The Saga Begins
At Corner Rapids, on the Churchill River, in Saskatchewan’s far north, there is a plaque that reads:
“To the memory of Naomi Heffler,
who never missed a chance to surf here.
Thank God! There is always a Land of Beyond,
For us who are true to the trail,
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
A fairness that will never fail."
…...The Land of Beyond, Robert Service
I first saw this plaque in 2008, and became intrigued with the story of Naomi Heffler.
Naomi Grace Heffler was a vibrant, energetic, passionate young woman, who passed away in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada on Monday, January 20, 2003, at the age of 25 years. She was lost in a tragic avalanche, pursuing on of her many passions, skiing.
A native Calgarian, Naomi attended Highwood Elementary School, George P. Vanier, and William Aberhart. She graduated from the University of Calgary in 2002 with a degree in Chemical Engineering after having spent her internship in Ottawa at CH2M HILL.
During Naomi's short life, she excelled at everything she attempted. She was on the University of Calgary swim team; coached competitive swimming; and played and taught the piano.
Naomi was passionate about the outdoors. She was an accomplished paddler in both the canoe and the kayak, and an expert back country skier. She spent many summers guiding and instructing at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, Saskatchewan, Nahanni Wilderness Adventures, and was also a canoe and kayak instructor with Rocky Mountain Paddling Centre.
"She will be remembered for her ever-present smile, her attention to detail, and her love of life. Every day was a good day to go paddling for her."...... Ric Driediger, Churchill River Canoe Outfitters
Naomi has been dearly missed by her beloved family and her many friends, but her legacy lives on through her accomplishments and the many memories she has left behind with all who knew her.
Naomi loved whitewater! She loved to paddle through it, to cruise around in it and to "surf" various waves she loved. When Naomi was playing on the Churchill River at Missinipe, SK, one of her favorite things was to surf the top wave at Corner Rapids. In fact, she was one of the few who could get onto that wave. She would hover on it for hours!
On Saturday, May 17, 2003, a group of friends and former colleagues from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters met at Corner Rapids to remember Naomi and to officially to name the top wave "Naomi's Wave". A plaque identifying Naomi's Wave is embedded permanently on a rocky outcrop on the nearby shoreline.
"Corner Rapids", Churchill River, near Missinipe, SK., Canada
In the Back of My Mind
I had never met Naomi Heffler, but I have always felt like I know her. I have always admired the women that work for my friend, Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, as staff and outdoor guides. These are strong, independent, knowledgeable women, as comfortable in the wilderness as they are in their own living rooms.
The respect and deep fondness in Ric’s voice, as he spoke to me about Naomi, told me that she was one of these special ladies also. For whatever reason, Naomi’s story found a place to live in the back of my mind, and I found myself thinking about her often.
Forest House is set on the shore of a pristine lake in the McLennan Lake area of northern Saskatchewan, Canada about 150 km north of Lac la Ronge. Forest House was carefully constructed to have minimal impact on the delicate Boreal Forest Eco-system. The main lodge, two cabins, and spectacular organic garden took thirty years to come to fruition. Original builders, Deb Peters and Rick Kolstad lovingly crafted their vision using lumber harvested from the local forest, banks of solar collectors to generate power, and a self-composting septic system. Every single detail of Forest House's construction, from location, to materials, to the self-sustaining garden was meticulously planned to create a harmony between technology and the natural beauty of the Boreal forest.
During the summer of 2015, a rash of wildfires swept across northern Saskatchewan, causing mass evacuations, the loss of many cabins and homes, displacing wildlife, and devastating the forests of the north.
The fires of 2015 did not ignore Forest House. A massive fire storm swept towards the tiny, unnamed lake, threatening the lodge, its two cabins, and outlying buildings. The only chance to save Forest House was to set up and man a sprinkler system, keeping pumps fueled, in an effort to make everything as wet as possible. Staff members from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters (owners of Forest House), braved the smoke, ash, heat and flames, to stop the progress of the blaze within mere feet of the complex. What an amazing undertaking!
My first visit to Forest House was with my wife, Velda, in 2009. Churchill River Canoe Outfitter's owners, Ric and Theresa Driediger had just purchased the lodge. Velda and I were to be their first "test" guests.
When we walked across that last portage, into the small lake housing the lodge, we immediately realized something was different. The forest was greener and lusher than that of the surrounding lakes and there seemed to be a special feeling of serenity and calmness in the air.
Over the next few days, we explored the trails around the lodge, and ate gourmet meals with ingredients from the forest such as chickweed, dandelions, and cattails, as well as fresh produce from the abundant garden.
One calm, quiet, peaceful evening, as I was taking photos of the sunset, I saw a lone overturned red canoe, sitting on the shoreline, as if it was waiting for someone. Thoughts of Naomi entered my mind. I don’t think she had ever been to Forest House, but I know she would have loved it there. I then took this photo, entitled, “Waiting for Naomi”.
