Naomis's Wave - Sue Leonard & Zane Hrynewich
Corner Rapids on the Churchill River

At Corner Rapids, on the Churchill River, in Saskatchewan’s far north, there is a plaque that reads:

“To the memory of Naomi Heffler,
who never missed a chance to surf here.
“Naomi’s Wave”
Thank God! There is always a Land of Beyond,
For us who are true to the trail,
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak,
A fairness that will never fail."
…...The Land of Beyond, Robert Service 

I first saw this plaque in 2008, and became intrigued with the story of Naomi Heffler.

Naomi Grace Heffler

Naomi Heffler

Naomi Grace Heffler was a vibrant, energetic, passionate young woman, who passed away in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Canada on Monday, January 20, 2003, at the age of 25 years. She was lost in a tragic avalanche, pursuing on of her many passions, skiing. 

A native Calgarian, Naomi attended Highwood Elementary School, George P. Vanier, and William Aberhart. She graduated from the University of Calgary in 2002 with a degree in Chemical Engineering after having spent her internship in Ottawa at CH2M HILL. 

During Naomi's short life, she excelled at everything she attempted. She was on the University of Calgary swim team; coached competitive swimming; and played and taught the piano. 

Naomi was passionate about the outdoors. She was an accomplished paddler in both the canoe and the kayak, and an expert back country skier. She spent many summers guiding and instructing at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters in Missinipe, Saskatchewan, Nahanni Wilderness Adventures, and was also a canoe and kayak instructor with Rocky Mountain Paddling Centre.

"She will be remembered for her ever-present smile, her attention to detail, and her love of life. Every day was a good day to go paddling for her."...... Ric Driediger, Churchill River Canoe Outfitters

Naomi has been dearly missed by her beloved family and her many friends, but her legacy lives on through her accomplishments and the many memories she has left behind with all who knew her.

Naomi’s Wave

"Corner Rapids", Churchill River, near Missinipe, SK., Canada

Naomi loved whitewater! She loved to paddle through it, to cruise around in it and to "surf" various waves she loved. When Naomi was playing on the Churchill River at Missinipe, SK, one of her favorite things was to surf the top wave at Corner Rapids. In fact, she was one of the few who could get onto that wave. She would hover on it for hours!

On Saturday, May 17, 2003, a group of friends and former colleagues from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters met at Corner Rapids to remember Naomi and to officially to name the top wave "Naomi's Wave". A plaque identifying Naomi's Wave is embedded permanently on a rocky outcrop on the nearby shoreline. 

In the Back of My Mind

I had never met Naomi Heffler, but I have always felt like I know her. I have always admired the women that work for my friend, Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, as staff and outdoor guides. These are strong, independent, knowledgeable women, as comfortable in the wilderness as they are in their own living rooms.

The respect and deep fondness in Ric’s voice, as he spoke to me about Naomi, told me that she was one of these special ladies also. For whatever reason, Naomi’s story found a place to live in the back of my mind, and I found myself thinking about her often. 

Forest House

Forest House Wilderness Lodge

Forest House is set on the shore of a pristine lake in the McLennan Lake area of northern Saskatchewan, Canada about 150 km north of Lac la Ronge. Forest House was carefully constructed to have minimal impact on the delicate Boreal Forest Eco-system. The main lodge, two cabins, and spectacular organic garden took thirty years to come to fruition. Original builders, Deb Peters and Rick Kolstad lovingly crafted their vision using lumber harvested from the local forest, banks of solar collectors to generate power, and a self-composting septic system. Every single detail of Forest House's construction, from location, to materials, to the self-sustaining garden was meticulously planned to create a harmony between technology and the natural beauty of the Boreal forest.

During the summer of 2015, a rash of wildfires swept across northern Saskatchewan, causing mass evacuations, the loss of many cabins and homes, displacing wildlife, and devastating the forests of the north.

The fires of 2015 did not ignore Forest House. A massive fire storm swept towards the tiny, unnamed lake, threatening the lodge, its two cabins, and outlying buildings. The only chance to save Forest House was to set up and man a sprinkler system, keeping pumps fueled, in an effort to make everything as wet as possible. Staff members from Churchill River Canoe Outfitters (owners of Forest House), braved the smoke, ash, heat and flames, to stop the progress of the blaze within mere feet of the complex. What an amazing undertaking! 

2009

Waiting for Naomi

My first visit to Forest House was with my wife, Velda, in 2009. Churchill River Canoe Outfitter's owners, Ric and Theresa Driediger had just purchased the lodge. Velda and I were to be their first "test" guests.

When we walked across that last portage, into the small lake housing the lodge, we immediately realized something was different. The forest was greener and lusher than that of the surrounding lakes and there seemed to be a special feeling of serenity and calmness in the air.

Over the next few days, we explored the trails around the lodge, and ate gourmet meals with ingredients from the forest such as chickweed, dandelions, and cattails, as well as fresh produce from the abundant garden.
One calm, quiet, peaceful evening, as I was taking photos of the sunset, I saw a lone overturned red canoe, sitting on the shoreline, as if it was waiting for someone.

