An Ontario-based writer is shining a light on the Cariboo region in her most recent book.
The award-winning writer, Laurie Carter, has spent the last several years working on her trilogy: Emily Carr’s BC. A trilogy that retraces the steps of Emily Carr, a British Columbian artist and writer.
Carr explored British Columbia and covered more than 20,000 kilometres throughout the province, during a time when it was uncommon for women to travel alone.
The most recent book, Emily Carr’s BC: South Coast to the Interior, begins during 1904 while Carr was returning home from studying in London, England.
“This was a pivotal time in her life, she had spent five years over there studying art,” said Carter. “During this time, she had a nervous breakdown and spent over a year in a sanatorium and she had just been released from the sanatorium a few months before her trip to the Cariboo.”
Carr had been invited by a childhood friend to spend some time in the South Cariboo in the 100 Mile House area. Carr spent a month in the Cariboo before returning home to Victoria. Carr often spent time in 100 Mile House and this is where she learned to ride a horse. At the Parkside Art Gallery in 100 Mile House, a mural of Carr on horseback has been painted on the exterior of the building to replicate a photograph that was taken of her while she was here.
“Of course, in 1904, the way you would get to 150 Mile House was by the BX Stage Coach,” said Carter. “What I find interesting, is she had just gone from the hub of England and then suddenly she is travelling on a stagecoach.”
Carter started out as a travel writer and while visiting Haida Gwaii she learned what a traveller Carr had been.
“I think without that lust for travel, I don’t think we would have the Emily Carr that is the icon we have now,” said Carter. “I am not an expert in art, so I looked at her from a different perspective – her travels. There was a chance moment in Haida Gwaii that connected me with her and once I became connected it sort of snowballed from there.”
Throughout the trilogy, Carter visits the places Carr lived or travelled to. The stories give readers an insight into the past and the present. One of those places includes the Interior of British Columbia, specifically the Cariboo region.
“I have been through the Cariboo twice in search of Carr,” said Carter. “I really loved it – the climate of the Interior, the look of the land. Both times I travelled up there, I was travelling in August. You have the wildflowers on the side of the highway and the hills are golden. It is really a lovely time to go.”
Carter said she was drawn to the region and its history, like the Cariboo Wagon Road. The Cariboo healed Carr, which she made apparent in her journals.
“I think I had a fairly similar reaction to the one of Carr,” said Carter. “I discovered this about myself through travelling in her trail. One of the biggest things I took away from Carr, is to always be true to yourself. Keep following what seems to be the right path for you. It might not be the most popular choice or the most financially rewarding one. You will know it’s the right path and that’s what you have to be doing.”