Motivation Through Inspiration
Velda and I have a friend named Sherry Duncan Paterson, a gentle, warm, kind-hearted lady, who has endured so much in her life. 2012 was the twentieth anniversary of Sherry's double lung and heart transplant. In August of that year, we returned to Forest House, with Sherry and her husband, Bob, our gift to her to celebrate this wonderful occasion, and to thank her for her inspiration and friendship.
The forest floor was bursting with new growth, this time countless clusters of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. As I was crawling around on my belly, taking pictures of the new residents in this magical place, I was deeply thankful.
That red canoe was still waiting on the shoreline, taking my thoughts, once again to Naomi. She would have loved it there in August and she would have loved to meet Sherry Duncan Paterson.
Upon returning to Missinipe after our trip, I sat in the Churchill River Canoe Outfitters office, chatting to Ric Driediger about our trip. Somehow, the conversation turned to the possibility of doing some recording at Forest House. Back then, it was just a passing thought. Little did I know.
Another Strong Lady
Sue Leonard and I met through social media in 2011 and immediately became friends.
Sue is an amazing musician. The moment I first heard her sing, I was taken with her sultry, sensitive, deeply-moving vocal style. She is also a brilliant song writer, with an uncanny ability to find the perfect words to paint vivid musical tapestries.
Above all, Sue is a genuine, caring, and sincere person. She has toured the world with k.d. lang, sung with Bon Jovi, and performed with Bruce Willis, as well as working with countless other gifted artists, reason enough to have a giant ego. Not Sue Leonard, who is one of the most humble, centered musicians I know.
The Naomi Project is Born
In 2012, I posted pictures of my most recent trip to Forest House trip on my website.
Coincidentally, upon viewing my pictures, Sue messaged me, saying that it was the perfect setting for a musical collaboration. I relayed this to Ric. Ric agreed, and the initial seed The Naomi Project was planted.
In my mind, the best way to present the events in 2012/2013, leading up to and including our journey to Forest House, and subsequent events is through my original Blog posts, created in real time as events unfolded.
Here they are:
Created: Wednesday, 05 September 2012
Last weekend, I had the good fortune to travel to Forest House with my wife, Velda, and my dear friends, Bob and Sherry Paterson. The weather wasn't the best, but the atmosphere was spectacular! The forest was full of really cool things to photograph.
This weekend, Velda and I traveled to Missinipe, with our daughter, Kayla, son-in-law, Brian, and grandchildren, Zoe and James. We hooked up with Bob and Sherry once more, this time to cruise Otter Lake looking for photo opportunities.
Another VERY COOL thing happened at Missinipe. My friend, Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters and Forest House and I talked about the possibility of doing some kind of music/recording project at Forest House in 2013. Coincidentally, my friend, Sue Leonard, (singer, songwriter, recording artist, kd Lang, Bruce Willis, Bon Jovi...... the list goes on and on......) saw my Forest House pics from last week and expressed a desire to go there. Ric was thrilled to hear this and we're in the process of putting the whole thing together.
Dedicating Our Project to Naomi Heffler
Created: Friday, 28 September 2012
Naomi Heffler was an employee of Churchill River Outfitters, By all accounts, Naomi was an exceptional woman - she was an accomplished canoeist/kayaker; an excellent outdoor guide; a terrific skier; a brilliant scholar; a fine musician; but most importantly, a fantastic person. Naomi passed away in a skiing accident in 2003.
I didn't know Naomi. I first heard about her from long-time Churchill River Canoe Outfitter guide, Kevin Schultz show my wife, Velda and I "Naomi's Wave", at Corner Rapids on the Churchill River. There is a plaque there, naming this wave as Naomi's. in her memory, because she absolutely loved to play on it. Her story touched me.
When I returned to Churchill River Outfitters in Missinipe, I asked owner, Ric Driediger about Naomi. Even though it had been a few years since her passing, a tear formed in his eye and his voice cracked just a little as he spoke of her. It was obvious that Naomi had not just been an average employee. Ric truly respected, admired and adored her.
I didn't have to know Naomi to understand her spirit. In this day of perfect hair, perfect teeth, texting, social media, and entitlement, there is a breed of young ladies who rise above the mediocrity to become free-spirited independent thinkers. They are confident, self-reliant, talented, and spirited. They respect their fellow human beings, their environment, and revel in all Mother Nature offers them. They are the young ladies who love to paddle the wilderness, dance in whitewater and sleep in the forest. Naomi was such a lady.
My motivation to attempting a musical project such as this was initially based on somewhat selfish reasons. First, I really wanted to work with Sue Leonard; secondly, I wanted to create in the magical atmosphere Forest House provided. But...... Naomi's story would not leave me.
When I suggested to Ric and Sue, that we dedicate this project to Naomi, they quickly agreed. Thus, the "Naomi Project" was born.
