I’ve recently returned from a solo road trip that took me North. Just before Williams Lake, I drove into the heart of a province-wide pall of wildfire smoke. This is the height of wildfire season, and my home village of Fraser Lake was under an evacuation alert. I shall share the story here in brief, for it is worth telling.
My niece, a devout Christian, came to know and love a Muslim soldier in Afghanistan, who worked as an interpreter for the US military. It was harrowing, for he was frequently under fire. Once, the line went dead during their call and she spent days in terror for his life. Meanwhile, some of her friends, family and church community questioned her judgment, if not her sanity. Jennel didn’t care.
For seven years, she and Mahdi learned to love each other ever more deeply through this terribly long distance, meeting only once in India. They knew what they knew. When the US pulled out of Afghanistan, abandoning their Afghani support in the process, my niece was not about to let them get away with it! Jennel pulled strings, spent hours every day on the phone, exhorting action from people at higher and higher levels of the US military. It took a year, maybe two. She never let up for a second.
In the end, through intense bulldog persistence, my niece persuaded the Americans to go back and pull her beloved and many others, including hundreds of Afghani women, safely out and away from the Taliban.
Mahdi now lives with his new wife on the shore of Fraser Lake. The reception included Afghani expatriates, military personnel from South Carolina and Virginia (friends, admirers and supporters of Mahdi) as well as the local church community and Jennel’s family and friends. To see the way these staunch Northern rednecks (a label they use with pride) opened their arms and hearts to this amazing man, despite religious and cultural differences, was astonishing and heartwarming. Tales told at the mic brought floods of tears for both speakers and hearers.
As if divinely choreographed, the skies opened up just as the reception was beginning. The rains poured down for two days and washed the smoke right out of the sky. Yes, the dance space was drenched, but everyone rejoiced–rain in July, quenching fires, quelling smoke, glorious! Then the sunset came through, deep red, reflecting on the lake, so beautiful it hurt your heart.
It was pure, inspiring: a modern-day fairy tale. Their story would make a great movie, blending genres, romance, suspense and action-adventure.
I asked Mahdi how he liked it up North, thinking, oh the snow, the mosquitoes, it must be hard. His eyes shone enthusiastically. He declared, “I love it! It’s God’s country. And they have no idea!” I asked, who are ‘they’? He said, “The people who live here! They don’t know!” It struck me then what a Paradise Northern BC must be, after the life he has led in his poor, besieged and oppressed country, so far away. And it is true, Northerners love to complain. But deep down, we really do know. It is paradise, of a harsher sort than our sweet island. I still love it there. Every time I visit, I wistfully imagine moving back. But then I come home and… well, here I am. Why would I want to live anywhere else? My love for this little island, my adopted home, means it is highly unlikely I will ever return, save for visits.
Driving solo long distance for the first time made me realize, I loved it! I traveled like a turtle, with my home on my back, taking my time, stopping to camp when I felt like it. Exploring the beauty of BC. This province is incredibly beautiful, every inch and centimetre of it. Perhaps I shall do a road trip next summer to play music, once my album is out.
Speaking of music–the Festival is coming! This year I bought a pass. Why not? Every show is going to be amazing and I don’t want to miss a thing. My own turn opening for Alpha Yaya Diallo on August 12 is coming up so quickly–this is real! And I’ve been offered more shows at Lerena Vineyard. I played there a couple of weeks ago, and just loved it. Such a sweet venue, green and lush, and the people, food and wine are great. A couple young women painted me while I played and then gifted me their beautiful artworks at the end. I cried! It was the sweetest, loveliest tip. I’ll be playing there this Thursday at 5:30, and then again for several dates in August: the 1st, the 8th, the 22nd and the 29th. If my friends feel like coming out for any of those, it would mean so much to me!
The island is less crowded this summer, I noticed. When I returned from my trip on Friday afternoon, I showed up just as the ferry was loading, and they beckoned me aboard right away. It was quite surreal. I was expecting several hours’ wait, being a sunny Friday in mid-July. I missed the Hornby ferry by only two cars and was on the next one. Strange! I like it! Despite smaller crowds, business seems to be booming and now, it’s raining. Bless this wet! Happy summer, all. I will see you at the Festival.
That’s what I think. What do you think? email me at firstname.lastname@example.org