Arthur’s Mother is turning eighty, yet seems much younger and full of smiles and boundless energy. He told us she had worn one treadmill right out! That she would still get up a ladder to tend to her flower planted baskets and would even get up there to paint the sills if she had a mind. We had bought NZ wine for Arthur but he tells us he drinks no alcohol now but he doesn’t mind if we want to drink, as he goes to wash his hands. His Mum comes out of the kitchen and quietly says with a giggle behind her hand “I drink wine!” “Then it will be yours”, we tell her.
When I came down for breakfast next morning she was up making us salmon sandwiches on whole grain bread for the day. Salmon they had caught and smoked and bottled under pressure. She greeted me with a lovely smile and told me my hair was beautiful. “Is it natural?, she enquired, the colour and curl are so lovely, or do you go to the hairdressers for that?” “It’s natural, I laughed, like yours”, pointing to her grey curly hair. “Oh mines not natural, she said. I go to the hairdressers for this, for sure”.
I asked when Arthur’s Father had died, as I knew Arthur was young from the stories. Just forty-eight she replied. It was a heart attack. Just gone. Arthur was their ninth child and was just nine when it happened but they had a tenth child too. A niece they had adopted who was six at the time, and the eldest child was about eighteen. It was tough times. I tell her my Dad died in a car accident at forty-nine. We have a bond now but I know this would have been very hard for her. Much harder than I can ever know.
We finished packing the sandwiches together and as there was quite a bit left over, we had it on bagels for breakfast and OMG it was just amazing. Now I was excited about lunch!
“First I want to take you to a place that’s special to me”, Arthur said as we jumped into his truck. Not far away, it is a reserve area called Dianna’s lake. A serene bush, not unlike back home, we made our way to a place he visits regularly. He pointed out the Spruce that is used for weaving, the Alder tree they use for smoking, and the Red and Yellow cedars which grew tall and straight. He showed us the Hemlock that is worth nothing and told us he had to know his trees when logging. “If you hitched up a Hemlock to a helicopter that costs a fortune for every second it’s in the air, you’re gunna get it, right” he said laughing.
He showed us the place he and his brother went to where they burnt an offering of food before saying some prayers and then dunked themselves in the water. He said coming out he felt so much lighter and his brother pointing up, told him to look over there, and he said the trees had a glow of energy around them which was amazing.
We asked about the Bears and wolves we had heard of and he said they are there, but you don’t usually see them if we are like we were then, chatting and walking through, making noise. It’s when you’re mushroom picking quietly by yourself and you give them a fright that’s the problem. He told us there was this one time when they were fishing at a stream and a bear cub appeared and he said to the bear quietly “‘go over there and hunt and the bear lifted its head and trotted away to where he pointed. He was amazed and everyone laughed, but a few minutes later they heard some rustling and then looking around noticed the salmon berry bushes rustling and moving. Suddenly a grizzly bear appears and looks at them. Earlier he had pushed a stick through the fish he had caught and left them up on the bank. He turned and looked at the big bear and said, ‘take the Kaho and leave the rest alone’. The bear surveyed the fish there and picked up the Kaho and lumbered off. They have lived beside wild animals for centuries and Arthur has a presence that you can see this will be exactly what happened. I love these stories.
“What other animals are there?” We clamour like children for more stories and Arthur has them aplenty. Wolves, Bears, Coyotes, Foxes, Eagles and Owls. So many predators. He wants to know what we have at home. Ummmm, rabbits and pukekos are really annoying…
We head back home stopping at a place along the Skeena River where lots are fishing, to sit and eat our delicious sandwiches. There’s just a gentle breeze as we head back to get the boat. Arthur has lines to check and as we make our way he points out where Tsimshian villages are or used to be. First Nations people many years ago would have had a summer place to fish, store and prepare for winter, and a winter house inland for some protection from the elements. He tells us some have been clever with their funds and resources, and some have sold out. The mightily dollar wooing them with shirt term views. I’m amazed as we motor around the islands and seeing the many that are there. Arthur knows almost exactly where his crab pots and lines are. We pull up some beautiful big crabs, and at the next one there’s nothing, but Arthur sets up lines for us to fish. This has been such a cool day. With salt on my lips I’m looking forward to fishing. A new experience for me.
“Let’s catch some halibut, he laughs. I want your line to bend right over and boy you’ll scream,” he adds laughing to himself. He’s deep in another story when I tell him quietly somethings biting my line. I’m not sure what that would actually feel like, but he continues his story. We are all laughing as I wait for my line to bend right over so I can scream, but actually I’m starting to feel a little queasy. We have another salmon sandwich but I’m feeling worse and am glad when he suggests we call it a day as it takes an hour to get in. He tidies the boat and ropes before reeling in our lines and as mine is lifted up he exclaims “oh, you did get something!” On the end of my line is a pretty ugly ‘bull head’. He’s been trying to eat my bait which he’s had trouble swallowing. “Hey, that would’ve been cool, Arthur exclaims. We would’ve just left him on there and he’s live bait for the halibut who would just swallow him whole. Now that would have been impressive”. I laugh as he peels the ugly bull head off and let’s him go free.
Back home, I jump into bed and nap, hoping that will take away the rolling in my stomach, and do feel better later. By seven we are seated at the restaurant Arthur tells us is the best around. It’s called ‘The Crest’ and sits high overlooking the water. He tells us the steak is superb and recommends the Fishermans Spaghetti that is heavily laced with all kinds of fish. We also order cheeses and salmon tataki for starters.
Arthur orders coke while we peruse the alcohol list and he tells us how one day he just decided alcohol wasn’t doing him any favours and he would give it up. He told how he had read somewhere that you can make something be big or small and he realised he had made alcohol this BIG thing as he spread his arms wide and high. It was a massive beast looming over him all the time, so in his mind he made it shrink. It got smaller and smaller and smaller, until it was just this little tiny thing in the corner, and once it was tiny, it was easy to overpower. I loved the imagery and how he used his whole body demonstrating his taming of the beast.
Then Ren and I order Margaritas, ahem, and I’m still kind’ve fine, but the minute the first bite of entré hits my stomach, I feel like I might heave. I quickly head to the washroom, as they call them here, and ponder whether to just put my finger down my throat and get it over with, but it’s a flash restaurant and ladies are coming and going. That would be a bit gross. I head back to the table and sit, but just seeing them eating, I all but vomit. I’m not going to be able to do this I realise….
Now those of you that know me will be flabbergasted. I don’t get sick often, but I also don’t turn down food and while I can hardly believe it myself, I tell Arthur I will need to call a taxi as I don’t feel well. He immediately jumps up and in a flash I’m on my way back home. “I’m sorry to have spoiled your meal, I tell him trying to keep as still as I can as my head swims. Please don’t hurry back. I just need to lie down.” “Don’t worry Arthur tells me. I’m sorry you won’t be sharing this meal with us, but Ren will eat yours OK….and he’s thinking and adds, or she’ll give it a good go anyway.” I have to smile to myself at this. “You guys have inspired me, he says as we round the corner. I have loved having you here. I am going to plan some trips to the places I want to go.”
Good for you Arthur. You have lived more than the average life already and I’m sure you will not only pack great things in whatever you go on to do, but you will give so much to those around you as you do it. We look forward to hosting you in NZ.
I head straight to our room to lie down and throw up into the rubbish bin the minute I step into the room. I lie back on the bed and am actually feeling good now. I contemplate calling a taxi back to the restaurant. Mains will just about be served now. Just kidding, but I did wonder if it wasn’t too flash a place to give a Doggy bag and hope Ren thinks to ask….