Created: Wednesday, 10 October 2012
The moment of truth has come! The thought of sending some of my tracks to Sue, so we can begin the writing process is somewhat daunting. This lady has recorded in major studios with major artists all over the world. I'm sitting in a 12' x 12' room in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Somehow, this is all just a little surreal.
I'm sending Sue a track I originally wrote for a very talented student of mine, Gillian Pinder. She didn't know if the track suited her, so I thought I would see what Sue says. I'm also sending Sue an idea for a bluesy song.
I hope Sue sees even the smallest potential in my music. If not?....... This Forest House Project could prove to be a very Long and Winding Road!
Created: Thursday, 11 October 2012
Sue got back to me about the tracks I sent her. The amazing thing is that she responded by singing vocal ideas over my tracks. I am very happy about this. In my mind, Sue is putting her reputation on the line to come out here and work with me. I would think she would certainly tell me that what I sent her was below her standards.
A BIG Scare!
Created: Monday, 22 October 2012
Went to the dentist a few weeks ago for a routine filling. Walked in happy and positive. Came out stressed and shocked. My dentist, (very good, but young enough to be my daughter's daughter), started poking around in my mouth in a completely different place than where the filling was, muttered something to her assistant, and then laid this on me.
"I don't mean to alarm you, but I think you may have oral cancer".
WOW! One worries about lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer....... but oral cancer?
Had to go for a biopsy. The oral surgeon tried to reassure me that what he saw didn't look bad, but you still worry, you still fret, and you are much more aware of your mortality.
Waited and waited and waited for my biopsy results - this caused me to worry even more - they were very slow in coming. Finally, one day, the phone rang. It was the oral surgeon.
"Dude, so sorry! We misplaced your results. Just found them today! You're clean! They're negative!"
My Forest House plans could have been affected by a little tiny bump in my mouth. Thank God they weren't!
Boggle the Mind
Created: Tuesday, 18 December 2012
The Naomi Project is many months away, but I'm already beginning to lay awake at night, mulling over the many logistical problems we need to overcome before this project can become reality.
Following are some of the things which have begun to keep my mind swimming, when I should be sleeping:
Packing - we have a ton of gear which needs to ultimately end up about 700km north of my home in Saskatoon, at Forest House. Due to the nature of my Internet work, I have to be a PC guy. The tower which now drives my recording studio is a massive Alienware, factory over clocked, liquid-cooled monstrosity weighing close to 100 pounds. How in the world are we going to protect and portage that thing? I also don't think we'll have the room or the manpower to be able to take in my full-size piano keyboard. Need to buy a smaller, but functional smaller one. Have started making and refining a packing list.
Travel Scenarios - Driving from Saskatoon to Missinipe is a given. Getting from Missinipe to Forest House is another matter. Ric and I have talked about the possibility of flying. If we do so, the amount of gear we can take will depend on what kind of plane is available. The lake Forest House sits on is much too small to land a plane on. We'll have to land next door on Hutchings Lake, portage the gear over to the Forest House lake, and canoe it about 3/4 mile to where the lodge is located. If we don't fly in, our only other option would be to go in by boat and carry everything over the 5 portages. We did this on our last trip to Forest House. Carried in gear for four people for three days. It was hard work. A pile of recording gear could be a real challenge.
Weather - "waterproof cases" are the operative words here. With the potential of torrential downpours while we're loading, portaging, canoeing, etc. protecting the equipment is paramount. I'm going to have to identify exactly the amount of gear we're taking VERY SOON, so I can figure out how many and where I'm going to get the cases I need.
Plan A, Plan B, Plan C? - How many plans do we need? - we have a week to get the gear into Forest House, set up, record, rip down, and get out. Everything depends upon the weather. Flying could be easily affected either going in or coming out by the weather. Storms, or days of stormy, socked-in, windy conditions are a distinct possibility. We must be prepared to go by boat and portage.
Does Sue Understand? - I have explained to Sue about my "visions of doom, worse case scenarios" theories, because I don't want her to be surprised if we do encounter any of these problems. I have spent enough time in the north to understand you must be prepared. Sue doesn't seem to be too worried when I mention these things to her. I hope she understands what we might be facing.
I think I'm going to have many more sleepless nights.
Created: Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Naomi Project Report - I have been writing and working on new ideas for the Naomi Project. Haven't sent anything new to Sue for a while. She has been very busy working on her new EP in Hamilton, Ontario. She's very excited about it and I hope it does well for her.
Sue and the "posse" of musicians, producers, and engineers she is working with have worked with a list of just about everyone in the music business, ranging from kd lang, to Peter Gabriel, to Tom Jones, to George Harrison, to Daniel Lanois, to Robbie Robertson, to Bon Jovi, etc., etc., etc., etc................................My list of credits? - not so impressive - I did see Sting in concert once.
Am I intimidated? FER SURE!!!!!!!
