what remains

Posted by Daniela Elza on Oct 05 2013

After almost 3000 km. I am sitting in the glow of the trip up to Prince George, The Rural Writers Retreat, Terrace and Smithers.

On September 25th I headed up from Vancouver for the reading that night in Prince George at 7pm. Fellow poet Al Rempel assisted me with the organizing of this event and also joined me in the reading. Thank you, Al. Books & Company was an excellent venue. And a big thank you to Andrea and Ken who put me up for the night, for those conversations that go late into the small hours.

On the 26th I headed to the Rural Writers’ Retreat, where I was the poet-in-residence for the next four days. The event took place at Banner Mountain Lodge, (about 15 minutes outside of Smithers, BC). Much gratitude goes to the people who organized the retreat and especially Sheila Peters who invited me. You can also find Sheila at Creekstone Press.

There was an amazing picture window in the main gathering space at the lodge. I took photos of the mountain view from the window, but they ended up darker on my iphone than they were. So you will just have to imagine it: the mountain, how it changed from day to day. Over the course of the four days you could see the snow cover more and more of the mountain as it crept further down its slopes.

Each workshop host had to do a presentation in the morning for the whole group and work with their genre specific groups in the afternoon. I enjoyed meeting the other two writers in residence: Laura Robinson (journalism/non-fiction) and Eden Robinson (fiction). (I wanted my last name to be Robinson too for the duration.)

I loved my group: their good focus, their enthusiasm, their willingness to follow and trust the activities I offered. I was really impressed with what was coming out in the writing.

The food was wonderful, the atmosphere buzzing with excitement. The kitchen/common space always had interesting conversations going on. And of course it was hard for me to stay away. Something happens when people come together for a few days to share the same spaces, and I mean something beautiful. At least here that is what happened. There was lots of laughter too, especially the echo of Eden Robinson’s laugh which seem to permeate everything.

On leaving the retreat I had that sinking feeling one gets when you know it might be a while before you see each other again.

On the way to Terrace I took the wrong turn, a turn too soon, and when I hit the dirt road I was thinking: Oh, my, what have they done to the highway to Terrace. Thankfully, I turned back after a while and retraced my steps to the actual highway.
The Terrace event was a very pleasant surprise. It took place in the Green Blossom Studio of Joan Conway. Joan is a most gracious host. Here she is introducing me.


Here is the studio before you come in.

green blossom studio

Here is the studio without people in it.
inside studio

And here it is with some of the people who were there, all 17 or so of them. They came out on a drizzly Sunday night to listen to poetry.

And of course here is me reading.
[all the photos above are courtesy of Eberle Balfour]

There was so much warmth and love and support in that room. I loved how responsive the audience was. The energy they gave back to replace the energy I tend to put out. It was one of those readings which will remain in my memory for a while. Also I sold the first CDs ever at this reading. For those of you who do not know yet, we have burned the first 30 min of the crow morphologies CD that Soressa Gardner and I are working on. [disclaimer: no food was burned during the burning of this CD] If you want a copy contact me or watch out for the news when we have it up on the web somewhere for purchase. Right now you can get them for $10. We are working on a sexier cover. Track three of the CD also got lucky and got turned into a video poem that will be screened at The Visible Verse Festival in Vancouver on October 12th. (Click on the link for more info and details).

One of the people attending that night, Harold Feddersen, shared a poem with me and a piece of art he designed with a crow in it, which I loved. Here it is, read about what inspired it.

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 3.57.17 PM
[art by Harold Feddersen]

Here are Joan Conway’s thoughts of the night. If you are a writer and find yourself in Terrace for a reading contact Joan. Maybe you will be lucky to have Joan host you.

Much gratitude also goes to Norma and Solveig for putting me up for the night. The stories around the table, the story behind the ingredients and where the food comes from, I loved it all.

The last reading was in Smithers Public Library at noon on the last day of September. I drove from Terrace that morning through the hills drenched in mist, fleeting and impermanent. For hours sipping on the view as if it were a delicious cup of tea. For hours thinking of the highway of tears. How 2 out of the 8 posters at a gas station billboard were asking for leads to a murdered woman, and a missing woman. How there were billboards along the way not of products or hotels, but asking women not to hitchhike. How… How… the story is endless…how people you talk to knew someone who has disappeared or has been through a residential school…and how these people were all so dear…how words fail us… how the system fails us…how this all boggles the mind…and how I wanted to light a candle on every mile.

Thank you to the library for the hospitality. Here I am with a favorite children’s book as part of their check it out campaign. Guess which book came to mind first?

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 4.00.21 PM
[photo courtesy of The Smithers Public Library]

If you are a writer going through Smithers stop by the public library and have your photo taken with your favourite children’s book.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank each and everyone of you, the audience, who came out to the various readings and lent your ear, asked questions, and gave me feedback and shared your stories. What would I do without you!

Then the long drive home. With thoughts that went back and forward and sideways while focusing to pass the slow trucks when the passing lanes came along. Some cars go a long way with you and almost feels like you begin to know them. Then in the last two hours of the trip I ran into the blinding rain that took me all the way into Vancouver. Sheer focus among sheer exhaustion and the lines were not even painted in the long strips of construction on the highway. Thank goodness for those cats eyes and for those who watch over us.

4 Responses to “what remains”

  1. Marilyn Belak Says:

    Glad you are home safe. You are a bright light and warm glow in our hearts up north and a brave and hardy woman having put on all those miles.
    Grt. Bolg too!

  2. Sheila Peters Says:

    I’m glad you’re home safe, too, Marilyn. Daniela, your presence at the Rural Writers in Residence was a great boon – to see connections being made is a perfect illustration of why we do this. And your readings were wonderful. Bravo!

  3. Joan Conway Says:

    As I said, meeting you and hearing you read softened the fact that I couldn’t make it to the retreat. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to learn from you again.

  4. Daniela Elza Says:

    thank you, beautiful women.