Once again Van Andruss, editor and publisher of Lived Experience, a literary journal from the mountains of British Columbia, has cranked out another volume of his eclectic publication giving voice to BC writers and beyond.
Lived Experience number twelve (LE12) hit the bookshelves in Williams Lake this week.
Van has faithfully published his journal annually since 2001. This year six of the 21 writers have a connection to the Cariboo Chilcotin. They include Lorne Dufour, Sage Birchwater, Martin Comtois, Doug Gook, John Schreiber and Julie Andres.
Culinary artist, astrologer and impresario, Martin Comtois, has made his home in Williams Lake for the past three years. He first came to the region in 1997, settling in Ashcroft. He made a name for himself there with his Secret Garden vegetarian restaurant, where he offered a simple menu of soups, fresh baked breads, and daily specials, along with an espresso machine. The restaurant quickly became a big attraction in the little desert town.
One day a storyteller, Ray Stothers, stopped by and asked if Martin would be interested in hosting an evening of dinner and storytelling. Martin says the response was great and they had a sold-out audience of over sixty patrons. This was the beginning of his dinner-and-show run that would extend to over 300 performances and led to the creation of the fabled Ashcroft Opera House.
In LE12, Martin tells how he renovated Ashcroft’s oldest heritage building that once staged the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera, and transformed the Ashcroft Opera House into one of the finest musical venues in western Canada.
Lorne Dufour, one of Lived Experience’s most prolific contributors, has both prose and poetry in LE12. With Nigger Babe he takes us back to the mid-1960s in Miami where he worked with his brother in a multiracial setting. Racial tension was strange for two young Canadians from Northern Ontario where the basic ingredients of survival were honesty, hard work and common friendship. Lorne says these character traits tend to transcend any notion of inferiority or superiority between human beings regardless of skin colour.
As he very often does with his writing, Lorne articulates the triumph of the human spirit in this delightful story. Working in an all-black labour crew in Florida, Lorne confronts racial prejudice directed at him and defuses the precarious, dangerous situation it at its core.
Victoria author John Schreiber has established himself as a writer of this region through his two books Stranger Wycott’s Place (New Star 2008) and Old Lives in the Chilcotin Backcountry (Caitlin Press 2011). In LE12 John carries you to dizzying heights with his essay An Ascension of Cranes.
Set in the Similkameen of southern B.C., John transports you to that moment in spring when the great flocks of sandhill cranes pass overhead to their breeding grounds further north.
Inspired by two days of standing and gazing upwards at the birds catching the thermal updrafts and disappearing into the great “ethereal, boundless wild” above, John connects with his own sense of liveliness. He says he was grateful for the experience but his commitment to be mindful of vulnerabilities in a hardening world remains. “That which is most subtle is most powerful,” he concludes.
Doug Gook, well known locally as an environmental activist, Green Party candidate, hula-hoop aficionado, and organic farmer, takes his first foray into writing for Lived Experience. His poetic essay, White Fish, White Man talks about his early indoctrination into environmental awareness triggered by getting dunked into Dragon Lake by his older brothers as a four-month-old infant. He says a fish eradication project in Dragon Lake at the time of his birth had a major influence in shaping his attitude toward the natural world.
Julie Andres who wrote about going on a Chilcotin beef drive as a 10-year-old in LE11, adds to that narrative with her LE12 account of moving to Cless Pocket Ranch in 1963.
She describes growing up in Northern Nevada then moving to Anahim Lake as an eight-year-old. She acquired a fear of outhouses after watching porcupine quills being pulled from the nose of a saddle horse.
Somehow she concluded that her bare bum draped over an outhouse hole was a perfect target for a porcupine’s wrath.
There are a ton of great stories and poems in this latest rendition of Lived Experience.
The book is available at the Open Book or Station House Gallery.