Thoughts of Naomi entered my mind. I don’t think she had ever been to Forest House, but I know she would have loved it there. I then took the photo below, entitled, “Waiting for Naomi”. 

Motivation Through Inspiration

Residents of the Forest

Velda and I have a friend named Sherry Duncan Paterson, a gentle, warm, kind-hearted lady, who has endured so much in her life. 2012 was the twentieth anniversary of Sherry's double lung and heart transplant. In August of that year, we returned to Forest House, with Sherry and her husband, Bob, our gift to her to celebrate this wonderful occasion, and to thank her for her inspiration and friendship.

The forest floor was bursting with new growth, this time countless clusters of mushrooms of all shapes and sizes. As I was crawling around on my belly, taking pictures of the new residents in this magical place, I was deeply thankful.

That red canoe was still waiting on the shoreline, taking my thoughts, once again to Naomi. She would have loved it there in August and she would have loved to meet Sherry Duncan Paterson.

Upon returning to Missinipe after our trip, I sat in the Churchill River Canoe Outfitters office, chatting to Ric Driediger about our trip. Somehow, the conversation turned to the possibility of doing some recording at Forest House. Back then, it was just a passing thought. Little did I know. 

Another Strong Lady

Sue Leonard

Sue Leonard and I met through social media in 2011 and immediately became friends.

Sue is an amazing musician. The moment I first heard her sing, I was taken with her sultry, sensitive, deeply-moving vocal style. She is also a brilliant song writer, with an uncanny ability to find the perfect words to paint vivid musical tapestries.

Above all, Sue is a genuine, caring, and sincere person. She has toured the world with k.d. lang, sung with Bon Jovi, and performed with Bruce Willis, as well as working with countless other gifted artists, reason enough to have a giant ego. Not Sue Leonard, who is one of the most humble, centered musicians I know. 

The Naomi Project is Born

In 2012, I posted pictures of my most recent trip to Forest House trip on my website.

Coincidentally, upon viewing my pictures, Sue messaged me, saying that it was the perfect setting for a musical collaboration. I relayed this to Ric. Ric agreed, and the initial seed The Naomi Project was planted. 

My Diary

Over the course of the Naomi Project, I kept a "loose" journal in an attempt to record events leading up to and including our trip to Forest House. I have included it below.
To some, an undertaking like this would be a "walk in the park", but for me, it was a huge mountain to climb..... the logistical hurdles, a huge learning curve with new recording software and equipment, a cardiac "event" and much more, made this adventure something I will remember for the rest of my days. 

Exciting News - Wednesday, 05 September 2012
Dedicating Our Project to Naomi Heffler - Friday, 28 September 2012
Petrified - Friday, 28 September 2012
Whew!!! - Thursday, 11 October 2012
A BIG Scare! - Monday, 22 October 2012
Boggle the Mind - Tuesday, 18 December 2012
Still Writing! - Tuesday, 08 January 2013
The Death of the High-End Lap Top - Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Preparations Still Underway - Thursday, 04 April 2013
DISASTER - Thursday, 27 June 2013
Training & Writing - Monday, 08 July 2013
Sue Arrives - Sunday, 25 August 2013
The Adventure Begins - Monday, 26 August 2013
Down to Work - Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Another Productive Day - Wednesday, 28 August 2013
New Friends, More Surprises - Thursday, 29 August 2013
Some Minor Frustrations & Allot of Noise - Friday, 30 August 2013
Simply Awesome Day! - Saturday, 31 August 2013
Re-charging the Batteries - Sunday, 01 September 2013
Going Home - Monday, 02 September 2013
Life Gets in the Way - 2013 – 2017

Naomi's Wave

So here it is…... “Naomi’s Wave” …... dedicated to the memory of a young lady Sue and I never knew, but who inspired us to undertake this journey in her name. Why?...... Because we so admire her, her enthusiasm, her oneness with mother nature, and her strength.

The spirit of Naomi is universal, celebrating all women of strength, determination, character, resolve, and compassion.

I am Mother Nature's daughter, deep within this world,
I leave my troubles and all my cares behind.
This place I call my home, where rushing waters hold me dear,
Suspends me here in time.

I am the water, I am the sky.
I am the earth below, Where Mother Nature smiles.

In the stillness, I can hear my thoughts clearly,
While this gentle water, it holds me tenderly,
This wave and I are partners, in a dance we hold each other,
One life, one soul together, endlessly.

I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, I'm Mother Nature's smile.

The silence that surrounds me here, it sings so loud, it sounds so clear,
For all who came before me here.
I am the breath, I am the light, I am the stars that bathe your soul, On this magic night.

I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, hear Mother Nature's smile.

I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, I'm Mother Nature's child.
I am the water, I am the sky,
I am the earth below, I'm Mother Nature's smile.

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The Other Songs

Ashes to Ashes

Sue is truly a wordsmith, willing to “bare her soul” through her lyrics. In “Ashes to Ashes”, Sue “lets it all hang out”, in an effort to put closure on a very bad relationship, which ended just days before her trip to Forest House. 

Goodbye 

Is the completion of Sue’s attempt at closure, as started in “Ashes to Ashes”. 

