Perhaps you remember the series “The Best Places to Kiss”. I think the series or travel book came out about ten years ago. In any case, we have a locale very close to us that seems to inspire romance … Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre. From the name of the place you might wonder – where is the romance in outdoor education? There is no ‘retreat’ anywhere in the name and seldom in the promo, or ‘romantic getaway’ or any of those key words that might lead one to believe this is a place to get cozy in, let alone meet someone who inspires romantic feelings.
However, behind the façade of the strictly touristic and outdoor pursuits is a veritable Love Boat. Not only do people taking courses meet, but there is a frequent incident of staff meeting staff, and the consequences that ensue.
Over the past couple of years, I assisted Myrna Boulding, the co-founder of the Lodge, with a book about the beginnings of the Lodge up to 1986 (Survival, Strathcona Style). As we researched and talked to many former staff, it came out that we had compiled quite a list of people who met each other at the Lodge. In fact, at the reunion (celebrating 50 years) at the end of June this year, a number of former staff mentioned that they thought a whole book could actually be dedicated to ‘who met who’ at the Lodge!
If you have never been associated with the Lodge, you might wonder what could inspire so much blossoming of romance. I have a theory. One part of it is fairly obvious – you have 50 to 70 staff persons, who on the whole arrive single, year after year, and who live and work together in close proximity. If they aren’t standing next to each other in the kitchen making cookie dough, then they are on an out trip together, thrown together to face the elements in the wilds of nature, and forced to depend on one another for survival. The result is people falling in love – right, left and centre. The accommodation for the staff at the Lodge is for the most part ‘cozy’ – and for those of you who read real estate listings, you will know what I mean. As many of the staff don’t own vehicles and often stay for days or weeks without venturing into town, social occasions are frequent – which includes dances, beach fires and climbing expeditions. It is summertime, and there is a festive feeling in the air.
Some people part ways once the season is over, but some leave together and start a life together in the outside world. The result of these unions is a phenomena Myrna refers to as “Lodge Babies’. Lodge babies are a unique group who hold pretty much just one thing in common – their parents met at the Lodge, and what pleases Myrna more than anything is to meet ‘Lodge Babies’ years later and to employ them as quickly as possible.
Part two of my theory is that there is a particular ‘energy’ at the Lodge. Rob Wood of Maurelle Island, (who has many years affiliation with the Lodge) in his book ‘Toward the Unknown Mountains’ explains this particular phenomena.
He says that “the place itself is quite likely a ‘power spot’. Located exactly at the junction of the geometric axes of two big mountain valleys, it has the classic Feng Shui properties of a health-giving balance between the Yin elements, represented by the valleys, and the Yang elements represented by the slight rise within the valley and the high peaks all around. The Druids would probably have built a stone circle here, the Buddhists a temple. The ‘euphoric high’ that people gain just from being there and the truly magical effect of the synergy generated is manifest in the frequently spirited music and dancing…”
The oil painting here of the view from the Lodge into the Elk Valley, illustrates what Rob is talking about.
I firmly believe in this energy, (having experienced it first hand) and aboriginal peoples the world over share beliefs about magical places that inspire healing or feelings of goodness. I was struck with the love bug twice during my two separate sojourns at the Lodge. I met the father of my two children there in 1981 (so yes, I have two lodge babies) and I met my current main squeeze there in 2001. Someday, Myrna may write about the love that blossomed at the Lodge, in the meantime, the Lodge has become an enormously popular destination for weddings. So not only are couples meeting there, but they are taking their vows there. Does that mean the ‘Best Places to Kiss’ are outdoors?
‘Nature lovers’ seem to think so…