A recent view of Tlell and a Montreal memory lane. (Photos by Oknidius/Flickr, Haida Gwaii Observer)

Tlellegraph: Montlellians to the core

By Janet Rigg

Downtown Montreal to downtown Tlell.

Nearly 13 years ago my husband and I made that move. We left our life in the bustling core of Montreal to live in the quiet bustle of Tlell. Honking horns, traffic, construction, and the noise from bars, restaurants and associated revelers were replaced by the sounds of wind, waves, birds, and crackling bonfires (also the sounds of associated revelers, often louder). It was quite the shock.

Last week, my husband and I were blessed with a return visit to Montreal. It was the first time we’d been back, save for a two-day visit about a year and half ago with our kids. This time we were without our kids, and that allowed us to firmly stroll down memory lane and re-experience the Montreal we knew and loved over a decade ago.

Something about being back there allowed me to get reacquainted with my former self. When we move places so dramatically, it feels like we lose a bit of contact with the story that made us up until that point. I’ve changed here, mostly for the best (depending on who you ask). I’ve been changed by the land, and the people who call Haida Gwaii home.

I’ve “grown up,” become a mother, developed my career and purpose, and become involved in community business in a way I never did as a university student in Montreal. I look different and feel different – my body is different, and my beliefs, values, and ideals have all been shaped by my new home.

We often recognize change only in hindsight. Returning to Montreal somehow stitched those two tapestries of my life, Montreal and Tlell, together. The change I saw in Montreal I felt in myself. I was also reminded of what had not changed. My love of life, art, fine food, friends, connection, have all remained.

This sense of joining was even greater as we had the undeniable pleasure of hanging out with temporarily absent Tlellians Darrell, Celina and Yoshi. They have chosen to spend a year in Montreal, soaking up all such a vibrant community has to offer. Dance, art, drama, singing, fabulous markets and restaurants all feature strongly in their new life. They live in an apartment building, with a fancy computerized entry system that doesn’t even recognize that they live there, perhaps sensing that Tlellian fish a bit out of water.

At one point, we took Darrell and Celina on a driving tour of their new city, all of us in our rental driving the Grand Prix circuit like Jacques Villeneuve. That juxtaposition typified the fun collision of worlds. And what could be more Tlellian than meeting in the hotel bar the night before leaving? Probably pretty much anything!

We walked and walked, traipsing across the city at all hours. Ironically, we walked far more than I do in my rural lifestyle. And I missed it. I even missed the bracing cold that was beginning to descend on the city. I remembered my jay-walking skills out of necessity – you never stand idle on a street corner if it’s safe to cross because it’s just too darn cold.

On a cold evening, our last one there, we ducked into a cute cozy restaurant we didn’t remember, but it seemed to fit the type of place we loved on St. Laurent. Appropriately named “Majestique!” it was a gastronomical delight for the ages. Turns out the chef was from a well-known restaurant we did know from our past life, and this was his “casual” dining experience. We discovered something new, with echoes of old, just to escape the cold.

That, perhaps, is a great way to describe our move to Tlell. Here, we found a new land, but also an ancient energy that an ever-changing city lacks. We developed new relationships with old families that lived here before us. And all just to escape the cold.

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