Five years ago this week I met a group that literally changed my life. They asked to work with me to share my skills and theirs, and to become part of social change / social experiment  projects. Through them I was helped to see a part of me I was only dimly aware existed – the song writer. And they traveled to meet me in other parts of the world.

Our association was unusual because of its unexpectedness, and the fact it happens across a number of significant differences – it is intergenerational, intercultural and interprofessional. It is also a deliberate seeking out of peak experiences; accompanied by a generosity of spirit, mutual hard work, ‘showing up’ in every way possible, deep regard and wicked humour.

Our association was initially forged on the banks of the Snake / Salmon Rivers, in a series of canyons and rapids along the Washington-Idaho border. We were on a Music in Wild places rafting trip (Winding Waters Rafting) – with the band giving concerts at lunch and after dinner and then everybody jamming til the moon rose. Rafters were invited to bring instruments, but there wasn’t room for the guitar I brought. I had also brought tins of Pender Harbour halibut, and jams and jellies from home for the band – wanting to share a little bit of home and knowing they were just finishing off a long tour away from their homes. Courtney Hartman, virtuosic flat picking guitarist, sought me out and said ‘hey, you can use my guitar if you want and maybe we could play together some ‘. I was gob smacked, having seen Courtney in You Tube vids, and read about her in the music journals – I was more than slightly in awe.

By the end of the week I had taught some songs I knew, and we had a tradition of singing ‘Amelia Earhart’ together  whenever possible, with the band being the band, and other rafters being the chorale. I got to sit with the band during their concerts cause they found out I knew the 6th part to their 5 parts for their songs  (I had been playing along with those videos for 18 months). And of course there was the triumphant final hour on the river when the rafts all tied up together and the band played in the middle; and while thereafter held onto my legs , I stood at the top of the rafts and conducted and we all sang intothekanding at the top of furlongs (‘Amelia Earhart’ of course).

Since then the bassist (Tofino’s own, by way of Mayne Island, Salt Spring, Toronto and New York- Zoe Guigueno) has made a house call to write songs with me; I have nominated the band for a national award for supporting democracy in the way they work; Kimber Ludiker got her picture taken in front of Amelia Earhart’s second plane in the Smithsonian and sent it to me; we met up in Seattle. We send little notes to each other.

Courtney and I have gone on to be learning exchange partners which has involved meeting when we can wherever  in the world we are (Leon Spain for instance), we’ve conducted a song challenge (I wrote 6 songs Courtney wrote 40), worked on a different form of touring (‘slow tours’), and house concerts (2 way); collaborated on poetry, and tried out creativity/productivity/and fun generative tools. We have presented and taught together at conferences. I have become a much better musician  and, yes, a real songwriter . We have shared tears, fears and joy.

Songwriting and musicianing is filled with hard emotional labour, doubts, edits and edits and edits, fits and starts – fragments of ideas and feelings woven together. It is almost literally a labor of love – the women of Della Mae enfolded me, put wind beneath my wings – and on a good day I am still flying.