It’s taken me almost a week to put this post together, I never thought saying goodbye could be so hard to write about! But, delayed or not, here is my Farewell, my love letter to Cranbrook.
For the past 30 years I’ve called Cranbrook home.
Tucked in an ancient river valley and nestled between the soaring Rockies and the humble Purcell mountain ranges, I’ve been fortunate to have been raised in an area of the world that is surrounded by Mother Nature’s best. Hiking in majestic mountains and swimming in pristine lakes, racing alongside rivers, wildflowers and hills, it’s an amazing place to enjoy the outdoors.
If you’ve grown up or lived in a small town, you likely know the routine that exists. As a child a small town is great, you can ride your bike freely and chances are any park you venture to there will already be friends or family nearby. As a teenager you want to escape to the city, to something more exciting than the familiar roads and buildings and you’re too young to appreciate what exists around you. As a young adult that pride and understanding sets in and you start to recognize the benefits of life in a small town. Safety, short commutes to work, low costs of living.
I certainly experienced all of those feelings growing up among the pines and rolling hills of the Southeast Kootenays. As a little kid I loved spending endless summer days trudging through the creek water and into the trees to build forts. As a teenager all I could think of was escaping, to somewhere that I thought would understand me more, and then as a young adult I fell back in love with my hometown.
Cranbrook was where I discovered and rediscovered myself. In my early 20’s when I picked up a camera for the first “real” time, it was in the fields and forests that surrounded the sleepy town below that were my classrooms. I spent countless hours, hundreds of sunsets and rain storms teaching myself how to photograph the ideas in my head. And there, in between the wild grasses and occasional bear sightings, I found myself and not only that I learned to love myself. There’s a peacefulness that Cranbrook has, those quiet nights in the winter when the snow mutes all noise and the town is amplified by christmas lights and the soft trails of smoke leaving chimneys. I’ll miss watching the sun sleepily set behind the Purcells each night, casting it’s Alpenglow on Mt.Fisher and the Rockies to the east. Spending so much time outdoors running, cycling and taking pictures not only allowed me time and solitude to discover more about myself it also gave me a chance to become more in tune with the world around me, to anticipate and know the sun’s patterns, when the leaves would change and the flowers would start to bloom.
I found, as an adult, amazing people to connect with and work with. People that believed in me as a person first and then supported me through my photography journey even if meant that I’d eventually be leaving. In all the various community and school programs I was a part of I saw and experienced the same feeling, togetherness and pride for our small town. We live in a beautiful area of the world and in it exists a beautiful collection of artists, athletes, teachers, business owners, musicians and activists. We’re lucky to have this full house of a community lining our streets with their talents.
Cranbrook is a home town. It’s my hometown yes, but it’s town that feels like a home. It has elements of course that maybe aren’t so favoured (yes, I’m talking about the roads!) but those few complaints are overshadowed by the sense of community that is growing, the passion and love for the outdoors that exists and all those tiny quirks that make it a loveable place. The clocktower with all the wrong times, the ancient Armond Theatre sign still sitting proud near Baker St., the soft echo of the trains as they work their way through the valley. These are the things I’ll look back to and remember and smile about.
It’s a bittersweet feeling to be moving out of my home, my town. Leaving last week was a strange mix of emotions but I’m excited to step into a new chapter and experience a new hometown in England.
If you do live in Cranbrook, or even if you don’t, I challenge you and I encourage you to find those positive things in your community and celebrate them. Applaud your athletes from every level, support artists and local crafts makers. Spend your money at the stores owned by your neighbors. Go outside and look up and away from your phone, look down at the ground that makes up your home. Listen to the noise that exists may it be birds, traffic, or children playing. Find a favourite space to go and sit, enjoy the company of yourself and reflect on your home.
So long Cranbrook, you’ve been a good nest but it’s time to fly away.
It was a good feeling knowing you were nearby, here in the foothills of the Rockies. Have a wonderful life, wherever you go!
Joel: We wish you nothing but good things as you start a new chapter in your life.
May you have nothing but good days and many happy times to report to your
family and friends back in Cranbrook. You are a very special young man and
your family must be so proud of you. Blessings to you on this journey.
K and J
The words from your heart echo in the hearts of many other Cranbrook kids! Best of luck in all that you do, and I look forward to see you the next time you are “home”.
Lovely article, Joel. Fly away, follow your muse, enjoy!!! See you again one day, my friend. Best wishes and love….
Have a wonderful journey wherever that may lead you…thanks for taking the time to see what I see in good old Moyie…cheers ….well said about our home by the way..
Lovely goodbye. The city will definitely miss you.
I wish you so much love and the feeling of home in your new hometown. Have a wonderful adventure, Joel. I look forward to hearing all about it and seeing all the art you will create there. xo
I loved reading this. I was Born and raised in cranbrook but now live in fernie. I was just in cranbrook the other day and drove by the park across from the old library and swimming pool… I had to slow down as childhood memories filled my head. I too played in creeks to get to the tree filled side to build forts. I told my 5 year old son all about it as we drove by. He now thinks im “even cooler”
Good luck on your new journey
Thank you for the lovely tribute…and the much-needed reminder that we chose the right place to return to, to raise our daughter, and be a family in. You’ve captured a level of introspection about community and the incredible area we have the privilege of calling our back yard that we could all stand to adopt a little more often. Whoever you are, thanks – and enjoy your journey abroad. Be sure to share this letter and your works overseas so that others might be reminded…and perhaps pay us a visit! Cheers!