The Death of the High-End Lap Top
Created: Wednesday, 20 February 2013
The decision has been made. I simply cannot see a way to take my 100-pound Alienware tower to Forest House. There is no logical way to do it. Therefore, if the project is to continue, I'm going to have to "bite the bullet" and get myself a machine I can carry. Easier said than done!
I decided to look for a high-end lap top to run my studio, so I went to Avid's Pro Tools (the main recording software I run) website, and searched their Support FAQs for their lap top recommendations. They suggested six models, two each, by three different manufacturers.
One of the manufacturer’s suggested was Dell. I have been using and leasing Dell PCs since 1995, but for a lark I decided to check out the other two manufactures first, Asus and HP. Went to their websites, only to discover the models recommended by Avid were no longer manufactured. So, I went to Dell to discover that one of the two suggested models, the Dell Precision M6700; Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3940XM CPU @ 3.00GHz 3.20 GHz; 32 GB RAM was still available. I contacted the Dell rep I had been working with for over a decade. She informed me the model I was interested in was slated to be discontinued within a month.
Why was it becoming so difficult to find high-end lap tops? Demand had greatly diminished since the introduction of tablets. I can see this becoming a real problem in the future. Custom-built product may be the answer, but in an age when the prices of computers are dropping, the cost of recording using PCs may be on the rise.
Anyway, Dell was very nice to me, offering special pricing, an iron-clad warranty, and next day service. The new machine is on its way!
Preparations Still Underway
Created: Thursday, 04 April 2013
Have been testing out the Pro Tools and all related plugins extensively on the new lap top. Continuing to identify exactly what equipment we should take and have also started assembling a collection of Pelican cases. Awesome (but expensive) cases! They are tough, air tight, they float, and the insides can be customized to cradle almost anything you want in a layer of foam. The only drawback, is that the largest cases I got weight like 30 pounds before you put anything into them.
Sue has been very busy with the release of her new EP. It's amazing! She's doing Press and radio for it, so we haven't been addressing the Naomi Project all that much. I'm still working on ideas for tracks. Our goal now is to go up to Forest House with six tracks and see what happens.
Ric Driediger from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters and Forest House, emailed me that he had approached Naomi's parents about what we were doing and they are fine with it. I am very pleased about this. The last thing Sue and I wanted to do was go against the wishes of the people who knew and loved Naomi the most.
Created: Thursday, 27 June 2013
On Tuesday, June 18, I suffered a mild heart "event" (that's what they call it now). I was lucky - no damage to my heart - had to get a stent. Feeling good, BUT The Naomi Project has been put on the back burner while I try to sort out my future. It's amazing how quickly your life can change!
My cardiologist read the riot act to me. I was supposed to travel to Australia with Velda, and my granddaughter, Zoe for a month. Can't do that - travel insurance is now invalid. I get that. I asked him about going to Forest House. He became visibly upset and proceeded to lay a verbal barrage on me, saying that Forest House was not an option, I would have to cut back on my teaching radically, and basically, my life was over. My wife, Velda, and daughters Tisha and Kayla had come for this "release from the hospital" meeting. As my cardiologist walked out the door, he left us in a state of shock.
I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a strong family. They provide so much support for me! My daughter, Tisha, her husband, Will and granddaughter, Seren arrived two days before my heart attack, my youngest daughter, Kayla, husband Brian, and grand children, Zoe and James as well as my son Kyle all live in Saskatoon. They stepped up and stood behind Velda while I was in the hospital and I know she deeply appreciates that. They have definitely been there for me since I came home. Velda and I have truly been blessed!
Went to see my family doctor this week and discussed what my cardiologist had told me. I feel a little more positive now, as my doctor told me I still need to live my life and to be careful, but to make Forest House a goal. That's now my plan.
I have been walking every day since I was released from the hospital. It's only been a couple of weeks, but I am up to about 1.5 miles/day. With the help of my beautiful daughters and wife, I have radically modified my eating habits. My primary focus is recovering my health, and my secondary focus is to become fit enough that I will be confident going into Forest House and be able to handle the physical challenges.
Sue has been very gracious about my situation. She suggested that she and I work on the project in Saskatoon. To me, it wouldn't be the same. I believe, to be able to capture the essence of Naomi, we need to write and record in a setting Naomi would have loved.
Training & Writing
Created: Monday, 08 July 2013
Feeling very good - stronger every day! I am continuing to walk daily and am now up to about 2.5 miles. I have lost 10 pounds and my energy level is noticeably higher.
Both Velda and I are very disappointed we won't be going to Australia. It has been weighing heavily on my mind.
I have been spending much time writing and tweaking tracks. Sue has been writing some powerful lyrics. I finally worked up enough nerve to tell Ric Driediger about my heart condition. My worry was he would be hesitant to have me at Forest House so soon after my hospitalization. He was very casual about it and didn't mention anything about cancelling the trip. Another hurdle cleared!
