We Need Jumbo Wild Forever

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The wildness of the mountains define my life and the person I am today. Take one simple anecdote.
Several years ago Rich and I were up in the Teton’s to climb the Grand. Our planned route was a moderate climb by any standard. As so often happens, we woke in the morning to an evil mix of rain and snow. The snow was sticking only a couple hundred feet above our bivouac and, after a quick breakfast we bolted down from the Lower Saddle. This involves a descent down a sloppy slab with a thick rope to hang on to and then a tenuous descent through a massive boulder field to the main Garnet Canyon trail. It was a controlled slip and slide affair in a light rain just above freezing. Two-thirds of the way down are the “Caves”. Not really caves, but the massive overhangs of a couple boulders, for years the Caves have been a meeting place for retreating climbers, ascending climbers and those not making the hump all the way to the Lower Saddle. We huddled in the Caves for an hour trading stories with a group that bivy’d just below the Lower Saddle, compared intended routes, commented on the rain and the unique ability of the Teton to turn to shit with no warning and eventually made plans to get together for dinner that night at their place.
Such are the friendships made in the rain and snow in the mountains.
At dinner that night, a woman mentioned she’d taken some photos on a ranch during haying the fall before. The ranch lay near my home in Colorado. Pulling out an 11 by 17 box of black and white prints, she started spreading them out on the dining room table. The second print showed a man on a tractor pulling a hayrack being stacked by the following elevator. He was a close friend. A friend I skied with half my days with that year.
Such are the connections found in the Caves of the mountains.

Today we live in the quagmire of a cyber world. Between Tweets, texts, email and Facebook, there remains little actual or even forced face-to-face connections. The norm becomes the impersonal digital. Yet, off the road, in a cave on a mountain, we meet, we make immediate evaluations and find camaraderie that last beyond 140 characters.
This is the loss that will happen with the building of Jumbo. Yes we lose a wild section of land. A huge basin that will never again recover its essential being. We will lose grizzly bears and an intact ecosystem. Beyond the loss of the wild, we will lose the people populating that wild land. We will lose the connections. The community fostered by that land. A delicate human ecosystem will be scattered and dispersed in the winds of a digital world in a manner that cannot be reconfigured in any fashion.
Jumbo is a loss on all levels. Natural. Cultural. Social. Spiritual.
There is no reason for this to go forward.
There is every reason to stop the project.
In the next weeks and months as they attempt to move the project forward with BC Provincial approvals, I hope everyone will do their utmost to toss at least one pebble in the path of the project. Or trundle a boulder or two down on their path.

Remember, Hayduke lives. Keep Jumbo Wild.

Through the Looking Glass

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Several years ago, I drove to the end of a road on the Olympic Peninsula. I stepped out of my car, shouldered my pack and left that cul-de-sac quite literally stepping into another world. I moved through a few feet of stubby pucker brush of a decade old clear cut into the dark cool of an old growth cedar and hemlock forest. It was like stepping from a crowded souk bazaar into a quiet coffee room.
This was the Olympic National Forest’s boundary with the Olympic National Park. If one ever wants to demonstrate the value of a National Park vs. a National Forest, rent a plane and fly over the Olympic Peninsula in northwest Washington State. Trees delineate the Park. Outside the park, there are no trees. Within the Park stand much the oldest remaining temperate rainforest in lower North America.
This May day I was climbing. Alone, I walked up hill and across to the right. In short order I reached snow still holding under the canopy some 150 feet above. The slope became steeper. I kicked steps and moved on. Not long after, I broke free of the trees onto an open avalanche slope and ceasing my rising traverse. I began climbing directly up the fall line. As I climbed the snow became harder and steepened even more. Sometimes I kicked twice to create a purchase on the face or the snow. In an hour, I reached a point where the avalanche slope tightened and became a narrow steep walled gully rising between cliffs of black broken volcanic rock. Steeper, shaded by the vertical walls on either side the snow in the couloir quickly changed from white to the blue of ice in a matter of fifty vertical yards.
Climbing off the snow, I sat on a flat outcropping at the base of the couloir and slid off my pack. I pulled out an orange and my water bottle. After taking a swig, I started peeling the orange. It was juicy and bits of the sections’ skin came off with the peel leaving my fingers wet and sticky. After eating the juicy broken sections of the orange, reaching down I scraped, gathering the surface corn snow and scrubbed my hands clean, then wiped them dry on my pants. The peels I put back in the top pocket. Taking another swig from the bottle, I looked up the couloir. It rose straight and clean with the ice starting quickly. Beyond the ice there was only the slightly softer washed blue of the sky. From the top flap of my pack I took my crampons. Slipping my boots into the straps, I pulled and snugged the straps eliminating any play. Taking the two ice tools off the back of the pack, I swung each into the hard snow at the edge of the rock and left them as I settled my pack on my back and once again looked up the couloir.
Nothing but blue ice and blue skies. This was why I left my car at the end of the road and stepped into an old growth forest. For the sun and sky above. And the ice. The summit, a few hundred yards off to the right beyond the ice, would be only an asterisk.
Slipping the loops around my wrists, I pulled the tools out of the snow. Kicking steps, kicking twice to build a purchase, I moved up and onto the ice.

