It’s just past 4 pm.
Already the angle of the sun over the trees is so low that it shines into our backyard, brilliantly touching everything with a golden fiery glow.
The gorgeous disarray of red and orange leaves dancing on the branches of the massive old Rainier Cherry tree in my backyard takes my breathe away like a new love…and leaves me just as thrilled.
We’ve been here a year now and still a rush of gratitude fills my chest and colours my cheeks, it’s still so new. I’ve fallen in love all over again this fall,seeing the kaleidoscope of colours not displayed in last years tempestuous fall storms.
Walking in the old Chinese Settlement lands in Cumberland last week,standing in sensory overload at the sheer magnitude of beauty, I wondered…is it possible to overload on nature?
The unmistakable scent of fallen cottonwood leaves slightly decaying, mixed with wood smoke and brought me back to my youth growing up just north of Prince George for a moment…scent memories so strong it transports me instantly to a time and place far from my current location.
But I digress…
Looking back out the window now, I see my protector and companion Rollo is doing his afternoon perimeter patrol,nose firmly pushing along the ground as he tracks new scents left by nocturnal creature visitors to the yard. I’ve been somewhat training him to track scents, hiding one glove without him watching, then giving him the other with his command to seek. And find items he does, every time, barking loudly and looking for a treat at the same time.
Smiling, I place my water glass into the sink so softly…but he can hear it and instantly stops, raises his head and looks at me through the window, wagging his tail in hopes that I am coming out to play. I smile, and sigh as my chest clenches once again….because every time I look at Rollo…I think of Rafe.
The two are linked through thoughts,memories & stories shared over the last year…Rafe being a consummate Lab lover, in particular chocolate labs which he insisted had a personality unlike any other.
Knowing Rollo as I now do, I would have to agree. 🙂 Chocolate labs are particularly intelligent, sensitive and at times, bloody stubborn to the core – something Rafe warned me about early on. I may have been called stubborn once or twice… or many times in my life, and I suspect Rafe had been too, which is probably why we both held high regard for chocolate labs as pets! We talked more about our dogs than we did politics this last year and I am a better person for that.
A lot has been written about Rafes life and professional achievements and because he was the kind of man who took time for everyone, his friends are many – everyone has a story to tell and while each is unique, all hold a common thread: soul.
Rafe had passion. Passion and soul and he didn’t give a damn whether you liked what he had to say or not, because he was going to say it knowing you would be better for it when it was said.
One of the most poignant tributes is from Damien Gillis, Rafes colleague ,close friend & sidekick for many years.
“He was as tough as they came, but a deeply caring, sensitive man.”
That he was. The man had soul and the uncanny ability to spot others with soul whether he agreed with them or not…
I first came into contact with Rafe in 2007 when I won the very short-lived CKNW Talk Show Idol contest at NW. Having competed against people who are now working journo’s with CTV and elsewhere, I won a three hour show on a Sunday afternoon. Fired up, I sent off an email to my hero of the long gone era of talk radio in Canada, Rafe Mair…totally not really expecting a reply.
Much to my surprise, he did reply with some sage advice I have always held close to heart:
” The hardest part is to create a relationship with your audience….I kid you not, I could tell even before the phone lines opened what the mood was like…
.. My era is over Laila. You will self censor because you’ll have to. There isn’t a muckraker left in Canada so tightly does the establishment control what comes out…
…I also had, I think, a nose for some present sidebar story turning into a big story and keeping it alive until it became that big story…
…I’ll leave you with advice Jack Webster gave me when he launched me into my radio career… always be yourself. “
A gig with NW didn’t happen, and I went onto launch his advice into my blog, that I started writing with baby on board. Over the years he was always there to offer guidance as generously as he offered the absolutely essential criticism needed to help one grow and expand to the next level. His emails and comments were sprinkled with the thoughtfulness of a father, but also with the cutting points of an editor who knew you could do better. And I did. Even when he pissed me off… I knew his criticism came from a place of knowing full well I could do better. Sometimes I wanted to prove him wrong, but in the end, Rafe was always usually right…
The first and only time we met in person was when Norm Farrell and I met him at a coffee shop in West Van for a visit…as we wrapped up I caught him buying a Kondike bar and unwrapping it with great relish!
