For our HGSE class, we were asked to individually answer a question with a photo and a short presentation. My HGSE cohorts each answered key questions about themselves and their experiences on Haida Gwaii, while sharing something really meaningful with all of us. It was amazing, to celebrate understanding and give a beautiful insight to everyone. It will be tough to wait until next Wednesday to see the second half of the presentations.

For me, I was so stoked. It reminded me of elementary school, where you’d be shown a photograph and asked to write a story about what you saw. I got to tell a story! Except, now I’m older, and I can tell way better stories – with genuine values, memories and observations. Nifty throwback.

Anyways, here’s my PhotoVoice question, and answer.

*       *       *

What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned on Haida Gwaii?

During these past few months in Haida Gwaii, the lessons learned about this world and myself within it have been numerous, and phenomenal. People and place have immersed us in a new definition of community, where the environment is as supportive and welcoming as it is evident of ongoing struggle with larger forces.

I took this photo while up in Masset with my family. In this decrepit, old, wooden boat – which my dad, a child of the coast, figures was operative until the seventies – there is sprouted a scruffy little spruce tree, defiantly reclaiming what is being taken just across the Masset Inlet.

In the moment, it made me consider life back in what I now affectionately refer to as the ‘real world’. In our massive, globalized culture, where authority is conditioned by financial gain and nobody says what they mean, we have forgotten that everything we do has a reason, a purpose, and a repercussion. Maybe it has become tiring, to live with that kind of intention while battling a culture that tells us to indulge, to upgrade – to make friends with exuberant comfort because we only live once.

But here? People conduct themselves with others always in mind, be it their neighbours, their families – their children. It is well-recognized that decisions made today will undoubtedly affect tomorrow, and all those who will come after you and I rejoin the earth. This makes me think about family. We need more happy families, to remind us that our futures don’t end when we do.

In the humblest of modesty, Haida Gwaii has shown us what makes her beautiful. We’ve experienced her unbridled wilderness, from which we all descend. We’ve met her people, and taken the time to comprehend this place as much as she offers to understand us. Haida Gwaiians do not become political representatives for power and recognition, they do it to better themselves and the people who trust in them. Shapes, ovoids and formlines aren’t just aesthetic, they have great significance, and that makes their usage sacred.
And, that little tree didn’t grow there just because it wanted to. A million collisions of chance and condition led to its settling in the hull of that old ship. Now it grows slowly. It reminds us that everything has a purpose, even if that purpose is as simple as returning to the earth so that the cycle can begin again. When I think about life in this way, I’m suddenly taken aback by how much of a responsibility it is – to be alive!

So the over-arching lesson I’ve pulled from this web of thought is this: don’t do simply for the sake of doing, but for the sake of being. Recognize your part in this unbelievable cycle of regeneration, and allow yourself to be as much a contributor to its perpetuity as that little tree is.

5 thoughts on “PhotoVoice

  1. You hit the nail on the head with this blog.
    A very honest, and a very truthful blog about the world today.
    I wish more people would see the world as it should be seen.


  2. Lovely post Alex. And I’m so glad you and your classmates at HGSE have come to Haida Gwaii to see and to learn. It’s inspiring to know that you will go out into your life’s work guided and supported by all you have learned here. It’s a great pleasure to have shared some class time with you.


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