This is the Life: Inspiration abounds in the Creston Valley

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In recent months, a large number of conversations I have had got around to what I refer to as the swirl of activity in the Creston Valley. Fields Forward is one sign that there are exciting changes in store in our agricultural community, the official community plan process is involving hundreds of residents — in large part because of the Town of Creston’s partnership with Kootenay Employment Services to build community engagement — empty storefronts in the downtown area are filling up and construction projects are the new norm.

There are so many good things happening on so many fronts that it becomes easier to ignore much of the political nonsense that dominates the news. Last week was a great example. On Monday evening I headed down to Gleaners, where I had arranged to photograph four local artists who were preparing to do an art and fashion installation at Creston Museum (which also happens to be one of the coolest assets in the Creston Valley, thanks to a committed group of volunteers and board members, but even more to the management of the indomitable Tammy Bradford).

The artists — Alison Masters, Sandy Kunze, Alison Bjorkman and Andrea Revoy — are representative of an off-the-charts growth of the arts community in recent years. They are spectacularly creative, but they are also more fun than a barrel of monkeys. To prepare for the photo shoot, Andrea pulled out a variety of clothing items she has scrounged from Gleaners over the past year. She has been on the hunt for retro fashions in preparation for the “Irwin and the Retro Girls” art show now open at the museum. The wacky four stripped on polyester jumpsuits, wedding dresses, goofy hats and even a wig, then laughed for the entire time that I was snapping photos.

On Saturday I pulled into a nearly full museum parking lot and walked among a grinning bunch of visitors, many of them already wearing impromptu costumes at the encouragement of the artists. The fact that their work — and for all its weirdness, it is absolutely wonderful — is drawing an audience in to see paintings by Irwin Crosthwait, who was born and raised here, is an added bonus. Those paintings would be at home at any art gallery in the world — they are that good.

The week had many highlights, but none lifted my spirits more than a visit to my office by George Brown. Knowing George was in town stirred my last memory of him before he moved to Vancouver Island five years ago. I had watched him struggling along the sidewalk on Canyon Street, walking canes in each hand, each step requiring great concentration and effort. His Parkinson’s was taking its toll. That night I commented to Angela that he looked like he was 100 years old.

George stepped through my doorway, raised his hands straight up over his head, then lifted a leg up nearly waist high. With a wide smile he told me he could hold the pose for 10 minutes or longer. As we sat and talked about the exercise program he has been on for two years I found myself smiling at the thought that his life has improved dramatically, and all because of a simple and thoughtful approach to exercise designed to help body and mind.

On Sunday morning, we set out on what turned out to be a 13-kilometre hike on Goat Mountain and my thoughts kept returning to George, and the determination it took to get his walking up to four kilometres a day, and his goal of 10,000 daily steps. How easy it is to take for granted good health, and how important it is that we learn from others. That message was hammered home further when I ran into a friend who, at 83, was recently diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. After surgery, she is back to her own daily regimen — walking five kilometres a day and eating an incredibly healthy diet. She shook her finger at me, concerned for my own well-being too, and admonished no sugar, and no milk or cheese — those are for kids, as we get older they clog your arteries.

There are inspirations all around us, if only we open ourselves up enough to see them.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.