“Are you sure you should be eating that Rafe??” I asked.
“Sure as hell, as long as you don’t tell Wendy!”
I smiled and never did…his love for chocolate was only surpassed by his love for Wendy. 🙂
Fast forward many years and to my families move to the island, a northern girl at heart leaving the suffocating cloak of city living behind… rediscovering just how inherent a connection to the land is when you grew up dependent on it, introducing city born kids to it and trying to teach them a respect for the callous beauty of the area we moved to…
Rafe was one of a very few who ‘got’ the evolution I was going through, as a writer who had spent years documenting corruption and misdeeds of the BC Liberals ..but also as a parent…and as a woman…but most importantly as a British Columbian… his remarks always struck home in a big way, in two posts I have written in particular…
Written while living on a mountain, in between metro Van home and Comox Valley home, I bared my soul to readers, speaking to my re-connection with not just nature, but our reliance on it. And Rafe – along with a small circle of close friends who ‘get’ me – got it immediately.
And let me tell you, it is not often someone sees your soul, my friends. Not often at all…
Rafe not only got what I was trying to say in that post, he got everything I was feeling that I did not write. He knew I was disillusioned with hateful, partisan politics…
It stuck with me profoundly because just a week earlier I had written this piece: https://lailayuile.com/2016/08/11/as-for-me-i-know-nothing-more-than-miracles-walt-whitman/
…As for me? I’ve been running in and out while writing this, looking at the sky and already seeing balls of fire unlike anything I’ve seen before shooting across the sky.I wish on every single one like a child: patience for those without, empathy for those in a position to change peoples lives, understanding and if not acceptance, tolerance for those across religious and partisan lines.. and for me, the ability to continue to see the beauty around me, the hope, the joy even when everything seems to have gone to hell in the world…“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.”~ mevlana jelaluddin rumi – Since I read my first book of rumi’s writings and read this passage, I find myself reminded every time I find a luscious field in summer…. high with timothy or wild grass, rife with daisies bobbing their heads as they reach, reach for the sun… the wind blows lightly that rustling dry sound not unlike a million tiny wind chimes, delights the ear and cools the skin…I can’t help but walk, hands dragging lightly through the grass, the scent of summer in the air until a feeling of complete and utter peace overcomes me.This is the field I imagine rumi speaks of… one where we are free of judgment, free from conflict…where we are free from labels of left and right, gender or race, your way or my way and things get done because it’s the right thing to do, not because it serves any other purpose.Maybe one day, I’ll meet you there…
And while some objected privately to my writing about things meaningful beyond politics, Rafe got why I wrote about it… and made me feel ok for moving outside the political box I had written myself into for over a decade:
In that one comment, Rafe gave me social and personal permission to evolve as a writer. He knew that the David vs. Goliath battles being fought weigh deeply on our spirits and wear down the soul. I think as years went by, that Rafe recognized that 90% of action is elicited from emotional reaction,and facts/science …when combined with soul, can and does move mountains.
Rafe, more than anyone I know, was a master of mixing facts and science with soul…he simply wasn’t capable of doing anything without passion.
When Rafe initially discovered I was a mum to chocolate lab pup, he had this to say:
Laila, I just knew you had to be a Labrador person. I’m most likely going into my last year and I find myself always comforted by Churchill’s advice, too often dismissed as bombast but when you think on it, words thar about as wise as they get. Many hugs, especially for Rollo.
Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
This is how, with all the power of the state against us, we beat Site C and Kinder Morgan.
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
This is how, with all the power of the state against us, we beat Site C and Kinder Morgan.”
Yes… that was so Rafe and those words are so true you must hold them to heart at tightly as anything else you value…
Because while we remember the man and his worldly deeds…. to me…and many others…it was his soul that made him a force to be reckoned with.
What should you take from this? No soul…no passion and no purpose. If you don’t feel it, you can’t truly defend it. He was unapologetic for his criticisms and unapologetic for fighting for what he knew was right.
Nothing worth having comes easy. Not relationships. Not careers. And certainly not governments…
But if you have soul…?
Well, the rest is history…