Letter from Sayward

This post is by a former student, Paul Stahnke, who is living off the grid in Sayward, BC. I have invited him to contribute to the Blog when he feels like it. Welcome, Paul! What he has to say complements the discussion on happiness.

“Suck City” sure grabbed my attention.

We have invented a reflective lifestyle here, in Sayward. Certainly no Thoreau, but Michelle and I have made a conscious effort to live differently.

Most days I do not leave the 1 km dead end road we live on. Cell phones don’t work here. On sunny mornings I take my dog for a long walk and just enjoy the experience. On rainy days I light the woodstove in the shop, and then go for my walk. I try to work at least 6 hours per day….doing whatever project(s) I am consumed with.

Our scourge is the local elk herd, and I have spent countless hours trying to figure out their habits. I have fenced our home site and welded up a large steel gate to keep them out. We ensure it is locked every evening. If we are away, the neighbours do it for us. I spent hundreds of dollars constructing the ultimate predator-proof enclosure for our chickens. That is also locked up every night.  We are also very wary of cougars, and when they are actively around I pack a weapon and/or carry bear spray. If there are racoon tracks on  the river bank and lots of squirrels about there is most like no cougar in the neighbourhood. Plus, ravens follow them around and the stellar jays go nuts when they see them. There are clues, for sure.  In the last 5 years I have walked into 4 of them at close range. In the past they have killed our sheep and I have had to kill them in turn. One time a large cat tore open the closed shed they were locked up in. I no longer raise sheep because of that. (Sheep are cougar magnets).

Last summer a large cat broke into my neighbours house across the river. It pushed the door open and attacked one of their dogs about 9:00 in the evening. The next day I walked into the same cat as it had crossed the river to our side during the night. I grabbed up my little Jack Russell and squared to the cat and we both backed away. From that time on I always keep my dog leashed in the woods and a knife in my pocket. It is definitely a good way to ‘live in the moment’, for sure.

Living in Sayward is a way to live consciously for us. I try to ensure it is every moment, but certainly don’t succeed. The river, (where we live is tidal), is a main focus as is ‘the Mountain’. What’s the tide doing? The current? How much longer until the sun is above the mountain. Or, “Look at the way the shadow climbs every evening and turns the mountain pink”. Of course, many many days the clouds obscure it, entirely. And the wind! On those beautiful days it is usually blowing westerly here, sometimes 45 kts. Sometimes for days on end.

It is a vary encompassing place to live.

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