August 25 - Sue Arrives
Created: Sunday, 25 August 2013
Sue Leonard arrived in Saskatoon today. Velda and I picked her up at the airport. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so the three of us went down to Earl's for supper & sat on the patio, munching and chatting.
First impressions? Sue is a fantastic lady! Great to talk to...... humble...... well-traveled...... kind...... interesting...... and most importantly, has a wonderful sense of humor. I was a little apprehensive about meeting her, but am now looking forward to the trip north to Missinipe tomorrow. Should be a blast!
August 26 - The Adventure Begins
Created: Monday, 26 August 2013
Sue and I left Saskatoon about 6:30 am on Monday, August 26. We had one LONG drive ahead of us - around 500km. I was amazed..... the time passed very quickly. I soon discovered I wasn't mistaken with my initial assessment of Sue based upon our first meeting the day before. She was a BLAST to travel with!
Sue has experienced a myriad of things in her life. She has toured the world twice with kd lang, experienced the glamour of cities like New York, Los Angeles and London, lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands, settled in rural Idaho, and much more. Now, she was in a car with a bald guy, beginning an adventure in Saskatchewan's far north. She was definitely not phased by this at all!
We chatted about all kinds of things as we drove north. Sue talked about her experiences out there in the world, and I related stories about my experiences driving north on this highway literally thousands of times from the 1970's until today. The time flew. Soon, we were pulling off the last 80km of gravel road that Sue affectionately called "The Logging Road" into Missinipe.
We had a couple of hours to kill before our float plane trip to Hutchings Lake, next to the small Lake Forest House overlooks, so I took Sue on a tour of Otter Rapids. I was very impressed, because we had spent over six hours together cooped up in a car and for the most part, we still liked each other!
We arrived at the dock at Osprey Air just in time to begin loading all our gear onto the Turbo Otter that would be our chariot to Forest House. My Chevy Equinox was loaded to the hilt with about 300 lbs. of ”Pelican" waterproof floating cases, ranging from 24" x 30" inside (the majority) to smaller. A I was recovering from a heart attack, suffered just 8 weeks earlier, I was THOROUGHLY & ETERNALLY GRATEFUL that Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, had provide us with two willing "mules" to load our stuff....... son Dan Driediger and his friend, Nick Bergen. The duo would also accompany us to Forest House.
Soon, we were airborne, cruising over a landscape of seemingly endless lakes and in less than half an hour, we were landing on Hutchings Lake, next door to Forest House. Ric Driediger and his wife, Theresa were standing on the dock, with warm, welcoming smiles to greet us.
The next phase of the operation was to haul all gear over a portage to the lake Forest House sits on. It was then canoed to the lodge by the boys. Sue and I walked in on a moss-covered trail through the quiet forest. Every time I travel to Forest House, the beauty of the lodge and the forest overwhelm me. This time was no exception.
It had already been a very long day, but I was extremely excited to see if all recording equipment we hauled in would work on the solar-powered grid. The main lodge at Forest House is large and spacious. Sue and I checked out the acoustics throughout the building and decided to set up in the gorgeous dining area. It is roomy and features high ceilings. I set up all the equipment and tested everything except our Blue Bottle Rocket Stage Two main vocal mic. Everything worked perfectly. Life was great!
Ric, Theresa, Dan, Nick, Sue and myself sat down to our first fantastic dinner at Forest House. Great food and great company!
After supper, even though we were extremely tired, Sue and I decided to do a little recording. I set up the Blue Bottle Rocket and turned on its power supply. It's an old-style tube mic, so the power supply cycles through a red glowing light, meaning the tube is warming up, to green, indicating all is ready. Disaster! Every time the power supply tried to cycle from red to green, it would shut down. This was not a good thing. After several attempts to get the Blue running, I tried my other mics. They both also ran off their own power supplies....... same result! This was definitely not a good thing! The Forest House solar grid just couldn't run these mics! To bring Sue all the way out here...... all the preparation...... all the effort...... only to find out we had no way to record vocals!
God put Ric Driediger on this earth to primarily point people to the wonders Mother Nature has provided us. Fortunately, he also gave Ric the ability to problem solve. As I panicked over this dilemma, Ric calmly watched me while deep in thought. Then he said " We have a generator just up the hill. Let's try plugging the mics directly into it. It's far enough away that we shouldn't hear it. Wanna see if it works?"
My panic turned into joy as the Blue's power supply turned green. Ric had saved the day! We would just have to run the generator while recording vocals.
Our first glorious day at Forest House ended with Sue and I laying down some test vocals and turning in, tired, but very content.
August 27 - Down to Work
Created: Tuesday, 27 August 2013
I woke up early to a simply magnificent warm and sunny day. Theresa prepared a hearty, delicious breakfast for all of us, a perfect start to our first day of recording.
