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 wintertime.

December Sounds

sounds of Christmas coming: carols being practiced, snip-snip of scissors in Elementary classrooms as another year’s set of beautiful decorations are created, lips smacking at delicious dinners all over town, strains of Christmas music encouraging shoppers in local stores, busy hum of gifts being wrapped and cards being prepared, cheerful chatter in long lineups at the Post Office as patient sighs as heavy packages are shifted to a more comfortable position in the long wait and excited exclamations as long-awaited parcels are received, hustle and bustle of last-minute shopping at stores, flea markets, bazaars and from catalogs, the sound of music as the Tidal Choir once again practices for its annual Christmas concert, laughter as community members practice their parts for the annual Community Christmas Concert, beautiful Christmas carols sung at the annual Ecumenical Christmas Service, cheerful voices calling out “merry Christmas” and other greetings of the season, contented groans from the owners of over-extended tummies, the scritch-scritch of skates sliding over ice on the slough

lots of excitement as everybody in Masset heads to the annual Masset Christmas Craft Sale, featuring over 30 tables loaded with creations by local home-based artists and artisans…argillitecarvings, silver and gold Haida carved jewellry, T-shirts with silk-screened native designs, cedar carvings and bentwood boxes, knitting and chrocheting, handmade Christmas decorations, spruce root weaving, framed original paintings, books, homemade candles, homemade baked goods…

nervously delighted squeals from children and the banging of cupboard doors, crashing of falling objects and bumping of bodies into furniture as Masset families scramble to find candles, flashlights and lanterns on the occasion of yet another power outage… and children heard begging Daddy to tell them about the “Dark Ages” when Daddy was a little boy growing up in Old Massett and there were no electric lights… and horrified amazement to learn there were also no TVs, computers, Nintendos, electric appliances, Christmas lights, VCRs, etc etc… and protestations from Daddy that it was only a few years ago and it was NOT the Dark Ages… and reminders that some folks on the island still live beyond the reach of BC Hydro

Ring…ring…Hello, this is BC Ferries, please stand by for a special bulletin…due to weather conditions the ferry will be 48 hours behind schedule .Ring..Ring …Hello, this is Harbour Air, we regret that due to weather conditions all flights are cancelled … crackle, crackle… This is the marine forecast…gales in Hecate Strait … storm warnings in Dixon Entrance

the “woooo” of the wind howling round the corner of the house with the splatters of rain tossed up against the window by a gusting, yet tepid, south wind, the the drip, drip, drip of melting snow falling from the housetop to the mushy, slushy remains of yesterday’s beautiful, but sadly short-lived, white stuff

joyous choir of voices lifted in exhultation over the celebration of Christ’s birth; voices young and old joining in dramatic representation of the spirit of the season; appreciative clapping by an audience eagerly enjoying the efforts of so many community members at the annual Christmas concert

Masset Christmas Sail-past from Old Massett to the New Masset docks featuring brightly decorated fish and sail boats on the water, accompanied by cars driving along the highway opposite them, honking and flicking their lights… and beautifully decorated homes along the waterfront adding to the colorful scene


sounds of Santa splashing down the chimney, while his flying seals flap around on the roof… intrepid cross-country skiers waterskiing down the street… tent-cities erected outside the closed-down ferry and airplane terminals… Merry Masset Christmas, folks!

January sounds

crunch, squeak, crunch of crispy dry snow underfoot… chattering of teeth in sub-zero temperatures… slap, splat of snowballs contacting woolly winter wear… swoosh of boots sliding over slippery frozen snow… soft plop of snow gently flopping from heavily laden branches to cottony snowbanks below… swoosh of sleds flying down slippery white slopes… whooshing of freshly sharpened skate blades gliding over frozen ponds in the gravel pits… happy shouts and squeals from youngsters playing joyfully in the beautiful white stuff… booming of slate gray surf pounding frozen shores and gently swallowing flakes that dare to land too close to the tide line

seed catalog pages rustling and eager dreaming and discussion about spring planting, and garden and landscaping plans… as happy gardeners, oblivious to the mundane demands of life, nestle into the cozy comfort of their easy chairs on dripping, blustery, beclouded January evenings, noses buried in colorful seed catalogs, lost in dreamy reverie, thoughts of sunny summer days in their variegated flower gardens and bountiful vegetable patches blotting out the drabness of winter

daily footsteps trekking out to the wintry remains of the flower garden to see if any snowdrops have put in an appearance yet  rumblings from the latest earthtremor echoing in the form of discussion of our Emergency Response Plan and how effective it would be if we had a really big earthquake or tsunami… followed by busy stockpiling of basic emergency supplies, and practice response drills… and checking out the spring Community Recreation / Continuing Ed calendar to see if any First Aid courses are being offered

February sounds

grey, sprinkles of rain, but something in the air… 5 out of 8 homes on our block featuring folks outside doing yardwork…our first snowdrop in bloom…glorious sunshine, dry steps and sidewalk, steady stream of pedestrian passersby… crocuses in bloom, daffodils coming along, friendly folks sitting out front in lawn chairs soaking up the chilly sunshine, birds singing…sounds of cupboards being emptied and boxes sorted in preparation for spring cleaning and flea markets and bartering… lineups at the Post Office to sign up on the free compost bin list… temperature dropping all day… sun turning to rain turning to snow… back to my warm armchair, tucked in with an afghan and deep into seed catalogs… dreaming on…

Computer Lesson #1: always save everything you’re doing at least every five minutes, especially on rainy, windy, winter…and spring… and summer… and fall days, or risk losing it all due to our frequent power bumps

birds twittering, distant sounds of dogs barking, dry twigs and needles crackling underfoot beneath a canopy of spruce, squash-squish-splash of feet picking their way across soggy spots in open meadows, gently splashing of salty waves against shoreline rocks… tired, yellowed grasses, bent over from winters’ rain and snow, taking on a fresh beauty as sunshine envelops them; tiny new buds on alder trees and salmonberry bushes whispering that the seasons still turn in their ancient patterns; glossy deep green leaves of salal shining brightly despite all that winter hurls their way; tens, perhaps hundreds, of tiny, scurrying creatures running madly about as the rock covering their sea-side hideaway is lifted up and away for a moment; other minute, creeping, crawling members of the rich cycle of life, brought forth to wondering childrens’ eyes through the lens of a magnifying glass; fresh deer droppings within a stone’s toss of houses reminding one of often unseen, yet important, neighbors

the pounding of basketballs and feet, young and old, in gyms all over Old and New Massett, as the basketball season continues in full swing.

Mid 1990s