It is a beautiful tale of redemption and connection, and how the land makes us face our true selves.
—Leela Gliday, singer-songwriter
Singer/songwriter Leela Gilday knows how to tell a story. And she's got many to share, from joyful to sorrowful, all arising from her own unique experiences.
She grew up in Yellowknife, NWT and is a member of the Dene Nation, so her soulful lyrics and appealing melodies spring from her urban perspective as an Aboriginal woman from the North.
Performances have taken Gilday from Tokyo to Toronto to Haida Gwaii. She has toured extensively throughout Canada playing festivals, theatres, ceremonies, and folk clubs.
SCENE asked Gilday to tell us about a book that truly inspired her:
"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf)
I recently read a booked called Wild
by author Cheryl Strayed. I was introduced to the book through a friend, having never heard of the author (my preference being for Canadian fiction, both native and non-native authors).
The book is an autobiographical story of how Cheryl lost her mother at a young age, lost her way in life, and subsequently found herself hiking 1000 miles of the trail called the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through wilderness from southern California to northern Washington.
The trail is a 2650-mile protected corridor that can only be described as "epic".
People plan a hike on the trail for months, sometimes years in advance, and generally only seasoned hikers attempt such a good chunk of it.
Cheryl had never hiked longer than a few hours (sans backpack) before she set out on her journey. Which is hilarious and yet incredibly dangerous.
It is a beautiful tale of redemption and connection, and how the land makes us face our true selves. Growing up in the north, I have always been aware of the power of the land. In the book, Cheryl discovers it by hiking through vast deserts, mountain ranges, forests, sometimes without seeing any evidence of humans, (beyond the rough trail).
She is forced to deal with her own personal failings and weaknesses head on, which in this natural setting often become the difference between life and death. And of course walking through those beautiful places with a 75-lb. backpack, she realizes the power of the human spirit to deal with anything that life throws at you.
Last year I decided to move to Canmore, AB for a year, to be in the Rockies, for inspiration and a fresh perspective. Since then, I have started climbing mountains. I never thought I could do something like that before, but the book helped me to overcome any fears I might have about my abilities. If she could do it, so could I. I have since summited three mountains, with my eye on four more before my year is up...
is a wonderful book that touched me deeply, and echoed the times in my life that I have turned to the land to remind me how insignificant we are, and yet how very beautiful and great we are at the same time; no more or less than a part of something much larger than ourselves. Hear Leela Gilday perform at Old Market Square on August 21st at noon as part of Aboriginal Music Week.
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