Monday, September 05, 2005

Come To Castlegar, She Said – And We Did

CASTLEGAR, B.C. –The Caravan arrived in Castlegar yesterday evening, Labour Day Eve. We are here on the invitation of Laurel Walton, who sent us an email saying, "Come to Castlegar, Caravan."

I have never met or even heard of Laurel Walton. And last Friday, when she responded to our blog-call to "have us visit your community" she probably thought she would have a perfectly normal weekend. Instead, she got a call from me late on Saturday afternoon not only accepting her invitation but also asking her to put us up for a night. She went for it – with what I now know is typical gusto.

The Caravan left Vancouver at 11am, made it easily onto the Trans-Canada and then the road that gets us here, Highway 3. The drive is breathtaking. And as we got closer to Castlegar, I found I was running out of superlatives. So as the scenery became more and more magnificent at every turn, I had a new swear word with every vista.

As we pass the "Welcome to Castlegar" sign, I call Laurel on the cell and she directs us to her house as though she is an air traffic controller. We turn on to her street and she is waving us in. Her husband Keith Simmonds is at the barbecue, roasting chicken and potatoes. And four-year old Liam is on the computer. We are, in effect, doing a kind of home invasion, wading right into the middle of the life of a family.

If you'd like to hear what happened during our visit to Castlegar and during our visit later in they day to a Labour Day rally in Trail, B.C., listen to our podcast.

As soon as we arrived in Laurel's home we are made to feel at home. They've got tortilla chips and salsa on the table, pickles, sausage and cheese, a couple of BC wines (chosen especially for our visit). A neighbour walks in the back door – Liz Ball, librarian at Selkirk College. Within minutes, we are telling stories, talking about books, laughing. Dinner is laid out and two more neighbours join us for a visit. This is all so easy and natural. I find myself wondering why does it seem to take weeks to “set-up” a visit with friends I know in Vancouver?

The phrase that is uppermost in my mind right now is, "the kindness of strangers." Laurel and Keith opened their home to us and gave us a room for their son's room for the night. They have shared their food and their hydro. They have given us a sense of what it's like to live where they live and be who they are living here. Frankly, I can't get over it. I barely have words – except to say I am profoundly moved.

– Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at: shelaghscaravan@yahoo.ca

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