Friends

“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” Epictetus (Greek Philosopher)

During our trip to the Yukon this summer, we spent three nights in the tiny town of Haines Junction, at the edge of the Kluane National Park. After getting settled, we ventured to the Village Bakery and Deli. The local band, made up of the former owner of the bakery and his friends, played old time Maritime classics. Some 25 people were gathered outside on the deck.

The evening was fall-crisp and sunshine bright even though it was around nine at night. Trees swayed in the breeze. In the audience, young and old tapped their toes and sang along. Toddlers danced unfettered forgetting themselves to the music.

As I stood listening, I felt teary-eyed with nostalgia for community and friendship.These people, this situation made me think about the first writers festival I organized several years ago. It was a small gathering then, some twenty people in my living room, a potluck dinner, and a discussion about writing with our guest author Andreas Schroeder whom I cajoled to come to Whistler with a promise of a place to stay. The fact that he had an opportunity to ride his motorcycle here on a gorgeous summer weekend was perhaps the draw. But never mind.

Most of the participants were locals with the exception of two people, one from the Fraser valley and one from Vancouver. They saw one of our handmade posters. Both stayed with us. The house was full. This made me feel good. I’ve always had aspirations to run a Bed and Breakfast or a hostel or some type of gathering place. Never mind that I don’t cook. I’m good at chatting and visiting and hanging out. And more importantly, I like it.

That night in August at the first writers festival, the discussion went on into the night. I knew that we’d started something special in 2002, but had no idea what it would become.

If you’ve read some of my blogs in the past you probably know this about me: I start things heart first. My brain eventually follows. By that time, it’s too late to be frightened or think of consequences.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love what the-little-festival-that-could has grown into: a multi-venue, multi-artist, multiday day event that in 2013 attracted 1300 participants and over 30 guest authors. I miss having people stay with us. I miss the kibitzing. Growth means more moving parts, more juggling, less time for socializing.

But I realise that the festival had to get bigger if it was going to continue. And it will keep growing and changing and adapting and blossoming. After so many years of effort, this is what I want for my baby.

It would be nice if this transformation came without the additional work and complications, but the festival is a pre-teen now. Complications are part of the package.

And friendships are part of the deal too.

I came to Whistler not knowing a soul except the ski-bum I married. I started a group for writers where they could safely discuss and develop their work. When I suggested organizing a festival where we might take workshops right here in our own community, the group came along for the ride. And they’ve stayed beside me ever since, never afraid of my crazy ideas.

As I write this I realize the nostalgia I felt in Hanes Junction was not for the old days of the festival-that-could. I simply missed my Whistler friends. They have made me better for knowing them. Together we have given our community a cultural experience that is unique and wonderful. Isn’t this what friendship is about?

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