A Poet in The Great Bear Rainforest

Canada's Lorna Crozier finds out why black bears turn white

Photo by Ian McAllister Great Bear Rainforest www.pacificwild.org

Editor’s note: This year, Toque & Canoe had the privilege of featuring posts produced in collaboration with conservation photographer Ian McAllister and award-winning Canadian poet Lorna Crozier.

We thought it might be interesting to have these two collaborate. This story – fast on the heels of Lorna’s recent trip to The Great Bear Rainforest (she’d never seen a bear in the wild before!) – is the result.

A word of caution. We do link to a difficult but important First Nations-produced documentary addressing trophy hunting in The Great Bear Rainforest. It’s not easy viewing so out of respect for our readers, we thought we’d give you heads up.

Meanwhile, many, many thanks to ALL of our partners who helped make our latest adventure a reality. Enjoy!

 

Photo by Ian McAllister www.pacificwild.org

Photo by Ian McAllister
www.pacificwild.org

The big grizzly is perched on the other side of the riverbank, so near he can hear the rain on my jacket. He raises his blunt head and courses the air. Stares at me and sniffs.

Above the stench of rotting salmon, my smell has been drawn into a grizzly’s nostrils, through the nasal passages inside his long snout. Part of me now lives inside the mind of an omnivorous animal whose Latin name ends with horribilis.

The bear is here for the salmon, which have returned to the rivers of their birth to spawn and die. We’re here for the bears.

Photographer/filmmaker Ian McAllister has joined my husband Patrick and me on our first morning to help introduce us to his home turf, the Great Bear Rainforest, a tract of land that follows B.C.’s coastline from the tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska Panhandle. He and his wife Karen run a conservation group to protect this astonishing piece of wildness that they’ve known intimately for over 20 years.

The largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, the traditional territory of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, this region is only two short flights from Vancouver. But we are as far from a city, as far from ordinary life, as you can get.

With seven others, we’ve been bounced across the ocean to our riverside destination in an old forestry boat. At home, most of us can’t spare the time to meet a friend for coffee, but here we’ll wait, side by side, motionless and quiet, for several hours in the drenching rain.

Two guides armed only with pepper spray keep watch over us. They assure us they’ve never had to use it. Their confidence and my excitement make me tuck any fears I have away – into a back jeans pocket I can’t reach under my layers of hoodie, vest, jacket and rain gear.

All of us crouch with binoculars and cameras, careful not to sink our knees into dead salmon. Hundreds of them, tossed by bears from the river, are turning into a foul mush. When the grizzly appears again, about 20 feet across from us on the other shore, we know Ian is getting the best pictures. We keep snapping anyway.

Our group is staying at the First Nations-owned-and-operated Spirit Bear Lodge, located on the ocean’s edge in the fishing village of Klemtu.

Through its tall windows, we scan what looks like a National Geographic documentary. Pointing out seals and eagles, we and the other guests, most of them from Europe, crowd around the window like kids around an ice-cream truck.

Maybe if we’re lucky, at dusk, we’ll see one of the wolves unique to the western coast. Along with deer, they catch salmon.

The lodge is modeled on the traditional long house and it’s named after the elusive white bear called the “Spirit Bear.”

Raven, the traditional story goes, made one out of every 10 black bears white to remind us of the ice age. This unique creature is here to make us grateful: the world wasn’t always as green and lush as it is today.

Every morning, rainforest life generously comes to meet us. Five senses aren’t enough to take it all in.

Isn’t this what Canada’s all about? Barely inhabited, out-of-the-way places that remind humans who we were before we became so fearful, so tame? Before we became so destructive as a species?

As twilight falls, we return to the lodge by boat for its scrumptious dinners, the halibut so fresh that the name of the man who hooked it and the date he did are listed on the menu.

Lodge manager Tim McGrady – fierce in his love of this watery ecosystem – greets us at the dock and asks what we’ve seen.

Over the 12-foot-long cedar dinner table, Patrick and I go on and on about a mother and a baby humpback, the mother slapping her tail repeatedly on the taut skin of the ocean. Was it whales who invented drumming?

Five minutes later, we would see two Orcas knife through the water. Then we understood. The humpback was warning her nearby pod and scaring off these skillful hunters who might have targeted her calf.

The next day, I travel up the ocean channel to an old crabapple grove where a spirit bear might appear. Patrick chooses a shorter trip. In my case, the spirit bear lives up to its other name – ghost bear – and stays invisible.

But Patrick sees a grizzly flop on her back to feed her triplets, so close a camera catches a drop of milk on her nipple when one cub tumbles off her belly.

I’m jealous. But an afternoon boat trip on the Pacific makes up for what I missed.

Patrick and I watch two humpbacks blow an elongated oval of bubbles to trap shrimp-like krill. The whales then rise to the surface through the centre of this airy net, their magnificent mouths wide open, catching their meal.

Looking down a whale’s gullet makes me shiver. Boy, how small I am!

On the day a storm blows in and the boats can’t go out, Doug Neasloss, the visionary behind the lodge, invites us into the Big House in Klemtu and tells us the history of his people and the work they’re doing to protect their homeland.

In 2012, they declared their territory off-limits to trophy hunting of bears (even though the B.C. government allows it). Then, with other Coastal First Nations, they made a film about a grizzly skinned and left to rot in a field, head and paws carried out past a sign banning such hunting.

The timing of the film is sadly relevant. Just before its release this past September, The Vancouver Sun published photos of a defenseman with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild – how ironic is that name? – holding the severed head of a grizzly he shot in a rainforest estuary.

