn was behind me with Michael, a young member of the Kwikwetlem Nation, who has just moved up from the USA and was also new to canoeing. He was honoured to be with us and his people had given him a special Kwikwetlem paddle to use for the journey.
“A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too.” – Aidan Chambers
From historic Fort Langley, with Fin leading as stroker, and Doug at the back as our steerperson, our 12 member group got underway! Our aim was to keep in unison, but it did become tricky at times, especially as arms tired. With Fin in front of me, and setting a pace that never waned, I did my darnedest to keep up with him, and I feel I did a pretty good job over the 4 hours. There were moments when I’d get into the strokes, and my mind would wander, and then I’d snap back to reality, finding I’d lost the group’s rhythm. We were encouraged to take breaks when we were tired, or get water, take photos, etc. The large canoe felt extremely safe, and hardly tipped sideways, event when we were met with choppy waters.
On our journey we paddled past Barnston Island, under the Golden Ears Bridge and by Douglas Island to the mouth of the Coquitlam River. The weather changed many times, and we saw eagles and seals. When we stopped for lunch at a camping area, we watched a log boom pulled by 5 tugboats go by – a scene common to the Fraser.
The cyclists who were well ahead of us, waited for us to catch up at a dock along the trail, and it was so nice to see them. They waved, cheered us on, and took photos as we saluted them with our paddles.
After 4 hours we were elated to finally turn in, and head up the Coquitlam River into Kwikwetlem territory, where we were greeted by those we’d seen earlier in the day, as well as many newcomers. We helped hoist the canoe from the water, and then formed a circle as we were officially welcomed back by Kwikwetlem Nation. Each of us were given flags to carry into the festival area, where we enjoyed a hot meal of salmon lasagna from Pasta Polo.
The sun came out over the festival grounds, as well as a rainbow, and along with others, we enjoyed live music, a variety of speakers, and educational community booths. Words were offered by Founder, Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, MP, New Westminster- Coquitlam & Port Moody; Selina Robinson, MLA Coquitlam-Maillardville; Mark Angelo, Founder, BC Rivers Day / World Rivers Day; Bonita Zorillo, Coquitlam City Councillor; and Ed Hall, Kwikwetlem Band Council.
“Our early forbearers held many festivals to give thanks to the land and the rivers from whose bounty they thrived. The Fraser River is still one of the largest salmon producing rivers in the world. FraserFEST will culminate with World Rivers Day, the last Sunday in September. Participants are invited to come celebrate the watershed in which they live while enjoying local entertainment and food.” – Rivershed Society of B.C.
There are three more festivals planned this week, in New Westminster Quay on September 24th; in Vancouver at False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf on the 26th; and the final one in North Vancouver at Cates Park on Sept. 27th. FraserFEST will be held annually.
The weather was perfect for the 6th installment of the Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge on September 12th as the 2015 edition took a shorter 4-hour format. This year I stepped up my involvement by coming on as an assistant coordinator of the event. I helped with PR and social media, photography, etc. It’s a great event at one of my favourite places in Coquitlam. I was able to get in one lap myself, which I try and do at least 3 times a week on my own.
Approximately 200 people came out, and walked or ran the Coquitlam Crunch Trail to support local charities: the Coquitlam Foundation ‘Diversity’ Fund; SHARE food bank; and the Blanket BC Society.
“We are so grateful for how supportive the community and volunteers have been,” said event founder, Alex Bell. “People came forward, on their own accord to offer their support. There is no way we could have raised more than $16,000 since 2010 for the Community Diversity Fund without the support of individual donors, sponsors and volunteers. This fund is now a legacy for our community.” In 2015, the Coquitlam Diversity Fund generated its first grant of $500 to the Tri-Cities Brain Injury Support Group to help fund social interaction and community recreational opportunities for brain injury survivors. With donations still coming in, this year’s event has raised approximately $2500.