This Night 

It was a very beautiful night, in Saskatchewan’s far north, at Forest House, in August, where the night sky is so dark, and the stars are so close and so bright. This song was the result. 

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Sue Leonard

Sue Leonard

One of the most in-demand and recorded female vocalists on the West Coast. Over the past thirty years, Sue has performed and recorded with a stellar list of headliners. Sue toured the world with kd lang in support of "Ingenue" and "Absolute Torch and Twang"...... and has appeared on albums by kd lang, Bon Jovi, Billy Thompson, and many others.

Voted Canada's best vocalist by readers of the Canadian Music Scene, CCMA "Best Back up Band" in Canada two years running 89/90 (kd lang and the Reclines).

Sue has garnered seven international gold and platinum records. In addition, Sue placed in the top twelve for her song, "I Believe", in the We Are Listening international singer songwriter contest.

Sue and Zane met in 2011 via social media. They began working together, shortly thereafter, with Zane designing Sue's website and online store and featuring her music on CanIndie, his website supporting Canadian Independent Recording Artists. When Sue saw Zane's pictures of Forest House from his 2012 trip, she immediately expressed a desire to visit the lodge. When Zane told her the story of Naomi Heffler, and suggested they collaborate musically to pay tribute to her life, Sue agreed.

Ric & Theresa Driediger

Ric & Theresa Driediger

In the world of canoeing, Ric Driediger is a legend. He has spent over a quarter of a century as owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, outfitting and arranging trips for avid canoeists across Canada's vast northern wilderness. He is famous for his knowledge of canoe routes across the north and his dedication to the preservation of our fragile waters and the Boreal Forest. People from all over the world have talked paddling with that "little guy with the fuzzy beard" inside the cute little C.R.C.O. office at Missinipe, Saskatchewan.

Theresa Driediger is a licensed psychologist in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Currently Ric,Theresa, and family winter in Rosthern, Saskatchewan. Theresa spends much of her time in northern Alberta, where she works for Health Canada as a Community Mental Health Therapist. This involves counseling northern Alberta's Cree.

Theresa's love affair with anything connected to canoeing twigged an interest in cedar strip canoe construction. She began building canoes in 1981, and handcrafted nine works of art, before taking a break to devote time to her family. Theresa is planning to resume cedar strip canoe construction immediately after she completes a new shop, using post-and-beam construction.

Greg & Joanne Zinter

Greg & Joanne Zinter

Greg and Joanne Zinter reside in Edmonton, Alberta and are part of the Forest House ownership group. The couple was gracious enough to volunteer to host Sue and Zane for their stay at Forest House.

Greg is an engineer by trade. He has read virtually everything that has ever been written, is an avid and extremely knowledgeable music fan/musicologist, and has canoed/kayaked throughout the world. Greg has taught outdoor skills and paddling and is a devoted, passionate "foodie". Greg is comfortable in preparing many different styles of cuisine, his kitchen skills most definitely elevating our experience at Forest House.

Joanne Zinter is a warm, outgoing, "motherly" lady. She has travelled the world, studying in prestigious cooking schools with world-class. Her expertise in the culinary world led her to start Zinter Brown Taste Treats Inc. Her company has been producing a creative collection of gourmet food - condiments, antipasto, seasonings, and pepper jelly for over 20 years.

"I could have eaten Joanne's Antipasto Spread, Three Pepper Salsa Roja and Roasted Garlic and Onion Jamboree all day, every day (& almost did)!..... Zane Hrynewich"

Joanne spent much time in the kitchen, pampering us with simply amazing cuisine. Greg and Joanne were the perfect hosts in a perfect setting!

Dan Driediger

Dan Driediger

Dan Driediger is the son of proud parents, Ric and Theresa Driediger. Therefore, Dan grew up spending his summers in Missinipe, paddling, camping, and doing just about everything else he could in the outdoors. Dan currently spends his winters in Winnipeg, where he is studying Disaster Relief.

Dan's Likes:

Anything to do with paddling, girls who like anything to do with paddling, long walks on the beach, helping his parents, hanging out with really old musicians.

Dan's Dislikes:

Anything that doesn't have to do with paddling.

Dan was "Head Roadie" for the "Naomi Project". He was instrumental in loading and unloading the plane, portaging cases of heavy equipment into Forest House, paddling it down the lake and carrying it up the hill to the lodge. Dan also makes an excellent Barbecued Lake Trout and a mean jug of iced tea. His dry sense of humor was appreciated by all.

Nick Bergen

Nick Bergen

Nick Bergen is a close friend of Dan Driediger. Nick hails from Edmonton, Alberta and is rumored to be an accomplished cellist. He attends school with Dan in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nick spends his summers working at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters.

Nick's Likes:

Anything to do with paddling, girls who like anything to do with paddling, following Dan around, hanging out with really old musicians.

Nick's Dislikes:

Anything that doesn't have to do with paddling. Disco music.

Nick was "Assistant Head Roadie" for the "Naomi Project". He was invaluable at hauling, loading, carrying, toting, lifting, and moving. Nick also makes a very interesting curry.

Ric & Theresa Driediger

Zane Hrynewich