The tenderness the Kitasoo/Xai’xais feel for their culture and their home territory is palpable. We hear it in our skippers, who are all from Klemtu, and in Sierra, a Grade 11 student who’s one of the lodge’s guides-in-training.

Every night in bed, she reads one of her people’s stories, and in her dreams, she’s in the story, walking among the humans and the creatures of the forest. The humans and the animals are talking to one another.

Many believe the Spirit Bear has special powers, she tells me.

Having sunk into the moss floors of the forests, having been held in the mind of a grizzly and the eye of a whale, I’m okay, this time, to have missed Raven’s reminder of the ice age.

I’m sure there’s another reason for its creation, a reason that will sink in after I’m back home.

To many who live here, this singular being is an emblem of the sacredness of the rain coast and its vulnerability. They fear potential oil spills in the area.

To them, this nightmare is a real and present danger as various levels of the Canadian government debate the sanctioning of oil tanker traffic through this delicate ecosystem.

They imagine the white bear soaked in oil, rivers and estuaries thick with crude muck, salmon thrashing in its slick, and orcas smeared with bitumen.

I’ve fallen under the spell of this rare sanctuary where salmon are born and die, where wolves have learned to swim and fish, and where mist may turn suddenly into the lumbering body of a mystic bear.

How diminished, how thin-hearted, how lonely we are as a species if there aren’t safe places in the world where the unique, the magnificent, can survive.

 

*Postscript: The day after Patrick and I arrived home, Oliver from Germany, one of our companions who’d stayed an extra day at Spirit Bear Lodge, wrote that he did see a Spirit Bear. It stepped out of the moss-draped trees onto the stones of a river where he was set up with his camera on the other side. How thrilled he was. He’s seen what few people in his country, what few people in Canada or in the world, have ever seen. Check out this link to his images.

*Note to reader: Lorna Crozier’s trip to The Great Bear Rainforest was supported by our partners in tourism. This article was not reviewed or approved before publication.

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  1. Bonita Solomon commented:

    I pray everyday to stay strong and alive so that I may visit you next summer, I am so excited to planning my trip for 2014. The Spirit Bear, the whales, the people and protectors, I yearn to meet you all.

    Reply

  2. Mae Moore commented:

    Lorna, your eloquent description took me right back to a trip to the GBR and Klemtu that I was party to, with Raincoast Conservation Foundation for the project Art For an Oil Free Coast. If people saw with their own eyes, the magnificance of the Great Bear Rainforest and all who inhabit that precious place, there would be no debate about tankers and pipelines.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Mae. So glad you got to go there. I agree with your conclusion and admire your work greatly. Hope you checked out Ian’s site, tagged above.

      All the best,
      Lorna

      Reply

  3. Rachel Rose commented:

    Thank you for this piece, which I’ve shared with friends–it truly is important to celebrate our rain coast, powerful but fragile, and who better to sing its praises than poet Lorna Crozier?

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Thanks for posting this, Rachel. Hope you can make it up there with your family. Hope we can all make sure it will still be there in all its beauty.

      Warmest,
      Lorna

      Reply

  4. Sandra Phinney commented:

    What a delightful, poignant story. There are so many sacred places in the world, places we need to respect and protect. Thanks to the author and photographers for making this story accessible. Pure pleasure.

    Reply

  5. wendy morton commented:

    Lorna Crozier’s song of praise to the Great Bear Rainforest is not only beautiful, but important. She writes, ” How thin hearted, how lonely we are as a species if there weren’t places in the world where the unique, the magnificent can survive..”
    She asks us to open our hearts to what is magnificent.

    Reply

  6. lorna Crozier commented:

    Hi, Sandra. Your comment reminds me of something the environmentalist and poet Wendell Berry said, ‘There are no unsacred places–just sacred and desecrated.” He urged us all to make the latter unthinkable.
    Best,Lorna

    Reply

  7. Annie Deeley commented:

    Lorna, you had me at “he can hear the rain on my jacket.” Thank you for this journey, this search, this mirror of what is best in us.

    Reply

  8. Anne Moon commented:

    Lorna, what a wonderful, magical experience you had. I am green with envy, I have known Ian and Karen for some time (through his mother, Jane,) So I know what wonderful hosts you had.
    And I am awestruck by Oliver’s photos–what a souvenir! Please see that someone sends them to the Prime Minister so he can see what he is risking with his short-sighted policies on pipelines and tankers.

    Reply

  9. Sandra Campbell commented:

    A compelling account of a sacred place which I now long to visit. May the lands and all its inhabitants long be recognized for the magnificent gift that they are and may they be protected forever. Thanks to Lorna Crozier for awakening me to its particular magic.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Sandra. Thanks for turning me on to the Bill Moyer’s interview with Wendell Berry. He gave me so much hope when he said, “Don’t ask if your actions will lead to success. Just do what’s right.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
      Warmest, Lorna

      Reply

  10. Rena Upitis commented:

    Magnificent.

    These words, especially:

    “Isn’t this what Canada’s all about? Barely inhabited, out-of-the-way places that remind humans who we were before we became so fearful, so tame? Before we became so destructive as a species?”

    Thank you, Lorna.

    Reply

  11. Nancy Pagh commented:

    Lorna–not just “small beneath the sky” but small in the rainforest, small on the sea! What a lovey description of an essential and humbling place. Thanks for sending it out into the world. ~Nancy

    Reply

  12. Liz Philips commented:

    A lovely, evocative piece, Ms. Crozier. I always liked the great “bear man” Charlie Russell’s answer to the question, “what should I do if I encounter a bear?”