The Make it Or Break It category started at 8am, and has sparked a growing competitive spirit over the years. It had 30 registrants, (4 times that of last year) all vying to see how many times in 4 hours they could go up and down the Crunch Trail, which starts beside Scott Creek Middle School and finishes up at Eagle Mountain Drive, 2.2 km from bottom to top.
Over 100 people registered for the Recreational category which started formally at 10am. Refreshments and snacks were provided at the bottom and at the top, along with treats for the kids. The Kangho Hapkido Martial Arts Academy were out in full force, and not only did they lead the warm up for the Recreational category, but they presented a $595 cheque toward the Diversity Fund.
“It’s been interesting to watch the growth of the Make it Or Break it category,” said event founder, Alex Bell. “This year we had an almost even male-female ratio and a few children came out, with the youngest being 10 years old. It was great to see a couple senior athletes also involved.”
Matt Sessions, who is the 12-hour event record-holder with 17 loops, won this year’s 4-hour Make it Or Break it challenge by completing 8 loops. He was followed closely behind by Ray Barrett. With the average loop ‘walking’ up and down the Crunch being around 1 hour, most of the Make it Or Break it competitors completed 5 – 7 loops. Winner, Matt Sessions clocked 24 minutes on his first loop. The new 4-hour format, most definitely added the speed component. Out of the women that participated, Jackie Senchyna was the top competitor with 6 laps, and out of the youth, Gracie Lorenson completed 7 loops.
“The competitors are already giving us their feedback, and although 6 years ago, we started as a simple charity event, we note the dedication of the athletes, and like other competitions, we will have to step it up to include times, age groups, etc,” said Bell, who has already met with his team to review improvements for next year to include down-to-the-second timekeeping, as well as formal top overall male / female and age group recognitions.
Next year the event is slated for September 10, 2016, and organizers are looking to the corporate community for ideas, funding, and man-hours in order to make the event more efficiently and accurately run. Any persons or businesses who can offer help toward time-keeping, signage and printing, traffic control, event-day volunteers, and t-shirts, are asked to make contact.
“This year we had 20 volunteers that proved invaluable, and we were able to enhance the safety of the street crossings along the trail,” said Bell. “To grow again, we need even more hands on deck and we are looking for people or businesses who would like to be part of our 2016 organizing team.”
A prize was offered to the Make it Or Break it winner, as well as 5 draw prizes were given out provided by Maxfit Movement Institute which included fitness/running assessments and massages. CKPM FM provided 2 extra prizes. “I’d like to thank all those who stepped in this year to make it one of our best events,” said Bell. “This event is taking on a life of its own. It has the potential to become a signature event of Coquitlam.”
The public is invited to provide feedback, and may do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the event email list at coquitlamcrunch.com. Event photos have been posted to the event Facebook page. The 2015 Coquitlam Crunch Challenge was proudly supported by 98.7 CKPM FM, Eagle Ridge GM, Maxfit Movement Institute, New Earth Marketing, Pasta Polo, Vancity, Magenta Printing, Pack and Ship, City of Coquitlam, Coquitlam Foundation, Kangho Hapkido Martial Arts Academy, Northside Foursquare Church, and McDonald’s.
It came out of nowhere and only lasted a few hours, and then we saw the devastation…
On Saturday, August 29th I was recovering from a very late night with little sleep as I allowed my 21 year old son to have a party post-birthday since it landed in the middle of the week this year.
He was on the phone and I was noticing the eddies of leaves along our street, and heard the wind come up through the trees. He went to head up the hill here in Coquitlam to stop in at his girlfriend’s. He’d only been gone a few minutes when he called me all upset. My mind raced to my worst fear that perhaps he’d totaled the car, but then he told me he’d been narrowly missed by huge falling trees on Pinewood Drive, just below our fire station which closed that street.
