Anna Carnell: program coordinator

Family, friends, books, music, the outdoors … and stories. That’s pretty much it for my bio. However, I don’t think I’m allowed to do just a list, so I’ll connect these dots with Wellspring dots here and there!

Wellspring is all about stories and so am I. In September of 2010, on my first day of work at Wellspring, I brought with me an Inuit carving of a storyteller that my mother had given me. One day I noticed a part of one foot had broken off … no big deal. The storyteller sat on the Carma House fireplace mantel. A few weeks later, the foot piece was back, with a band-aid holding it in place. That’s Wellspring; many small, often un-noticed acts of kindness offered and taken up by everyone and anyone who walks in the door. Many stories.

I would have liked a place like Wellspring around when my Dad had cancer. My brother, sister, and I chipped in wherever our skills lay, driving, doing research, and helping our mom honour his wish to die in the home he built. In his last days, he had us all in mind, reminding us about things we should remember to do, like clean out the ashes in the fireplace. My mom would have volunteered at Wellspring, just as she volunteered as teacher-librarian at every one of the schools where I worked. 

My parents were practical and creative immigrants from Denmark, and they lived their dream. We left home able to change a tire, plant a garden, to knit, bake and build things. My Dad built houses and a name for himself as an honest, strong contractor. My mom looked after our creative and adventurous lives; made music and fun happen, and took her turn as the president of Calgary Bach Festival Society. Practical dreamers.

Books saved me in school, a safe place to escape and I became a teacher and later a librarian with the Calgary Board of Education. If you’d like a good read at Wellspring that might take you all of five or 10 minutes to finish, look for some of the picture books I’ve left in the library there.

               The Little Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette

               You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith and Danielle Daniel

I plant a little garden because I love being outdoors, somewhere I can go to pick snap peas and smell tomato leaves. It’s beyond wonderful to see Wellspring members eating salads they’ve harvested from the raised beds at Carma House. The outdoors is where I met my fella, Dave. He was a Park Warden, and later, with outfitter Dave Manzer, we rode for four summers with people from around the world on seven to 14-day Wilmore wilderness trips, jingling horses, riding ridgetops and singing at night under the stars. It was poetic and gritty; dawn to dark work, living with sunshine, rain and hail, looking after the horses and mules who made it possible for us to ride very slowly down the trail. I was camp cook. Dave is good with people, words and wisdom like; ‘It is what it is,’ ‘paddle your own canoe,’ ‘be true to yourself,’ ‘no-one gets kicked out of the band.’ Dave also cured me of my obsession with classical music. Now, there’s nothing we like better than a country duet with our ukuleles. Our dog Kiwi is all the audience we need.

Music is my happiness fix. I’m proud to say that I have persuaded a lot of Wellspring members who never played an instrument to give Ukulele a go, and to keep the ‘Aloha’ going.  Thanks to local musicians, volunteers and the program committee, House Music and Campfire Singalong have also become staples. Members during COVID have even stepped up to perform solo at Open Mic, and some run their own jam sessions, their own ‘happiness fix.’

Friends and family, full circle.

My sister and brother are still my heroes. My earliest friends are still my best friends. Some of my teacher friends lead programs at Wellspring. I have walking friends and dog buddies, constant friends and travel buddies, work friends, music friends and Wellspring friends.               

Wellspring Calgary has been my best workplace ever. We cry and laugh every day. We love going to work … because we hear incredible stories of strength and resilience each and every day.

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8 Comments

  1. Oh Anna, what a beautiful life you have lived, are living and will continue to live. Thank you for sharing a part of you with all of us – so inspiring!

  2. Anna meeting you and Dave has been such a gift to myself and my family. Thank you for sharing your story and continuing to do what you do. xo

  3. Anna, you are a gift to WC. Gina and Chris express it best!

  4. wonderful story Anna. Thank YOU!

  5. What an exciting life you have led Anna, and continue to lead with true grit and verve! You light up the room, are an organizer extraordinaire, and such an asset to Wellspring staff. We look forward to live & in-person music jams, with the best present being the gift of your presence!

  6. Anna, as I journeyed through cancer, your creative energy carried me further than I could ever have dreamt. Today, after my second bout with cancer (now under control), I read your story and find you there: each sentence speaks of others in your perpetual humility and your generous practical love, completely turned towards others. Thank you for being who you are! Marie Desmarais… MERCI POUR TOUT! ❤️

  7. Hi Anna,
    Even though I know you- through this written story you have really shared ‘what makes you tick’ and ‘fills your soul’. Thank you. Maybe you have a writing career ahead? I am always amazed at your creativity, your ideas, and how you make them come alive. Truly inspirational. Thank you for ALL you do! Hugs, Marilyn

  8. Lovely to know a bit about your life and about the people who made Anna the Anna we all know and love. I always admired you and wish I had spent more time getting to know Dave and you.

    Because of you, one of us has become a skier and continues heading to the slopes at every opportunity. May the best be yet to come.


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