    His answer? “Genuflect to a wildflower.”

    Reply

  13. Leslie Uyeda commented:

    Thank you, Toque & Canoe, for asking Lorna Crozier to write about her time in the Great Bear Rainforest. Nothing like a great and powerful poet to get to the heart of the matter!

    Reply

  14. Don Enright commented:

    Thank you, Lorna, for this vivid and evocative voyage. A story like this works at two levels; all good nature writing does. First, it drives an overwhelming desire to travel, to stand there and feel the rain and smell the salmon and race over the waves towards the breaching whales… but more importantly, it instils a strong and fierce desire to protect those lands that we know we’ll never see in this lifetime. We’ve seen them through your eyes, felt your passion for the earth and the streams and the bears, and we now stand with you as advocates for this remarkable wilderness. Thank you for that.

    Reply

  15. Andréa Ledding commented:

    As I read about the attempt to stop fracking in New Brunswick, where I was only a few short months ago, I am happy to read this piece and to hear, beneath the articulation of the majestic beauty of our nature, our environment, our wildlife, the defence of why we as people need to protect what we are surrounded by, and keep in mind that we are only one part of this picture: albeit the part that could ruin it all. Thank you Lorna.

    Reply

  16. Mark H commented:

    The Vancouver Sun recently reported that in 2012 non-resident hunters killed 69 grizzlies, while BC residents killed 181 — all “trophy” hunts. How can the consciousness of people be raised to see this as morally wrong?

    I think the work of artists and writers like Lorna Crozier is one way. Wonderful article – thank you Lorna and Toque & Canoe.

    I also applaud the leadership shown by Coastal First Nations on this issue. Too bad the BC government is so far behind, viewing it merely as an issue of whether the hunt is “sustainable” in terms of overall population numbers. Will recently appointed Minister of Environment Mary Polak bring a more enlightened perspective? Why not ask her — [email protected]

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Mark. Thanks so much for giving us the statistics about trophy hunting. How shocking they are. I hope everyone who reads this article is also checking out the link to the Coastal First Nations’ film that is highlighted. It’s called “Bear Witness” and it will break your heart. At the same time it raises your spirit because of what local First Nations are trying to do to stop this shameful practice.
      Let’s all ask Mary Polak what she’s doing about it.

      Reply

  17. Dick Capling commented:

    Hi Lorna
    Thanks for forwarding these words and pictures. It’s no coincidence that it should arrive shortly after the picture of the white moose butchered in Newfoundland, and the blockade against fracking in Moncton. The destruction of our biosphere is nationwide. My wife and I share the bush with bears where we live in the summer, and only two years ago the owner of the bush illegally felled every mature oak in the forest eliminating the entire canopy and all its wildlife. I’m grateful for those who fight for our natural environment. I’m grateful to First Nations who set up the barricades and for those who stand with them. We don’t have to remember how we once were–we have to overcome our destructive natures and become conservationists in a way we have never been.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Thanks so much, Dick, for these strong words! Yes! Hope you checked out one of the links in the piece, Ian and Karen McAllister’s conservation group. They are doing great work and we all can help.
      Warmest wishes, Lorna

      Reply

  18. Liz McNally commented:

    Lorna,

    Thank you for this close up look at one of our great Canadian treasures. Once we have seen and witnessed through your eyes, we can no longer close our own.
    I was forever changed by seeing the film featuring “Cheeky”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDg24d8fF1Q
    A very timely reminder as the TV ads for the Northern Pipeline are released depicting their great “respect” for our forests and oceans …. a series of beauty shots and hype to woo us.
    Thank you as always Lorna, for your careful stewardship of our land, sea, cuture and creatures.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Liz. You first alerted me to this film about Cheeky. Thanks for that. Today on the radio a spokesperson for the federal government suggested that there’s a new calmness around the pipeline issue, that more people are leaning towards supporting it.We have to make sure his words are shown to be as false as they are.

      Reply

  19. Margo Farr commented:

    Lorna,
    Thank you for sharing your meaningful words that take us on your life-changing mind-blowing experience in the Great Bear. Such a jewel that is so threatened. You’ve awakened something that will gain strength and power in the telling and retelling, and in the places it touches in our hearts. What a blessing.

    Reply

  20. arleen pare commented:

    Thanks for this understanding, Lorna. How much you love animals. May all the wild places stay as wild as they are!
    ps – we saw a wolverine while we were hiking at Lake O’Hara – a very rare sighting; they keep a very low profile.

    Reply

  21. Jane Munro commented:

    Lorna,

    Thank you — and Toque and Canoe, and Ian McAllister — for giving us more than five senses worth of the Great Bear Rainforest. Your vivid descriptions and passionate reflections combine with Ian’s amazing photos to carry the experience of being there into our minds and bodies. Like the grizzly smelling you and hearing the rain on your jacket, I’m moved to lift my head and pay attention.

    Way to go!
    Many thanks!!

    Reply

  22. Sandy Shreve commented:

    Lorna, this is a marvellous piece – thanks so much for articulating what must be said, saved. It is timely, too, with the increased interest in the film Blackfish – which will be on tv this Thursday, 6 pm Pacific Time – on CNN, no less! May the gathering interest and concern for the environment continue, grow, and make a difference! May we begin to understand that there are ordinary lives beyond urban borders, and that these are precious and necessary to all of us. – Sandy

    Reply

  23. Donna Miller commented:

    Lorna
    You have such a gift of description–I felt I was right there with you. Thank you for all that you do to enlighten others.

