Heya! This is part two of a travelogue on my trip to Lasqueti, BC. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, go back and start there!
June 28, Wednesday (continued)
While we get a tour of the grounds, I contemplate the other retreat participants.
Including instructors, there are going to be 21 of us at this retreat – the last few stragglers are coming in on the late ferry this evening. I haven’t met anyone here before, and admit to being a tiny bit nervous. Other than Cherie of Technomadia whom first introduced me to poi spinning last year at Quartzsite, and a couple other individuals between then and now with a passing interest, I’ve never met other people from what is commonly called the flow community, which covers poi, hula-hoop, staff, and similar prop manipulation arts.
What I know about Nick Woolsey who runs Leviathan Poi Retreat and what I’ve read about this event in previous years leads me to believe my personal safety is assured, but there is another concern.
The early bird cost for this retreat was $990 CAD + 5% tax (about $800 US) which for a ten-day trip including food and lodging is a pretty great deal but still no small sum. Those who are willing to spend that kind of money on a poi retreat are probably quite serious about it. The two attendees I met up with in Dallas for instance are both performers and make money doing this. For me, it’s a hobby. A hobby I really love, but still a hobby. I’m worried about being that slow kid that holds the rest of the class back, there are a lot of really talented people here.
Talent, yes. Energy… that’s a bit lacking today. Classes don’t start until tomorrow which is a good thing because most of us have been traveling an entire day or longer (more than one attendee has flown in from overseas) and we’re all seriously tired. After the tour I claim a bed in the studio and unroll my sleeping bag. Most people brought tents to set up on the grounds, but I decided to keep it simple. The beautiful softwood studio floor is empty tonight, we’re all too busy catching up on sleep.
I wake up in time for morning yoga, and eat breakfast. First poi class is from 10-noon. Then lunch and afternoon break, and then second poi class is from 4-6 pm. Then supper, and when the sun finally sets after 9 pm we break out our LED poi and other props and make use of the new sound system until late. One hour of yoga, four hours of poi class, and then an hour or more of poi practice and play in the evenings… that’s a lot of physical activity. I’m quite sore the first couple days, but very happy. I know enough to make good use of the lessons, I’m not holding the class back, phew.
A bit more about the studio and the island.
Leviathan Studio was built eight years ago by Mark Young, who lost all of his memories in a car crash and decided to change his life. He lives on the island and the studio is open seasonally, mostly for contact improvisation workshops, many which he himself leads. Events are provided at cost, there is no profit for the studio, just the teachers.
Mark is big into sustainability and permaculture. The food is all locally sourced where possible, the meat is organic, it all tastes fantastic. He takes dance interns who cook, clean, tend the garden, care for the animals, and perform maintenance tasks in exchange for a place to live and training – it’s a bit like volunteer work-camping but interns are required to have previous dance experience.
Lasqueti Island is completely off-grid. There is no plumbing or electrical grid. The bathrooms here at the studio are outhouses, the shower uses water pumped from a pond (and the gray water flows back into the pond, all the personal care items we brought had to be biodegradable), the electricity is all solar generated. I’m use to off-grid boondocking, but Leviathan (and Lasqueti in general) take it to a whole new level. It’s inspiring and also a bit humbling to experience on this scale.
July 1, Saturday
Field trip! Lasqueti has a market every Saturday morning, and morning poi class happens earlier today so that we can make it.
The group of us (all of whom I now know by name – it’s amazing what spending so much time together accomplishes) start out along the road near the studio then detour onto a narrow trail that winds through the forest. We hear live music drifting through the trees before the clearing comes into view, it feels like I’m in a fairy tale.
Several vendors have set up shop around the edge of the clearing, in the middle stands a wooden public building featuring works by local artists. For a relatively small community, there are a lot of people here – this is the big event of the week. Someone describes Lasqueti as 1/3 hippies, 1/3 eccentric millionaires, and 1/3 people avoiding the law. I haven’t been here long enough to say whether that’s true or not, but I can say I like the vibe here. It’s fun and quirky and everyone I meet at market is kind.
After the market, Karen, Laura and I slowly make our way back to the studio by way of ‘downtown’.
Downtown Lasqueti is comprised of two buildings right near the dock, the restaurant/pub, and the general store. The restaurant has seating on a deck overlooking the harbor and is doing a brisk trade. We stop in the general store and conclude there is nothing there we really need, but it’s still fun to look. I get a picture of Karen and Laura at table outside the store.
July 2, Sunday
Lasqueti Island is classified as a temperate rainforest, so I was expecting to have to deal with wet weather. But the rain is seasonal, winters are cool and damp (and mostly above freezing), and summers are warm and dry. There’s been no rain so far and there’s none in the forecast. It’s another sunny and 70’s day as our group prepares for a hike to the top of a nearby hill.
We start by piling into the whale limo and two vans also owned by the studio. It’s a short and bouncy ride along the dirt road to the start of the trail.
If you didn’t know where to find the trail, it’d be hard to spot. As it’s not marked on any map and the island doesn’t receive a lot of visitors to begin with, the trail is not well used. The vehicles pull along the side of the road in front of a patch of evergreens that doesn’t look different from any other spot, but Mark assures us this is the place. Sure enough, there is a trail hidden here among the foliage.
It goes up. If this trail had a classification, it’d probably be rated strenuous because there are some steep uphill sections, sharp dropoffs, and places where you need to use your hands. One of our number has vertigo and is afraid of heights, she attended Leviathan last year and knows how hard the trail is but opts to do it again anyway. I admire her courage.
The trees grow dense over most of the island, meaning views are hard to come by. That makes the top of this rocky knoll more special because of its rarity. We reach the top and gasp. The green carpeted island is spread out below us with water beyond and mountains in the far distance. It wasn’t the easiest climb, but I doubt any of us are complaining now.
We spend a couple hours at the top, spinning poi, admiring the view, and chatting about all sorts of things.
What a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
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