It was a rare morning in Haida Gwaii as we approached the dock in Daajing Giids. The sky was the kind of blue that burns itself on your retina so that when you come inside, everything looks red.
Our captain snugged us up to the dock like he was tucking us into bed, and the whole day was opened ahead of us. After breakfast, we boarded buses for a ride up to the northern tip of Haida Gwaii at the village of Old Masset. We had a date with folks up there to tour James Hart’s home and carving shed, to hit a wonderful gift shop in the village, and then to tour Christian White’s carving shed and long house.
Of course, the carvings were superlative. James left his house open for us even though he would not be there. Not to worry, his eldest son was in attendance to narrate the finer points, but Hart’s work speaks volumes on its own. We gained a deeper understanding of his work from the way he orders his dwelling. His artistic nature and mastery of the craft seem to permeate everything he touches – it is truly inspirational.
After a brief session of retail therapy at Sarah’s Haida Gifts, we continued to Christian White’s carving shed. We saw a new canoe in progress along with other commissions awaiting completion or delivery. The assortment of handmade carving tools gripped our imaginations as though they were keys to this fine work, though we all knew there was no substitute for a lifetime of commitment to the art.
We migrated into the long house at Christian White’s (known as the Canoe People’s House) for an afternoon of food and dancing! A few of the more eager men (myself included) almost made their way into the woman’s dance, but not to worry. We eventually had our chance to leave it all on the floor!
An hour of driving put us back on the ship, where we slipped the lines and made for Ketchikan. Rumors of high winds a couple of days out couldn’t dampen our spirits as we cruised Hecate Strait in one-to-two-foot seas! What a fine trip to Haida Gwaii. Such trips simply don’t get any better! Until next year, Háws dáng hl kíngsaang…or, I’ll see you again.