BC Hydro deemed it one of the worst natural disasters its seen in 10 years. 710,000 of its 1.4 million BC Hydro customers on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland lost power. It’s been deemed the single largest outage in the company’s history. Hundreds of street intersection lights were knocked out, causing huge traffic delays throughout the lower mainland. Winds were up to 90km/ hour at its peak.
After my son had called me, I put on a jacket and headed out to see this windfall he mentioned for myself. I cut through a small portion of Hoy Trail on my way, and soon regretted that move. Sounds, which I first thought were lightning strikes, were actually trees cracking and my short 50 yard walk through the trail turned into a sprint for me as limbs snapped from branches and dropped around me.
I later walked along the full loop of Hoy Trail behind Douglas College and in two spots the trail was impassible as beautiful very old trees had come down. I had to climb up over them to get home.
Our power remained out for over 48 hours (some suffered through 72), and it was crazy to find out the large area of the lower mainland of Vancouver that was affected, out to White Rock and Abbottsford. Apparently the winds came up from the south, which was rare, and we’ve had such a dry, hot summer, and the trees were in full heavy leaves that it cause for more to be uprooted.
What I found most interesting, when I review my photos now, is that many of the trees actually snapped in half or higher up, and were not uprooted.
The power outage was a pain, but my family is used to the hurricanes of The Bahamas so this hardship was light in comparison. We had running water, our barbecue, and Coleman stove, and electricity was spotty throughout Coquitlam, so could run out to charge phones, etc.
Mother Nature remains a force to be reckoned with and makes us ‘humble’ humans at her call…
I’ve been climbing the Coquitlam Crunch for over a year now, and I love it as my daily fitness regime when I can get there. I aim to do the Crunch at least 3 times a week, but some weeks I get there 4 or 5 times. I’ve burned out one pair of runners, and I still love the Crunch! I decided to help out with a charity event involving the trail last year, “The Coquitlam Crunch Challenge,” and this year I am even more involved. I hope you will join me at the 2015 event.
Here’s the official event press release:
The sixth annual Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge is set for Saturday, September 12th, 2015, and raises funds for community grants that promote diversity awareness, respect and integration. The Challenge is held at The Coquitlam Crunch trail, which follows a route along the B.C. Hydro cut line and offers a great workout, and unobstructed views of the surrounding area including Mount Baker, Washington. The Crunch is a less intense version of the Grouse Grind and the 2.2km trail starts below Lansdowne Drive and finishes at Eagle Mountain Drive. The average round trip (walking) takes about an hour. In early 2014 the City of Coquitlam helped make the trail safer by putting in the 437 new stairs along the steepest section.
The event was created in 2010 by local resident, Alex Bell and his family. Last year the event raised well over $4000 for the Community Diversity Fund (held and administered by the Coquitlam Foundation) which provides grants to Tri-Cities’ individuals, non-profit organizations, or community groups initiating actions, programs or education aimed at improving integration and participation by diversity groups, identified by the community as being socially or financially marginalized.
This year’s event will have a new shortened 4-hour format, versus last year’s 10 hours. “For those returning to the event, the news of the 4-hour format for 2015 may come as a surprise,”said event founder, Alex Bell. “Due to circumstances beyond our control, we had two choices this year; either to postpone the event one-year, or to put out a shorter format with less categories.”
“We are preparing for a larger event in 2016 coinciding with Coquitlam 125th birthday, which will have at least 4 categories,” said Alex Bell. “We know people have been training for the 10-hour format, but our hands are tied. The 4-hour format is still a fitness challenge and adds more of a speed component.”
The Challenge on September 12th can be competitive or simply for fun. It’s a great family event, open to anyone of any athletic ability. There are two ways you can participate:
1. The “Make it or Break” category for the die hard Crunchers. Participants walk or run the trail as many times as possible in a 4-hour period between 8am to 12 noon. Matt Sessions holds the 2012 (12-hour) record of 17 sets (which he repeated in 2014) when there was 12-hours allowed for this category. Register online or on the day at 7:30am.