    Reply

  24. Jenny Boychuk commented:

    Thank you for sharing this, Lorna. Always it seems we’re thinking of far away places we’d like to travel to and things we’d like to see–and here you’ve reminded us of what we can find only a few hours away from our homes. You do an excellent job of reminding us that this stunning place should be protected and not taken for granted. Your gorgeous prose and specific description rooted me in a place that is easy to imagine, though not like anything I have so clearly imagined. Your relationship with nature and your compassion for it shines through this article, and this narrative about your experience reads like an exciting, real-life myth I’d like to explore for myself.

    Reply

  25. Budd Hall commented:

    Thanks Lorna and Patrick for sharing your stories in this way. I have just been working with my students in a community based research course on issues about “can we co-create knowledge with the rest of nature…other species, rocks, trees, and more”. Then come your thoughts. I am struck as well that poetry is one of the ways that we have over time been better able to do this kind of co-construction…Wallace Stevens so deliberately so but even poets like Frost…

    So pleased to know of your involvement with this enchanting part of the world.

    Reply

  26. Hilde Weisert commented:

    Lorna and Ian,
    Your words and pictures make what is (geographically) distant immediate, real, and moving. Thank you!
    As it happens, this weekend I was reading Maxine Kumin, including “You Are in Bear Country” (“Advice from a pamphlet published by the Canadian Minister of the Environment”). Oh, Canada…
    Hilde

    Reply

  27. Luba Lyons commented:

    What a beautiful story. I can feel the forest and the damp air. Seeing a bear feed her cubs! I would love to see that. They are such majestic creatures, the bears. And Ian and Karen are amazing people who have been such strong stewards of the land and it’s inhabitants. They have done so much to protect that beautiful space. Thanks for bring it to my consciousness on this grey October day.

    Reply

  28. Jane Johnston commented:

    Lorna,
    Your scent in the nose of a grizzly, your face in the eye a whale,
    your words alive in our hearts — a blessing! Thank you for your part in protecting
    the sacred Great Bear with your gift of seeing.

    Reply

  29. Trevor Goward commented:

    Hi Lorna
    I must tell you how much I enjoyed reading your piece on the Great Bear Rainforest. Your poet’s voice comes through wonderfully and somehow manages, in my reading, to bring to light the monstrous greed that lurks behind the nightmare you so movingly describe. Your final sentence about thin-heartedness and loneliness strikes me as particularly apt.
    Thanks so much for doing this. The world is a richer place for your voice.

    Reply

  30. Ingmar Lee commented:

    Dear Lorna, may I have your permission to forward this to Jeffrey St. Clair for posting on his busy website, Counterpunch.org where so many people will read it? Three Cheers! Ingmar

    Reply

  31. Laura Apol commented:

    Lorna,

    Your words and Ian’s photos provide eloquent transport to a place that speaks to “who we were before we became so fearful, so tame…so destructive as a species.” We are, indeed, diminished and thin-hearted when we do not treat as sacred such fearsome and inspiring beauty. Thank you for bringing it to heart and mind–

    Laura

    Reply

  32. Michael V. Smith commented:

    So moving. I loved this story, especially the notion that these landscapes are necessary to remind us what a human was, and can be.

    Also: Just how small is the body of a poet compared to the mouth of a humpback? How many poets can fit inside?

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Michael. I don’t know how many poets can fit inside a humpback but I know 10 poets my weight can fit into a mature male grizzly and there’d still be room left over for a small dog!

      Reply

  33. Ursula Vaira commented:

    Oh Lorna. Wonderful. Thank you. And thank you Toque and Canoe. I’ve paddled that area in toque and canoe and kayak too … I’m frightened at what will become of it all in the future that is planned for us from afar. Does anyone know how to do crowd sourcing? Perhaps to raise money to buy Christie Clark and Stephen Harper and their families a week at the lodge away from their advisors?

    Reply

  34. Renee Woodsend commented:

    Many thanks for this sense saturated piece Lorna. As we are stuck in traffic, treading pavement and trying to hear ourselves think, it’s heartening to know, and to see through your eyes, the magnificence of the untouched, the wild and the natural.

    Reply

  35. Susan Alexander commented:

    Lorna,

    Thank you for writing so intimately and beautifully about your encounter with the wild. It is so hard to capture in words the transformation in our souls that happens when we meet other creatures in a landscape that belongs to them – when we are only tolerated visitors there on sufferance – and you do it so well. I am moved to reopen an abandoned plan to head north and also to renewed political effort – press our governments to protect and expand the untamed places in our province from encroachment by industry.

    Susan

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Susan. I love your phrase about the meeting of other creatures “in a landscape that belongs to them.” How to keep it so.
      L.

      Reply

  36. Rhonda Ganz commented:

    For me, getting to Canada’s remote places is always going to be a vicarious experience; I know I’ll likely never get to them in person. There is no one’s eyes and emotions I would rather journey to the Great Bear Rainforest through than those of Lorna Crozier. Her descriptions, not only of physical space but of the wild animals who live there and the people who have made the commitment to protect the area and educate visitors, give me the facts through the lens of a poet’s sensibilities. I knew very little about the the Great Bear Rainforest before reading this article; being able to see Oliver Salge’s stunning photos completed my armchair travels to this beautiful place.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Rhonda. Aren’t Oliver’s photos great? I watched him haul around that big camera with a telescopic lens as long as my arm, and his hard work paid off. When I asked him what he thought about the size of the rainforest, he said, as someone from Germany, he was overwhelmed (2 Switzerlands can fit inside the Great Bear Rainforest) but then he said something very telling–that it showed him that it doesn’t take much to ruin a wilderness as vast as this.He was aware of the threats of clearcutting, climate change, and oil tanker traffic.

