What Endurance Hiking Taught Me


Yesterday I performed what has become a December tradition: attempting to finish a 50 kilometer hike through the mountains on Vancouver’s north shore.  “Why?” you may ask.  It’s a good question.  A non-stop march through rugged terrain that takes between 13 and 18 hours to complete is no laughing matter.  It helps to love mountains of course, but there is no denying the fact that such a trip will involve a certain degree of discomfort, and even grimness.  I find that these hikes teach me a lot about life.

I have attempted this hike 5 times, and completed it 3 times.  After all, if success were guaranteed, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.  There is usually a point, somewhere along the journey, where I hit a physical wall and find it very hard to go on.

This time it was at the halfway point.  We had been hiking continuously for 8 hours in the rain.  It was seeping into all the layers of clothing, saturating gloves and boots, and creating a clammy, heat eating layer right next to my skin.  We had been hiking downhill for more than an hour toward the Cleveland Dam, so my body temperature had dropped because there was less exertion.  When we stopped at the dam to pull some food out of the backpack, I began to shiver, and my teeth chattered uncontrollably.  Basic motor functions like doing up a gaiter strap became very challenging.

Leaving the dry, heated bathroom in which I was shivering to head out into the pouring rain for another 8 hours of hiking seemed almost overwhelming.  However, I clenched my chattering teeth together and doggedly began walking uphill toward the next part of the trail.  How I was going to finish another eight hours of this I did not know.  There was some dry gear I could put on (replacement socks and another shirt) but even pausing long enough to attempt that seemed impossible.  Movement seemed to be my only hope of controlling the cold.

My hiking partner suggested we divert from the trail and duck into a nearby café to change out our gear and warm up.  I was simply focused on staying moving and getting to the end of this ordeal as quickly as possible, so I didn’t jump on the idea.  He prevailed though, and insisted that we stop.  I complied.

After 20 minutes inside with hot fluids, a change of socks, and a few extra layers, I was able to face the pouring rain outside without shivering.  This stop allowed me to gather myself and continue for another 4 hours.  I recovered my warmth and was able to actually enjoy trekking many more kilometers in the dark and the rain.

So what does all this have to do with life outside of mountains?  Well, any long journey will have its stunning vistas and its sloughs of despair.  There are moments of euphoria and moments of pain.  Your inner landscape changes as continuously as the terrain you are moving through.  The key is to keep going.  Sometimes all you can do is focus on putting one boot in front of the other.  Eventually, it gets better.

Grit will get you far, but sometimes you need more.  This trip I was reminded that we need other people.  People who will recognise when we need help (even if we aren’t asking for it) and drag us into warmer places full of light.

There may be times in your life when you feel that you can’t go on.  Times when you don’t know how you can possibly continue.  Moments when life seems completely overwhelming.  Those are the moments that you need to put yourself into the hands of people you trust.

Sometimes all you need is a bit of help, and then you can go back to facing the road ahead.

They Say (Lyrics)










This time I said

I’m going to keep my cool

Not going to lose my head

Not going to play the fool

And that four letter word

I will not speak

The one that starts with “L”

And ends with “E”



But everywhere I go

People seem to know

Just what I’m not speaking of

And they say…. They say

“You must be in love”


Stopped by a café

One Saturday afternoon

I had a smile on my face

I was humming a tune

And the barista said

As she poured my brew

“You must have someone

Who is very good to you”


Chorus:  Oh everywhere I go…


Strolling in the park

He was by my side

When a man and wife

Came cycling by

And they called out

“Love looks good on you,

We know just how it feels

‘Cause we’re still in love too”




Had my neighbour’s child

Sitting on my knee

She was asking about

That man and me

I said “He’s just a friend”

But then she called my bluff

She said, “Do you mean

That man you love?”


Chorus (double)


New album release

It’s been a long journey, but I am thrilled to be releasing my second album, “Borderless Sky”. A project like this is always intensely personal, but it also involves many other people along the way to bringing it into being.

