Masset Sounds… and Scents, Sights, and Sensations
In the past, I wrote a weekly column, entitled “Masset Sounds,” in the Queen Charlotte Islands Observer newspaper. The column’s name came from Masset Sound, a geographical feature at approximately 54N 132W, just off the shoreline of Masset, Haida Gwaii. In the column, I attempted to capture the spirit of the Masset/t area. Following are some excerpts which describe that community in the autumn.

September Sounds

moans, groans and loudly expressed opinions about an odor reminiscent of old gym shoes, wafting from a large collection of crab traps

raindrops! soft, cool, refreshing raindrops, dancing lightly across whispering leaves; tiptoeing in gentle gusts across the window; running into the arms of gardens delighted to welcome natural, heaven-sent irrigation; trickling with satisfaction down the necks of certain not-quite-so-delighted humans; declaring with little splattering peals of laughter that autumn’s here

lots of laughter and friendly conversation as St. Pauls’ Thrift Shop reopens after its summer break, and folks drop in for their weekly Saturday morning cup of coffee, slice of Black Forest Cake, good community camaraderie… and of course the latest and greatest deals in town

October sounds

coffee-shop discussions of the fishing season…mainly in the past tense now

crunching of dry fall leaves underfoot… brilliant riot of oranges, red, browns brightening the autumn landscape

salty sea-water scent surprising my nose as I step onto the causeway

snatches of breeze playfully grabbing at my hair, then swelling suddenly in an attempt to stop me short in my tracks, and just as suddenly ceasing altogether so that I feel about to tip over as I try to catch my balance in the unexpected stillness

cheerful strains of choruses sung by happy little Halloween strangers in return for treats… and the pleasant clink, clink of coins dropping into UNICEF boxes bringing promise of happier lives for underprivileged children around the world… all mingled with the splatter of raindrops and the misty darkness of fog that always manages to give the evening a suitably eery atmosphere

November Sounds

cold seeping into my bones as a simple walk turns into a tussle with the cold north wind, accompanied by sudden drenching of downpouring rain interspersed with misty snatches of rain droplets finding their way into every minute opening in my clothing, and my feet getting more soaked by the moment, the whole world a giant puddle… and then when I least expect it, when I’m about ready to crawl into my warm snuggly bed and hibernate till summer, the sun breaks through the thick grey storm clouds in all its glorious warm brilliance, the wind lets out one final howling whistle and then pulls in its horns, allowing just a touch of light, warm caressing breath to escape, gently licking up the overflows of puddles and allowing stepping-stones of dry ground to appear… and I…how can I help but fling my arms wide, twirl around a few times, and let out a delighted whoop of invigorated exultation?

the rustle of paper, the noise of scurrying feet, the ring of telephones and all the other sounds that signify the annual last moment preparation by the Lions Club and volunteer citizens for the annual Masset Mini Timmy Telethon… which every year raises more money per capita that any other Timmy Telethon… a vote of thanks by a community which appreciates deeply the services provided by this fine organization

excited jostling and chatter as young members of Guiding and Scouting find their places before the Remembrance Day services… quietness, thoughtful moments – of remembrance for some, of questioning wonder or curiosity for others… clear tones from a real live trumpeter breaking the silence with the notes of Last Post as flags decline slowly, pensively to half mast… young necks craning, inquisitively taking in all the tradition, the ceremony of the laying of the wreath of remembrance…the muffled tramp, tramp of marching feet down the street, the gentle swish of flags carried by both youthful and old citizens… Guides, Scouts, Legionnaires, Canadian Armed Forces, Navy Cadets, RCMP, Rangers… the quiet silence of heads bowed in prayers of remembrance, the gentle rustle of flags being lowered to half-mast position, the lonely bugle call of Taps at the Masset centotaph on Remembrance Day, as once again a large portion of the community turns out to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice that we might remain a free nation


anguished moans from folks young and old when forced to drink powdered skim milk instead of fresh milk, as winter storms delay or cancel ferry runs… shouts of joy from young swim club members who got to miss a few days of school when stranded in Rupert, due to lack of ferry service… rustling papers of rarely used cookbooks, as moms frantically try to come up with meals which do not require fresh vegetables or dairy products, due to lack of ferry service… various groans and cheers and young folks explore their school lunch bags and discover lunches without bread, due to lack of ferry service… yawns of boredom from post office staff who had little to do, with no parcel post, due to lack of ferry service… whistling gust of wind, splattering of raindrops, banging of wind-blown objects, gale warnings crackling over radio waves, splashing of boots in myriads of puddles, waves crashing on beaches… and silence at the ferry dock!


mid 1990s