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Live well in your places

I rediscovered a favourite journalist/writer this week, in the kind of happy happenstance that doesn’t occur for Presidents, when a rain day cut climbing short and led us to the Squamish library for an afternoon at the magazine stacks with the latest issue of Vanity Fair and a profile of Barack Obama.

Obama gives Michael Lewis a crash course on how to be the President.

Prior to snagging the journalistic coup of 6 months access to the President, Michael Lewis wrote about Daniel Kahnenman (Thinking Fast and Slow), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s in Moneyball. He wrote The Big Short, The Blind Side and a brilliant memoir of fatherhood Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, that my husband and I still talk about.

Teasing boys! Teasing boys!

He’s a beautiful writer.

I think, he’s my guru. I think, I’d like to be him.

Then I think, I live in Pemberton.

A little tricky to get access to Presidents and Governors from Pemberton.

And I’m not inclined to leave my little patch of Coast Mountains dirt-paradise for the corridors of power and cynicism.

Anyway, what’s significant here isn’t the same as what rates to the editor of Vanity Fair.

But it still matters.

Our small town and our modest lives matter.

As much as Obama and Arnie and Moneyball.

The ripple of our actions might not go as wide, but they are felt as profoundly, sometimes more so, in our little pond. Jess and Graham and their crew of volunteers building a BMX track, or Anna and Niki galvanising farmers and artists and chefs and community leaders to host another Slow Food Cycle, or the crew at the Mt Currie Health Centre looking after all the new babies and new parents, or Jeff and Annika committing to the 10 year incubation of a Skate Park… all have an impact here.

And those stories and people are worth writing about too.

So thanks for your beautiful craftsmanship, Michael Lewis, and your insights into the Oval Office and Wall Street and all those power-bases that I will never go to. And if you ever want to know what’s happening in my ‘hood, give me a call.

You never know. If you find yourself sick and cynical of the traders, the greed, and the hyperpace, you might even find yourself wishing you were me.  (Teehee.)

Patience, grasshopper.

April 29, 2012 3 comments

Yesterday, I planted some seeds in the garden. Cold-hardy things that the seed packets promised could be started in April. I just couldn’t wait any longer.

Today, I woke up and ran outside, to see if anything had happened.

All the garden bed had for me (NO signs of life! no sprouts! no little seedlings!) was one word of counsel:

A little reminder from the universe to slow the fuck down, let things happen in their own time, keep logging the hours of tending and nurturing even when it feels like nothing is coming of it, trust momentum, keep showing up. Patience.

Thanks, garden. As you were.

Spring in Pemberton means snowmelt and… poo

The challenge? Remind dog-owners to pick up after their pooches.

The solution? Ruby. Champion for the Turd-Free Trails Forever movement.

I mean, how could you resist?

(File this under Local Government Best Practices.)

The Pemberton Interview project

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s not quite as weird as David Lynch (but then, who is?), but Choose Pemberton, which launched 18 months ago, was my own version of The Interview Project.

Officially, it was the content command centre for a summer campaign geared at promoting Pemberton.

Unofficially, it was a chance to ask local people, the ones who don’t sit on the sidelines and rattle their fists, but who roll up their sleeves and jump into the business of growing, making, moving and shaking, what inspires them.

At almost 15,000 hits, 74 posts and more than 30 profiles, the end of the year and the onset of winter seemed a good time to wander back through the archives and revisit the 5 most popular interviews so far.

1. Handcrafted food for the People! Western Promises Food Promises A Revolution of Taste.

Western Promises celebrated its one year anniversary this November as quietly as it opened, but its fans aren’t known to be too shy about shouting their praises for the funky little restaurant. One lunch, a customer left with a shout-out to the kitchen, “Thanks, Michael. My mouth just had an orgasm.”

Michael Guy’s passion for hard-working food shines through in every bite. But I loved his commitment to his adopted home the most:

“Why Pemberton?  There is no place I would rather be…in 50 years I hope to have my last breath somewhere here staring at the mountains and thinking about what a decent life I’ve had.”

