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December Buzz – The Great Northwest: part 1

I sent Isabel off to Toronto with her dad, and I hopped an airplane, and then another, and then another, and finally found myself in the great white north. My first trip to Whitehorse and my first tour with songwriters Kim Barlow (Whitehorse) and Raghu Lokanathan (Valemount, B.C.)
It was one in the morning when I arrived, exhausted and excited to be here. Having never been to the territories before, I had imagined so many things it would be. On some accounts I was right – it is cold here, there is snow on the ground, and the people are wonderful. There are also many things I didn’t imagine. For starters, I didn’t think Whitehorse would be so big, 22,000 people or so, with a somewhat trendy downtown and all the things you would find in a southern town like big box stores and Tim Horton’s. As I sit here writing today, though, with the snow falling outside the window and a fire roaring inside the cabin, I am thinking of the wonders of our great land. The mountains, the sky, the northern lights, the extremes in weather, the toughness and generosity of people who live in such extremes. There is wilderness just out the back door of Kim’s cabin, where we are taking up residency for a few days. Ravens, magpies and dogs play around the compost pile and only a five minute walk from here you can hike to a high ridge that borders the Yukon River.
We went skating yesterday on a lake in hopes of getting there while you could still see the fish and muskrats darting about beneath the crystal clear ice. The sound of us skating on this big lake was like that of a giant drum, and that was the only sound, apart from our laughter. This, I thought, is very Canadian.
The first few days here in Kim’s cabin we spent learning and rehearsing 24 of each other’s songs, getting ready for our first show. I don’t think I have ever worked so hard for a show, and never before have I stretched so much as a musician, learning both Kim and Raghu’s quirky and beautiful songs on the bass and singing harmonies. It has felt a little like cramming for an exam, writing notes, going over things again and again. Finally, last night at our first show, it seemed all of our hard work was paying off. We played a vulnerable and sweet show to a sold out house and a very receptive audience.
One interesting task that Kim gave us was for each of us to create a short instrumental song to play in our shows. It is so interesting what we all came up with, from soft and sweet to rowdy to strangely beautiful. I had never created a piece specifically for a show before, and I felt a bit insecure with my little one-minute ditty without words, but I gave into the challenge of it and it wasn’t really so hard. I’m learning that I love challenges. I used to shy away from them, but it really is fun to just be brave and face them head on.
Tomorrow we will be flying south to Vancouver and then making our way around the interior of B.C. and then finally to Calgary and Edmonton. There is so much of this country to see, and although I’ve played in the West a number of times now, most of these shows will be in small towns I have never been too. Smithers, Prince George, Valemount, Williams Lake… I’m so lucky to be able to drift through these places, drive around the mountains, walk on a Vancouver beach, and then find myself back home in PEI in time for our own winter to start.
With that thought, it is time to throw another frozen log onto the fire.

(Originally published in the December edition of PEI’s entertainment monthly, The Buzz.)