The people of Desolation Sound, the wildlife captured in Lawrence’s last memoir
Not everyone is able to travel to the islands and waterways of the Salish Sea in British Columbia, an area that has been home to the Tla’amin, Klahoose and Homalco First Nations for centuries. But the memoirs of Grant Lawrence Back to Solitude provides an entertaining and insightful view of the unique characters and multitude of wild creatures – from ticks to cougars to humpback whales – that inhabit the Desolation Sound area.
Lawrence, who lives in Vancouver with his wife, musician Jill Barber, and children Josh and Grace, is an award-winning songwriter and broadcaster as well as an indie rocker. Back to Solitude is a sequel to his adventures in solitudepublished in 2010.
Desolation Sound was named by Captain George Vancouver in 1792. Vancouver and her crew were bewildered by the complex mix of islands, peninsulas, channels and bays on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast. The maps inside Lawrence’s book show this complex geographic network.
As a child, Lawrence did not share his parents’ enthusiasm for the rugged beauty of this remote place his family went to every month after his father bought 180 acres of coastal wilderness for $155,000 in 1976. His father subdivided the property into 38 beachfront lots. land and built a family cabin in the early 1980s.
As an adult, Lawrence has gradually come to love this saltwater paradise and now enjoys introducing his children to the wonders it contains and sharing the stories of the colorful residents who once called it home.
One such former resident is “Cougar” Nancy Crowther. Crowther received his nickname in 1939 after killing the first of 23 cougars. She had moved to Desolation Sound with her parents and brother when she was nine.
Immigrants from the United Kingdom, William and Doris Crowther were not suited to the difficulties of living in a place accessible only by boat. However, the family managed to build a house, plant trees for an orchard, cultivate a garden and raise chickens, geese, goats and bees, supplemented with seafood, to meet their needs. food. William was also among the first to raise Japanese oysters beginning in the 1950s. Nancy married, then divorced, but continued to live on her parents’ property until her death at age 71 in 1990.
Eventually, heading west into British Columbia, he met a woman in Kamloops whose sister and her boyfriend owned land on Desolation Sound. Letawsky thought having the chance to live off the land and sea was appealing, and he convinced his girlfriend to join him on a hike through the Coast Range to the West Coast. Dodging landslides and wandering grizzly bears, the pair managed to reach the coast just before collapsing from starvation.
Letawsky used his natural charm and salesmanship to win friends, including Lawrence’s parents, who grew attached to this “hippie remnant”. Lawrence discovered that the hermit’s sisters and daughter weren’t as enamored with his antics. His daughter told Lawrence that her father was “running away from responsibility, accountability, his own integrity and guilt.”
Although he learned his hero’s shortcomings, Lawrence feels he learned valuable lessons from the Hermit. “Much of who I am now can be attributed to Russell’s positive influence and teachings. None of this excuses his behavioral patterns, and I only wish he had passed on some of the gifts that he had given me to his own family members and loved ones.
The final section of Lawrence’s book is dedicated to detailing the saga of the Spaghetti Bandit, a wanderer who camped out and disrupted sacred First Nations cultural sites and holed up in various empty cabins in the area. Local owners were spooked as the bandit seemed able to disappear straight into the bush to evade capture.
Through Back to Solitude, Lawrence’s love for the natural beauty of Desolation Sound shines through. His writing gives an insight into this area still somewhat off the beaten track thanks to the barriers of mountains and rivers.
Andrea Geary is a freelance writer in Winnipeg.
St. Vital Community Correspondent
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital and a former community reporter for The Headliner.
Read the full biography