2. Laying hands at Kula Wellness Centre.

When Percy Abraham and Corinne Von Dehn set up a home massage studio last summer, named “Kula” for “community” I got a sneak peak into their philosophy on wellness and work-life balance, and got the chance to ask Percy something that had long been on my mind, “How much does it weird people out to have a male massage therapist?”

A reasonably large percentage of female massage recipients are not entirely comfortable being touched by a man and a probably even bigger percentage of male recipients are the same. While respecting everyone’s choices, I try not to let gender interfere with what’s really at stake here : healing.

3. How to become a potter with Sunna Studio’s Amy Hazeldine.

Before Amy Hazeldine was the feature artist in Mountain Life magazine, she was the feature artist on Choose Pemberton, revealing her perfectionist tendencies, her Icelandic inspiration, how much she geeks out on glazes, and how, after plenty of creative trial and error, she’s finally found her path.

I’ve worked as an environmental educator, spent four summers in Nunavut in diamond exploration camps as the cook, worked on the assembly line making tire parts, and I’ve done my Whistler time as a bartender and server. Out of all the hats I’ve worn, the potter’s hat is my favourite fit.

4. Spotlighting Pemberton’s most prolific graphic designer, Sumire Design.

Lisa Komuro Ankeny does so much work behind the scenes to make Pemberton a better-looking place, it was great to spin the karmic wheel back in her direction. Her enthusiasm for Pemberton is inspiring (“Pemberton is amazing,” she told Choose Pemberton, “It seems like this little town is bubbling over with creatives. It’s as if everyone here makes something, has a garden and is an incredible athlete. It’s a beautiful place to be.”) but I most loved her insight on how to juggle life as a graphic designer, a mother, and an artist:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I’ve never been able to juggle – not even the scarves back in P.E.

3 days a week of daycare, coffee and some late nights do the trick. I wouldn’t change a thing.

5. Time for a new set of skis? Think Tyfoon.

What do legendary ski mountaineers do when they grow up and have a family? Why, they keep skiing, attend the Youtube School of Artisan Ski-Making and begin handcrafting wood skis from the Coast Mountains’ forests. Is there a top secret formula?

No, no secrecy in the process. Just a crazy old ski bum with his head down in the basement, breathing sawdust and trying to come up with a ski that will suit.

And that’s just a sampling of the amazing growers, makers, movers and shakers of Pemberton.

My passion for the project was fuelled by a conviction that if you want to live somewhere amazing, then you have to support the people who are trying to do amazing things.

But the project also reiterated for me that my favourite writing projects are often pure portraiture, simply letting people tell their stories, in their own words. It helped me to discover that the art of great storytelling really grows out of the art of listening. And it reinforced, without a doubt, that when I landed in Pemberton, I had truly come home.

Locavore’s Dilemma: four bags of salad for dinner? And no tomatoes.

Local honey, a bag of fresh greens and peppery little radishes – that was my haul from the first Pemberton Farmers Market for the season. (Wednesday nights, 4pm-7pm, outside the Pemberton Valley Grocery store.)

So, now we’re fully stocked on salad greens – exposing the joy and the challenge of eating locally, in season – the tomatoes are still weeks away from being ready. But if refraining from eating tomatoes out of season will keep the polar bears alive, I can suck it up. Michael Pollan backs the eat-local-for-climate-change call up with an invitation to also “Eat your View” – to preserve agricultural landscapes by eating from local farms.

As a soft-core locavore, I have been gradually eating myself local for a while now. Which is why it’s so exciting to see Pemberton’s food ecosystem flourishing with local restaurants like Western Promises, Mt Currie Coffee Co, The FoodLovers Bistro, the Pony and Mile One Cafe popping up, sourcing produce from new farmers like Ice Cap Organics, Rootdown Organic Farm, Riverlands Market Garden, Skipping Rooster Organic Farm, the Bathtub Gardens (joining the local stalwarts Helmers, Across the Creek, North Arm Farm, and Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef) and from local food producers like Blackbird Bakery, Bubbees Honey, the Flour Pot and Schramm Vodka. Especially when all of those new growers, makers, movers and shakers are under forty years old.