Unfortunately, Ric and Theresa would be leaving us today. The original plan was for Sue and I to be at Forest House with co-owners Greg and Joanne Zinter, from Edmonton Alberta acting as our hosts. Unforeseen problems had delayed their arrival for a couple of days. Ric and Theresa came in to prepare for us and had to return to Missinipe. Dan and Nick would see to our needs until the arrival of Joanne and Greg.
We had come to Forest House with six tracks for which I wrote and recorded the music in advance. Over the winter months, when Sue and I began planning for this trip, we realized it would be very difficult to show up at Forest House with nothing prepared and attempt to write together "off the cuff". There were so many logistical variables and possible unforeseen glitches to encounter, that we felt it best to come prepared. Over the winter/spring/early summer, I sent Sue tracks for her approval and input.
Sue and I started off by working on a track called "Goodbye". She had previously penned some deep lyrics for it. As she ran over her vocal ideas for the first time, a little shiver ran down my spine. It was clear - this was going to be a fantastic experience!
We worked away the morning, stopped for lunch and a little rest. I took some time, grabbed my cameras and took a short walk in the forest looking for teeny tiny subjects to shoot with my macro lens. This year (I had been to Forest House twice previously), it had been so dry that I had to search very hard for the exotic wild flowers, fungi, and myriad of mushroom species I had found so easily in past visits.
The rest of the afternoon was spent laying down more vocals and background vocals for "Goodbye". Our chef, Dan Driediger, prepared a delightful Cedar-Planked Lake Trout for us. After supper, we took a little time to relax, and then went back to work, starting to map out a plan for our next track, "Ashes to Ashes", and continuing to tweak "Goodbye".
It had been an extremely productive and fruitful day! Sue was simply unreal to work with. We missed Ric and Theresa, but Dan and Nick were excellent stand-ins. Sleep came easily this night.
August 28 - Another Productive Day
Created: Wednesday, 28 August 2013
I am an early riser, usually the first out of bed, and this was no exception on this gorgeous Wednesday morning. As soon as I started stomping around in the main lodge, Dan appeared and began brewing some coffee. Soon, the four of us had gathered around the dining table, having a little breakfast, chatting and laughing.
Sue and I began our musical day by working on "Ashes to Ashes", a semi-funky, riff-based tune with tons of percussion throughout.
Sue had written the lyrics for "Ashes to Ashes" previously to hearing my track - the cool thing was when she heard my track, she decided to try out these lyrics over it. Amazingly, to us, it seemed like a perfect fit. I had to spend a little time modifying the form and flow of the track, which I didn't mind, because when the time came. Sue closed her eyes and belted out amazing vocals. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The boys prepared a light lunch, after which it was time to begin background vocals for "Ashes to Ashes" and making further modifications to "Goodbye". We were putting in long hours. When we weren't recording, I would be dealing with arranging and re-arranging bed tracks, while Sue was continuously writing and tweaking lyrics.
That evening, Nick Bergen prepared a light curry for us, after which, Sue and I went back to work. Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Nick that evening. Greg and Joanne Zinter had been on the road all day from Edmonton and would be waiting at McLennan Lake for Dan and Nick to begin the final stage of their journey to meet us at Forest House. Dan would be returning with them, but Nick would be returning to Missinipe. Nick is a really cool, driven, hard-working, humorous, and intelligent young man. Both Sue and I appreciated being given the opportunity to spend some time with him.
The boys set out to make the five-portage trip to McLennan Lake in the early evening. The sun had already begun to set as they walked off down the trail. Sue and I just kept layering more and more vocal harmonies over the main melody of "Ashes to Ashes". Time flew by and soon it was almost 10:30 pm. I stepped out onto the deck to see glimpses of small lights flickering through the forest. Soon, Dan Driediger, Greg and Joanne Zinter, and surprise guest Harrison Davey came trudging up the path to the lodge.
It had been a long day for us and an even longer day for them...... the perfect time to enjoy a nightcap and preview what we had accomplished with our music that day.
Time for bed, and to dream about tomorrow would bring.
August 29 - New Friends, More Surprises
Created: Thursday, 29 August 2013
This now our fourth day at Forest House. We awoke to yet another set of new faces gathered in the lodge. Our new hosts, Greg and Joanne Zinter had arrived very late the day before, bringing with them our old pal, Dan Driediger, and another new face (for us), his friend, Harrison Davey. There is always that tiny bit of uncertainty and "clumsy" conversation when getting to know new people. In our case, it lasted for mere seconds. Soon, we were enjoying an awesome breakfast prepared by Greg and Joanne.
Harrison and Dan would be leaving to go back to Missinipe later in the day, leaving Greg, Joanne, Sue and me.
Today, I had a massive job ahead of me - to change the tempo of "Naomi's Wave", our song dedicated to the Naomi Heffler's energy, love of nature and fervor for life by sixteen beats per minute. This song contains at last count, close to 50 tracks, each having to be altered individually. To further complicate matters, my lap top was utilizing so many resources, that I couldn't automate the process. I plugged away at this for a good six hours, foregoing any hiking and photography possibilities for the day.
