The following story won first prize in The 2008 Spirit of Campbell River Essay Competition, adult category; as sponsored by the Campbell River Arts Council, Coho Bookstore, Campbell River Mirror, and Campbell River Literary Society. It is a spirit found not only in Campbell River but also on Quadra Island.
The story was published in The Campbell River Mirror newspaper 20th. February 2008. www.campbellrivermirror.com
'The Spirit of Campbell River 'by Gregory Ross
Every winter, the spirit of Campbell River takes its holiday; a break from its usual surroundings.Campbell River’s spirit usually inhabits the damp mossy forest around town; and dark rock caverns deep beneath town. During its annual holiday, however, it roams the Strathcona Mountains and Quadra and local islands; and swims deep in the frigid waters of Discovery Passage, with whales, salmon, and seals; weaving through swaying kelp strands, in flowing dim depths.
The spirit lingers in forest ferns and cedar branches; and laughing, cascades down gushing streams. Loggers working in our forests sometimes sense Campbell River’s spirit; which makes them content and grateful to live and work here where open spaces and peaceful forest nurture them and their children. Fishing boat crews sometimes feel the spirit inspiring them as they haul in their catches; while the ocean under them swirls with the spirit’s pulse.
During its holiday travels, to ensure that all is well, Campbell River’s spirit makes wolves howl near town on cold nights; and watches cougar stalk blacktail; and guides black bears waddling among firs. The spirit makes owls hoot, loons call, eagles swoop, and herons stand motionless on our shores.
The spirit frolics in the air above Campbell River, invisible; watching people, and working magic. Campbell River is a small city, flowing at an easy pace; with attractive public gardens, totem poles, arts, and cultures. The spirit monitors all of these ingredients, to ensure top quality.
Our local heritage, our national heritage; and our identities, all see the spirit’s influence. Coastal Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Canada; all feed the spirit.
History reveals ancientness in Campbell River’s spirit. First Nations arrived here 7,000 years ago. Then, Britain’s Vancouver, Spain’s Quadra, sailing ships, settlers, logging, steam donkeys, fishing boats, farming.
Our ferries hum with the spirit.
The spirit brings renewal. Listen.... You can hear the spirit’s voice during lashing storms; screaming with the wind, “ Be grateful, Campbell Riverites…to live in such a wonderful place.... Yes, we have storms; but, what’s a few storms…compared to every winter’s six frozen months that most of Canada endures…. And, when you read and watch daily news, you see the pollution and crime that large cities serve to their inhabitants. Be grateful you live in Campbell River. ” And the spirit howls mirthfully as it drums rain onto our roofs.
Silently the spirit spreads winter’s snow blankets, dramatizing our landscape.
When spring arrives, the spirit’s holiday ends; and it returns to dwell in deep caverns and forest; from where it helps Campbell River bustle with summer tourists and children’s excited cries about swimming, fishing, and riding ferries and boats. Campbell River hosts tourists from around the world; who come for Campbell River’s scenery, salmon fishing, kayaking, whales, wildlife, hospitality, and peace.
“ Welcome,” we say; “ welcome to our nook of Canada; ” as the spirit nods approval.
Campbell River’s spirit enchants some tourists, who move here permanently, embracing the spirit, as do I and you.