There are 8 tracks, ranging from the romantic to the lively and humorous. Songs like “They Say” and “Traces of You” are classic jazz, and feature piano and trumpet, recalling the style of Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. There’s an intimate bossa nova tune called “Here I Go Again”, and a cheerful horn and piano track called “Feels Like Breathing.”

Alongside the jazz there are tracks that branch into other styles too. “Ribbons and Bows” is a toe tapping fiddle tune with laugh out loud lyrics about one couple’s ongoing conversation, which ranges from stilettos to breast implants. “Backcountry Blues” and “Saying Goodbye” are guitar ballads, full of lush images and invitations to lose yourself in summer days and fields full of dew. The title track, “Borderless Sky” features a slide guitar and story about love at the most unexpected moment.

It’s been a wonderful journey to make this album. Collaborating with trumpet player Fred Palidor, bass player Steve Smith, guitarists Flavio Veloso and Steve Fisk, the incredible violinist Mary Brunner, and cellist Finn Manniche has been a gift. I’ve been profoundly moved by the talent and beauty they have brought to these songs. I also have a huge debt of thanks to producers Paul Claxton and Michael Dewey, and to Shael Wrinch, who mixed, smoothed, and added guitar, mandolin, and all manner of magic.

It it my hope that you will enjoy listening to this music as much as I enjoyed making it!

They Say…


When I was a kid I listened to a lot of Nat King Cole. His smooth vocals and almost confidential tone were part of my early exposure to jazz. I also listened endlessly to an album by his daughter, Natalie Cole, whose versions of “Nature Boy” and “Lush Life” still dominate my memory.

When I started writing the songs for this album, it was inevitable that these experiences would colour my style. I think of “They Say” as a song that Nat could have sung. It would have suited him perfectly, in lyrics and arrangement. It’s a tribute of sorts to that style of jazz, and the way it made me feel.

I wrote the lyrics for this track with a good deal of chuckling. There’s a verse about a bicycle riding couple in a park that was taken straight out of a summer walk I did one evening.  The reference to a neighbor’s child is about the uncanny ability of children to read things we never tell them.  As always, while these verses are mine, I hope they sound like a feeling you can relate to.  This song was written with a smile on my face, and I hope it puts a smile on yours


Georgia on my mind…

Well, it’s been a long journey with a lot of unexpected delays, but my second album is almost ready to release. It will be called “Borderless Sky” and includes a mix of all original songs, from vintage jazz to a few tracks with a more folk or country twist.  This album also includes one of my favorite songs of any I’ve written.  It’s called “Back Country Blues”.  The first line is:  There’s a summer day in Georgia, I’ll wait for you there…

This song was one I wrote in my very first few months of songwriting. It was a crazy time, because it felt like a tap had been turned on in my mind, and suddenly there were lyrics and melodies tumbling out without warning. In that year I sometimes wrote a couple songs in a week.

Anyway, this particular song was unique because it started late at night. I’d been listing to some jug bands on Youtube late in the evening and thinking about how some music made it feel like summer, even when it was cold outside. It was February at the time. I soon curled up in bed and began drifting off to sleep. Then it happened.


There’s a summer day in Georgia, I’ll wait for you there…

I heard these words form in my mind, and with them the nub of an idea. Recognizing what was going on I knew I had to get out of bed and write it down. It would be gone by morning if I surrendered to sleep.

I jumped out of bed, grabbed my notebook and pen, and went out to the kitchen to turn on the stove light. There I stood, frantically scribbling at one a.m. I got the first two verses and the chorus on paper right then. Satisfied, I went back to bed.

The next morning I wrote the third verse and found a melody for the song.

Of course, I’ve never been to Georgia.  That’s actually the point.  Sometimes you can imagine a place– its sounds and smells, the feel of it– and it exists vividly in your imagination.  It’s a place you can visit in dreams, by day or night.  It’s the sort of place where other things that are impossible in your daily life might happen.