The Truth. Fiction or Non-fiction?

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I was tying my bootlaces. The coarse cross braid cut into my fingers as I pushed the loop through and pulled the laces tight.

And I woke up.

The feeling of the laces on my fingers remained, as I looked out the window at the mountains in the first light of the day. A touch of pink brushed the clouds still remaining on the ridges, remnants from the last few days’ storms.

And I wondered about writing.

At dinner with a friend the other night, we talked about writing, universality, and how you touch people with your words.

We talked of the truth in non-fiction, of the emotional truth in fiction and how you blend both with your experience when you try to write the narrative history of a generation or two before you. How your character, your experience, informs and helps flesh out the related characters of 50 or even 100 years before.

And we asked, is that honest? I said yes. She was not so sure.

I hiked up the bank of a boulder-strewn creek. My bootlace loosened, perhaps caught on a willow as I passed. Stopping, I put my foot up on a boulder, looked upstream and saw a grey water ouzel, bobbing, bobbing on a rock maybe 20 feet in front of me. The rock was splashed with water, but only half wet, darkened, cooled in the heat of the day. The ouzel dipped into the creek and I moved to tie my shoe.

It was a dream.

Was it true?

Does that make it fiction or non-fiction?

If it appears in an essay like this, does it have more validity than if I fold the experience and the dream into a piece of fiction and use it to fill out a day following a character in the story.

Was it even a dream?

Hockey

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I grew up in the States. After my college years, I started spending more time in Canada. Then, about 18 years ago, I started spending much of each winter in Whistler. When I say, I grew up in the States, I should clarify by stating I grew up in Palo Alto, California. Yes, California, Land of the Fruits and Nuts. I swam, skateboarded, surfed, hiked, climbed and skied.

When I was 16, I laced up my first pair of skates and found I was completely inept. A rough deal for a 16 year-old athlete. In the days of my Nordic racing, we used a nearby 400-meter rink for pre-season training. Speed skates resemble skate skis more than hockey skates.

That’s it for my ice time.

And I’ve come to love hockey.

More than that, I’ve come to love the Canadian attitude toward hockey.

Late this spring, when the national debates conflicted with the first games of the hockey play-offs, they changed the debates, not the hockey game. A clear recognition that in the horse and cart world of national politics, changing the horse will not make too much difference. On the other hand, who makes the Stanley Cup will be determined by the games in the play-offs.

That has import.

If there ever was any doubt of the tension, finesse and excitement of hockey, last night’s first game of the Cup finals put that to rest. Back and forth, non-scoring, power-play after power-play, the game was fast, clean and went into the final minutes with no score from either the Boston Bruins or the Vancouver Canucks.

