For Jan Redford, mountains are both metaphorical and real, representing freedom and challenge.
The Squamish writer's first book, releases April 3 by Random House, is a memoir, End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage and Motherhood. She will read from the book and sign copies at the Brackendale Art Gallery April 12, 7 to 10 p.m.
"Some people are calling it a climbing memoir," she told The Chief. But that is a starting point, though the theme of mountains and their association with self-doubt, fear and overcoming challenges runs through the book:
"It revolves around the death of my boyfriend in Alaska in an avalanche, and then, based on decisions I make after his death, it completely changed the direction of my life, and I became a mother, and then that becomes the marriage and motherhood part," Redford said.
"The biggest themes in my book are self-doubt and fear, getting over self-doubt and fear … And, actually, not getting over self-doubt and fear. It's about a continuation of that being a lifelong process... It's about overcoming self-doubt and learning how to look after myself on the rock instead of expecting someone to swoop in and save me. For me, it's not just climbing; it's the actual leading that's really important because that's when you're on your own, you can only come to your own rescue. That seems like the big lesson I've had to learn in life and mountains have been a good way to teach me that lesson."
Redford traces her attraction to mountains back to growing up in the Yukon. Her father was a civil servant with what was then called Indian and Northern Affairs and the family moved from Quebec to the Yukon and Northwest Territories, then back to Ontario.
"I think I grew up really aware of how wild and remote Canada can be because we did do a lot of touring as a family around the Yukon and into Alaska," she said. "It opened my eyes to the mountain regions in a way that I wouldn't have been exposed to in Ontario. I think growing up in the Yukon is why I came to the West Coast when I was 18. I was out of Ontario as fast as I could get."
Redford and her family have been in Squamish now for eight years, attracted by the rock climbing and small-town vibe, though she acknowledges that, these days, she spends more time mountain-biking than climbing.
"I feel so much freer in the mountains," Redford said. "They represent challenge and a testing ground, a place to test myself. But freedom is a really big thing. For some reason, I feel so much more freedom in the mountains that I do anywhere else."
The book will have its U.S. release in May. At the Brackendale event April 14, End of the Rope: Mountains, Marriage, and Motherhood will be for sale by Whistler's Armchair Books and local "Bluegrass and beyond" duo Marmalade Skies will perform.
**Please note, this story has been corrected to reflect that the event at the BAG will be on April 14, not April 12.