      Reply

      • Oliver Salge commented:

        Hi Rhonda, happy to hear you enjoy the images i was able to take with me. Good to see it made it to your coffee table. And a good feeling to realize that me and my fellows left just the footsteps (or tripod steps), which quickly was gone, and black bear footsteps was on top of them. Nothing to compare to harvesters, who can chop down a forest grown in 1000 years within a week. Or the oil tankers, I hope they never show up, can spoil all, just cause the captain is drunken or sleeping (this recently happened in Italy, you have seen it all in TV). Lets use all power we can generate to just say: stop it, it is stupid, wrong, dangerous such as only war can be.

        Reply

  37. Sarah Blackstone commented:

    As always, your ability to describe the natural environment helps me to see, in my mind’s eye, things I have yet to experience myself. I long to visit the Great Bear Rainforest myself, but in lieu of that your article helps me visit in my mind. I hope to add my own photos to the growing portfolio of images that may help protect this sacred place. Thank you, Lorna, for sharing your experience in such a compelling way.

    Sarah

    Reply

  38. Kyeren Regehr commented:

    Oliver Salge’s photos glow with a such a mystical quality that the place seems surreal– imagining myself there is like imagining stepping into a fantasy epic by the likes of Peter Jackson. Then Lorna Crozier brings everything to life through the other senses, beginning with the terrifying feeling of being sniffed by a giant bear, and it all becomes very real and emotionally tangible. It’s this sort of coupling of talent, images and words from two masters, that will draw attention to the places needing to be safe-guarded from human industrial/technological invasion. I hope to see more of this from toque and canoe, and from many other publications.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Kyeren. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Just so credit goes where credit’s due, the majority of the photos are Ian McAllister’s, renowned film maker and photographer. Oliver’s are the ones you can link to in the postscript.
      Ian and Nicholas Read have produced 4 wonderful books about the rainforest, specifically about the salmon, wolves, bears and sea. They’re great for kids (adults too). Go to pacificwild.org to find them.
      Warmest, Lorna

      Reply

  39. Carl Tracie commented:

    What a wonderful reminder of the need to preserve these beautiful wild places, which can never be replaced when theyare gone. Wallace Stegner, in his Wilderness Letter, said we need these places, even if we never visit them, to retain our sanity as a species.

    Reply

  40. carla funk commented:

    I feel as if I’ve been guided through the moss-draped forest and to the edge of the river by Lorna’s writing. This is what lyric travel writing should do– and does here: wake us up and take us somewhere new.

    Reply

  41. Meghan J. Ward commented:

    This was such a beautifully written piece. I love “the mother slapping her tail repeatedly on the taut skin of the ocean” – words only a master poet could muster up! Thanks for taking us on your journey. You make me want to go visit this part of the world (let alone my own country!). It’s been far too long since I have truly immersed myself in the coastal world.

    Reply

  42. Mary commented:

    Lorna,
    You did a beautiful job of describing a serene place on our coast so close to us and the description of the” mother slapping her tail repeatedly on the Taut skin of the ocean ”i have no words I am so pleased Lorna for you sacred words to describe what is so important to us , thank you for the memory

    Reply

  43. vicky husband commented:

    Thanks Lorna for your evocative piece on the Great Bear Rainforest. A place I know and love. Yes, there should be a moratorium on the trophy hunting of grizzlies, its only the BC government standing in the way of the overwhelming public desire to see that happen. So those who read your piece and see what amazing work the First Nations on the coast are doing to protect the grizzly must speak out more.
    And most people don’t know but under the ‘new” forest legislation brought in by past Premier Campbell, protection of wildlife habitat is only discretionary – so it never happens. Those bears and other wildlife who live on the Central and North coast of BC, the Great Bear, have the best chance of survival. Real habitat protection for grizzlies and other wildlife that are under threat is only discretionary everywhere else in BC. As BC’s public forests continue to be logged at an alarming rate with no government oversight, so goes all the habitat that so many iconic creatures who live in BC depend on for survival.

    Thanks to Toque and Canoe and others who made this piece by Lorna get wider distribution. And thank you Lorna.

    Vicky

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Vicky. You’re one of my heroes. Thanks for commenting and reminding us of the breadth of these threats to our natural habitat. A week before our trip to the rainforest, we were in Wells/Gray provincial park and disheartened to see what clear-cutting around its boundaries is doing to the mountain caribou. If something isn’t done to stop it, they’ll soon disappear. You’re right–we all have to speak out more. It’s hard to imagine that we live with a government that finds wildlife habitat protection “discretionary.”
      Thanks again for the work you do, Lorna

      Reply

  44. Yen Lane commented:

    This is such a wonderful piece, Lorna. The Great Bear Rainforest sounds like a world away but it’s nice to be reminded that it’s just in our backyard, so to speak, and we need to preserve it and its inhabitants. It sounds like a truly magical place – and your writing makes it even more so. Too bad you missed seeing the Spirit Bear in person (but at least Oliver got pics)!

    Reply

  45. Musgravian commented:

    Sunt lacrimae rerum. Yes, my eyes filled with tears reading this, not because tears are the lot of the world, but because of Lorna’s words. Her voice. Her human beingness is so big and (as she understands it) so small at the same time. I have no doubt she will be a Spirit Bear in her next life. She is already halfway to being one, in this life.
    P.S. I would like to see her wearing a toque, or paddling a canoe. Photos please?

