Where in Canada: Dancing in Small Spaces

In her heart-wrenching memoir Dancing in Small Spaces, Leslie A. Davidson discusses how she and her husband Lincoln went from ardent outdoor enthusiasts to the shock of a devastating double-diagnosis. In this essay Leslie shares how their community of Grand Forks, BC, became Lincoln’s final resting place.

The cover of Dancing in Small Spaces by Leslie A. Davidson. A photo of the author being embraced and kissed by her husband.


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Where in Canada

We have come back to the town where Lincoln and I took our 10 month old baby girl, to the town where, four years later, her little sister was born.

We always imagined we would find ourselves old, Lincoln and I, in that little town where the rivers meet, where north-facing hills rise covered in fir and larch, and south-facing hills bake summer-grass golden.

We are here to scatter Lincoln’s ashes, to give him to a river that tumbles out of a high mountain watershed and winds its way through old-growth forest before seeking the valley bottom—a river loved by all of us, but loved with a full-heartedness beyond telling by him.

We first approached Grand Forks from the west. Cresting the long curve of Spencer’s Hill, a tapestry of green and golden fields, of streets where small houses were sheltered by huge maples and pines or tucked in beside century-old lilac hedges—a tapestry, from a gentler time, beribboned by two perfect rivers—spread itself across a broad, fertile valley.

Home, we thought. This is our home!

A photo of the main street of Grand Forks, BC.
Grand Forks, BC. Photo credit: Flickr user waferboard (used under a Creative Commons Licence).

We first explored The Kettle River as it wound its way northward from the US border, its banks dotted by little sandy crescents that marked deep, clear swimming holes. We thought it lovely, but it was the Granby River’s alchemy that enchanted us even more, that turned my husband from a flatwater canoeist into a fearless kayaker, seducing him with rides through wild rapids and swirling holes that sucked in strong men and released them, spent and unnerved—but the stories they got to tell. Oh, the stories!

It was the Granby, into which Lincoln and I slid the canoe and paddled upstream, against the current, to a beautiful, tiny beach with no road access or need of bathing suits. Late in the season, when the water was too low upriver to permit passage of canoes, kayaks, or even inner tubes, we indulged in mutual, sun-warmed seduction. He proposed that we start a business—Canoe and Screw, we’d call it.

We’ll make a fortune, he said.

It was on the Granby, during springtime highwater, that Lincoln talked me into a canoe ride where the river narrows at an abandoned dam site. When we hit the rock, I was bounced out over the bow to bob about in frigid water while he, warm and dry in the still-upright canoe, hollered, “Grab the paddle!” and “Feet first, Les!”

The day we scattered his ashes, I pointed out Leslie’s Rock to our grandchildren.

He is resting in a sapling on our side of the river, astonishingly close, unperturbed by our presence. He gazes one way and then the other, that majestic white head and beak presenting a perfect profile.

Take your time, he seems to say, as if he knows what he means to us.

“Hey,” I tell him. “There you are.”

“Hey Dad. Late again,” Sarah says.

As we walk above the beach where we spread his ashes, we can still see those swirls in the water, fainter now, like inverse shadows, gossamer tracings. They will not be there for long, or visible anywhere. Yet he is present, mingled with the river, drifting in the wind, beaming for a moment in an eagle’s hooded eye.

Home. He is home, wherever he is, and everywhere he is. if I choose to believe it. And I choose.

A photo of author Leslie Davidson. She is a white woman with short-cropped grey hair and a light puffer vest on over a plaid shirt. She smiles widely at the camera.
Photo of Leslie credit Sarah Mickel Photography.

Leslie A. Davidson is the author of two children’s books, In the Red Canoe (Orca Books, 2016) and The Sun is a Shine (2021). Her essay “Adaptation” won the CBC Canada Writes Creative Non-fiction Prize and her work has been published in the Globe and Mail, Viewpoints and On the Move. Davidson is a retired elementary school teacher, a mother, and grandmother. She lives in Revelstoke, BC. Her memoir Dancing in Small Spaces is available now.