Shuswap is my favourite summer place. We’ve been coming off and on for years, and I have so many wonderful childhood memories, especially of camping at the provincial park where we spent hours messing around with walkie-talkies, biking around Coho Lane (with no hands!), playing bocce ball at night, and hiding in the bushes to scare nice people just trying to use the outhouse. We’ve gone house boating, hiked Copper Island, shopped for local pottery, and made sure to eat at all the good spots, like Finz (or Finces, as my dad likes to say) and Moose Mulligans. I still love stopping at the floating store in the narrows to buy ice cream, tubing for hours on end until the outsides of my ankles are raw from rubbing on the tube as we bounce over the wake, and finding the trickling waterfall just up Seymour Arm so we can jump off the boat and swim right up to it, carefully climbing on slippery rocks for the perfect photo.
The past three summers, however, we’ve truly found our happy place, renting the same house in Blind Bay for a week. Not having headed to “the Shwap,” (another of the endearing terms my dad uses when he’s in a great mood from having taken his boat out for a good burn) this summer, I’ve been thinking about, and missing, something that may seem a little odd. I’m missing my yearly dose of inspiration that comes with seeing one of the world’s happiest people in his element.
In Blind Bay it’s become a bit of a tradition to attend the Thursday night outdoor concert, and each year I leave with such a full heart, but it’s not because of the music or the cinnamon-sugar mini donuts, as surprising as that may be. Instead, it’s because of an old dude named Cal with greying hair who likes to wear Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and dance his friggen’ heart out.
The first year I was struck with awe when I noticed this man, who I’d later hear someone call Cal, dancing all alone on the grass in front of the stage where a band called The Elk Tribe was playing. While everyone else at the concert was sitting on blankets spread across the ground, milling about with their dogs in tow, or relaxing on lawn chairs and eating burgers from the nearby food truck, Cal was dancing with a seemingly unending source of energy, as if powered by pure joy and enthusiasm. I’d never seen anything like it before. He’d close his eyes, and just move with the music, being truly himself, not appearing to care one iota about any of the rest of us watching him. It was clear that Cal came to the concert to enjoy the music and dance, and that’s exactly what he did, bending his knees, spinning in circles, and nodding to the beat. At one point, while the band was taking a break, Cal’s wife appeared with his supper, a plate of steaming food from home. She never joined him dancing though.
And on each of the next year’s visits, I was delighted to see Cal, obviously a Blind Bay local, continuing to dance alone on the stretch of grass in front of the stage with his eyes closed, and a giant boyish smile plastered across his face.
For someone like me who lacks rhythm, Cal’s dancing is enviable. But Cal is also a yearly reminder of something more significant than my lack of dance moves; as someone who is often self-conscious and worried about what others may think, Cal represents a life free of those worries, and is a clear example of the freedom, and subsequent happiness, that comes with not giving a damn. Cal also reminds me of the importance of doing what you love, even if that means doing it alone.
So thank you old dude with the greying hair, Bermuda shorts, and Hawaiian shirt dancing with a giant smile plastered across your face. Thank you Cal, for the yearly reminder to follow your heart. Serious goals.