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Sunday, 6 September 2015

My Canada, My Nature

I have just spent my past 3 weeks in one of the most beautiful and fascinating regions in Canada - West Kootenay.
West Kootenay is the salmon coloured region
West Kootenay is just west of the Rockies and itself is blessed with mountains and forests. The mountains wrap around two slender lakes, Arrow and Kootenay Lakes, which form part of the great Columbia River watershed which empties into the Pacific Ocean at Portland, Oregon.

People travel here for hotsprings, hiking and mountain biking. But while the landscapes are inspiring, it's the good-natured people that tap into your spirit, unlocking an awesome energy within and consciousness of 'now' that can't be shaken.
Going for my morning bath in Slocan Lake

The cultural phenomenon in the Kootenays is not just a result of the deep connection with the wilderness, it is also a historical phenomenon. The Vietnam War led to American pacifists dodging war conscription by escaping across the border, flocking towards this region. The war dodgers have played a large part in the transformation of the culture to one centred around nature and free spirit.

3 weeks ago, I arrived in Winlaw, for a music festival called The Field Gathering, held at White Crow Farm. I only stayed for 1 day but took in a unique scene which I can only describe as alternative and hippie (though I try to avoid using this word as much as possible).
What a magic school bus! Inside are beds, kitchen and Wifi
Dance floor warning sign
I witnessed bohemian fashion at its finest, ripped tops and onesies, dreads and tattoos, camper vans, a dreamcatcher tent, a school bus converted to a home, tree-hugger bumper stickers and psychedelic art. I ate organic food and did kundalini yoga. I listened to a fun folk band wearing clowny outfits and danced to electronic on a dance floor of straw and wood chips.

The next day I mosied over to Spiral Farm, only 10 minutes from the festival, to begin my 2-week permaculture course. I set up my tent under a grove of hazelnut trees, my home for the next 2 weeks, sleeping to the chorus of squirrels, dogs and wolves, and admiring the stars on cloudless nights.
Spiral Farm garden and learning room/outdoor kitchen amidst a mountain backdrop
Fellow permaculture student Marie-Eve admiring the butterfly and the echinaceas
During the day, I shared the learning room, which doubled as an outdoor kitchen, with 10 other keen students and our zany but wise permaculture guru. We learned from 9 to 5, cramming our brains full of permaculture, going for nature walks and getting our hands dirty. We delved into topics such as organic gardening, forests, animals and natural building. We freely harvested food on his farm, ranging from kale and tomatoes to lavender and mint for teas, and plums and blueberries for fruit. After class, we took dips in the nearby Slocan River, and had some fun nights listening to local bands.
Taking, yes, my bath, in the Slocan River
The smoke swept in from nearby forest fires, a reality in the dry summers of British Columbia. The sky was blotted by a lingering haze during the last week of the course, and the days were cold and grey. But it only slightly affected everyone's enthusiasm.

After the course, I spent time in Nelson, the largest and most eccentric town in the region, at around 10,000 people. Nelson is the convergence of artists, yogis and transients, looking for an alternative way of living.

It is a classic postcard city with a beautiful beach. Its streets are crammed with new age shops, organic eats, and are host to several markets and festivals on a weekly basis. It's not a great place to "make a living" but, still, a lot of people get stuck here for its unique culture and adventure at their doorstep.
Nelson, British Columbia
Chuckleberry, the farm Nicolas was doing his farmstay
Finally, I met up again with Nicolas, someone whom I felt destined to meet again since our original meeting 3 years ago in Budapest. He is on a truly inspiring journey, which can be followed at Teacher on the Road. I prefer his blogs to mine ;) (sadly, I seem to have lost the pictures of us!)

My internal compass is now guiding my being to the west coast, another fabled part of Canada full of youth and energy.

I'm still making it all up as I go along but, after 8 months overseas, I feel content and comfortable being in Canada at this moment in time.

Full photo album on Flick: