Had I known we would meet Norm Bucsis and see his ski fence, there wouldn’t have been a problem. But we didn’t know and we didn’t see and that’s why the videographer and I spent the drive from Victoria to the Highlands feeling so anxious.
We were embarking on a new assignment for a new segment on the news. The goal was to randomly find an interesting story about an interesting person. We didn’t usually work that way.
I asked the Belfry Theatre’s artistic associate and local costume designer Erin Macklem for advice. I assumed that somebody who helps actors change into characters through changing their clothes must know something about change.
She suggested I embrace the change. “Treat it as an adventure rather than an obstacle. Be curious about the process.”
Macklem is confronted with change regularly. She begins the design process without the performer’s input and makes her best guess about how the character will end up. Then she meets with the actor who may have different opinions about their role. Although an enormous amount of effort was put into the initial design, Macklem doesn’t resist collaboration or making alterations.
She says it’s important to enter into the creative process with questions rather than answers. “If you come into it thinking you already have the answers, you’ll end up with a less interesting final product.”
With a renewed commitment to curiosity – the videographer and I continued our search. We spotted something on the other side of some cedars – a forest of skis. We pulled over to look and realized it was a fence made from skis. It stretched as far as we could see – countless colours, lengths and brands.
Then Norm Bucsis walked down his gravel driveway to meet us, agreed to an interview, and told us about his fence.
“I started off with a couple pairs five years ago,” Norm said with a laugh. “And now people just come and drop them off.” The fence has grown to include more than 200 pairs.
He decided to build the fence when he was advised to stop skiing. “I had a triple bypass, a hip replacement, both knees replaced and a pacemaker,” he said.
After 29 years of skiing, a cane has replaced Norm’s pole and the ivy growing on the fence binds his bindings.
Although Norm experienced a major life change, he embraced the process through creativity.
Instead of facing down the slopes of Mt Washington – Norm’s skis are looking up at 842 Finlayson Arm Road.
We asked why he does what he does. He answered that he worked at Victoria General Hospital for more than 35 years. “I was a caregiver and I still am.”
“Who are you taking care of now?” I asked.
“Everybody. The public. Anybody who wants to be,” he said.
Norm is caring for all of those who happen upon his Highlands home, by inspiring them to smile at his skis. For us – being able to share his story is perhaps the reward for choosing to be curious in the midst of change.
Adam Sawatsky is the co-host of ‘CTV News Vancouver Island at 5.” On weekends he hosts ‘Eye on the Arts’ on CFAX 1070.