We started working on Naomi's Wave late that afternoon. In this song, we were trying to capture what we felt is the essence of Naomi - her sense of oneness with Mother Nature.... her love of surfing that wave at Corner Rapids...... her joy at being in the wilderness. We had already modified the main bed track to make the song "float" a little more. After much discussion and experimentation, Sue and I agreed the vocals weren't working the way we wanted. Sue began to completely re-write all the lyrics.
That evening, after supper, we took a break from our efforts on Naomi's Wave and recorded some vocal "scratch" tracks for "This Night", a quiet, relaxed piece featuring voice and piano. Then, it was bedtime.
August 30 - Some Minor Frustrations & Allot of Noise
Created: Friday, 30 August 2013
Our fifth day at Forest House began with another delicious breakfast, some good conversation and optimism that "Naomi's Wave" would come together for us today.
To Sue and I, "Naomi's Wave" was definitely the biggest challenge of the entire project. It meant the most to us, because it was about Naomi. Neither of us knew her, but in my visits to the north, I had met many women who shared her spirit, independence, and love for everything outdoors. Over the winter, I had spent much time discussing Naomi, her wave, what an amazing young lady she was, and the sensations I wanted to convey in the song with Sue. We both heard what we wanted to create in our heads, and it was starting to take form, but very slowly...... not remotely as easily as "Goodbye" and "Ashes to Ashes".
We attacked "Naomi's Wave" with as much musical resolve as we could muster. Things were progressing well and we had a great morning. Just before lunch, I looked out of our "studio" window to see Ric Driediger's niece, Kathy and her husband, Danny paddling up to the shore. More new faces to meet and friends to make!
Kathy and Danny live in Saskatoon, but I had never met them before. They are a really nice couple of kids (Old Bald Fart Guy talk), and were great to get to know. The duo was in Missinipe, and decided to make the paddle our to Forest House to see it. We stopped recording, for lunch.
The day was going well...... until...... the "afternoon from 'you know where'!"
The goal was to finish the majority of the vocals for "Naomi's Wave" that afternoon. We were so pumped to get it done, so certain that after our fantastic morning we would accomplish this goal...... then, came a sudden deluge of strange noises creeping into the vocal tracks - little clicks and pops - a variety of other background noises - doors closing? people walking? - we couldn't tell. All we knew is when we listened back to a take, we had noise.
Everyone at Forest House was making a concerted effort to be very quiet while we were recording. These noises hadn't appeared on previous days, but this particular afternoon, they just kept happening. Sue sang take after take - we listened back - noise, noise and more noise! I checked and double-checked the equipment, chords, connections - noise again! Sue kept singing. I kept checking, but soon it was plain - frustration was definitely setting in and it had started to rear its ugly head in the music we were making. Sue looked completely haggard and defeated. It was time to put "Naomi's Wave" to bed for yet another day.
We stopped, relaxed, had another fantastic dinner prepared by Joanne and Greg, gave everything an hour or two to digest, dimmed the lights and recorded a couple of takes of our very simple, sensitive song called "This Night". Joanne, Greg, Danny and Kathy sat across the lodge from us in the living room, sipping wine and listening. The mystery noises have disappeared. The evening went much, much better than the afternoon had. Life was once again, GREAT!
August 31 - Simply Awesome Day!
Created: Saturday, 31 August 2013
Day Six - already! After finishing off last night with some great singing from Sue, and getting some long, deep sleep, we awoke to another beautiful day. Both Sue and I were much more relaxed and centered. The entire entourage had yet another gourmet breakfast (we most certainly were getting spoiled!). Danny and Kathy were preparing to return to Missinipe this morning, but not before I followed them around, snapping "candid" shots of the lovebirds on the deck, by the garden, in the workshop, in the funkiest outdoor bippy in the world, and licking insects. The experience raised our spirits even more.
After saying goodbye to Danny and Kathy, Sue and I hit the "studio". Productivity was rampant! Sue laid down several tracks for "Naomi's Wave", including layers of background vocals, we re-visited "Goodbye" and "This Night", and soon it was getting to be supper time. We were tired and slightly burned out, but it was a very good tired!
As Greg and Joanne prepared supper, Sue and I began writing lyrics for another song idea, "Livin' Without FaceBook". The idea was to add the vocals starting tonight, finishing tomorrow, our last day here. It was soon evident the creativity switch had been turned off. We had traveled several hundred miles and spent ten to twelve hours a day recording six days straight. We were very satisfied with the four songs we had finished. We concurred there was no point attempting to force the issue in the interest of quantity. The decision was made to relax that night use our seventh day to explore the trails around Forest House, relax and begin packing up the equipment.
September 1 - Re-charging the Batteries
Created: Sunday, 01 September 2013
Our seventh day started, as usual, with a great breakfast with Joanne and Greg. I was awake very early and by the time everyone sauntered into the lodge, I had already broken down and packed up a large portion of the recording equipment.