    Reply

  46. Katya Pine commented:

    Lorna! How wonderful to read your eloquent description of the piece of paradise you visited! Your words are as rich as the visual images posted. Thank-you for including me as a reader! It’s so incredibly important to preserve the rainforest and all its inhabitants. I am appalled at the senseless destruction of the Great Bear and applaud your effort to promote our awareness. Thank-you!

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Susan. Thanks so much for your comment and for posting this on facebook. The more responses we get, the louder our voices to preserve this remarkable place.
      I did once paddle a canoe, frequently, but that was on sleeping Sask. lakes. I’ve yet to be in a canoe on the ocean. Let’s you and I go out sometime.
      Warmest,Lorna

      Reply

  47. Patrick Lane commented:

    I too was there with my lovely wife who wrote this piece of t&c and I think she’s bloody brilliant! The stay at Spirit Bear Lodge was a pure delight. I can’t recommend it enough…worth every penny. The bears, whales, orcas, eagles, the wild at its purest and best. A last, good place in this troubled world.

    Reply

  48. Stephanie Toth commented:

    How perfect, that an animal whose lore reminds us to cherish nature is at the center of such a critical moment in defining our identity as stewards of this incredible land we’re so lucky to consider home. It’s hard to believe that our government is allowing wildlife protection to be “discretionary” – These decisions are being left in the wrong hands. Thank you, Lorna, for putting a face, (and so much other beautiful imagery,) to this struggle.

    Reply

  49. Johanna Stewart commented:

    Such a lovely description of a beautiful area and the incredible diversity of wildlife that lives there. The film, though hard to watch, is an important reminder of how much harm we humans can thoughtlessly cause to our environment and how we can also be part of the change needed to protect it. Thank you Lorna for bringing more awareness to this cause.

    Reply

  50. Joan MacLeod commented:

    Thank you Lorna for taking me away to this perfect and vulnerable place — right in the middle of one of those days that was too busy to stop for a cup of coffee. You help put what’s important in perspective and do so with such eloquence and beauty.

    Reply

  51. Ellen Guttormson commented:

    Lorna and Patrick….what a privilege to have had the visit to such a sacred place. Thank you for the beautiful narrative about your trip. Just like the amazing paintings from Art For An Oil Free Coast…..you have given us a painting using words. Cheers Ellen

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Ellen. Thanks for responding. I think we should organize a reading called Writing for an Oil Free Coast.Anyone up for this?
      Warmest,
      Lorna

      Reply

  52. Adam Olsen commented:

    Hello Lorna and Patrick,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. For many of us who have not been able to experience this for ourselves, I am hoping that the powerful images that you skillfully create in our minds will drive us to action. We cannot afford to be complacent any longer.

    HYCHKA!
    Adam Olsen

    Reply

  53. Petrina Gregson commented:

    Thank you, Lorna, for taking us to this pristine place. What a tragic story about the bear and how disgusting that there are always people with no moral conscience! We have a lot to learn from our native people. Your photographs and descriptions are wonderful.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Petrina. Take a look at the bear film: it’s highlighted in my article. It starts out sad but the role the First Nations are playing in trying to stop such senseless hunting left me with hope.

      Best,
      Lorna

      Reply

  54. Katy Nelson commented:

    What an evocative tale, I felt like I was with you. I hope and pray that this amazing ecosystem and it’s wildlife will be protected for our planet and our future.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Katy. Thanks for your response. If you haven’t yet, check the tag “conservation group” in the article. It will connect you with pacificwild.org and you’ll see some suggestions for how we can help with conservation right now.
      Best, Lorna

      Reply

  55. Rebecca commented:

    A wonderful voyage to the coast! And a reminder of the need for settler society (my society) to begin understanding the impact of our unmeasured drive for ‘progress’, growth and consumption.

    Reply

  56. Mary Sanseverino commented:

    A favourite author of mine is Aldo Leopold – an early 20th century conservationist. His Sand Country Almanac is well worth a read. I look to it often. He writes about many things, but to me one of the most haunting is his reflection on hunting:

    “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
    ― Aldo Leopold

    Thank you for taking us on a journey to the Great Bear — your eye is keen and your pen flows like the making tide. I think Aldo would be pleased.

    ttfn
    Mary

    Reply

  57. Elizabeth Vibert commented:

    How lovely to read this joyful, reflective piece while grabbing a hasty lunch at my desk. It reminds me of how long I’ve yearned to visit this special place, and how essential our connection with nature is to our sanity in a world of overstimulation.

    Reply

  58. Rebecca Raworth commented:

    I love how you describe how your 5 senses become more alert, just as the bears truly live entirely through their senses. I’ve been to Klemtu, a beautiful and peaceful place but didn’t see bears there. I saw bears near Bella Coola in Hagensborg swimming across the river in front of our campsite…magnificent and so moving. We need to take the time to be reminded of pure, silent, and powerful nature every day.

    Reply

  59. Heather Ranson commented:

    What an amazing story. I felt like I was there with you Lorna. Your writing is magic. Thank you for your work to preserve this special place. I’m right there beside you!!

    Reply

  60. Daphne Macnaughton commented:

    Thank you, Lorna Crozier (and the publishers at Toque and Canoe) – for making this story an experience many can share and reflect-upon!

    Some of your readers may be interested in the work of the Artist Response Team (A.R.T.) to educate school children, their families, and members of the general public about the importance of conservation and preservation of waterways and habitats. This is good work, but work that needs the interest and support of many others. See: http://www.artistresponseteam.com/

    After reading your story, Lorna, I am wondering…how might the BC Premier’s or Canada’s Prime Minister’s views on economic development change if either of them were to avail themselves of a trip to the Great Bear Rainforest?

