Photo: Prairie dog goes coastal

(Credit: Bruno Bolzano via Flickr)

I have many stories to tell about the West Coast. It started when I was a little girl. I used to dream about swimming with whales in the ocean, which would be strange, you see, because I was born a prairie farm girl in central Alberta. Whales are not found here. My Dad would take us every year on a trip to BC to visit friends.

One year, when I was nine, we actually got to go to Vancouver, where I got to see the ocean for the very first time. It was an exciting, though brief visit, and I wished for many years to return. Then in 2006, through a chance friendship, I was able to return to a more remote area of the West Coast—a little fishing village called Bella Bella (or Waglisla, as its Heiltsuk people prefer it to be called). Bella Bella means Beautiful Beautiful, and it sure is!

After driving from central Alberta in one day, and through B.C. the next, across to Williams Lake and down the steepest hill I've ever driven down in my GMC Jimmy, I arrived at Bella Coola, on the mainland, ready to go by ferry boat to Bella Bella.

I was accompanied by my friend Eleanor, who is from Bella Bella. Since the ferry we were to be on sank due to running aground a few days before we arrived, we had no way to get to Bella Bella, except by air. Thankfully, Eleanor's family, Lee and Lonnie Wells, came to pick us up on their boat.

I will never forget that 4 hour trip from Bella Coola to Bella Bella. It was as if I had stepped into a magical world of beauty. The waters were so calm, so magnificent. Forests and mountains that I had only heard about, right before my eyes. I was on the West Coast! My dreams had come true, and my every breath of the fresh ocean air was exhilarating beyond belief. I could not believe how wonderful and free it made me feel. It was like I had found the paradise I had been searching for my whole life.

But that was only the beginning. If I thought the earth, sea and sky were beautiful, I would find out that the people who live there really are the beautiful ones. The knowledge and love that they have for their ocean homeland is like none other. These people welcomed me there and were proud to show me what it means to live on the West Coast. Showing me how to fish salmon, trap crab and prawns, in a natural way.

I felt so privileged to have been able to have had them share it with me. For this I will be eternally grateful. Experiences such as having a huge pod of orcas following our boat for a whole day, and getting to look a huge old bull whale up close in the eye from the dock was so unreal.

He was like looking at my grandfather in the eyes; he had wrinkles with a loving caring look for me. It was a very moving and spiritual moment for me. This is only one example that makes me feel extremely protective of this very fragile, beautiful place in our country, on our planet.

As if this was not enough, I also happened to be able to meet the great Dr. David Suzuki in that little village of Bella Bella. He and I were attending the same wedding, and while in the community church, I noticed a man at the back of the church with his camera and thought to myself "wow, that guy looks like David Suzuki!" Then, I was informed that yes, it actually was, and I was able to meet David following the ceremony and tell him of my great admiration for his love of our planet and of his show the Nature of Things, that I used to watch as that nine year old girl with my Dad on CBC.

Thank you David, for your intelligence, wisdom, and persistence in getting Canadians and the world to see what effect humans are having on this planet earth, and that our oceans and shorelines need great protection, more than what our governments are committed to doing. And so, just because I come from the prairies, it doesn't mean I can't go coastal and love the ocean. If you've never been there, I highly recommend it.

Message to Canadians: We are nothing without mother earth. We must respect our mother, for without her, we would have neither birth, nor life.

By Julie Stang

Red Deer, AB

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1 Comment

Oct 18, 2012
2:29 PM

my family lives in Bella Bella…

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