This is one of those moments when words come close to failing. To be perfectly candid about it, looking out our windows this afternoon at the torrents of rain gave us pause. With the light up of the Festival's biggest night of the season hours away, we found ourselves up against the hard reality of a weather system that showed nothing remotely resembling a Christmas spirit. How do you hold a bonfire party in a sub tropical, temperate rainforest monsoon? There was nothing for it but to stick to the plan. Our tents and sound equipment arrived on time, faithfully marshaled by the District of West Vancouver's unflappable Crystal Coté. Our stalwart friends Sofia and Brad, Paul and Gwendolyn, Squamish elder Wendy Charbonneau and a host of others including the Tiddley Cove Morris Dancers, brought the heat of moral courage to us. I realized all would be well when our torchman from the Parks department, with a can of gasoline at hand, set light to the twenty metre bonfire he had laid with pyrotechnical majesty on Friday. It was a work of sculpture in beach logs, sparks and flame. There was a deep Christmas magic at work, in the Morris dancers and the Hot Mammas, in the hundreds of people who came despite the tempest -- the people who said they would not miss this event for the world. And this was enough, in the end, to make the rain stop. It was this leap of faith at Christmas that did what the satellite imaging said was impossible: bring a dry hour or two to Dundarave Beach against a Pineapple Express. We ended the bonfire night with (another) $25,000 raised to make sure the people who are homeless in our community have what they need to take pride of place in the centre of our community. We ended the night, the longest night of the year, leaving no one in the cold. There's deep Christmas magic in all of this, proof that there's a light in the world the darkness cannot overcome.
We live in a supernaturally beautiful corner of the world, but the night is starting to weigh heavily on us as we tip to our furthest point away from the Sun. The long evenings of summer may be a distant memory, and it can take some effort to believe our days will not always be as dark as they are now. Sunday December 20th is the longest night of the year, and there's no better way to pass it than together on Dundarave Beach in a forest of shining trees and in the blazing glow of a 20 metre yuletide bonfire. This will be the Festival's biggest fundraising night of the Christmas season, and it looks like we're well on our way to raising $25,000 again for the North Shore Shelter. Every penny of this money makes sure that the people who feel the bite of winter the most, sleeping in our ravines, forests, or beaches can claim their rightful place in the heart of our community. Keep the night with us, and together we will see brighter days.
Master Carver Bill Seminoff and Elder Wendy Charbonneau
We might never know who carved this nativity setting of old growth red cedar, but the devotion and love the carver poured into these works remains vibrant and alive today. Its in the patina of the wood, masterfully brought back by our eminent friend Bill Seminoff. This carver speaks volumes about the First Christmas in the unconventional composition of the figures. The Shepherd, the King, the Angel and an ever watchful Joseph have faces representing all races. The Infant Jesus is not in a manger, lying like an object removed from the real world of human life. He's on the lap of his Mother, seated in her love for him and reaching out to everyone who approaches. All of these figures stand without a roof over their heads, and witness to the fact that the world can change forever and for good even in a condition of homelessness.
Today we unveiled the Dundarave Nativity, and for the first time saw these carvings blessed by a paddle song. Elder Wendy Charbonneau, whose many times great grandfather Chief Capilano welcomed Captain Cook to the waters off Dundarave Beach, sang the paddle song of her grandmother, a friend of Emily Carr. There was a gentle grace to this moment, as determined and subtle as the return of spring itself. Under a warm and speckless sky, after the blessing, Gleneagles and Irwin Park students echoed her call to peace and deep Christmas joy as they sang to hundreds of their friends, family and beautiful strangers.
Be sure to visit the Dundarave Nativity this season. If you'd like to share its spirit with people on your holiday list, contact us about the Festival's Christmas card featuring the Dundarave Nativity -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- or purchase them here.
The first sign that this would not be an ordinary Saturday in Dundarave Village came at around 11 am, a sound of jingle bells from what was nothing like a one horse open sleigh. A lone Black Sheep Morrisman stalked down Marine Drive, festooned with a cape of ties from a previous life in office towers, straight for the Red Lion pub. In short order the pub was filled with teams of them -- three teams to be exact. They spilled out onto a street closed to traffic and began a dance that defied the dark and cold wet of winter. At the other corner of the street, to keep things moving in the spirit of Christmas past, Chef Don Guthro and his sweetly efficient collaborators from the Lookout Shelter served up a pulled pork barbeque that had people returning for thirds. Because he is an honest man with a stage presence, he reverently displayed on a soft bed of vegetables the head of the pig he had roasted. He allowed us never to take for granted the origins of our food, to always be grateful for what comes to our table. At the very centre of Dundarave Village, from the Mulgrave choirs to the Red Hot Mammas and Burstin' With Broadway, the light and heat and joy of the Festival came to us in song. This day marked a fundraising milestone for the Festival, launching it with a running total of $20,000 for the North Shore Shelter. Councillor Bill Sprovitch was dead on, as usual, when he observed how vital it is for the health and quality of life of our community for us to keep building it together. We keep the true spirit of the season best when we find new and joyful ways to bring warmth and light and home to the most vulnerable among us. There's bliss in making sure no one is left out in the cold.
