Steve Mitchell, Vancouver, BC

Senior Writer

Splitting his time between a remote cabin on Vancouver Island’s Cameron Lake and a hipster-approved Nashville neighborhood called The Nations, Steve Mitchell gets up with the sun and edits biographies and web content, writes a Medium newsletter called What-Resonates, composes quirky ukulele music for film and TV and is cowriting a how-to book on seaweed skin care. Steve’s path to the present began with a creative writing degree from Canada’s York University in the early 1990s. He then veered off into a decade as a performing musician and songwriter, followed by a fifteen-year stint as a full-time songwriter in the music industry hothouse of Nashville, Tennessee, where Steve’s songs were featured on film and TV and released as radio singles by artists based in Canada, the United States, Australia, Great Britain and Norway.

As a StoryTerrace writer, Steve interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know him better by reading his autobiographical anecdote below.

Early Memory

Dad, I have this memory. You were there, too; but don’t worry if you don’t remember. I can remember for you.

It’s a hot, breezeless summer day in 1971, and Hatzic Lake is lukewarm and the color of milky coffee that’s been left on the counter all morning. Motorboats tear across the water, yanking water-skiers across the surface of the lake, filling the air with a sound like a swarm of angry wasps. You are chest deep in the water, with your feet braced in the soft, muddy lakebed. I am four years old and clinging to you, as if to life itself.

I am wearing a polyester bathing suit of sickly-bright green and yellow. You’re in a pair of cut-off jeans; you are not the sort of man who wears expensive bathing suits. Your eyes are hidden behind a pair of aviator shades, the kind that 1970s TV cops wear, and your black sideburns are roughly four inches long and one inch wide. Officially, you are second-in-command at the family-run printing company but, in your secret mind, you are a cowboy, a book-smart loner who breaks wild horses deep in the tall grasses and lodgepole pines of British Columbia’s wild, unpopulated Chilcotin region.

You are trying to teach me how to swim. My arms are flung around your neck, and I can feel your back. It has a familiar, healthy oiliness to it. You are strong, but I am panicking. I can’t see through the water and don’t know how deep it is.

“I gotcha, Stephen,” you keep saying, in a gentle voice. “I gotcha.” I keep reminding you that I can’t swim. I am a fearful little boy. I’m not old enough to be cognizant that people die, but I seem to have an innate sense that underneath the surface of the water there is an underworld that could consume me in a split second. Your bravery astounds me. I hold on tight and try to absorb it for myself.

After the swim, we dry off on the concrete and stone pier. My grandmother calls us with a high, cheerful “Yoo-hoo!” and we head up to the big white farmhouse where the great aunts, in their floury aprons, are peeling homegrown apples for pie. The room smells like cinnamon and fresh-cut grass, because the windows are all open and Granda has just come around the side of the house on his red and white Toro riding lawnmower. Above the dining room table is a painting of a cowboy on a horse, high above a dry, grassy ravine. You can’t see the cowboy’s face, because he is looking off into the distance, like cowboys do.

I stand at the painting and stare deep into it, my eyes following the barren ridges fading into the horizon. I can’t get enough of this painting because I know that you painted it. When I look at that cowboy, I am seeing you.

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