Lee Reid discovered a lot about herself and learned so much from speaking to people about the sometimes taboo topic of aging in compiling information for her book Growing Home: The Legacy of Kootenay Elders.
The Nelson, B.C. author was at the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Chemainus branch April 26 to present some background to the stories from her book on Kootenay seniors.
She drove out to many backwoods areas and found there are some fascinating stories to tell by those who were willing.
“I had no plan,” Reid pointed out. “I simply took the risk to do something out of the ordinary and I met extraordinary people who confirmed I was on the right path.”
Linda Moore, who became best friends with Reid after moving to Nelson five years ago, went along for the ride in a sense as publicist and the two encountered some interesting and emotional experiences.
“We’re kind of kindred spirits,” said Moore.
One thing stands out to Reid about aging from all her conversations.
“If you continue to take risks past your comfort zone, that will cause you to grow,” she said. “Something great will rise in you. I discovered there was something in me that would rise to the occasion.”
West Kootenay elders shared their personal stories of creativity and quiet heroism and readers of the book will surely glean wisdom and support for their own personal journeys with aging. The stories are enhanced with hands-on garden lore, family recipes and photography of the Kootenay landscapes.
Reid has a Masters degree in Counselling and once embarked on a 10-year career of creative cookery as co-manager of a floating fishing resort on B.C.’s West Coast.
She published her first book, From A Coastal Kitchen, with Hancock House that featured colourful stories of rural people who lived in the isolated fjords, canneries and fishing hamlets of the coast.
In the West Kootenay, Lee worked as an addictions specialist that connected her to many extraordinary people from diverse cultures and lifestyles. She retired to grow organic vegetables with and for seniors, founding SEEDS, a food security society.
This is where her explorations into creative aging began. She facilitates workshops and presentations on elders and aging.
“We face our mortality, we live with that every day, understanding our time is limited,” Reid said. “It creates a different kind of cherishing.”
Many people opened up to her that made the book even more compelling, including a lady with pancreatic cancer.
“What I saw was conversation that’s meaningful and vulnerable, helps people through their passage.”
Growing Home has spawned another project, Growing Together, about the interaction between seniors and youth that Reid helped facilitate by bringing members of the two groups together at L.V. Rogers Secondary in Nelson.
She gathered elders and got adopted by Grade 11 students, ages 15-17, at the school, with a program built into their English class.
“I would write up the conversations and see if I could write up a book and I am,” noted Reid.
The next author reading at the library, 2592 Legion St., is Thursday, May 31 from noon-1 p.m. with Joan Ferry. Her book The World’s Fair is the story of Michael Maguire in search of his legitimate father.
The plot leads to the shocking truth about Michael’s paternity. In the face of emotional disaster, the book ends with a note of optimism.