2. The “Recreational” category for individuals or families who can walk the Crunch at least once. Start time is formally at 10am, but people may arrive and participate any time between 8:30am and 12 noon. Register online or on the day.
Water and sports drinks will be available free for participants. Preregistration is underway at coquitlamcrunch.com.
Optional donations for participants is suggested at $20 for adults, $10 for youth or $40 per family, however no donation of any amount will be refused, and participation is welcomed without the requirement of a donation. (Donations can also be made directly at coquitlamfoundation.com by clicking on the Donate Now button and selecting “Coquitlam Diversity Fund” from the drop-down menu.) A food box will be on site for the SHARE food bank, which tends to be very low at this time of the year, and participants are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item.
In 2015, the Coquitlam Diversity Fund generated its first grant to the Tri-Cities Brain Injury Support Group to help fund social interaction and community recreational opportunities for brain injury survivors.
Volunteers and sponsors make it happen! Sponsorship opportunities are always available and appreciated. Already supporting for 2015 is New Earth Marketing, Eagle Ridge GM, Pasta Polo, MaxFit Movement Institute, and 98.7 CKPM FM Tri-City Radio. Event organizers are looking for people to assist with site set up, registration, water stations, verification stations, parking, ensuring safe road crossings along the route, as well as the tear down of tents and tables. If you can help please email email@example.com
“Although I started the event, my intention was for it to become a community-driven one,” said Bell who has seen the event grow exponentially, and each year a variety of local businesses and volunteers have stepped up to offer their help. “Please come out and support this worthwhile cause!”
Building up to the event, Alex Bell will lead a recreational guided hike up the Crunch and beyond to Ridge Park Bluffs on Sunday, August 30th. This 3-hour hike will start at the Coquitlam Crunch parking lot at 8:00 am and is for anyone capable of walking up the Crunch. The 8-km route will circle back to the parking lot and will offer amazing views over the lower mainland. All are welcome, and it is suggested to bring water and a camera. Queries about the hike, or the Challenge can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love living in British Columbia, and I love living so close to nature.
I go for walks most days, often twice and living next to a forest, it’s easy to be in tune with the changing seasons.
Walking with my mother in the woods the other day we were discussing how you can walk down a trail one way and when you walk back it looks entirely different. Not just the trail itself, but everything you see along the way. Add to that the lighting, dependent on the time of day, the weather and the seasons.
I am so much into nature these days that I revel in every little change, excited like a young child.
I had to stop to capture this photo of three leaves changing colour. The center leaf is almost entirely red, and the ones on either side of it are wonderfully on their way, and only half red; looking almost as if someone painted them down one side only.
“As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow (red) and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can’t see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.” – sciencemadesimple.com
Although spring is my favourite time of year, fall is definitely a close second. I am looking forward to autumn’s magnificence!
Robbin Whachell lives in Coquitlam, BC and is a volunteer for the local watershed society. In her spare time she likes to hike The Crunch and explore her community by taking photos and sharing her thoughts on what she sees.
Creating our shared heritage and vision for the future
I was very interested when I found out that an All Nations Festival was to take place in Coquitlam where I live, and only blocks from my home. I immediately went to Facebook to learn more. The 3-day-long event was said to celebrate Coast Salish culture, art, and language from July 23rd through 25th in Kwikwetlem, (Coquitlam) which is part of the Coast Salish Territories. It also was to include the other cultures living in the area.
After living abroad for many years I am new to much of the indigenous territories and culture, and I learned that the Coast Salish Territory includes a lot of the Georgia Basin and Puget, and this huge drainage basin comprises of the coastal mainland and Vancouver Island from Campbell River and the Georgia Strait south through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Lower Fraser Valley, and the lowlands of Puget Sound. I’ve been volunteering with the Hoy -Scott Watershed Society in my area for the past year so all these land details are of great interest to me.