When Feet Banks, editor for the award-winning Mountain Life magazine, asked me to do a summer write-up of cool local foodstuffs, I was stoked. I love turning the spotlight on these passionate producers. The hardest part was deciding what to leave out. So I focussed on smugglable foodstuffs – the stuff you could take with you if you’re visiting family or friends this summer. The angle was inspired by an old ski client who seriously had smuggled 1kg of English breakfast sausage into Canada, because he did not believe that Canadians could make sausage good enough to fuel his skiing’s caloric requirements.

I’m going to Australia for a visit in the fall, so I began to wonder what will I be stuffing in the pockets and crevices of my pack? I imagine me and the Customs dude at our inevitable encounter: “Ma’am, do you have anything to declare?”

Innocent face: “No.”

“Well, why is your bag clinking?”

Break out the dumb and confused face.

“How about I ask you again? Do you have anything to declare?”

“Actually, I do. I’m a locavore.”

What would you blow off to ride? Confession-time.

The first time I rode A River Runs Through It (fist-pump! Cleared the bridge! Husband pushed his bike across… ), I should really have been somewhere else. I had blown off the second half of the Slow Food Cycle, an event I had organised, to switch the road cruiser for a squishy bike and go charge with some friends. It was a blissful day of riding. But it was kinda naughty.

I think that kind of punkass commitment to mountain biking should make me eligible to win Bike Parks of BC’s Ultimate Summer of Free Ride contest, that was just announced today. Alas, I work for the marketing agency that is helping run the contest, so I am automatically disqualified.

As such, I will redirect my passion to spread the word around. This is the most amazing prize. A summer of downhill bliss. I would enter if I could. You definitely should.

Here’s the low-down, culled from the most awesome press release that has ever landed in my in-tray, courtesy of Reine Communication’s Michelle Leroux, who is the PR lead on the campaign.

WHAT WOULD YOU BLOW OFF THIS SUMMER TO WIN BIKE PARKS BC ULTIMATE SUMMER OF FREE RIDE?
Get Hooked Up With Cash, Accommodation And Season Pass At Five B.C. Bike Parks

Bike Parks BC is throwing down a season pass at five of BC’s best lift-accessed bike parks – Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Silver Star Bike Park, Sun Peaks Resort, Fernie Alpine Resort and Mount Washington Bike Park – plus
$1,000 spending money, two nights accommodation at each resort, DH rig rentals, a half-day with a guide for a proper introduction to the mountain and even two lift tickets at each park for the winner’s riding buddy to be used over the 2011 summer season.

“This year we are looking for Bike Parks BC’s most fanatical and obsessed riders,” says Martin Littlejohn, Executive Director of the Mountain Bike Tourism Association. “The big question is what exactly would you blow off to take on British Columbia’s best bike parks this summer? Your grandparent’s fiftieth anniversary, your best friend’s wedding, the birth of your first born?”

So ‘fess up. What would you blow off to ride all summer long?

Choose Pemberton

Pemberton Feature Promo from Randy Lincks on Vimeo.

From trailhead to tailgate, farmgate to dinner plate, a million adventures await. Choose Pemberton. It’s where your next adventure begins.

Last summer, photographer Randy Lincks invited me to collaborate with him on a project for Tourism Pemberton, to storyboard a narrative arc and develop a script for a promotional video for Pemberton. The final product benefits from Randy’s cinematic style and his obsessive and dedicated light-chasing last summer and fall, showcasing Pemberton as a place where “there is no excuse to go hungry or be bored”, and has me pencilling various drafts of Top 10 Pemberton bucket-lists in my spare time.

The project was entirely home-grown, and reveals Pemberton to be a small town with a big pool of talent, including Betsy Linnell Marketing as project manager, the Tourism Pemberton committee providing overall direction, Darryl Palmer editing, Gord Rutherford lending his voice, and a host of locals volunteering as models. Growers, makers, movers and shakers, all. The above and beyond contributions from everyone involved made the tagline “going the extra mile is always worth the effort” all the more true.

