In what has become a treasured tradition, we gather at Smarty’s for dinner every Tuesday night. It’s usually kind of a boy’s meal, but girlfriends, wives and moms often join. Kids and dogs are welcome, too. People pitch in and bring whatever they’ve caught, trapped, shot, foraged or found, but the featured entree is always something wild–ducks, geese, pheasant, quail, spot prawns, albacore, salmon, crab, deer, elk–and beautifully prepared by Smarty. Helene often makes her famous salad with fresh lemon, garlic and pine nuts. I usually bring brown-and-wild rice. Last night, it was fat, juicy Eastern Washington mallards, roasted hot so the skin crisped and the interior stayed blood rare, served with a sauce made from butter, sherry, worcestershire, current jelly and a few other top-secret ingredients. Pete brought fresh winter oysters and pan-fried them to a crisp, golden brown for our appetizer. It was, as usual, a meal you couldn’t buy at any price or beat at any restaurant.
A rotating cast of characters shows up, but it’s usually some combination of Smarty, me, Neal, Pete, John, Morgan, Helene, Sam, and whoever else is in town. A lot of us try to schedule around Tuesdays, and when I’m away, there’s always a pang of missing out, no matter how cool a trip I’m on, or how much fun I’m having somewhere else. In spite of the mind-blowing food, I think it’s really the company and the cadence of a regular check-in among friends, that makes these dinners so special. Wednesday mornings, I’m already looking forward to the next Tuesday. Huge thanks to Smarty for making it happen, keeping it going, and bringing us all together.
Rain and wind for three days straight, but my friend, the writer, fisherman and road warrior, Riverhorse Nakadate, was going to be in town from Houston. It was not looking good. But with one day to fish and hang out, we figured we’d give it a shot anyway. Miraculously, as we put the boat in the water, the wind began to fall out. The rain let up. Between brief squalls, the clear, green water settled and for one brief moment, blue sky appeared overhead. We fished, talked shop, and told epic single-mom hero stories, which, it turned out, we both experienced first hand as kids. And we found fish, mostly little ones to start, but after switching through patterns, we finally hit the answer and it was on. Jackpot. Half a dozen slab-sized sea-run cutts made it to the boat before the tide quit and dusk fell. Later, as I was washing the boat in the driveway, I felt the first drops of rain in hours. By the time I was done, wind was thrashing the trees and rain pounded in sideways. The window was closed. But it had stayed open just long enough.
That feeling in the morning when the kids tell you it’s time for them to leave for school and you’re staring down the barrel of eight long hours without them.
That feeling in the afternoon when you look way down the hill and suddenly realize–Can it be? Is it really them?–the kids are stepping off the bus and calling your name! Followed shortly by that feeling of total, complete, ecstatic joy as you hurtle down the hill at 100 miles per hour to meet them.
Lots to be grateful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
After the uplift of the Lelu Island pole raising ceremony and feast, we drove back to Terrace the next day for our friend Bruce Hill’s memorial. It was a moving, heartfelt gathering for a man who had a profound impact on our planet and on hundreds of people he met along the way. So many memorable moments that night: Time with the Hill family and other good friends I don’t see enough, Ivan Thompson’s beautiful eulogy; Haisla elder Cecil Paul’s story of spreading Bruce’s ashes in Kitlope Lake; Bruce’s Haisla brother Gerald Amos, on the comeback trail from a devastating stroke, walking to the podium supported by his sons to say what Bruce meant to him; and Rachelle Van Zanten’s tear-streaked face as she ripped into My Country, her protest song of the North. (If you haven’t heard it, check out Rachelle’s video for the song HERE.)
I can’t remember when I’ve been on such an emotional roller coaster like those two days. So a little fresh, northern air was in order. With one day to fish, Rick Koe and I rolled east from Terrace and spent a day on the water. The river was rising and on its way out, but casting and swinging flies through runs with a good friend felt like the perfect way to wrap up my time in BC.
As my friend Yvon likes to say, victories in the conservation game are hard to come by. But after years of battling to keep Petronas, a giant multi-national corporation, from building an LNG plant on critical salmon habitat at the mouth of the Skeena River, First Nations and the conservation groups that supported them, had reason to celebrate: A clear win. Petronas gave up, bailed, and left pristine Lelu Island to the salmon and the people of the North. Above, a glimpse of the spectacular Skeena estuary as we drove through heavy rain and dark, roiling skies.
At Port Edward, the gathering crowd met a small flotilla of boats to ferry us out to Lelu. That’s Yvon and Spencer headed down the dock.
On Lelu, we gathered around a smoldering fire. As the singers and drummers started in, the rain began to let up and the sky lightened. A procession of chiefs and elders strode forward to bless the pole.
Then, with ropes and the strength of the assembled masses, the enormous, beautifully carved cedar pole was pulled upright. The clouds parted, revealing blue sky.
Great peeches were made, and cheers rose from the crowd. As if by magic, a brilliant sun beamed down on us from a bluebird sky. The pole now stands sentinel on Lelu Island, watching over the Skeena and marking the place where a great battle was won, warning others who try to harm the Skeena or its salmon that they will not succeed. Victories may be hard to come by, but they sure feel good when they happen. And what an honor to be a part of it. When we returned to Prince Rupert, the storm closed in again, as if on cue. I like to think it was our friend Bruce, who fought so hard for the Skeena, smiling down on us.