I’ve lived in Campbell River on and off for about 20 years.
It was mostly “off” for the first half-dozen or so, but I’ve now been here permanently for the last six – give or take.
During those last six, I’ve worked for this news organization, and every year there are a few “annual” events we cover, pretty much without fail, including Salmonfest, Canada Day, the Shoreline Arts carving competition and the Discovery Passage Passage.
That last one is what I’ll be discussing in this edition of Mike’s Musings, as I recently sat down with Geoff Goodship, who started the event 14 years ago. It was the first time, somehow, that I’d actually spoken with the man, and it was a special meeting, indeed.
“The first time we did it, it was just me and my son,” he remembers fondly. “We just got to wondering if we could, you know? I mean, people have been paddling back and forth for thousands of years, but could we? So we gave it a shot, and when we got about a third of the way over, he looked over at me and said, ‘let’s go for it.’”
They unceremoniously continued the trip. They made it across and then they came back.
There was nothing more to it than that.
The next summer, however, he had somewhere around 50 people join him, and they were welcomed at the other side, in Quathiaski Cove, by members of the We Wai Kai First Nation, who invited them to join them down at Cape Mudge to be properly welcomed to the Island.
Each year since, those who join the paddle now aim for Cape Mudge instead of Q-cove and are met by their neighbours across the passage. A ceremonial paddle is passed from one group to the other celebrating this friendship.
One year the paddle is delivered to Quadra by the people coming from Campbell River, and the next year it’s given back to them for the return trip.
Initially, “the paddle” was just a piece of wood. It was about six feet long, two inches thick and eight inches wide. Over the years, however, as it has been passed back and forth, it has taken shape – from a board into a paddle – and gone on to become a collaborative piece of art shared between the two communities.
Each time the paddle is passed, an artist is selected to add something to the piece, whether it’s been part of the shaping of the paddle, carving something into it or painting something onto it.
And this year, I’ve been asked to be the Campbell River artist who will add to the paddle before passing it back to the people of Quadra Island.
While it would be a lie to say I’m not honoured to have been asked to contribute to the paddle, it would be equally dishonest to say I’m not super nervous.
Usually I make art for myself, my family and friends.
Sure, sometimes I take commissions, but on those occasions it’s a consultation between myself and the client about what they want and how we can make it happen. And if the final piece – whether it’s a painting or a piece of woodwork – isn’t to their liking, I can just try again.
But for this one, there’s no do-overs.
And the “consultation” has been, essentially, “leave some room for the next few artists.”
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll work past my apprehension and figure out something to add that will do the paddle justice, imbue it with a bit of my style while reflecting and honouring the meaning behind it.
It’s good to do things that are outside your comfort zone. That’s how we grow.
And maybe it’s best that we do it when it’s important.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stare at a paddle for a while.