With only a few seconds left in the game, the Canucks picked up the puck at the blue line and passed across the ice to Hansen on the right. He skated in on Bruins’s goal angling in from the outside right. The Bruin’s goalie, Tim Thomas, moved a few feet forward from the net to meet him and close down the angle. With a flick of his wrist, Hansen passed across to Raffie Torres skating on the left and Torres slipped the puck into the now open left side of the net.

Picture perfect. No slop. Easy pass. Crisp, clean goal.

And with 18 seconds still left in the game.

Almost 60 minutes of play and it all comes down to the last few seconds.

All.

Now that’s a sport. Every minute counts. Every second counts. And the last minute counts in spades.

Love it.

March 11. 2011

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Monday, April 11

Today is the first day beyond winter.

I wake in the half-light of dawn to rain pelting my windows. Clouds cut the mountains half way to the ridges and snow draws a hard line between the clouds and the valley floor. Pulling the pillows up, I lean against them at the head of the bed, watching the weather, I think,

I am done with skiing. Done for the year.

The ski area closed yesterday. Well, not really. The mountain re-opens Wednesday for staff. As always, I plan on skiing staff day. The Elk runs early and then the Bear runs from 11 to 3:30. I’ll swing up once the snow softens and make a few token runs. After, the area hosts a dinner and such at the Griz. That’s far more appealing than the skiing.

Then there’s the RCR Fernie “Bonus Weekend” April 16 and 17th. The old side opens for one last shot at the year. Trooper will play a fee concert in the plaza at the base of the mountain. It’s more a gathering than a weekend of skiing. Take a couple runs. Sit in the sun. Drink a beer and enjoy the music, the day with friends. There will be skiing, but skiing will not be the point of going up.

This year closes in an unusual fashion. No morning pools of half frozen slush at the bottom of the mountain. Just snow. Fourteen and a half feet of compacted base. We close with perhaps twice the deepest base of anytime in last two years. We’re skiing an exceptional combination of mid-winter conditions and spring corn.

Every night the mountain freezes hard. The lows are 7 or 8 C below each night. Starting each morning on east facing slopes that collect the first sun so soften. As the sun warms the snow, I ski aspects and by noon move to the northern facing slopes, slopes the sun never touches and remain soft and unaffected for weeks after a storm.

And then I head down. Once the snow softens beyond an inch or two of corn, I bail.

Mid-day today, the weather turns nasty. A harsh wind sweeps into the valley. Gropple, mixed with real hail, occasionally turning to snow rushes across the streets and hides the mountains completely. Walking down to Mug Shots, the fresh snow drives into my cheeks with needle like intensity.

Yes, I am done with skiing for the year.

Late in the day, as the sun drops toward the ridges on the western edge of the valley, the wind dies, clouds break and the skies clear, leaving only remnants of weather stuck on the sharp peaks. The reflection of the setting sun on the cloud bottoms creates a gold glow the first alpen glow of the season. The peaks are lit and then dark. And cold again.

In the sunset, I start my spring summer habit of evening walks. Ambles, I walk to the river looking for ducks. None. No geese either. And walk back home composing this little epistle.

And I am really done with skiing this year. It’s all good. I’m balanced on my skis. Balanced on my feet. Climbing beckons. It’s time to head into another venue.

A Place for Writing

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The Guardian book section publishes a series on “writers’ rooms” augmented by the occasional illustrator and composer tossed in for good measure.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/writersrooms

The series is as informative in detailing the creative manners of the individuals profiled as is about the creative spaces. Creatives tend to function best in certain defined environments—a personal combination of time and space. We nurture our space in the same way we nurture our work.

After reading these personal accounts of rooms, I sit here looking at my writing space. Actually, this is one of two spaces. This first, the primary space, is upstairs in my house. In front of a massive window, I placed an old kitchen table with a plain plank fir top. The window runs across the wall and joins a large single pane French door on the right opening to a small balcony. My desk holds several stacks of seemingly unsorted papers, little talismans that to the casual observer would appear to be more junk than holding any significant meaning. A couple of journals. Actually in counting right now, there are five journals and three small notebooks sitting on the table. A ten-inch tall verdigris cast bronze Thai Buddha sits on the right hand corner. On the left corner sit two used Freshies paper coffee cups waiting to be re-used as road cups. A save-the-date card with two happy faces for a wedding this coming summer. A CD of photos recording the moving of the old press into a final work place. A stapler. A roll of scotch tape. A phone number is taped to the window mullion. Next to the window on the wall, two quotes are taped.

