Table of Contents

The point of all this yard out back business? All is revealed.

Discussion || Kari Medig

Unless you ask what you're missing, you'll see nothing different.

Conversation || Joel Robison

He'd be among the first to tell you that magic is everywhere. But not everyone makes magic come alive like Joel Robison.

Discussion || Bruce Kirkby

Going further makes you appreciate what you have at home.

Reflections || Nadine Sander-Green

A backyard is something to take care of. Find pride in. A moment of feeling like we are connected to something larger than ourselves.

What has thousands of birds, purifies water and flows towards 15 million people?

Bruce Kirkby

Leaning into the meaning of the yard that never ends.

Bruce Kirkby on Mt. FIsher
Wilderness, heart & the possibility of stories make a backyard great.


Begin with a single step

Discussion || Bruce Kirkby
Bruce Kirkby
Writer, Photographer || Ass Kicker

Bruce is a wilderness writer and adventure photographer, recognized for connecting wild places with contemporary issues. He's a Mountain Equipment Co-op Ambassador and reportedly a pretty rad dad.

@brucekirkby  ||

Just out the back door is where Bruce Kirkby gets going. He's travelled across Mongolia on horseback. Trekked across Iceland. Worked as a raft guide on some of the world's wildest and most remote rivers.

He's SUPed from Vancouver to Victoria, BC. He's also the author of two best-selling travel adventure books, a writer for the Globe and Mail, National Geographic, and Outside Online. Not to mention he's an accomplished photographer, who has all but abandoned his training in Physics Engineering. Today he is a much-requested professional speaker who regularly addresses corporate audiences, imparting wisdom, laughs, and stories about connections with the wild.

The world is very much his backyard. A few years ago he walked out the back door of his mountain home with his family (young son in a backpack) and trekked 225 km through backcountry mountains to the next major valley. Last year, his family left home again, and started paddling down the nearby Columbia River. It was the start of a 100-day, 22,000 km overland journey to the Himalaya... including cargo ship across the Pacific, high-speed train through Korea, over Tibet by Jeep, before dropping down into Nepal, and finally India. The trip was documented and aired as the 'Big Crazy Family Adventure' on the Travel Channel.

He's no stranger to hardship, and yet Kirkby isn't one to boast about expeditions as conquests. Instead, he sees them as missions of perspective-broadening, soul-expansion, and memory-building. And despite a healthy tolerance for faraway places, Kirkby still isn't immune to the call of the backyard. "The times when I’ve found myself unusually rushed to get back home are when I remember that 12 days is an eternity for my 5-year-old," says Bruce Kirkby. "Some places are just infinitely more important."

We caught up with Bruce in his backyard office - literally an office in his backyard. He's constructed his workspace just steps away from his home. It's part treehouse, part meditation zone, part clubhouse, set in a backyard bereft of fences.

Little people sometimes know how to appreciate the little things better than most. @brucekirkby

Wild sunflowers and mild walks, not too far from the backyard. @brucekirkby

Perspective means everything. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. @brucekirkby

Merrily, merrily, merrily. Because, it is a bit of a dream if you let it be. @brucekirkby

More adventures from the great out back. Part of the solution, or part of the precipitate? @brucekirkby

Out the backdoor, and 100 kms later, Christine & Bodi check out the next steps on the great Purcell Backyard traverse. @brucekirkby

There are those who go for a walk in the rain. And there are those who get wet. @brucekirkby

How will you know if you never go? Bright green in spring, dark green in summer, the larch trees turn golden in the fall before shedding their needles for winter. @brucekirkby

The burn in winter. A skier makes his way upslope through woods that recently experienced a forest fire. @brucekirkby

A different burn for winter. At one with the backyard, Bruce's kids (L: Bodi & R: Taj) are happy about the winter's supply of firewood. @brucekirkby

FP || What's your first memory of a backyard?

BK || I'm a city kid originally. I remember a little backyard in downtown Toronto, with a cherry tree and a sandbox. Every spring it flooded to at least a foot deep, and I'd build a grey plastic battleship out of glue and sail it to faraway places all around the backyard.

FP || You must have seen what seems like billions of backyards. What makes a good one?

BK || Well, the more work that’s been put into it, the less interesting it is. I remember a yard in Sweden where a guy had pieces of a boat stuck in the backyard, along with hunks of old submarines. For me, the wilder the better. The more heart and humanity, the better. If it holds the possibility of stories, then it's off to a good start.

FP || What's a backyard turn off?

BK || I'm not a huge fan of yards that look like a golf course. I definitely don’t want anything that resembles a perfect place for figurines of small men watering the garden with their appendages. Or fake fishponds. Nope.

FP || The good bits about a backyard... what are they?

BK || I want berry bushes and vegetables and wild flowers and surprises. Stuff growing out of the ground that I didn’t even know was there. I love that. I love trees. I even love dandelions. Firewood and wood chips, earthworms and robins. Those are things that belong in a backyard.

FP || How do you kick off your morning?

BK || Right now, my morning ritual is making coffee and then taking my son for a walk. We walk out through the backyard, across the alley, and into the forest. Other times I make coffee and then head to my office, where I meditate and then write.

For me, the wilder the better. The more heart and humanity, the better. If it holds the possibility of stories, then it's off to a good start.

FP || Who do you admire as someone who tells good stories about their backyard?

BK || Jim Brandenburg. He's a National Geographic photographer, and he's incredible at documenting his backyard, or just picking one spot and going deep on its story. He's done projects where he only takes one film photograph per day. It requires him to create a deep connection and constantly be looking for new perspectives and stories.

FP || What makes you want to leave the backyard?

BK || It's the natural instinct to explore. A balance between wanting to stay and wanting to go. It's supernatural to see something different. Going further makes you appreciate what you have at home.

FP || What makes you want to stay?

BK || What makes me want to stay home more is that I have this attachment to beauty and surprise in my backyard. At my home, the trees turn yellow in the fall. Now in spring, the balsam root is out and the hills are golden. There are things that are simultaneously both familiar and miraculous, and that creates this sort of transcendence that maybe comes from taking pleasure in the mundane.

FP || Pleasure in the mundane, huh? Where do you encounter this mundane magic?

BK || Watch your toes. I often find it right at my feet! I’m getting more used to noticing the little things. Speaking of little things... Hummingbirds. You can look at them all day. They blow my mind. I find my most reliable source of magic is in hummingbirds.


Snow in spring? Ain't no thing. The office in the backyard is an outpost for reflection and the beginning of adventures only yet imagined. @brucekirkby

FP || If you're headed out beyond the backyard, what do you bring?

BK || My camera, a Nikon DX-7000. One wide angle, and one telephoto lens. A good backpack. A toque. A pair of shades. A write-in-the rain notepad. I do a lot of flying, and noise-cancelling headphones help keep me sane on the flight. Running shoes and a pair of shorts: those mean instant exercise and a workout anywhere. And then there's the must-haves for a writer/photographer/dad: computer and iPhone.

FP || Your personal backyard, why is it special?

BK || When I bought our house, I wasn't interested in the things like the number of cupboards. But I was stoked to see that there was no fence, and that a trail marched off right out of the yard and into this little stretch of forest. It beckoned. It said, come here. Out the door, on a trail, and in the forest in less than a minute. To me, that's special.

FP || What's the most useful part of a backyard? What should no backyard be without?

BK || A squat rack? A hammock? Probably should be a place to store firewood!

FP || What makes you want to wake up and kick ass?

BK || I can’t think of any other way to wake up! You only have one life! If I didn’t feel like waking up and kicking ass I'd get worried!