Shooting for stress relief, for vegetarians

January 31, 2011 2 comments

I’m the only girl at shooting class.

Actually, I’m the only person over 14.

I think most people assume I’m a parent arriving to pick up my kid from the 7:40pm class, when I walk into the musty old classroom in Pemberton’s old community centre at 8:10pm, where 6 targets have been set up against the far wall. Until I stepped up to the line with the other five students for the last class of the night.

Two of the boys have been taking air-pistol classes since they were eleven. I’ve never held a gun in my life. Never actually even seen a gun.

Allen McEwan, our master-at-arms for the night, gives an introductory explanation, and I’m grabbing onto these words: trigger guard, muzzle, scope, sight, trying to catch them like fireflies with my bare hands.

For the first five times I stand at the firing line and activate the pneumatic lever to fill the pistol with air and load the tiny pellet, I’m shaking so much I worry the pellets are going to skitter right out of my hand and onto the floor. I keep holding the pistol down with the wrong hand. Trevor, the other supervisor, corrects me.

I’m not here to learn to kill. I’m here to learn to relax.

And that makes my husband nervous.

But this is the strange discovery I make, after my first shooting class. It is relaxing. Not a magaritas-by-the-pool relaxing. But the kind of peace of mind that comes from focussing with such discipline and mindfulness, that all the distractions and static and clutter fall away.

I load the pellet and sight the target the same way, every time, trying to remember the sequence, trying to remember not to lift the muzzle from the folding table until we get the all-clear to raise our pistols to the target. It becomes ritual. There’s a reverence in the room, me and a bunch of teenage boys, lined up between two men who are holding us to a promise of respect and discipline.

The target is a piece of paper held to a steel board by four magnets. The pellets strike the metal with a ping and fall away. Every time I hear them hit the floor, I think I’ve missed, but I hit the target every time. Even the bulls-eye.

What I experience in this classroom, ‘crashing’ the Pemberton Wildlife Association’s Junior Air Pistol Program, is so far removed from the mainstream hysteria about Constitutional rights and Sarah Palin and attempted assassinations, that I wonder if the word missing from the debate  around gun culture is ‘reverence.’ And as surprised as I am, a vegetarian, aspiring yogi, sometimes Buddhist, to find reverence through the sights of an air-pistol, I am grateful that the parents of  twenty local 8-15 year olds understand that learning to own our power, as humans, wakefully and consciously, is a basic life skill.

In Defence of App-less Skiing

January 15, 2011 2 comments

I wrote a rant for Skier magazine recently, arguing that ski days should be app-less and device free. I wasn’t being deliberately provocative. I really do think that app-games, of which Vail’s new Epic Mix is the Grand Poobah, take away some fundamental aspect of the mountain experience. But as I wrote,

If you need a gadget to navigate around the mountain, post an effusive woo-hoo! to a virtual audience of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, coordinate après plans, insulate you from the tedium of chitchatting with strangers, and/or to have more fun on the hill, then I have to put it out there: maybe this isn’t the sport for you…

my tenure out on that tech-refusenik limb felt lonely and precarious.

The limb got less lonely this week, when I watched Amber Case, cyborg anthropologist, address the recent TED Women conference. Our contemporary tools, the mobile technological ones, are not extending the reach of our physical selves anymore. Case says they’re actually extending our mental selves. And the speed and scale at which that is happening means that we’re at risk of not balancing the benefits of the tools out by slowing down, taking time for mental reflection without external input, doing the long-term planning required to “figure out who you really are,” establishing what your core self is in real space.

The mountains used to be that real space. What struck me as unique and even sacred about going skiing was the way it forced that mental down-time on us. We stepped out of our bubbles the minute we stepped into our bindings and slid over to the lift-line. We stopped thinking about all the Monkey Mind shit, because skiing is technical enough a sport to require real mental focus.

