Naomi's Wave

by Zane Hrynewich


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 Heffler

About 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 Heffler

Naomi's Wave

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

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!


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 this photo, entitled, “Waiting for Naomi”.

Waiting For Naomi

Motivation Through Inspiration

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.

Sue Leonard

Another Strong Lady

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.

The Events

In my mind, the best way to present the events in 2012/2013, leading up to and including our journey to Forest House, and subsequent events is through my original Blog posts, created in real time as events unfolded. Here they are:

Exciting News

Last weekend, I had the good fortune to travel to Forest House with my wife, Velda, and my dear friends, Bob and Sherry… Read more.....

Dedicating Our Project to Naomi Heffler

Naomi Heffler was an employee of Churchill River Outfitters, By all accounts, Naomi was an exceptional woman - she was… Read more.....


The moment of truth has come! The thought of sending some of my tracks to Sue, so we can begin the writing process is… Read more.....


Sue got back to me about the tracks I sent her. The amazing thing is that she responded by singing vocal ideas over my… Read more.....

A BIG Scare!

Went to the dentist a few weeks ago for a routine filling. Walked in happy and positive. Came out stressed and shocked.… Read more.....

Boggle the Mind

↵ The Naomi Project is many months away, but I'm already beginning to lay awake at night, mulling over the many… Read more.....

Still Writing

↵ The Naomi Project is many months away, but I'm already beginning to lay awake at night, mulling over the many… Read more.....

The Death of the High End Lap Top

↵ The decision has been made. I simply cannot see a way to take my 100 pound Alienware tower to Forest House. There is… Read more.....

Preparations Still Underway

↵ Have been testing out the Pro Tools and all related plugins extensively on the new lap top. Continuing to identify… Read more.....


↵ On Tuesday, June 18, I suffered a mild heart "event" (that's what they call it now). I was lucky - no damage to my… Read more.....

Training & Writing

↵ Feeling very good - stronger every day! I am continuing to walk daily and am now up to about 2.5 miles. I have lost… Read more.....

August 25 - Sue Arrives

Sue Leonard arrived in Saskatoon today. Velda and I picked her up at the airport. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so… Read more.....

August 26 - The Adventure Begins

Sue and I left Saskatoon about 6:30 am on Monday, August 26. We had one LONG drive ahead of us - around 500km. I was… Read more.....

August 27 - Down to Work

I woke up early to a simply magnificent warm and sunny day. Theresa prepared a hearty, delicious breakfast for all of… Read more.....

August 28 - Another Productive Day

I am an early riser, usually the first out of bed, and this was no exception on this gorgeous Wednesday morning. As… Read more.....

August 29 - New Friends, More Surprises

This now our fourth day at Forest House. We awoke to yet another set of new faces gathered in the lodge. Our new hosts,… Read more.....

August 30 - Some Minor Frustrations & Allot of Noise

Our fifth day at Forest House began with another delicious breakfast, some good conversation and optimism that "Naomi's… Read more.....

August 31 - Simply Awesome Day!

Day Six - already! After finishing off last night with some great singing from Sue, and getting some long, deep sleep,… Read more.....

September 1 - Re-charging the Batteries

Our seventh day started, as usual, with a great breakfast with Joanne and Greg. I was awake very early and by the time… Read more.....

September 2 - Going Home

It was a bittersweet day. I had been away from my wife and family for a week and even though I missed them dearly, it… Read more.....

Back in Saskatoon

Sue and I arrived back in Saskatoon early in the evening on September 2. She wasn't leaving to go back to Hamilton… Read more.....

2013 – 2017 Life Gets in the Way

When we returned to Saskatoon, I truly believed the difficult part was over. All the planning, the writing, the packing, the travelling, the worry, and the doubts were all behind us. We had returned to civilization with four tracks ready to be mixed. The end was near…… well, not really!

It took four years to finish these songs and complete the project. Why? Unfortunately, life got in our way. Many things happened to both Sue and I. Roadblocks like health issues, losing family members and close friends, commitments, fires, Windows 10, and many more things hampered completion. No excuses…... just life.

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.



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.


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.




Copyright © 2013 Churchill River Canoe Outfitters/Forest House/CyberSlang Consulting/Sue Leonard

All Rights Reserved.