Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Broken Arrow

“Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow?
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain?”

It was cool and damp when I woke up, it had rained overnight. I desperately needed to do laundry as I had run out of clean "essentials" but the laundromat did not open until 9 am. I first went to have breakfast at a sad cafe where the Chinese woman running the place would not crack a smile despite my efforts to be nice and cheery.

The Yellowhead Highway abandons the Skeena valley at New Hazelton and turns towards a smaller tributary, the Bulkley, which requires a good long climb as soon as you leave town. For the rest of the day the road undulated more as it manages the twists and turns of the swifter river's ravines.

Near Moricetown, there was a brief shower, so I decided to head for what seemed like a temporary plastic-covered shed near the road. Within were two Native artisans working on a totem pole. I asked them if I could take a look, and they actually paused to show me what they were doing.

James and Ron are working on a contemporary totem pole that will stand beside a home for tribe members who remain mentally scarred from their experience in residential schools (a dark spot in Canadian history when aboriginal children were taken from away from their homes to "civilize" them, and sadly many of them were abused). At the bottom of the totem are the clan symbols of the caribou and frog intertwined, supporting images of four crying children for the four generations that suffered through the schools. The middle of the totem will be uncharacteristically smooth and blank, a void to symbolize the loss and severing of their culture and traditions. The top part will consist of children climbing, reaching up to a mythical chief and crowned by a soaring eagle, as a wish for hope and healing. They even took me to a shed and uncovered the eagle part from its blanket of damp wood shavings that keeps it from drying up too fast. As Ron's hands moved through the unfinished sculpture, touching the roughed-in symbols as he explained the story behind each of them, the pain and hope they were trying to depict suddenly seemed so real to me that tears started welling in my eyes. I left them my email and asked them to send me pictures of the finished work. I have to admit, later while I was riding I had to cry uninhibitedly for a minute to get closure from that emotional experience.

In Moricetown itself is this gorge on the Bulkley River where native people have been spearing fish for centuries. Farther up the valley, glacier capped mountains loom over narrow strips of farmland.

I'm enjoying the kindness of strangers again tonight. John runs a trailer park between the highway and the river, and he has set up this cabin specifically for passing cyclists like me. He charges nothing, the cabin has electricity, there's a free shower nearby, and he shares his WiFi!

The view from the cabin

“Can you see what I see?
Can you cut behind the mystery?
I will meet you by the witness tree
Leave the whole world behind.”

1 comment:

  1. John's cyclist's cabin looks really nicely built and the view can't be beat. John must be a neat person to think of providing such a service.