The first is Gary Snyder

“poetry. . .the skilled and inspired use of the voice and language to embody rare and powerful states of mind that are in immediate origin personal to the singer, but at deep levels common to all who listen.”

The second reads, “Poets are the soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition.” Eli Khamarov.

The window creates my space in actuality. Sitting at this table, I watch from Mt. Hosmer to the ski hill. The sweep lies, falls across my desk—the Sisters, Mt. Fernie, the Three Bears up in Island Lake, and finally FAR.

On a day like this, I only see the lower forested slopes broken by avalanche chutes and little else. The hill erased by a welcome combination of heavy snow and low clouds. Most of my life, I’ve spent a substantial portion of each day outside. This window brings the outside in while allowing me to write.

The bulk of my work occurs here.

Later today I will ski. I will join the view.

My second place serves as a “change the view” more for polishing pieces. In the final stages of a longer piece, I drag my laptop down to the living room. Curling up on one of the two couches in front of the fireplace, I physically and mentally leave my other projects upstairs and work on the final draft of the piece at hand.

Often at the very end of my editing, I will take a printed draft and head downtown for a cup of coffee. Coffee in front of me and pencil in hand, I run through the piece one final time.

This introspective look at personal space brought me to think of our public spaces and how we define our lives by both the private spaces and the public spaces we inhabit.

In truth, the public spaces we choose define our community. Our community in who we casually meet. With whom we converse. And whom we carry in our lives outside of the home.

Take a few.

FAR is open and with it, the Griz Bar. The Griz defines the classic spirit of skiing with a striking lack of modernity while infusing everyone who walks in the door with an infectious love of the outdoors, of skiing/boarding. Walk in after two or three this afternoon and the Griz will be filling with tired, invigorated skiers. We’ve had days of snow and most of the mountain has been closed as patrol tried to stabilize the never-ending accumulations. Today ropes will be dropping and the Griz will echo with tales of first and second and third tracks down favorite pitches. Of falls and of face shots. Of finding 20 turns of unbroken snow just beyond One Two Three in the trees. Beer and nachos will flow, for that is the character of the Griz. Skiing. Beer. Nachos. All embellished by classic Lange chick posters, skis we can no longer imagine turning and a long wooden slab of a table occasionally supporting a passing naked body.

There are other bars. The Corner Pocket. The Pub. Bull Dogs. The Fernie. The Central. The Brickhouse. The Picnic.

In the end, the bar we seek becomes the “Cheers” of choice. The social grouping creating the most comfortable space. Where Norm sits at the end of the bar answering fully the niggling questions in the back of our head.

Look at the day. The time between breakfast and that end-of-the-day-skiing beer. Look at the coffee shops in town. For a little burg, we offer a plethora of choices. From Timmy’s, A&W, MacDonald’s for the chains, to the homegrown local coffee houses lying scattered like jacks across downtown. There’s Cincott Farms on the highway. A thriving branch of the Hosmer organic farm. Both a coffee shop and a fine restaurant, they will expand over the next few months. In the old downtown, there is Freshies, Mugshots, Sweet Surrender, the Tea House, Big Bang Bagels and another to-be-named rumored chocolate-coffee roaster-coffee shop opening across from the Livery building.

All seem to do well filling a social niche of their own making. There are days I want to read a paper and I head to Freshies. Other days, I want to be left alone and drop into the Tea House curling into one of the overstuffed chairs in the window by the fireplace. Other days, I wander over to Big Bang Bagels or Mugshots for a late lunch.

A flavor of the day. The taste of community.