This song has remained one of my favorites, despite writing dozens more since then. For me, it still has a dreamy, lullaby quality that takes me away. I hope it has the same effect on you.

Night River

When I am not writing songs, I write poetry. In fact, reading and writing poetry was a regular part of my life for almost as long as I can remember… certainly since childhood. It was only later that I began to apply this drive to writing lyrics. This poem I wrote after a summer weekend in the woods.

“Saying Goodbye”: The backstory

I am very fortunate to live in one of the world’s most beautiful cities.  I love Vancouver for its mountains and water…the feast of green and blue that floods the eye.  While I’ve lived in other places, I always end up missing the landscape here.  My happiest moments are being out in it, running a trail or hiking up a mountain to chase the view.

This song came out of that love of place.  It’s about all the natural beauty that can make being alive such a vividly joyful experience, if you let yourself stop to notice it.  It is often in contemplating loss and death that we can measure the value of what we have most accurately.  Some people only think about this when that loss has occurred, but I think that imagining the inevitable helps sharpen my appreciation for what I have while it is still with me.

I started composing these lyrics on a trail run one spring afternoon, and finished them when I got home.   From the moment I started working out a melody, I knew it had to have a cello in it.  A simple arrangement that was clear and slow enough to let the words and emotions sink in is what I was trying to create.

When the time came to think about filming  a video for this song, I mentioned it to a friend of mine (Craig Jones) who was visiting Vancouver from London to work on various film projects.  He came up with a narrative vision for it which matched my sense of the song exactly.  


We did some brainstorming about the shots we wanted, and then made a list of props, locations, and people we would need. So began the whirlwind of preparation that always precedes the making of one of these videos. I do the location scouting, the casting, and the prop acquisition. When I drove out to Pitt Polder Ecological Reserve and saw the landscape, I knew I’d found the right location.

My hope is that the imagery in this video fills you with a sense of appreciation for the beauty and transience that marks our lives, and the love that makes it all that much more precious.

Saying Goodbye- Lyrics

When my time to go comes

I’ll miss the rain

That falls fragrant on the earth

And greens it again

I’ll miss the way spring

Makes everything new

But I don’t know how to say

Goodbye to you


When my time to go comes

I’ll miss the blue

Of cold mountain shoulders

And fields full of dew

I’ll miss the moonlight

And star dappled skies

But I don’t know how

To leave you behind


When my time to go comes

I’ll say goodbye

To lilac colored mornings

And orange evening skies

But there is something I don’t know how to do

I have no words

To say goodbye to you


I have no words to say goodbye to you

Oh I have no words to say goodbye to you

For Leonard Cohen










Voice of the lonely

You were the bard

Of the famous blue raincoat

And the end of love


The growling conscience of the future

Poet of backroom drunks

And solitary hearts

Who walk the city streets

Alone with their longings

Nameless and reckless


You lived intensely

In the bareness of your white rooms

Distilling the marrow of desire

Maps of flesh

Tracked relentlessly

Tracing the lust and the hallelujah

On bended knee


Speaking aloud what we barely knew

But felt without words

Fedorad monk of debauchery

Drunken poet of grace

With your canticles of longing

And your irreverent grin


You found the crack in everything

And let the light shine in

Trails of Joy


Your touch is fire, beloved
Sudden sparks along the neural net
Leaping, arcing, spreading
Beneath my skin
Like sky-dazzling diamond peonies
On the Fourth of July

Fading into glow
Breaking into slow flame
Blazing and roaring, incandescent
Until we fall — embered with bliss
Trailing light
Into the silent depths
Of the flesh-colored nights

Phosphorescent down the long hall of memory
Like bonfires along a beach
Light towers for a midnight ship
They are patterns against the dark
Trails of fleeting joy
Lamps leading home