Would you take a wellness workshop from your dentist?

Last I heard of Pemberton’s stalwart dentist, Anne Crowley, she had put on a backpack and was about to solo trek across the country.

I didn’t really expect her to be offering an eight-week wellness course at the Pemberton Community Centre, starting Jan. 18.

“I made it to Lillooet,” she said.

She’d set out with a simple, earnest goal: to connect with the earth and see beautiful places. Her agenda was completely open. Maybe she’d walk for a few weeks, maybe a few years. “I wasn’t doing it to prove anything.”

Pemberton to Lillooet was always going to be one of the more beautiful legs of the entire trip.

“I really enjoyed that walk.”

It took her seven days to hike up and over that mountain range, hauling her 55 pound backpack and leading her companion, a five-month-old rambunctious dog, at which point the nail bed began to peel off her toe, threatening infection and worse, amputation. The heat was ominous. “I had no idea how I was going to carry enough water for my dog through the desert from Lytton.”

And a lot of pavement lay ahead.

Crowley had just returned from locum work in Newfoundland, so, with her license still good, she returned to another gig in Labrador, abandoning the cross-country grind and putting Plan B into effect. “You get to 64, you don’t need to impress anybody. So I flew back east and went trekking all through the Maritimes.”

She walked 3,000 kilometres, pretty much the length and breadth of Newfoundland, eschewing pavement for the most beautiful overland trails. “I can’t even explain how wonderful it was to just walk and walk and feel part of the earth and be outside. It really connects you — you’re up when the sun is up. I had my dog with me, so I was never afraid, and always had some companionship. I just camped and walked.”

Crowley’s never been afraid to plough new ground. She was part of the second dentistry class at the University of British Columbia to ever to admit women. She was Pemberton’s first dentist, arriving in 1978, having been recruited hard by residents to set up a practice here, after serving on the mobile dentistry unit, a four-month program that gave locals a chance to get their teeth cleaned without having to wait the six months it took to get an appointment with the nearest dentist at the time, in Squamish. She started the Pemberton Youth Soccer Association in 1994 and has been coaching kids ever since.

On her return from the east coast this October, the longtime recreation champion called Dan Cindric at the Pemberton and District Community Centre about an idea she’d been kicking around. And they put it on the program.

On Monday nights at 7 p.m., starting Jan. 18, she’ll host “Eight weeks to Better Health,” a workshop with no fixed agenda and nothing to prove, but the chance to dig in on various components of healthy living, harnessing habit, practice, journaling and the almighty power of a group.

“I’m not a big groupie,” admits Crowley. “I’m typically a lone wolf. But when I do get together with a group, against all my natural inclinations, it’s so good.”

She recalls a guest karate sensei who brought the lesson of the power of the group to her dojo once. “It was a powerful lesson. You literally felt the physical strength. It was a black and white experience for me. I’d never been able to marshall that level of strength before.”

Crowley has developed a firm conviction that wellness is a state of mind. “It’s 20 per cent physical and 80 per cent mental and spiritual. There are a lot of things that hold people back.”

The power of a group won’t be one of them.

“I’ve got an idea of what we’ll cover,” she says, “but it will unfold somewhat organically, based on who shows up. The participants will co-create it. It’s that universal time of the year when people want to get some more healthy habits. I think it could be interesting. And at the very least, it could just be an opening for other people to say, ‘hey maybe I could offer a course.’ There’s such a huge amount of talent here.”

Crowley seems to have a knack for tapping it.

Don’t worry. She’s not going to hassle you about flossing. But you might get a free toothbrush.

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