We choose. Sometimes unconsciously. Sometimes consciously. We choose our community one cup of coffee, one cup of tea, one pint of beer, one glass of wine at a time.

January 4, 2011. The Morning.

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I woke this morning early, before light. The streetlight down the block silhouetted my cat sitting on the windowsill. Muted, the image appeared indistinct on the wall. I turn over and sit up. Snow. Fine cold snow drops straight down against the streetlight.

Since moving to Fernie I marvel at the lack of wind accompanying our snows. In Colorado, snow arrives with wind. Snow curls around corners and sifts into every nook and cranny. Drifts build waist high with every chance. Here, snow stacks itself high on every possible horizontal surface. Snow falls at rest

As the sun rises with a diffused light, I watch the day and the block become distinct.

Across the street stands an old branching mountain ash. The snow now sits three or four inches deep on the branches. The last remaining bunches of berries only show hints of the red under piles of flakes. To the left, one house down, the curves of a faded mid-80’s GMC pick-up mimics the berries on a far larger scale. Curves hidden, yet red still pokes from under the new white. The phone line across the street bears a stretched negative image of the line below. Four inches of snows sits stacked on the line.

Hard black against the snow, a raven flies up my street from the south. Immediately in front of my window he abruptly turns left, away, and flies to the next block over. He then turns right, back north and continues. I watch. One block up, he makes the same jog left one block, then right, continuing north. The raven becomes softer, paler moving up the grid of streets.

A flock of small birds fly by. Maybe 50, maybe 75. They fly in a moving ball. Black flittering specks loosely defining a sphere moving through a falling morning snow. They too fly north. Ignoring the grid of development, they angle across the blocks. Free. Swirling, like smoke in flight.

Now a couple hours after starting to write, the snow builds too high to hold to the phone wire. Sections have fallen off, the white strand broken above the wire.

I think I’ll go skiing

k

Life Choices

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One recent evening, I stood on my deck in the sunset talking to a past girlfriend. Now living in San Francisco with a “successful” photography business, she talked of the stress of her overhead. A studio. Finding a new place to live. A place that would take a dog. Driving a car with almost 200,000 miles. Juggling it all to make ends meet and have a little left over. The sound of traffic filled the spaces between her words.

She was leaving early the next day for a three-day shoot at a Sonoma organic lavender farm.

I listened, watching the sun turn the clouds behind the Three Sisters, a mix of orange and red, as a pair of crows chased an eagle across the base of the mountains. The eagle flew silently, diving to dodge the crows and then climbing. The strident caws of the crows carried across the quiet of the darkening valley.

The Barbarians at the Gate

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“Often overlooked is that though the barbarians of ancient times were not cultivated, in almost every case they had fastened upon one or more technical innovations that enabled them to defeat the superior civilizations they then were able to sack. The Huns and the Scythians had revolutionary tactics, the Parthians their fleeting shots, the Mongols their special bows and their techniques of mobility. Even Hannibal, not quite a barbarian expect perhaps in the Roman view, and ultimately unsuccessful, had his elephants.”

Mark Helprin, Digital Barbarism, A Writer’s Manifesto (Harper, 2009)

A “red plate” prejudice runs rampant around in Fernie. A feeling that the influx of Albertans damages our core values and the lifestyle of Fernie. The Albertans are thought of as the barbarians at the gate. An invasion we must defend against at all costs.

Let’s look at that for a minute. Or rather, let’s take a deeper look at Fernie and the effect of an influx of new blood on the existing civil and social structure.

Take the city council. The make up is divided equally between long-term residents and newbie’s—three and three–with the mayor, Cindy, adding one more vote on the long-term side. The previous six years, the make of the council was similar except the previous mayor, Randal, fell on the newbie side.