Mario Russell (on the right) catches his breath.
It takes a lot of heart to turn out on a Saturday morning after a week of rain storms to move a forest of Christmas trees onto a beach. Nobody seemed to mind the weather, not our burly brothers from the Knights of Columbus, or the First West Vancouver Scouts, or the merry band of students from St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, or the dauntless Kennedys. As soon as Mario Russell pulled in with his trailer of trees -- a Christmas on wheels from his Valley View Tree Farm -- we set to work fitting them into the holes prepped by Great Canadian Landscaping and Sequoia. (Earlier in the week, one of the landscapers pulled a golden Christmas angel out of a hole she was digging. Watch for it to take its place of glory on the landscapers' tree.) In an hour or so the trees were planted, and Dundarave Beach began to look a lot like Christmas.
Every year at this time, when the trees go into the ground, you get this sense that all will be well. Despite the serious challenges life can throw at all of us, when you've got a circle of friends standing together to face all of it with hope, it becomes clearer that a Christmas miracle is the most natural thing in the world.
A Thanksgiving walk on Cypress Mountain brings home how fast the season's turning. Alder and blue berry leaves the colour of fire, the first sheet of ice on Yew Lake that sings like a flight of kinglets when you skip stones across it. But more festive still was Wednesday night and meeting the good members of the Dundarave Business Association at the Red Lion. We talked about the work we've done together, the miracle of raising $25,000 last season in six weeks of organizing for the North Shore Shelter and how the shelter put this money to work in creating the North Shore Culinary Program. Now Dundarave boasts some of the best eating in Vancouver, from the best and most ethical meats anywhere (thanks for the turkey, Sebastian and Jessica) to a constellation of amazing restaurants. So why not, I asked, build a bridge between the Culinary Program and this haven for foodies? The answer came as easily as turning the right key in the right lock. With Christmas coming closer by the week, it takes *this* village to prepare the way for it by finding a permanent path out of poverty for some of the most vulnerable members of our community and lighting up our corner of the world in the Dundarave Festival of Lights.
Its one thing, in the teeth of organizing a fabulously family friendly event like the Festival of Lights to have a sense that, in addition to having a ton of fun there's an important point to all of this. Then you sit down for a chat with the North Shore Shelter's radiant Louise Warner, and all of the pieces come together. Yesterday we met with Louise to get a complete breakdown of how the Shelter put to work the $25,000 the Festival raised last year. We thought she might tell us about important things like new clothes, bedding or beds for their residents. Instead, Louise told us the Shelter used the Festival money to start up a state of the art kitchen training program. With Chef Don Guthro at the helm, the Shelter's North Shore Culinary Training Program gives its current and former residents in-depth training in how to cook beautifully. The program gives its participants an essential life skill -- everyone should be able to enjoy a good meal -- while at the same time giving them the ability to find work. Leave it to the North Shore to create an innovative and life changing answer to Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen. Chef Guthro, Louise Warner and the program's participants definitely have the good angels on their side. The money we raise in this year's Dundarave Festival of Lights will be used to keep the North Shore Culinary Training Program a taste of Heaven's Kitchen.
Unbelievable. Labour Day weekend and we're starting to think about Christmas. Truth is, its never really left us -- planting the trees on the beach, dancing and singing with the fiercely festive women of Tiddley Cove Morris, and walking knee deep in snow through a forest of Christmas trees in the dead of night. All of these memories kept the heat wave cool and were never far as we swam off Dundarave Beach through the summer. This year, arms linked with the fabulous people of the Dundarave Business Association and the District of West Vancouver, with the heavenly host of people who've been with us every step, and with more time available to us than those wild six weeks of 2008, we're set to make some wonderful things happen at Dundarave Village and Dundarave Beach this Christmas.
The Dundarave Festival Society
We are a circle of friends working in the Dundarave Festival of Lights Society to bring to life the promise of Christmas in our community, a season of life, passion and purpose that leaves no one in the cold. This is community-driven social change, in the true spirit of Christmas and the best spirit of our community.