Shortly after we finished eating, Sue and I decided to take a hike around the lake. Our first stop, however, was the "Coolest Outdoor Bippy in the World", just up the hill, to take some shots of each other in candid poses on the can.
Because we were so busy recording, I had missed a couple of days of hiking. A day or two earlier, it had rained gently, for a little while. That tiny bit of moisture had regenerated the forest floor and we didn't have to travel far before we discovered new mushroom and fungi growth nestled within the soft moss. Sue would scout ahead and identify potential subjects, while I crawled on my belly behind her snapping away.
The morning soon passed and we returned to the lodge for lunch. It was a lazy kind of afternoon. I packed up more equipment, Greg puttered around the grounds taking care of some chores, Joanne read on the deck, and Sue disappeared for a teeny nap. Later that afternoon, I took one last opportunity to walk and take pictures on the trails around Forest House.
The evening was calm, the lake like glass, and the temperature warm and balmy. The Zinters suggested we dine at the picnic table on the shoreline next to the lake, a great way to enjoy our last supper at Forest House - a great meal, with new friends in a beautiful location.
The evening was calm and clear, with a blanket of starts so close, you could almost reach up and touch them. The four of us sat outside, down by the lake, taking in the spectacular show Mother Nature had arranged for us.
September 2 - Going Home
Created: Monday, 02 September 2013
It was a bittersweet day. I had been away from my wife and family for a week and even though I missed them dearly, it was still going to be a little tough leaving Forest House.
The plane was scheduled to meet us at the dock at Hutchings Lake at 10:30 am. It was up to Greg, Joanne, Sue and myself to get the gear down to the shoreline, canoe it down the lake and start carrying across the short portage to Hutchings Lake. Greg would canoe the gear across - he made one solo trip and took Joanne with him on the second. Sue and I would walk the trail from the lodge to the portage. On the trail, we heard the Turbo Otter circle and land. When we arrived at the portage, we were greeted by Theresa and Dan Driediger, who had flown in to spend some time at Forest House themselves. We loaded the plane, said our goodbyes, and took off for Missinipe.
Ric Driediger met us at the dock and after unloading the plane, we made our way to the C.R.C.O. office to listen to the rough mixes of the four songs we had recorded. Sue and I were (and are) very proud of what we accomplished, Greg, Joanne, and Ric seemed very pleased with our efforts, which meant allot to us. Ric was thrilled with "Naomi's Wave", the reason for this entire project. That was awesome!
Sue and I had a long trip ahead of us, so we reluctantly parted ways with our friends and drove off towards Saskatoon. On the way home, we had ample time to discuss the fantastic time we had, the way we gelled together musically, just how wonderfully we were treated, and the fine people we had the pleasure of spending the seven days of the Naomi Project together with.
2013 – 2017 Life Gets in the Way
When we returned to Saskatoon, I truly believed the difficult part was over. All the planning, the writing, the packing, the travelling, the worry, and the doubts were all behind us. We had returned to civilization with four tracks ready to be mixed. The end was near…… well, not really!
It took four years to finish these songs and complete the project. Why? Unfortunately, life got in our way. Many things happened to both Sue and I. Roadblocks like health issues, losing family members and close friends, commitments, fires, Windows 10, and many more things hampered completion. No excuses…... just life.
So here it is…... “Naomi’s Wave” …... dedicated to the memory of a young lady Sue and I never knew, but who inspired us to undertake this journey in her name. Why?...... Because we so admire her, her enthusiasm, her oneness with mother nature, and her strength.
The spirit of Naomi is universal, celebrating all women of strength, determination, character, resolve, and compassion.
I am Mother Nature's daughter, deep within this world,
I leave my troubles and all my cares behind.
This place I call my home, where rushing waters hold me dear,
Suspends me here in time.
I am the water, I am the sky.
I am the earth below, Where Mother Nature smiles.
In the stillness, I can hear my thoughts clearly,
While this gentle water, it holds me tenderly,
This wave and I are partners, in a dance we hold each other,
One life, one soul together, endlessly.
I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, I'm Mother Nature's smile.
The silence that surrounds me here, it sings so loud, it sounds so clear,
For all who came before me here.
I am the breath, I am the light, I am the stars that bathe your soul, On this magic night.
I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, hear Mother Nature's smile.
I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, I'm Mother Nature's child.
I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, I'm Mother Nature's smile.
The Other Songs
Ashes to Ashes
Sue is truly a wordsmith, willing to “bare her soul” through her lyrics. In “Ashes to Ashes”, Sue “lets it all hang out”, in an effort to put closure on a very bad relationship, which ended just days before her trip to Forest House.
Is the completion of Sue’s attempt at closure, as started in “Ashes to Ashes”.
It was a very beautiful night, in Saskatchewan’s far north, at Forest House, in August, where the night sky is so dark, and the stars are so close and so bright. This song was the result.