Look at new businesses we already take for granted. Start with Big Bang Bagels. Two years ago, Carolyn operated in the morning corners of Just Pizza. Moving into the former Cappuccino Corner on Victoria in the heart of the historic downtown Big Bang ramps into the stratosphere. In nine short months, Big Bang developed a huge following, gathered the three top business awards at the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and expanded successfully to the mountain. Shortly after the new store opened, the line-ups stretched out the door on Saturdays and Sundays. In the waiting hordes, locals stood only a sprinkling with the vast bulk of customers being visiting red platers. On the hill, the customer base developed into the season pass crowd. A mix of mountain employees, local families, Non-Stoppers and Calgary folks, all skiing with a pass. A mix that values and savors fresh locally baked bagels with flavorful oddball sandwich options.

Look at the current Fernie trend of remodeling rather than building from scratch. It’s a matter of economics—not much is being built to sell and there is added value created in upgrading an existing property. When you look at the families remodeling homes, a large percentage are red platers. Folks from Calgary who appreciate Fernie and decided to make a commitment to live and play here.

When you look at the ‘play’ in Fernie, the influx becomes really interesting. A recent study shows the average second homeowner spends in excess of 60 days in Fernie over the course of a year. That’s just under a fifth of the year. And that’s the average—there are some that spend a week and some that spend months. A substantial percentage of these homeowners plan on moving to Fernie in the future.

People complain that houses cost too much, but look at what we get. Incredible views. A trail system with 10’s of kilometers of trails spreading out from town, most of the close-in trails maintained with no user fee by the city. Unparalleled fishing lies literally at our doorstep. An abiding awareness of the tenuous place we hold in the valley and the needs of the wildlife we might displace leads to programs like Bear Aware dramatically reducing contact between residents and bears and thus almost completely eliminating of the need to kill “problem bears”. (Many would say it was the people that are the problem, not the bears. There are arguments for both sides. Shooting “problem people” is a practice we have moved beyond in modern society.) For the most part, the non-resident second homeowner shares the same values as those that live here. That’s why they chose Fernie to repeatedly visit, to buy into and to bring their friends.

In the early days of snowboarding, only a few resorts allowed boards on the lifts. Boarders were looked at as crass, impolite, and even dangerous on the ski hill. One of the first areas welcoming boards was Mount Baker, just over the US border in Washington State. When you talk to Duncan Howat, the long time manager of Mount Baker about those early days and how they dealt with boarders, he explains it was a matter of culture. Most skiers come to the sport from a skiing family or with skiing friends. Most early boarders came to the sport out of skateboarding, the park rat culture. The two couldn’t be more different. One is understated. The other is overstated.

Duncan recognized this anomaly and created same awareness in his employees. The ski area initiated an employee program to educate the newbie boarders to the ethos and ethics in the culture of skiing. If an employee saw someone doing something contrary to the established way—say jumping off a blind lip—they explained to the boarder the problem and rather than just say “No”, offer an alternative site or place that was safe. The ski area effort was not about stopping behavior, rather the effort channeled the behavior into accepted norms.

On a Friday night late this winter, a friend was driving down from Calgary for a weekend in Fernie. Slowing to 70 in a whiteout driving the winding section of road in Crowsnest Pass, she ambled along in the long line of slow moving cars. Looking behind, she saw a car pull out and start to pass the seemingly endless line of red plate cars aimed at Fernie. There was a double yellow line. Dark. Blowing snow. Minimal visibility. As the Yukon XL passed, she recognized the license plate. The red Alberta plate belonged to her ex-husband. And, at that same moment, she realized her two kids were in the car with him. She was fine ambling along knowing she had Fernie at the end of the line. Who knows what he was thinking, taking that risk with their two kids in the car and a potential nightmare ahead.

These two stories illustrate the answer to the barbarians at tout gate. They have no greater technology. They have no greater society than ours. Rather, what they seek is our society. They seek to share in our life. A life with a different pace, a settled and balanced manner of walking through the day.

What remains is a matter of education. We must educate and eliminate the habits that run counter to our ways. We stop for pedestrians wanting to cross the street—where ever. We don’t pass on blind corners. We take the time to greet and talk to people on the street. It may take half an hour to get to the bank and back, but that’s ok. And we’re willing to wait a little longer for something special, like a Banger on Saturday morning.

