The December cover image was chosen by my angels while I was picking up a package at the Argenta post office. My angels liked the image and the connection was instantaneous. I learned later it was called The Angel of Water and that it was painted by a woman who lives in Argenta. This is a community of just over one hundred people, situated a half-hour drive before Johnson’s Landing, where I now live.
I heard about Argenta, which is a Latin word that means Silver, about ten years ago. My yoga teacher Margaret Luman would visit her daughter there and watch her grandchildren perform in Christmas plays. Then at the Spring Festival of Awareness I met Elisa Shine, another Argenta resident. She makes an enchanting skin cream that has so much magic and love in it that I am still buying it. (Her phone is 250-366-0081)
About five years ago, I was invited by Richard and Carol Ann to check out their Retreat Centre at Johnson’s Landing, so during my next summer holiday I spent two weeks in the area, visiting here and there, seeing the cob house where my hand cream was made, hiking to Fry Creek and generally just hanging out. I felt renewed by the forests and had time to relax from my self-imposed busyness.
Two and half years ago, I again met Richard, now separated from his wife, picking up the new programs for the upcoming retreat season, which are printed in Penticton. You all know how that turned out. I spent that first summer travelling back and forth– helping Richard for a month, then back to Penticton for a month of publishing. My business partner was not happy with me being gone so much and I was exhausted, so I asked my angels where they wanted me. Three days later a lady phoned and asked if one of my buildings were for sale. The deal was quickly struck and I got the time needed to start the process of letting go. Recently the second building sold and Christina, the Healing Centre coordinator, has carried the energy forward by creating another Healing Center across from the high school. (See ad on page 25)
Now that I have settled in, I am getting to know a few of the people that make this area special. In talking to the folks in Argenta, I have learned that this small community started with a few Europeans who cleared the land after the government put in roads for the mining and forestry interests. In the sixties, a number of Quaker families from California joined the homesteaders, looking for a place to live a simple life without violence. I was told they were intelligent young people who didn’t want to support McCarthyism. They were warmly welcomed as both groups wanted to raise their families with deep spiritual values and a love of music and culture.
That was over forty years ago, and the community continues to flourish, shape-shifting as the people that stay breathe life into it…making it their community. Many years ago, some long-sighted souls started a land co-op, which allows young people to build a home without buying the land. Other property owners share their land if it feels right.
A strong work ethic, music, drama and values related to the land, seem to be the focal point of the people I have spoken with. Betty, a thirty-year resident said, “I love having neighbours who are friends. Argenta has been a good place to raise kids.” Hugh, a forty-year resident said, “It has been interesting to watch as people came looking for land… those that were in too much of a hurry couldn’t find any, but those that settled in and trusted the connection to the earth usually found their spot.” Agnes added, “Our community is not just houses with people living in them, it is a place where people work together to form a community.” Rowena, the artist of the front cover image, spends much of her time coordinating environmental activities and community events, like the Fall Faire.
This summer, Richard and I bought what we could from local growers, and one day while picking up some fresh organic lettuce I saw the Argenta Friends Press building. I peeked in to find out they have been publishing The Smallholder, a unique magazine for over forty years. It is mailed to thousands of readers who enjoy the exchange of ideas and information of interest to country people. In 1991, the magazines were compiled into a book entitled Skills for Simple Living: Advice, Ideas, Recipes and Reflections, edited by Betty Tillotson.
This fall, I stopped in and visited Vince, the horse farmer and bought some of his organic veggies. Richard and I also attended several of the Square Dances, where many young people play instruments alongside the adults who do the calling. It was the young people who taught us newcomers how to do the dance steps as we all promenaded around the Community Hall and had a great time. We also enjoyed the Christmas potlucks and the Santa gift-sharing with the children, both at Johnson’s Landing and in Argenta.
Some of you may remember my Mom’s homesteading photographs that graced the front cover of Issues for many years, for I too got to have a back-to-the-land experience when I was young. Living off the land with seven children was not easy, and having gone through it helps me appreciate the love that went into forging this area. I really appreciate having electricity, a telephone and the modern conveniences that allow me to produce this magazine and keep in touch with you while living in a remote area.
Since I love bumper stickers I thought I would share the latest two that I bought for my van … Both are good mottos for this time of the year. One says Consume less… Share more… and the other as old as Socrates says, ….”Go Within…” May the spirit of the season fill you with wonderment and good health.