Leading geeks are backing up my cynicism towards app-love. Quote of the day from The Practitioners Perspective turned this up, from Sherry Turkle, of MIT’s Initiative on Technology & Self:

We’re using inanimate objects to convince ourselves that even when we’re alone, we feel together. And when were with each other, we put ourselves in situations where we feel alone – constantly on our mobile devices. It’s what I call a perfect storm of confusion about what’s important in our human connections.”

And an interview with David Suzuki about his recent film Force of Nature, identified that the challenges we need to meet, to survive the future, are not technological. They’re pyschological.

It’s the mindset, the way we look out at the world. If we continue to elevate ourselves as the highest part of this whole system then we’re in deep trouble. Economics is a human creation, borders are human creations and nature doesn’t give a damn about these things. So if we really intend to be here in the long run, the mindset has to shift from human-centred to one in which we’re a part of this bigger system.

The mobile app that tells you how many vertical you have skiied, which chairlifts have the shortest lines right now, and what weather is moving in, is a kind of mental crack-candy. It tricks us into thinking we are connecting to the bigger picture, while we simultaneously shut out the real cues – the clouds scudding overhead, the person sitting next to you, and the happy-happenstance and small-world buzz of ski serendipity.

We’ll need those tools, too, but used judiciously and with some restraint, understanding how seductive and powerful they are, and that unchecked power is the dangerous human invention ever.

Taking the “bah, humbug” out of Christmas

December 10, 2010 2 comments

“Christmas is here, the magic of Christmas, filling our hearts with glee…”

I kill the radio before I can burst my eardrums with sharpened chopsticks to prevent having to listen to another second of sentimental drivel.

Explaining why I hate Christmas in the middle of December is too much like honestly answering what motivated me to become a vegetarian while sitting down to a roast beef dinner with a table of lip-smacking people.  In politics, as in sex, timing is everything.

I’m beginning to think, in lieu of protests and boycotts and Buy Nothing Days, that channelling the annual Christmas call to bag-filled arms to better effect is not only less Grinchy, but more impactful. Be like water, says the Tao te Ching. “In conflict, be fair and generous.”

So I endorse the approach of Pique columnist Glenda Bartosh, who crowd-sourced a bunch of ideas of more mindful Christmas gifts from a bunch of folk on her contacts list, and was so grateful to have had the help that she dubbed us the  “three kings of reorientation to giving, three magical magi of originality.”

From Feet Banks

Filmmaker and reviewer, editor, quasi-rancher, creator of Notes from the Back Row (see elsewhere in this newsmagazine) and all-round original soul.

One of the best gifts I ever got was 75 bucks in my name at Kiva. I’m still loaning it out two years later. (Kiva provides micro-loans in developing areas. It works.)

From Jennie Helmer

Organic farmer, art lover, creative cook, paramedic, sharer of many good secrets about the land, and all-round original soul.

Someone is going to get my worm farm this year – it was a project I did for school. They live quite happily in a large tote in the corner of the living room. I fed them kitchen scraps for a couple of months and then, voilà, we got some beautiful worm compost out of the deal. Very low stress: they don’t complain and they work their little butts off.

From Lisa Richardson

Adventurer in words and (outdoor) life, reformed PR chick, slow food cycle creator, and all-round original soul.

Go local. My top gift options this year comprise bottles of Schramm potato vodka from Pemberton, or coffee beans from Mount Currie Coffee Co .or Paula Robertson’s Pemberton Valley Coffee or locally grown/made Namasthe Tea with beautiful pottery mugs from Amy Hazeldine’s Sunna Studio.

So I’m headed down to Mt Currie Coffee Co for lunch today, where they have a wall of handmade things from Shannon Ellis Designs, Sunna Studio, Meg Gallup pottery, and artwork by Marymary and because everything that lands in their tip jar today is going to start a Kiva account – loaning support from one local entrepreneur to a hundred others.

That, plus the initiative that just sprouted amongst my circle of oldest friends from university, to forego gift-giving, or gift-neglect-guilt, in lieu of pooling funds and making a joint contribution once a year to a charity of our choice, has made this an entirely mall-free Christmas.

Which given my reflexive tendencies towards self-mutilation when forced to listen to Christmas songs, can only be a good thing.


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