But back to my All Nations Festival experience… 2015 is the inaugural year, and the annual festival aims to celebrate a Coast Salish cultural resurgence by bringing together the performing and visual arts, music, food, sports and ideas honouring a shared future.
Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr. Ihanktonwan of the Dakota and Chickasaw Nation (who is a visitor to these lands and is seen in my feature image at the top) spoke about the Tsleil Waututh Nation “People of the Inlet” and how at one time there were 10,000 people in the area, before a series of small pox epidemics in the last century. He spoke about inclusion as he stood before the Persian group ready to perform at the event in front of artist Sonny Assu “Enjoy Coast Salish Territory” artwork. I captured a short clip of his remarks HERE.
The 3-day Festival program opened on Thursday July 23rd with the Kwikwetlem /kəˈlōkwēəm/ Colloquium hosted by Douglas College. I was unable to attend due to my work, but tuned in via livestream. If you missed it, you can now watch the Colloquium here. The colloquium’s aim was to share the work of professional Indigenous artists, academics and researchers in Coast Salish Territory through programming, education, outreach, and networking. The discussions were very interesting.
Thursday evening the entertainment kicked off with an intimate concert, which my daughter and I attended at Evergreen Cultural Centre, with none other than the first aboriginal Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Steven Point, who performed a number of songs he’d written in his younger days. They were lighthearted and teleported us back to earlier days in Vancouver. Point opened for Juno award-winner George Leach, a Stl’atl’imx and Kwikwetlem musician and actor. We learned George is also a great-great grandson of Chief Kwekwetlem. One concert goer said, “This may have been the best concert I have ever seen…I’ve got 5 words for George and his band’s performance: pure, smooth, honest, funny, and enjoyable…what an incredible voice and refreshing personality, some very heartfelt tributes were endearing as well!”
Friday the colloquium continued with a Coast Salish Leaders’ Roundtable on Shared Environmental Stewardship, and a keynote address was delivered by awarding-winning author, teacher and grandmother, Professor Lee Maracle, from the Sto:lo and Tsleil Waututh Nations. Listen to her speak about her work and the festival on CBC radio HERE. Each day the colloquium included plenary, breakout sessions, panel discussions, art exhibition, traditional foods, performances, and dialogue with leading Indigenous scholars, professional and community artists, and cultural leaders.
Pulling our best thread forward from our past, and taking it into the future – Lee Maracle, author, activist on the focus of the event to CBC radio.
Friday featured an evening of ideas and spoken word from one of the foremost experts in Coast Salish history and culture. More entertainment was provided on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and evening at the outdoor festival held by Lafarge Lake at Town Centre Park which also included engaging talks, a salmon and bison burger barbecue, kids corner, crafts and displays. Aside from sharing dialogue, the outdoor locations provided the general public loads of activity, sights and sounds on stages, under tents, and by displays, which attracted many Coquitlam residents that just happened to be out for a walk.
The backdrop of Lafarge lake and the mountains made for a beautiful venue, even with the intermittent cloudy weather. A heron flew over and in the late afternoon the Canada geese, who had been grazing on the adjacent lawns took flight over the tents into the evening sky.
I enjoyed the ‘Idea Tent’ featuring speakers from the festival’s steering committee and special guests. It was refreshing to hear about moving forward as a people who care about each other and our land, without a political party agenda attached. Topics included First Nations rights, pipelines, racism, reconciliation and more. One common idea was echoed through the weekend however, that being, that the Harper Government had to be outed at the next election.
What I was most impressed with was that the First Nation’s speakers never excluded themselves from others, but rather spoke about the connectedness of humanity, no matter our origins, or religious beliefs. They kept hitting home that we had to work together to protect our environment for our future generations, and really if we don’t have that, what are we left with? The event also included a green energy fair featuring electric cars, solar panels and more.
One of my favourite features was a beautiful art piece showcased in the food tent (see below) called ‘Our Painted Responsibilities’ coordinated by artist, Melanie Schambach along with Nati Garcia and Jen Castro. Like this woman seen in my photo, people stood in awe to take it all in, as it represents so much, and it also encapsulated the spirit of the event. You can learn about the artwork in this video HERE.
