Something That Makes You Feel Life Is Too Short |”Joy Is a Well Made Object” Part 2

Symphontree, it flows… Not like a familiar meander breaking the rocks but like a soft breeze realizing the coast. Pockets of air rise and fall in hues of green, purple and blue. This is as it was then and it is now: a majesty. The gentle becomings of her fuel the pen to write, the snow to fall and the tide to rise. It is during her gospel that you feel the raw cold pulse of the earth surge through every stem of your body. It looks like a shiver but feels like a quake and the takings here leave you breathless and fragile. This is and will forever be my home.

KEVIN HENNIG

Call it what you want but to me, this is love. Every time the sun sets and rises the promise of a new day makes it clearer to me the importance of today. It is with that vision I have chosen to pursue my wildest fantasy. There are so many reasons not to follow your dreams and there are a handful of reasons to commit. These reasons press and distort themselves against the grain of time which make its passage more organic and raw. This commitment to drinking up life and diving in head first energizes and shakes the very foundation bracing life. The coffee and surf wouldn’t be as rewarding if it weren’t for the frigid cold and the fight with your wetsuit.

The journey is the reward. It occurred to me last summer while kayaking, camping, climbing and skiing the coastal mountains for two weeks at a cabin accompanied with some world class guitars: I was living the dream! No worries, no cell phone (dropped it in the ocean by accident) and all the time in the world to play guitar. Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy an experience like this. My journey to live the dream and the offer for anyone else interested to experience it for themselves began.

We drove 1500 kilometres through rain, snow, ice, freezing rain and black ice to arrive by SUV in Prince Rupert. The white-knuckle winter driving was then followed up with a nine hour ferry ride from 10:00pm to 7:00am from Prince Rupert to Skidegate, and then an additional short ferry from Skidegate to Alliford Bay completed the trip. After a week long drive and two ferry rides with my wife, infant and toddler, we arrived at our new home in Sandspit on Haida Gwaii. This was the first time we had even seen the property we purchased months prior and was truly a special moment.

This is now our home, fluorescent moss and massive bellowing trees wrapped in beaches on both sides. On one side, there are open ocean views, and on the other, calm cool green waters of Skidegate inlet. The view from the front porch is stained in green moss and massive Sitkas that dance in the sea breeze.

VIEW FROM OUR FRONT PORCH IN EARLY JANUARY

Against the roaring trees and the pounding surf the squabble of the local birds echoes softly beneath the canopy of the trees. In just a few days I have seen swans, herons, puffins, blue oyster catchers, geese, loons, ravens, crows and hundreds of eagles. Not to mention the hundreds of smaller birds feeding on tiny bugs in the moss everywhere the eye can see. This is a birder’s paradise! There have been times where I have been picking a guitar on the front porch and could clearly make out the call of a whale mixed into the waterfall drops of a vocal Raven. These two sounds coming together gently with the crackle of a warm fire changed my perspective on everything. This is the wild, the raw heart of the Pacific Northwest and I was beginning to feel its pulse.

The calm, cool waters of Skidegate Inlet with an Eagle on an Islet, Queen Charlotte Mountains in the background. This is a Herring spawning point and in Spring the rock is covered in hundreds of Eagles. Locals say you will never see the rock without an Eagle on it.

The road to Queen Charlotte Village illuminated by a rainbow

Although I may have purchased the property and claimed my title, this is not my land. With that being said I need to pay my respects to talented people of the Northwest coast who have lived here since the time of the loon. The Haida are bound to this land through centuries of civilization without westerners’ influence.

For us today the idea of their life in the past seems romantic and almost like a fairy tale but in truth it was nothing of the sort. It is hard to get a clear picture of life here before the arrival of Europeans on the coast, but we can safely say that it was no eden. Most communities were ruled or governed by a strongly entrenched hierarchy, with a complicating mix of hereditary village chiefs, clan chiefs, house chiefs, each one with an eye on the other’s land.

As with most tribal societies, the way of life is very conservative, with little room for innovation or creativity. Marriage as well as other customs was arranged by village elders. Although it may seem like a very reactionary society it embodied a powerful advantage over more complex European societies. Each Haida member was accommodated according to their abilities, not just permitting but requiring all citizens in the community to contribute to the best of their ability. Even infant children were given tasks and trained at a young age to work and provide for the community. By the time these infants became young adults, the talented people of the Northwest coast had learned that it was abundantly true that joy is a well made object, equaled only by the joy of making it.

An instrument such as a drum becomes more than an object. It is an accumulation as well as consequence of the journey for joy. The beat of the drum echoes not only a rhythm but a brilliant dance between the pulse of Haida Gwaii and its peoples. The magic here is felt in the wind, the call of the sea and the stillness in the light. It presents itself in rainbows and mist as well as the draw of every breath. You can see it in the eyes of locals who tear up when you ask them about their experiences growing up here.

So it was, as it has been for centuries past, a magical illusive place flourishing beneath the fog and gentle rays of the coastal sunshine. Now I can plant my feet and let the music flow to the pulse of the land. This is a whole new level of joy.  It is a realization of happiness on an entirely different level of love. A love, free to grow without commercial distractions, shopping malls and the hectic beat of the city. A love soaked in the reality of today and not the hope for a better tomorrow. A love that makes you feel like everyday is too short!

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