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.
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.
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.)
The first time I slept outside without a roof or a tent fly, I felt as vulnerable as a bowl of kibble.
But the exhilaration of waking up to meteor streaks had me hooked.
The solution? Get up off the ground where the snuffling animals roam and take to the trees. Call it a nest fetish. Call it ancestral memory. What you can’t call it is feral, at least not after you browse through Pete Nelson’s coffee-table books featuring the most beautiful treehouses in the world, including many he designed a built.
After news of Whistler’s rogue HemLoft went viral, (a little publication like Dwell magazine will do that to you), it became clear that I’m not alone in nursing a designer treehouse fantasy.
Good thing I live in the land of trees.
Sleeping in Sitkas appears in the latest issue of Coast Mountain Culture magazine. The rest of the article appears below.
Pete Nelson is at the core of the Pacific Northwest treehouse-building scene, a Mecca for the art form. “The Northwest is most conducive to treehouse builders because of the tremendous inventory of excellent trees,” he says, naming the Douglas fir, western red cedar, maple, and spruce as top picks for treehouses. “It’s also in our culture to adjust to and accept new ideas. Maybe the software industry has us trained this way, but the old guard at Boeing is still breaking new ground every day. If it makes good sense then we are all in. Modern treehousing, with its simple new technology, just makes sense.”
Nelson continues to boost the building of arboreal escape pods, hosting treehouse-building workshops and the Global Treehouse Symposium, next slated for 2013, at his Fall City, Washington-based Treehouse Point retreat. This past November, he started Nelson Treehouse and Supply to cater to do-it-yourselfers. But even Nelson can’t guess the number of treehouses being built in the region. “The vast majority of projects are built under the radar,” he says, “for fear of costly building department involvement.”
But we’ve got the trees. And we’ve got the outlaw spirit. So I’m going to call it. Treehouse Capital of the universe, we’re it. Suck it, Ewoks.
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.)
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.”
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.
There’s nowhere else that men will look you over so aggressively, quite as overtly, as when you walk into a heliskiing operation. They are trying to suss out if you are one of the support staff – a cook, a massage therapist, an assistant – because that’s what most of the women are. (Of the 104 guides at the world’s largest heliskiing operation, CMH, this season, 11 are women. Of the 5200 skiers who went out with CMH this past winter, 19% were women.) They are trying to ascertain whether they might end up skiing with you, whether you might ruin their day. The chemistry of a ski group is a delicate thing. And no one wants the balance to unravel due to girliness.
I’m not particularly girly. I have spent my adult life chasing after a man. (I already had him from the outset, but on skis I can’t keep up.)
That’s been good training. Because it means that, unless you’re a professional sponsored skier, I can keep up with you. Pretty much guaranteed.
That reality doesn’t shake the niggling feeling of doubt, the lurk of worry in the pit of my stomach when a bunch of grizzled alpha males stare me down as I do the Pollyanna-two-step from the parking lot into the Regent Hotel at Revelstoke, and mentally tally how few days I’ve had on the hill now that I’m a desk jockey.
The “fuck, I hope I’m not in over my head here” fear-flash that burns through my whole body is an intimidation hurdle that keeps a lot of women away from heliskiing. I’m here to dig into that, to research and write a story about how yin-friendly heliskiing is. We’re off to a shaky start.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Three weeks just spent reconnecting with my inner feral at Yosemite’s historic Camp 4 helped me pinpoint the three most important ingredients for a happy life:
1. shelter from the storm,
2. good company,
3. quality coffee to ease the morning into its groove.
Added bonus? A down puffy jacket and hot running water. Those two factors amount to sheer luxury. But they’re not necessities.
Being on-line, wired or continuously connected to the world was not a need. In fact, disentangling myself from the interweb for three weeks, though initially disorienting, was ultimately a relief. My heartbeat slowed. My brain waves slowed. I could guess the time pretty accurately tracking the sun’s path across those bluebird California skies. I was defragging. I was becoming whole again. Grubby and a little ripe, sure. But no longer brain-scattered.
We arrived home on the weekend, primed to take up the comforts of civilisation – the cocktail ice-cubes belching forth from the refrigerator, a laundry machine to ease our transition out of Dirtbagdom, wireless spouting forth all those critical emails, facebook feeds and tweets. The supreme irony was that after 20 hours of driving, we landed home in Pemberton just in time for an all day power outage as BC Hydro undertook routine maintenance. The laundry pile steamed in the corner. The computer continued its long shut-eye. We relaxed in front of the fire as the house slowly warmed up.
“Maybe we should do this every Sunday,” said Dave. He’s no church-goer, but guy has a strong sense of the sacred – the holy awesomeness of moonrises and ski-hill alpenglow, of long bike descents and the final top-out moves onto granite monoliths with the smell of rock under your nails and one final slug of water left in your bottle…
We’d been cragging and camping for three weeks, only reading whatever newspapers we were able to pull from the dumpsters, so Dave couldn’t have known how cutting-edge he was, suggesting an e-sabbath unplug challenge. The idea of a technological sabbath is becoming a movement across the States. Our smart little techie tools were meant to make our lives easier, but increasingly people are feeling taken hostage. Strange thing is, the bust-out to freedom is as simple as turning the power off. I’m thinking about making it my Sunday thing.
I’m a word-nerd. Words are my fancy and my fetish… but working with illustrators, art directors and graphic designers over the years continues to supersize my respect for their ability to turn words (be it a tagline, a 2 page creative brief, or a 2000 word story) into pictures. I’m not sure if the 1000 words per picture equation is always accurate… but here are some favourite collaborations.
One of the biggest-scale writer-meets-illustrator collaborations I’ve been part of was the 2008 Collective Novel, Murder in the Great Big Playground. Ten writers and ten individual artists joined forces to scribe a novel, relay-style, passing the torch chapter by chapter.
I’d been seduced by Lisa Komuro’s combination of design-magic and mental telepathy skills when we worked together to produce the Slow Food Cycle Sunday almanac in 2008, so I was stoked to be able to recruit her talents again for the 2010 summer Choose Pemberton campaign.
A choreographer could probably explain best how to bring two people together in creative sync: certainly, some chemistry helps. Finding a simpatico partner in crime makes the dance so much more intuitive. And it’s good to know when to yield the floor and when to let someone throw you in the air. Risky? Maybe. Exhilarating? Definitely.