    Is it possible Christy Clark or Stephen Harper might undergo a spiritual transformation – the kind of awakening that could enable them to understand the real meaning and value of “keystone species” and what is at risk as a result of their current proposals and policies?

    Maybe it is ridiculous to imagine, but I would be willing to contribute the first $100 toward payment of passage to the territory of the “Spirit Bear” for either or both Ms. Clark or Mr. Harper, so they might see, hear, feel, and understand what is precious and not-to-be sold-out from under the feet of our grandchildren, their children and grandchildren, and all future generations.

    What do you think? Would they take up the challenge? Or, tighten their blindfolds and continue on with plans to sell-off and risk-all?

    DLM

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Daphne. I love the idea of concerned people contributing to Clark’s and Harper’s trip to this wondrous place. Maybe concentrate on her first? I’m in with $100. Perhaps you simply need to build up a list of names of those willing to do this, and when there’s enough of a promise of money, somehow make a big deal of presenting her with a cheque.You’ve got $200 already, from you and me.

      Warmest,
      Lorna

      Reply

  61. Hélène Cazes commented:

    Thank you for giving us a story to tell in turn! You shared with us this awe of meeting nature, that we tend to take for granted. Let’s spread your story and concerns, now.

    Reply

  62. Rosemary Bates commented:

    Bravi to Lorna for writing and to Toque & Canoe for publishing her splendid, plangent (I’ve never used that word before!) and inspiring tale of the Great Bear wilderness and its magnificent wild inhabitants. Long may they all survive and thrive. Attention must be paid!

    Reply

  63. Akio Tanaka commented:

    Lorna, thank you for reminding us how beautifully connected we all are and that we can not destroy any of it without destroying ourselves.

    Reply

  64. Monika commented:

    What a beautiful story and images – in words and pictures. You brought the magic of this precious place to life right here in my office! Thank you.

    Reply

  65. Christine St. Peter commented:

    Lorna’s is such an important story and I thank her for telling it so beautifully. The photos are magical, too.

    Reply

  66. Ann Graham Walker commented:

    Thank you so much, Lorna, for going up there and looking deeply; coming home and writing this. I have never been to such a place, but now I can imagine it and I can spread the word. (Oh if only I was dictator. . .I could make this required reading on BC Ferries and in the waiting rooms of YVR. . .).

    The trophy hunt has to be stopped. (And the tankers. And Northern Gateway,)

    Reply

  67. Shanne McCaffrey commented:

    Lorna, thank you for taking us all with you to the Rainforest and Spirit Bear–there is more life and Spirit in this place than any other on Mother Earth. Your words moved off the page like a thick fog bringing me to the place of the Ancient Ones, Salmon Givers, the Tree People and Spirit Bears.

    This place is Sacred as are those who inhabit it. We will never know all the mysteries, beauties and Spirit it has to offer because of our addiction to the God of Moolah and crude.

    Know that the ancestors are here and they are behind you with hands on your back and nodding in approval.

    Ka kee oni wa ga ma gannuk, All My Relations, Shanne.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Shanne. Thanks for your lovely blessing–“the ancestors are here and they are behind you with their hands on your back and nodding in approval.” Let’s hope we can do well by them.
      Warmest, Lorna

      Reply

  68. Shirley Langer commented:

    Having spent a few days in August in the Great Bear Rain Forest with 14 members of my family, I can only echo Lorna’s thoughts and feelings about this vast and special place. Tankers are horribilis! The idea of sullying it with oil tankers makes the blood boil. Long live the GBR and all its inhabitants!

    Reply

  69. susan banas commented:

    thank you Lorna for taking me on a lovely BC journey, you make me want to be there but even if I never do that I have your words to take me..susan

    Reply

  70. phyllis serota commented:

    Thank you so much Lorna, for this beautiful and evocative writing and also to Ian McAllister for his great photos. Together they brought the bears and the Great Bear Rainforest to life for me. A powerful gift!

    Reply

  71. Pat Smekal commented:

    Dear Lorna, thank you for including me, and all who read your words, in this profound and moving experience. Your writing reminds me to be forever grateful
    for our Pacific wilderness and all its natural gifts.

    Writing for an Oil-free Coast? Good idea!

    Reply

  72. sheryl gordon commented:

    Thank you for that vicarious, poetic journey: “..the mother slapping her tail repeatedly on the taut skin of the ocean. Was it whales who invented drumming?”

    And yes to an oil-free coast!!!

    Reply

  73. Claire Carlin commented:

    Dear Lorna, thank you for allowing all of us readers to share this magical place. Thanks as well for reminding us that “there are no unsacred places.”

    Reply

  74. Arno Kopecky commented:

    Only a poet can capture the poetry of nature with a net of words like this….thanks Lorna, And Toque And Canoe, for putting this out there. This global treasure is at a crossroads and the more people who hear about, the more will care about its future.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Thanks, Arno, for responding in the middle of a busy book tour. I heard your interview on “The Sunday Edition” and was very moved. Your book, The Oilman and the Sea, is one more eye-opener about the beauty of The Great Bear Rainforest and its vulnerability. The threat of oil tanker traffic gets more and more serious every day.
      Warmest, Lorna

      Reply

  75. Birgit Fuerst commented:

    Thank you Lorna for taking me to a place I’ve never been.Your clear, concise imagery makes me feel as is I was there with you. Love your work 🙂

    Reply

  76. Jacquie Lanthier commented:

    What a moving piece to read on this sun-swept Vancouver morning. Thank you for sharing your experience with the world, Lorna. We need to write about our experiences with the few wild places still left so that others can travel to them through our words and can come to understand the profundity of their impact. Your imagery has certainly taken me along with you on your journey to this special place.

