“Slowly” | A Paddling Love Letter to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo

This land draws you in slowly.

It isn’t vast cityscapes punctuated by flashy architecture. It’s more subtle, more wild. It isn’t bustling subways or crowded downtown corridors. It’s the friendship and community that we find far from home. It isn’t even oil and industry, the first people to live left the stuff in the ground. It’s the rivers and the forests that have provided for so many in so many ways.

This land draws you in slowly, that is until you put a paddle in the water. Suddenly, you’re in love.

You’re in love with misty mornings on northern lakes and endless sunsets that stretch across the sky. You’re in love with rivers coursing with history so strong you can feel it in the current. You can almost imagine the first peoples hunting and gathering along the banks, the fur traders loading up their canoes with their precious cargo, or even the clamour of the shipyard on the edge of town.

Some people say there’s nothing to do here, and honestly, I just don’t see it. I can drive 40 minutes in any direction from town and be hiking in the middle of the vast boreal forest or paddling a winding river. You might see a few beavers, a whiskey jack, or an eagle overhead. The day will almost surely end laughing with friends over a crackling campfire late into long northern nights.

The thing is, you won’t really know what I’m talking about until you experience it yourself.

This land drew me in slowly.

“Slowly” is a short film about paddling in beautiful Nistawâyâw (Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo). It’s inspired by the work of Canadian filmmaker and canoeist Bill Mason and created by friends Willi Whiston, Genoveve Zepeda, and Matt Lorenz.

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