Now I’m immersed; so far into the stories that I wonder if I can ever get back and the road trips are all part of that. In fact they are their own stories. In a fit of loneliness, just after I’d arrived, I’d sent out an email to the entire Treaty 8 staff suggesting we all meet up for breakfast and it had broken the ice even though we never did actually do the meal. All of a sudden I was getting emails from everyone in the office and offers of rides. Kieran and his wife, Natalie, are going to Prince George on that Friday and I can go too. I visit my son, Ian, and blow away the homesick blues. In return I promise to dogsit the following weekend and end up clambering through the mud in Fish Creek with Gibson, the no longer Golden Lab in tow. From here, everywhere is a road trip. Blueberry, Doig and Halfway are dotted in a wide arc around Fort St. John, about two or three hours away, with Prophet and Fort Nelson even further at six hours drive. Many of the Treaty 8 staff find themselves traveling to these communities regularly and with half the staff flying around the countryside, it’s easy to get disconnected. So when Treaty 8 gets a new administrator, we all ship off for a two day retreat to do strategic planning in the most beautiful lodge I’ve ever seen, right on the shores of Williston Lake. We travel in a convoy, stopping for gas and snacks at Hudson Hope, missing the turn off and visiting the dam by mistake, bumping down the gravel road under the mountain and stopping for deer while I take a hundred photos in every possible pose.
Next Raylene, one of the G.I.S. students, is going to Prince and it coincides with a wedding that my son, Ian; my daughter, Amy; and her boyfriend, Kevin, are going to. They offer to pick me up in Prince, so I do a three tier bounce from ‘John to Chetwynd where I arrive two hours late and almost don’t meet Raylene, onto Prince where I almost don’t hook up with my kids and from there the next morning, out west to Fraser Lake, where it pours all weekend. The logistics of the weekend are a nightmare, but somehow it works – if not exactly on schedule and becomes memories of bears roaming the hillside and mandolins playing in the candle glow of a log cabin brimming with tired wedding guests.
Another road trip: this time to meet up with Rob, who is a guest at the Edmonton Anime Convention. My roommate, Tamara, offers to drive me the two and a half hours to Grand Prairie where I hire a car. Driving to Edmonton, I travel into the dark with the sunset flaming the sky behind me. I recognize the names on road signs from the genealogical research I’ve been doing: Lac St. Anne, Spirit River and the Athabasca that carried the Commissioners to their Treaty destinations all those years ago. I fly past and I ache to visit them, but I ache more to see Rob so I drive on to midnight with the Northern Lights arcing in sheets of pale green and white to light my way.
Pretty soon the road trip will be the one back home – or will it? Who knows? Nothing else has gone to plan, so I’m not expecting that the rest of my term here will be any different. This story isn’t ended yet. What I do know is that I am held in the hearts and minds of those I journey with here, just as they are held in mine.
And all these stories I tell you will be told again and again in one form or another, until we can all see the threads that link us and the white buffalo can roam, strong and free.
Beyond the Blog
- Be sure to check out the rest of Marilyn's series, Road Trips with Treaty 8