A week in Waglisla

Published in the Island Tides - July 14th edition.

My family was privileged to spend our holidays in Waglisla (Bella Bella) on the awesome central coast of British Columbia. We had 10 days away from the urban bustle, concrete and glass and were surrounded by huckleberries, salmon berries, ocean, mountains and trees—utterly otherworldly.

My lungs jumped for joy in the clean misty fresh salt air. Powerful eagles dominate the treetops along the shoreline. Ravens seemingly orchestrate a bird symphony with their throaty calls, while curious, cunning crows draw close.

Food must never be left unattended for long. In a tireless game of “you snooze you lose” the ravens do anything necessary, they twist tops, unzip zippers and pop buttons to get at their prize.

Boats come and go from the docks with fish, sightseers, and paddlers. Locals harvest dinner daily from the neighbouring beaches, bays and inlets. Visitors harvest inspiration from the rugged central coast of British Columbia.

Everything about the place is magical. When the clouds clear the night sky dances with milky white light while the songs of the howling wolves echo across the valleys.

Indigenous people are not a minority there they are Waglisla. The Heiltsuk know the stories their ancestors told them about creation. But they don’t only listen to the stories they are the stories like the salmon, whales and the never-ending forests.

The coast is a quiet contrast to the congested roadways that choke our communities. It is an unhurried comparison to the honking frustration of the endless commutes that bookend a day in the city.

Emily and I were thrilled to see the joy on the faces of Ella and Silas with each jettisoned feather they found. We have a new understanding of the eagle feather’s power to brush stress away. We all felt whole out there.

The people in Waglisla welcome newcomers with a friendly wave. They are willing to share the rich experiences of their coast—whether it is landing a massive spring salmon or sitting and quietly watching the eagles tear apart the entrails at dusk.

We took day trips deep into the quiet inlets, combed lonely beaches for treasures, kept our eyes out for a glimpse of a grizzly or a wolf pack on the rocks all the while feeding the fire in our soul. The place is truly supernatural.

It is our human duty to honour the ancient cultures, and conserve the irreplaceable ecosystems. Perhaps the frenzied rush for industrialization that is ravenously consuming our province... perhaps the insatiable corporate appetite that decapitates mountains and creates massive toxic lakes, that scalps valleys leaving them as scrag and that pollutes waterways... perhaps they are the result of the madness of busy urban minds. Perhaps we are missing the light heart, the clear mind and the replenished spirit that comes from the inlets and fjords on the coast.

While we celebrated Canada’s 149th birthday I thought about how the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the Harper government’s approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The ruling said the “brief, hurried and inadequate” consultation with First Nations was just not good enough! 

It took me 10 days of outdoor immersion to reconnect with what we have at home. The same quiet coastal places are minutes away on the Gulf Islands. But even an hour or a day on the beaches and mountains on the Saanich Peninsula is long enough to connect with the natural environment and calm our minds and energize our souls.

It is time to stop the hustle long enough to feel the rhythm of the slow coast. It is time to mute the noise long enough to hear the quiet places. It is time to stop arguing with First Nations long enough to learn something from their world- view—there is so much we need to know.

Adam Olsen

Stellys Cross Road, Brentwood Bay, BC, V8M 1J7