I was told that “this mobile mural was an extension to the 2014 Totem Pole Journey, where a 20-foot-long totem pole carved by Lummi Indian Master Carver Jewell James travelled with his family 6,000 miles along proposed fossil fuel export routes to honor, unite and empower communities in the destructive path of coal and oil exports.”
The All Nation’s event offered a lot over the three days! On top of the engaging dialogue and visual arts displays there were performances by Doug and the Slugs; Bill Henderson, rapper and activist Ronnie Dean Harris (Ostwelve), DJs including DJ Hedspin, Hip hop artists, Persian dancers, the Vashaan Ensemble, and many others. Add in sports with skateboarding, basketball 3-on-3s, ball hockey, volleyball, and the Coast Salish Lacrosse Challenge.
I certainly look forward to next year!
Check out the video below to see some of what was featured. If you would like to obtain more information, become involved by exhibiting, performing, sponsoring or volunteering, learn more at: http://www.allnationsfest.com/
The 2015 All Nations Festival was hosted by Douglas College and the Kwikwetlem and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. It was produced by Coquitlam School District Aboriginal Education, Coast Salish Cultural Network, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation; and supported by Kwikwetlem First Nation, Douglas College, City of Coquitlam, with additional support from Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, and various program partners. Steering Committee: Lee Maracle, Charlene Aleck, Gabriel George, Ronnie Dean Harris, Cease Wyss, Brandon Gabriel, Rueben George. Irwin Oostindie (ex-officio member).
Funding was provided by Canada Council, City of Coquitlam, Telus, Vancity, Coquitlam School District #43 Aboriginal Education, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and Aboriginal Sport BC, and community donations.
About the author: Robbin Whachell lives in Coquitlam, BC and is a volunteer for the local watershed society. In her spare time she likes to hike The Crunch and explore her community by taking photos and sharing her thoughts on what she sees.
I am really excited about Sunday, May 3rd as it marks 1 year that I have been volunteering with the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society in the city of Coquitlam where I live.
One year ago I saw a notice on Facebook and walked to the creek system just across from the house I am renting. It was pouring rain but it was worth the walk, and made for a wonderful experience, as I got to witness delighted young children carrying buckets of coho salmon smolts over a short distance from a pond to be released in Hoy Creek. I even transferred a few over myself.
I had lots of questions for the volunteers, and after one of them answered me, I was asked if I would be interested in volunteering. That’s all it took, and looking back now, a lot has happened in one year. My work at the salmon hatchery and in the watershed has been one of my most enriching experiences.
Not only does it get me away from this machine where I put in so many long days for my career, but I get to enjoy the forest, work amid flora and fauna, and dabble in the science of taking care of salmon from egg to the smolt stage.
Thursday is now my day to take care of the salmon feeding and stats, so if you are ever around the hatchery mid-morning, come by and say hi.
The Salmon Leave Home event will run rain or shine, and begins at 11am running until 2pm. Once the smolts are into the creek they head downstream, where Hoy Creek joins Scott Creek, and then it’s out to the ocean. What’s even more amazing is that these salmon will travel back to the very same creek they were born in to spawn in the years to come. Nature is so amazing!
I will be writing a more in depth feature called Salmon Story, coming soon.
The Hoy Creek Hatchery is located on Hoy Creek Trail, west of the City Centre Aquatic Complex at the corner of Pinetree and Guildford Way. Aerial view.
Hoy Trail has a several entrances:
– Walk in from Princess Crescent;
– Walk in from behind Douglas College;
– Walk in from Guildford Way (between Johnson and Pinetree);
– Walk in from Walton Avenue, or behind Walton Elementary;
– Walk in from the foot of Lasalle Place.
OR go to Google maps and type in “Hoy Creek Hatchery”.