If you’ve had the good fortune to observe whales in the wild, you know that they are constantly on the move, and Whale in the Door is no exception. Whale in the Door: A Community Unites to Protect BCs Howe Sound, was published by Caitlin Press in 2017.
The title, Whale in the Door, comes from a Squamish Nation legend told to me by Squamish Nation councillor, Chris Lewis. Mink, a trickster, and his sister, Skunk, invite all the animals to their potlatch on Gambier Island. Even the undersea creatures attend, being placed in large cedar bentwood boxes filled with water. When everyone is inside, Whale swims fast and launches himself onto the land in order to peek his head inside the door of the longhouse, his large head blocking the entrance, trapping the others inside. This was part of Mink’s plan to get all the animals together to talk to each other. The whales – known as yew-yews and sacred to the Squamish – are doing the same thing, Chris told me. “They have returned to Atl’kitsem and we are all talking to each other.”
After an extensive book tour of Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, it was time to take a break and start working on my musical-theatrical adaptation of the book. This was inspired by Lee Trentadue of Galiano Books who suggested my book should be an opera. I asked her if she would settle for a musical. She said she would and I got to work. Lee also invited me to the Galiano Literary Festival – February 22 to 24 – where I will talk about the important but still fragile biological recovery of Howe Sound/Atl’kitsem.
My gig is on Sunday morning, so I’m preparing something a little special, a Sunday morning “service,” lighting candles for the orcas, the salmon, the waters of Atl’kitsem. I will also sing a couple songs from the musical Lee inspired. The rest of the weekend I get to hang out with accomplished writers whose work I have admired. For more information about the festival visit galianoliteraryfestival.wordpress.com/.
Motivated by Whale in the Door, filmmakers Jon Chiang and Drew Copeland, produced a stunning documentary on Howe Sound called Sound Water. Beginning with a spectacular ski trip to the glaciers of Howe Sound, they follow the watershed down to the Squamish River where they interview Deanna Lewis, Squamish Nation councillor and then to Bowen where they interview me. The movie is part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and will be shown on March 1 at the Rio Theatre. I will be part of the Q&A after the film. You can find more info at vimff.org/.
Like the animals at the potlach, we are talking to one another, seeking new ways of being together, of living respectfully on the land and the waters. It makes my heart glad that more people will come to know the beauty of Howe Sound and will support the community’s efforts to preserve this magnificent fjord we are lucky enough to call home.