Tuesday, December 01, 2009


In November, my friend Randi and I (and 15 others) dashed out of town on a Friday evening to a writing retreat in Ymir. What's in Ymir, you ask? Not much, which makes it ideal for the space and time needed to write. What we know about honest-to-goodness writers (I've read it in all the books) is that they will do a lot of activities before they actually write. I heard that a lot of housework gets done once a writer has made a decision to sit down with their pen. I have been known to contemplate waxing the floor at such times. Knowing this in advance, I left distractions at home such as books I am reading, the iPod, and the Nintendo DS. I heard that there was free Internet service but that is what writers need for their research, right?

Ymir is about 25 minutes from Nelson, on a clear day, without a snowstorm. And that is what happened on this day - my first drive in winter for the 2009 season. We landed at the Ymir Palace with our packed dinner, and chatted with new arrivals as cooked and ate. Here it is....

The young owners renovated the place, him working as a treeplanter and her commuting to work in Nelson, and investing all their money into their B & B. Inside, it is especially engaging when you walk the halls imagining the former brothel.

Yep, I learned lots about the B & B, my natural curiosity and all. I talked to the owner, his parents (visiting from Ontario with no winter tires), and the other attendees who had heard other parts of the story.

On Saturday, Randi and I decided to go for a walk. Winter had arrived in Ymir, with only Brooks on my feet, our route involved avoiding snow and ice. The residents, it appeared, were gone. We saw 4 people on our outing - a shop owner, and 3 Nelsonites.

Alongside the Salmo River, we found a map of all the old mines in the area:

I saw something I had never heard of before:

A stamp mill is a process for extracting minerals from rocks. (Thank heavens for the Internet so I could do my research.)

We went for a walk in the park:

The Ymir Store covers it all - it has a lunch counter, coffee shop, movie rental, grocery store, gift shop.

Back at the Palace, we had a grand feast of spaghetti with our crew of writers. We laughed. We poured wine. Later, as we sat around, I poured over Judy's memoir graphic novel - what a life!

And we decided that we had to see the Ymir Hotel, having heard of its specialness from the crowd that went for dinner the first evening. I had been there when it was hangout for motorbike riders. (What I have to say to that experience was, if you are going to have car trouble, there is no one more enthusiastic than a biker.)

Hans, the owner, was in the bar when we arrived. We ordered drinks. And looked around. Hans is an art collector - paintings and carvings and .... well, it is hard to say because, I was so busy looking at this and that. "Can we look upstairs?" Our writing pals had instructed us on what to say.

"Yes, I left the lights on for you." Huh?

The next two floors are full of artwork. Like this...

And this...

They are everywhere. We asked many questions of Hans, past his closing time of 9 pm. He didn't seem to mind. Back to the the Palace.

"We should finish this white wine," Randi suggested. I agreed.

In retrospect, it seems that Ymir may not be the ideal place to write for a weekend. There is much, too much going on.