Tlellagraph: Breathing, beach parties, and being happy at home

Tlellagraph: Breathing, beach parties, and being happy at home

By Janet Rigg

I’m going to take you back in time, to May 11. Why? Because I wrote this article then, and it subsequently got caught in my draft folder. Not one to let a written word go to waste, here it is!

May 11, 2018

I’m doing the thing — the thing where we take all day to travel home. I departed my Saskatoon Airbnb at 9 a.m., and if all goes well, I’ll get home to Tlell by 5 p.m. That’s a full day’s work.

So what brought me to Saskatoon, you may ask? I was at a conference/workshop on trauma-informed practice and expressive arts therapies. Some of you may not know that I completed my masters degree in creative arts therapies and counselling. It married my love of art and psychology, and set me on the path that led me to Haida Gwaii.

But I find I’m not doing as much art therapy as I used to. I truly believe in the modality, so when I saw an opportunity to refresh my skills, with a trauma-informed focus, I jumped at the chance.

Actually I sort of crawled at the chance, since I was up all night at Darrell and Celina’s Beachside Oddities party in Tlell the night before. The official reason for the party was “lack of nightclubs on Haida Gwaii,” but maybe a birthday was involved.

Tlell is known for many things, and wicked dance parties is one of them. Darrell and Celina do this like no others — their wide array of friends from all over the islands makes for a fantastic mix of people who just want to dance in perfect ambiance.

I was honoured to DJ an earlier set, playing with the big boys on my tiny mixing board. It was so much fun, and once again my unbridled enthusiasm overshadowed any dubious mixes. A few people said I did a great job, so I’m going with that.

After my set, I got to dance the night away, blowing off steam beachside in Tlell like there was no tomorrow. But there was a tomorrow, and a tomorrow after that, when I arrived in Saskatoon, a little tired, for my course.

Trauma-informed art therapy focuses on creating objects that ground us. Warm-up exercises moved us through material and connected us to our breath. We were asked to pay attention to what happens in our body as we experiment with different art materials and focused on ideas of place and security.

You may think this sounds a little hokey, but it isn’t. Connection to breath and body is something we all forget and it is central to regulating thoughts and emotions. It’s so easy. Notice your breath right now. You just breathed a little deeper, didn’t you?

I connected with many people at the conference. When you’re from Haida Gwaii, you are instantly the most interesting person in the room. It helps that I mentioned seeing grey whales in the inlet in front of my Skidegate office.

Just doing my part for tourism Haida Gwaii.

Whenever I’m off island, I’m reminded how incredible is the place I call home. In Saskatoon I stayed in a little Airbnb basement suite, hearing the footsteps and even the snoring of my hosts who lived above. It was a fine place, very comfortable (and devoid of any familial responsibility), but I definitely missed my Tlell house, with its considerable distance from any neighbour, and the river and ocean nearby.

All the artwork I created this week centred on connection — connection to place, food, people and family.

I’d like the thank the Gwaii Trust Society for funding my trip. The travel and continuing education grants are not hard to apply for. There is money out there people — find your dream and plan your trip! Then cross your fingers that the ferry goes, and the plane lands… and the same on the way back. My bag was the third off the airport conveyor, so I just made the ferry.

After romanticizing Haida Gwaii during my trip, I returned to black flies and hidden, rotten strawberries in a newly bought container. Then again, there was an email from Carol Andrews telling me that Tlell-area residents donated a total of $1,105 to the Canadian Cancer Society, and that the regional office in Prince George thanks us.

She also gave a correction on some Tlell history concerning Andrews Place (no apostrophe, for starters). I’ll hopefully get permission to share more with you next time, faithful readers. Until then, send me your thoughts at