Paul Saso says magic brought him to Nelson, and he may very well have a book written about his own life one day.
But rather than tell his own story, for the last eight years the local environmental consultant and massage therapist has been recording and telling the life stories of the people in our community who inspire him.
“Basically I just went around asking people: who inspires you?,” said Saso, speaking to about 75 people at Touchstones Nelson on Thursday during the launch of his book, Kootenay Inspired.
“And I came up with a huge list, because there really are so many amazing people here. So I went through and asked people whether they would be interesting in chatting. I was surprised and delighted that most of them were interested in my project.”
The book features the life stories and portraits of the late Mary Woodward, Ricardo Hubbs, Karuna Erickson, John Cooper, Tanya Wilson, Lucas Meyers, Marilyn James, Jon Meyer, Luanne Armstrong, Brian Cross, J.J. Verigin, and Mary Ann Morris.
Saso says he came up with the idea for the book because he regularly hitchhiked up to Whitewater and would meet these incredible people along the way who were open and willing to share with him.
But hitching was nothing new to the man who had recently made Nelson his home, about a decade ago.
Saso’s been hitchhiking since he was 18-years-old. He’s hitched across India, the world and Canada.
And he says he’s learned more doing it than he ever did in university.
He was in Yellowknife when someone finally put his education into perspective for him.
“In school I took geography, writing and psychology,” said Saso.
“It never made much sense to me until at one point this guy in Yellowknife 15 years ago said, ‘that’s so you can write about crazy people and places.’ It was always in my head, and then it just happened.”
A number of years later, after spending time exploring India, he came back to Canada with a vague notion that he would like to settle in the Kootenays.
It was the first time the Ontario native had been back in B.C. in years and he was in Vancouver when a job in his field — environmental science — opened up in Nelson. Five days later he was here.
About a year later he came across a book called Hope and Shadows that combined images and short biographies and it occurred to him that that was a medium that he’d be able to explore the inspiring people in our community through.
He contacted photographers Louis Bockner and Kari Medig to help capture some portraits of the people who had ended up on his list of inspiring people, and the project was born.
Now eight years after contacting Bockner and Medig, and about a decade after the initial inception of the project, Saso has released his book capturing the diverse perspectives of the people who make this mountain community so special.
He writes that it was easy because of how eclectic the community is, and the fact that no one here is ambivalent about what they do.
“I really wanted to keep a good variety, because I think that is one of the things that is important about the Kootenays and interests me,” said Saso.
“There are a really diverse set of people and perspectives. And I think the work is representative of the Kootenays and a neat way to show people what life here is about through learning about our stories.”
And those diverse perspectives have been captured skillfully by photographers Louis Bockner and Kari Medig.
Saso said Bockner has a really great way of connecting with people in a short amount of time and that the portraits are reflective of that.
Bockner said that the experience was nothing short of amazing and he’s become good friends with some of his subjects, who he had not known before.
“Paul’s incredible. This has been eight years in the making and he did it all by himself. So to finish something like this is pretty amazing. Lots of people start these kind of projects, not everyone finishes them.”
Kootenay Inspired can be purchased for $25 from Saso, at Otter books, the Enlightened Coconut, and Leaf Cross Health Society.
50 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to Wildsight’s environmental education program for kids and Tipi Camp’s Wilderness Immersion for Self-Esteem program.