Kootenay Inspired: An Interview with Paul Saso

Nelsonite Paul Saso is the author of a new book – Kootenay Inspired – that illuminates the lives of twelve extraordinary Kootenay residents. Believing in the power of community and positive change, he is donating half of the proceeds of his book to both Wildsight’s education programs and Kootenay Lake’s Tipi Camp. I recently sat down with him to chat about changing the world, life paths and an enduring love of the wild. You can check out the book and buy it here or order it online and pick it up at Wildsight in Kimberley.

Lindsay: You wrote a book!

Paul: Sure did. It took about eight years but it finally made it.

Lindsay: Congratulations. So now that it’s done, what do you hope will happen through the sharing of these stories?

Paul: I really hope that people who read the book will learn from each person featured and that they will be inspired by them. I hope that it will improve people’s lives and understanding of the world, and help them to live well, follow their dreams and passions. I also hope to improve the lives of kids in our community through donating to Wildsight’s programs and sponsoring kids to attend Tipi Camp. Basically this project is intended to save the world.

Lindsay: Low-reaching goals for Paul Saso (laughs).

Paul: A bunch of it is already happening so that’s great. It’s the small things.

Lindsay: Did it affect you as you were writing it?

Paul: Yes it did. Especially because I had to pour over the material so much and then write it all up I feel that so much of the wisdom and inspiration of the people in the book is now in me.

Lindsay: It’s beautiful to me how when we write books, whether fiction or nonfiction, they become part of us, almost in a material way, let alone a spiritual way. Are there ways you felt like writing this changed your life or how you engage with your community?

Paul: It certainly got me to engage with the community in a different way. But I think different people stories affected my life in different ways. Mary Ann Morris’s story helps me to change the way I look at interaction with people into a much more engaged and “symbiotic” way.

Tanya’s story makes me remember and look to enhance my feelings of connection with the natural world and to push through difficult times and learn from them. Even using them as fuel for what I do. Ricardo reminds us to not take ourselves so seriously and do what we love to do.

Mary Woodward reminds us to live well, be genuinely caring and have fun forever. It goes on and on from there…

Lindsay: I love how diverse all of the characters in the book are. There isn’t some formula for what a “kootenay person” is. I guess it makes me wonder: did the book come first or meeting the people? Or to put it another way, did you meet these people and then decide to write the book or vice versa?

Paul: I just asked people for years who inspired them in the community and then slowly picked through and interviewed them. One of the things I wanted to bring out was the diversity of backgrounds and philosophies present here because I think that is one of the things that makes the Kootenays special is how there are so many different types of people who get along relatively well with a sense of acceptance for each other.

Lindsay: Yeah, that’s something that’s always stood out to me since I moved here.

Paul: I did meet a bunch of amazing people first, though, and was then inspired to write about the Koots.

Lindsay: How do you think the landscape influences the people in your book, the people who live here?

Paul: Good question. My mom’s comment after reading the book was that it made her feel good to read about all these people who enjoy nature VERY much, as she does, because it made her think that she was less crazy for loving nature so much.

Lindsay: I love that.

Paul: So I think the landscape and wilderness are very important to these people and many other people in the Koots. It’s different for different people, I think. Lucas relies on time in woods to rejuvenate, Marilyn fights for the environment with her life, etc.

Lindsay: That actually ties into my next question, which is, if you had to pick one thread that runs through every story in the book, what do you think it would be? If there is one!

Paul: One thing that I discovered along the way is that the people featured (people who many people find inspiring) spend a majority of their time doing what they are passionate about. It’s pretty simple, but it was an interesting discovery. Often it’s like they don’t even have a choice, they are drawn to their passions and they follow them/it.

Lindsay: Yeah, so simple! But so true. How much it changes our lives if we spend the majority of our time doing what we are passionate about…Ok, one final question. Besides being inspired in a general sense, how are you different now than you were before writing this book? It could even be a small thing…

Paul: Hmmm…I think I have an answer. I think there are a bunch of ways that I’ve changed by incorporating things from each person into my way of thinking and my life but I feel like overall I’m on the same path and that this book was my path. When this project came into my life I just knew it was what I was supposed to do. It is the culmination of where so many of the experiences in my life led me. So I feel like it took me further down the exact path I was supposed to be on, if that makes sense.

Lindsay: Yes, that makes perfect sense. Thanks for your time, Paul!

Paul: My pleasure.