A Long-Awaited Return to Haida Gwaii

Having driven for 3 days, through mountain passes and prismatic autumn forests, sleeping in the beloved adventure van, and then boarding the Northern Expedition for a 7 hour cruise across the Hecate Strait, I’ve finally arrived in the place that has dominated my consciousness for the last year and a half. Anyone who knows me or has met me has heard me rave about this place, from the natural beauty and spectacular culture here to its protection, looking at Enbridge’s proposed NG Pipeline (it’s dead, Jim!), Indigenous title, and the Herring fishery.

Rather than being too beautiful to be real, it’s as beautiful as reality should be. As I type this, the sun meanders his way through the clouds, finally breaking through and shining upon the narrows between Graham and Moresby Islands, the view from Jags Beanstalk Café. Where the light hits the water it becomes incredibly bright, reflecting back up and across the coastline, the trees shaking off their morning mist in the welcomed warmth.
It’s admittedly cliché, but I have trouble believing that my presence here is real; that I’m here again. I guess when you dream about a place, and I mean dream, you try to recreate the sensation of being there, maybe even to the point where you believe it, so that when you’re back you compare the feeling you made to the feeling you have.

I still feel the tendrils of anxiety blindly stretching their reach around my gut, like I always do, but for some reason their grasp doesn’t hold me here like it does elsewhere. The closest comparable feeling is being wrapped up in a big hug from someone I love; it’s the same motion of comfort, love and acceptance that I struggle to find out there in the big world. My anxiety is hard to articulate, but it stems from learning the social mores and body language much later in life, thanks to a learning disability that sits along the autism spectrum. I don’t really talk about that part much with people, instead looking at the symptom of anxiety that comes along with it, because that’s the only part of this ‘condition’ that really bothers me. On the positive side, the extra time I spend in my own head has led to blossoms of creativity, an in-depth desire to understand and learn as much as I can to keep myself occupied, and a heck of a lot of understanding as to what I’m really all about. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about this for a long time, in the hopes of communicating to others that anything is manageable – provided you take good care of yourself (especially the most human basics that we often forget; nutrition, exercise, openness, new experiences and good conversations). Today was certainly not the day I’d planned to write about it, but this catharsis feels natural. When I’m in Haida Gwaii, I am far more at peace in the simple, natural existence here.

On that note – it’s 3 days until the polls open up for the Canadian 2015 Federal Election, and we need to ensure Harper gets his ass booted out of Parliament so that places like Haida Gwaii remain pristine, untouched by foreign industry and selfish notions of profitability. It’s amusing watching him struggle right now, throwing his cards of fear and uncertainty down to try and distance us from each other. What a fool he’s been to his own cause for making us all so angry. From the sounds of the advanced polls, this looks to be an historic election, both in terms of voter turnout, and dissent. This year, I had to do a little more research. For me anyways, this election is less about who gets in and more about Harper getting out, and I didn’t want my vote to be in vain. I checked out a few of the strategic voting websites, particularly 1VoteMatters, and determined that in my riding, the Liberal candidate has the best chance of beating out the Conservative MP, and so that’s where my vote went. I wanted to vote NDP, because I have a lot of respect for Mulcair and would be interested to see what he could bring to the table. During the debates, he respected the rules and brought far more concrete numbers in terms of NDP policies than Justin or Stephen. I also heard him choke up on the CBC after having participated in an Indigenous ceremony prior to outlining his stance on some of their issues, and I knew that he understands now the damage being done by Federal policy on the Indigenous people – and the environment – of Canada. That said, I have been going to Justin Trudeau’s talks for years, long before he had any political affiliation, and I’ve always respected his honesty and desire to seek truth when it has been obscured. I don’t think age has anything to do with leadership, and history would tend to agree, so I see the shots taken at him being ‘just not ready’ as cheap and unfounded. The only reason he would struggle as a leader is because the rest of the world’s politics are still wrapped up in a pale, stale patriarchy, and would refuse to give him the respect he deserves as a fairly elected world leader. How fair is that? Maybe his presence in Parliament would begin to reduce the grasp of that tradition on world governance. I hope so. I’m sick of living in a world where ‘life’s not fair’ is the answer to these kinds of questions.

Back here at the Beanstalk, the lunch rush is in full swing. Everyone comes in, from guests and tourists to the regulars, the very young and the Elders. I overhear an Elder teaching Haida to young ones, helping them pronounce their names and learn their origins. I hear a little girl, no older than three, laughing as she and Jags’ blow a kiss to each other before she and her family leaves. I hear cars pull up and cars leave, all breaking from their respective journeys to share in a moment of community and good food here while the world keeps on turning. I think briefly about my role in this community, for now an observer, participating in language of smiles and gratitude. Just like Tina & Charles’ convey in their documentary, Haida Gwaii: On The Edge of the World, it’s hard to feel like the world is in a rough patch when there is just so much happiness and hope here.


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