Catherine Hawkins – The Wilderness Ambassador

Who are you?

Catherine Hawkins, not Cathy or Katie or Kate for short. It’s Catherine. People always try and shorten my name and it’s very frustrating. I live in small-ish mountain town in Alberta called Canmore. I love living here because I can basically start any mountain adventure from my back door. I work at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies as the Education and Interpretation Coordinator.

What do you do for fun?

I spend time in the backcountry either hiking, camping, skiing or biking. Most of these activities I like to do with my black dog. I am very passionate about good food and love to cook. I like to knit while listening to the radio, usually the CBC. I volunteer my time to things that are important to me. Sometime I classify my work as “fun”.

What is your favourite community? Why?

The Wildlife Ambassadors. This is a volunteer group that I have been involved with for three years. It is made up of Canmorites who are concerned about the human/wildlife conflicts that inevitability happen in a town that sits right on top of important wildlife habitat and corridors. Every weekend in and around Canmore you can find the Wildlife Ambassadors out on trails chatting to locals and visitors about wildlife safety and in a lot of cases, respect. The Wildlife Ambassador volunteers are a great community because of the very diverse range of people it has attracted; there are mechanics, teachers, reporters, fish and wildlife officers, administrative assistants, filmmakers and high school students.  All these people have different backgrounds, interests and perspectives but all have the same passion and motivation for volunteering which is ensure the survival of wildlife in this area.

What is your superpower?

Badass knitter. Both of my grandmothers and my mother were/are amazing knitters so I think I have good knitting genes. I like to knit small things that don’t take too long to finish so tea cozies are ideal, though, I also enjoy knitting other small things like socks, toques, mitts and anything for babies. But the tea cozies are my favorite because my Momsie and I design different patterns for them and I either give them away to people that I love or sell them to strangers.

How do you use it to build community?

People need to chat and connect in order to build community. People chat and connect over tea. So the longer a pot of tea stays warm in it’s stylish handmade tea cozy the longer people will chat and connect. Also note. There is a café in Canmore called “Communitea” which I think is very fitting and supports my theory of how connected tea and community really are.

My Three Favourite Things About Catherine Are…

1. Her love of bears. I will say “love of the outdoors” here, too. Not only does she love bears, but Ms. Hawkins is also incredibly knowledgeable about these misunderstood, mostly peaceful teddies of the North. For example, she does not think they are “peaceful” or “nice” and is good at reminding people of these facts. Catherine is a hiker extraordinaire and has navigated some of the coolest peaks and trails in Alberta and BC.

2. Dry. Deadpan. Wit. This one time, at Bishop’s University, I shaved off my beard and left a “soul patch” under my chin. It looked stupid. There were a few comments, but, using my well-honed-made-fun-of-in-high-school-a-lot-wit, I repelled the slings and arrows fairly effortlessly. Until Catherine started lampooning the ridiculous facial hair. Much to the delight of the thirty-or-so partygoers in my house, her well-timed, perfectly delivered barbs were so much that I had to go back to the bathroom to shave off the silly looking triangle of hair under my lower lip. I have never grown one since and I have certainly remembered that Catherine Hawkins is a very, very funny lady.

3. Friends Forever. Catherine is a member of a very, very, very special group of ladies. They met at university and, since 2003 (when we graduated) they have spread themselves across North America and – from time to time – around the world. But they stay connected in myriad ways – emails, phone calls, Facebook, letters, surprise-cheer-up-visits. And it’s a beautiful thing. Such diligence in maintaining meaningful connections to the point that they are (and will be) foreverlasting is the truest kind of community out there. Eat, Pray, Love and Yah-Yah Sisterhoods and Stella’s friends and people with traveling pants ain’t got nuthin’ on Catherine and her incredibly community-oriented team of world-changers.

As told by John Horn…