So let’s open the gate, but extract a toll for all who desire passage. Let’s require a change of habit from the barbarians. An acceptance of the ethos and ethic of a Fernie life.

They’ll never know what hit them.

On Voice

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In the most recent CV2 (Contemporary Verse 2) looks “At the Root of Voice”. Clarice Foster in her Editorial Notes says voice “like a set of finger prints, is a one-of-a-kind thing.”

This is my take on voice from a bit ago.

The voices we hear.

Driving across the rolling dry wheat plains of eastern Washington an hour after sunset, I found KEWU, “The voice of jazz in the inland Northwest. All jazz all the time.” The public radio station broadcasting from of Eastern Washington University in Cheney. The music moved from a take off on Giant Steps, lifting and falling in separated thirds with sax and trumpet to a couple of Cubano pieces then into a techno jazz with a style similar to St. Germaine and then back again to the more traditional smoky basement bar sax jazz. And on. And on. Segue after segue entering, passing through divergent forms. Each piece strung, drawn from the last, bound together with thought and care. Blended. One into the next. At the hour break, a hesitant woman spoke. Stumbling on some titles, some musicians, she corrected herself and repeated those she mispronounced. She spoke carefully. Softly. Self-correcting as needed. Making no apologies and returning the station to the music, to the jazz.

Again, the seamless string of tunes moved, sliding between jazz genres effortlessly. Dancing on the sawdust floor. Taking me back into smoky basement bars of my youth. Three, maybe four guys crowded onto a corner raised platform. The Chance R with peanut shells on the floor. Swept once a week. Sunday. Fine music. Late nights.
Brick walls. And long battered bar tops.

Her voice? The music.

Driving on, somehow the station remained clear. I remembered late nights driving between races. Days spent on the hill. Afternoons writing. Sending off the dashed stories to papers and wire services. Beating the roll of deadlines, east to west. Posting the stories one after another, then packing up and driving to the next venue. Nights, long nights on the road listening to whatever I could pull in. Country. Rock. Rarely jazz. Always the stations fading in and out as the two lane blacktop, delineated by single stripes, snow banks on either edge and a double yellow down the middle, wove between mountains, rising, twisting up passes and dropping down into valleys.

I remembered one very late night weaving up to Whistler, actually, a very early morning. The Vancouver CBC station introduced a CD recently re-released on Blue Note. Originally recorded in the early sixties at Ferengetti’s San Francisco City Lights Bookstore, Jack Kerouac read and improvised with Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, maybe Shelley Mann on the drums and a couple of others. It rocked to the curves of the road as l powered up the valley. A few miles from Squamish, as I accelerated out of a turn, CBC stopped like turned off by a switch. Static and nothing more. At the next turnaround, I reversed direction and drove back until I regained the reception. Parking, I listened for half an hour, maybe more, until the recording finished. Turning around, I continued to Whistler.

There was a voice in that music, that spoken word. There was the Beat, the capital “B” beat speaking. This is who we are. We are the sax. We are the beat. We are the trumpet. We are the word. We are. Now. We.

As I drove I thought of the different voices we bring to a table. A community is a collection of voices, each with room to be heard. In Fernie, we are fortunate to be small enough to hear to the voices. To have time to listen to the voices. And to take time to listen to the voices.

In Fernie, we have Mary’s TV show. A window to the community and the events surrounding our valley. We have the occasional Spoken Word at Freshies. We have Pierre’s newly launched fernitv.com with a range of channels and options. We meet at Freshies, at Mug Shots, Big Bang Bagels and the Tea House taking time to sit and talk. To exchange ideas and hassle with differing opinions.

In Fernie there exists a tolerance, a patience, in listening to others. A respect that others deserve to be heard no matter their station and position in town. An artist, a writer, a banker, a carpenter, a checker from Overweightea’s all carry the same value, same impact in the public forum we create for discussion.

Celebrate the voices we have. Respect the voices and listen. For each holds value in the direction we are moving.