    Your words give a haunting depth to the challenges at hand. Areas like this must be protected, for in them rests our own link to the spirit of our animal selves: one animal clothed in rain jacket looking at another dressed in fur; the recognition of life within by witnessing the way in which our mere presence can effect the life that surrounds us.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Thanks, Jacquie, for taking the time to so eloquently write about the challenges ahead of us. I know you are doing so much to keep the sacred places sacred, including swimming down the whole length of the Fraser to alert the world to the plight of pollution. When is that happening? What can people do to support you?
      xxooLorna

      Reply

  77. Robina Thomas commented:

    My hands go up to Lorna for a beautifully written story of our all-to-rare beauties that have to fight for their lives everyday – and now, they fight for our lives too.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Robina. Thanks for turning around what we usually say when we talk about protecting wildlife, “we’re fighting for their lives.” Your version, “and now they fight for our lives too,” is a reminder of what little we have left as human creatures if we’re all that survives our heedless destruction of the land and oceans.
      Warmest,
      Lorna

      Reply

  78. Birgit Bateman commented:

    My husband, Robert Bateman, and I were also fortunate to be able to visit the Great Bear Rainforest a few years ago. Your words, Lorna, truly convey the magic and magnificent of this precious heritage. No one has said it better! We are so frustrated by the false information that the pipeline people are putting out to the public. For example, they say that bitumen doesn’t sink and quote a study that was done for only 5 days. But bitumen DOES sink after 5 days………..of course they don’t want that to get out to the public. They also never mention how very irregular the coastline is making it extremely hard to clean up, if a spill did occur. Even one spill is one too many.
    Your eloquence in describing your visit to this pristine part of our world is exceptional. I wish that all Canadians would read it. So lets send your column on to as many of our friends and acquaintances as possible!
    We are going up there again June 2014 and can’t wait to let the magic work on us. Huge thanks for writing this!
    Birgit Freybe Bateman

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Thanks for posting this, Birgit, and for pointing out the misinformation around the deadly effects of bitumen. I know you and Robert will feel the magic of the place when you’re there.
      Warmest,
      Lorna

      Reply

  79. Reid commented:

    I would like to see a Spirit Bear. The thrill of wild places is not knowing what you will experience. I am glad Spirit Bears are. Long live the knowledge one day I may or may not see one.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Reid. Love your statement “I am glad Spirit Bears are.” It couldn’t be worded more simply and beautifully.
      Warmest, Lorna

      Reply

  80. Brian Brett commented:

    Lovely article, Lorna. Ahh the sites you and Patrick have seen. I have never witnessed whales bubblefishing. What a magical opportunity. I have been just looking at Ian’s film of the wolf salmon fishing. I once watched a wolf fishing for grayling in a creek at break-up, north of Whitehorse. It was concentrating so intently on the creek that it didn’t notice me, parked beside him on the road in the middle of nowhere, for quite a while. Then he gave me such an amazing stare I felt guilty and drove away and he went back to his fishing.

    I love the story of Patrick and the mother bear. What is truly impressive that there is a landscape so rich with bears in North America

    The important thing to remember about the spirit bear is that they are coast bears, surviving off the tideline, which wasn’t known for years except by the local Native community who the scientists mostly ignored until recent years. The big horror is that the oil slick from the ferry is still coming up beside the main island the spirit bears populate, which is one of the reasons why the Helsit people are so aghast.

    If we can’t clean up the fuel tanks of a sunken ferry how could we even imagine cleaning up an oil tanker full of tar oil. I’d love to hear Encana’s answer to that.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Brian. Great to hear from you. I’d love to see a wolf fishing, though Ian’s film certainly lets me into that world. Like the bears, these wolves are coastal, too, and vulnerable. Let alone the whales.
      Lorna

      Reply

  81. Katie Weaver commented:

    I am a young person infatuated with whales as well as any wildlife. This was an inspiring read for me.
    An aspiring writer, I hope to be able to create/motivate environmental passion the way a piece like this can someday.
    Thanks.

    Reply

    • lorna Crozier commented:

      Hi, Katie. I’m so glad you are interested in writing about the environment. We need young people like you!
      Warmest, Lorna

      Reply

  82. Nathalie Cooke commented:

    Delighted to discover T&C, including the vibrancy of photos by Ian McAllister and Lorna’s eloquent depiction. Although hearing the warning, I did force myself to watch the film start to finish, heartened by work done to protect this precious part of the world. I also visited Oliver’s photos of the spirit bear — breathtaking. Many thanks, Nathalie

    Reply

  83. Phillip Tureck commented:

    It was wonderful to catch up and see this article about the beauty and awesome Great Bear Rainforest. As a keen supporter I made a long reciprocal journey to the Rainforest and was inspired to continue championing from the UK through social media such as Linked In why we should keep the forest, it’s habitat and unique wildlife intact.

    Having met Ian in the UK and then in the forest with Karen and the First Nations I am inspired to champion the cause.

    Your article Lorna is wonderful and I hope that it brings to many people the uniqueness of a place to preserve for many generations to come.

    I hope to come back soon.

    Reply

  84. Sally Stubbs commented:

    Lorna, you took me with you. I’m not sure how I would have reacted if a grizzly caught me in its nostril. Okay, that’s not true. I’d have panicked. I know Tim, the manager. We met years ago on a kayak trip. Tim was a guide. I was with a dear friend. They ended up getting married. Thank you.

    Reply

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