Hi Joel, I’m a friend of your Mom’s. I remember when you were born. Wanted to thank you for such a beautiful article on life in beautiful Cranbrook. Wishing you the best of luck as you move forward in your life.
When I read your little story it sent goose bumps down my back. I knew how lucky and how honoured we are to live here. But seeing it in writing made me acknowledge it. Thank you Joel. I wish you all the best in England and wherever you go. May God keep you happy and healthy in whatever you choose to do.
Beautiful work. I was just about to ask you if ever do seminars in Nashville, TN. But that’s a long way from England. I was just in the Portland, OR area this summer and it is beautiful in that part of the world. But I’m sure you’ll find some gorgeous things to shoot in England too. Just let Coldplay keep inspiring you!
Well said Joel. That’s exactly how I feel about my small Ontario hometown and my adopted Alberta hometown. Enjoy your journey!
I grew up in a small town as well and feel much the same – also recently having moved back to a smaller town after living in a big city for five years… Good luck on your journey!! I love your work 🙂
That is such a nice piece you have written, Joel. I grew up with your Mom and Dad (our neighbour in “Pinecrest”) and got the privilege of experiencing all these things as Cranbrook being our hometown, too. I admire and have followed your photography and am proud that you have come from Cranbrook – it truly is a place where young people can discover and excel. Good for you for recognizing that. Enjoy England!!!
Thanks to you, Joel, for all you’ve done for the Brook. It’s a sad but I think necessary thing for artists to leave home. Something about the process both expands and deepens their artistic visions. I’m confident great things await you. And Cranberry Corners will always be here waiting for you to visit. To your best future!
What a beautiful message that everyone in Cranbrook should see. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your pictures. As a born and raised Cranbrook girl who truly loves her hometown your words resonated with me. Good luck on your new journey!
thank you Joel for your beautiful words about a hometown that we share, it’s like you spoke words right from the same heart. I myself was born and raised here and have yet to leave, so I feel your pain in leaving and wish you a wonderful and bright new future and I hope you find that kind of love in the new place that you will call home. My promise to you as a fello Cranbrook’ian, is to help take care of this wonderful town and surrounding area that we both love so much, with sincere and best wishes, take care!
wow!!! i always knew cranbrook was beautiful. but seeing it through someone eles eyes is even more beautiful. i to was born and raised in cranbrook, 36 years later i live in a city with more than a million people. never take the serenity for granted as it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. thank you friend for yiyr kind words. may your travels lead you home.
Joel Robison you wrote that so beautifully. I wasn’t born here but my hubby & I came here 52 years ago in July. I can proudly say I love our town nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. I am proud to call it home. We raised our four daughters here & three of them also reside here. When we go away I always long to be back home in the Rocky’s. Good luck where ever you go.
All the best Joel. Your talents continue to grow and amaze.
what a wonderful letter to write about Cranbrook.. Good luck for your future!
great letter about Cranbrook and our beautiful Valley… good luck in your future with photography.. Cheers, Sally Passey
All the best on this new adventure you are undertaking. You are one of the most positive people I have ever known and I admire you for being kind, humble, and YOU! Be safe!
im from hong kong, i’ve spent 3 year in this lovely town from 1995-1998, the best thing i love is countless lake nearby, the best i love is Norbury Lake. Also driving on those scenic highway , even now, i sometimes recall all those scenes before bed.
This post made me curious so I looked up for it on in the web and OMG, I want to live in Cranbrook! What a place! <3
I lived in a small town for 5 years, and now I live in Rio de Janeiro, wanting so bad to go back to a calm and peaceful small town.
Anyway, loved the text, and I wish you love your new home! 😀
Best of luck Joel!! Thank you for sharing this great story. Proud such an amazing, talented artist is from my hometown!
thanks for your “love-letter” – I used to live in Cranbrook for almost 10 years and moved than back to Germany …. believe it or not – I’m still feeling feeling homesick for Canada, for Cranbrook just about every day of my life ……… one day I might just return ……..
What a beautiful story Joel and such amazing images! My husband and I grew up in a town near Cranbrook. We have established ourselves over and over in many different places around the world. We fondly refer to the Kootenays as “home” when people ask where we are from… nearly 15 years later!
A beautiful goodbye to a lifetime of memories. Where are you flying too. You will be missed
Beautifully written! Very best of luck in the rest of your life’s journey!
Your touching and insightful letter brought tears to my eyes. I never new that I had such a soulful neighbor. I live in Calgary now, and miss living in Cranbrook, and even more after reading your letter. Every season was beautiful and awe inspiring. I wish you the best in your journey!
[…] is a beautiful town (read my love letter to it here) and there’s few things I would change about it, but one of them is the access to the arts […]