I grew up paddling Canadian Shield rivers and my dad taught me to light a fire, read a map, and swim for shore when we ended up in the drink. I’ve guided for Nahanni River Adventures since 2000 and there’s nothing I love more than getting up early on a chilly morning with the mist still on the water and lighting the fire and getting that first pot of coffee going. Or drifting in silence with my feet up on the gunwales and watching the canyons or the rolling hills of tundra drift by. Or making it through a pounding rapid and then hurling yourself into the water for a cool-down swim. Or in the long evening light being caught in the gaze of a wolf who is watching us watching him.
My book, Deepwater Vee, which was a finalist for a Governor General’s Award in Literature, features a suite of river poems subtitled with the GPS coordinates of some of my most memorable spots on the river I love—the Nahanni, the Tat/Alsek, the Burnside, the Thelon. In the winter, I teach creative writing at the University of Victoria and work as a volunteer counsellor at Citizens’ Counselling. In the spring of 2013, I’ll be the writer-in-residence at the Pierre Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon.
This winter I’m once again teaching creative writing at UVic. And I just recently had a great time at the Victoria Writers’ Festival where I was on a panel called “The Wild and the Worldly.” I think it was that viral photo of me busting out of the tundra biffy armed with the shotgun and a flask of whisky that got me the gig. None of the philosophers on the panel had quite the same credentials. Except I wondered about Elizabeth May, our host–that women’s got some crazy energy and must have something incendiary powering her confrontation of the status quo in Ottawa. Kapow! Whether you’re a green supporter or not, I’d recommend getting on this woman’s email list if you want to stay on top of all the environmental protections (etc!) our government is currently trashing. It’s depressing, but there’s so much we can do to protect our one and only earth.
I’ve also just completed a year-long counsellor training course and now am volunteering as a counsellor at an agency called Citizens’s Counselling. This is amazing one-on-one work and I love it. It’s so meaningful to just spend time talking with someone as they find their way through grief, loss, depression, abuse, whatever it might be. I’m always learning something about hope and healing.
Next spring I’m looking forward to spending three months as the Writers’ Trust of Canada writer-in-residence. This means I’ll be living in Pierre Berton’s childhood home in Dawson City, Yukon from April to June and working on the manuscript for a new book. Can’t wait for the long light!
Editors note: Melanie is too modest to mention that her book of poetry Deepwater Vee was nominated for the Governor Generals Poetry Award