A Farewell Message from Don in the Garden

By Don Mattson

It is with a heavy heart that I must say farewell to the wonderful Haven garden which I have loved for so many years. And to the many coworkers past and present, to the leaders, many of you have become close friends and mentors to me, and to the hundreds of participants I have had the pleasure of connecting with over these many years. My journey with cancer and related illness and recently another surgery, to put me back together, has changed my life and now it is time for me to let go of The Haven as my work place. I will always be connected with Haven and all the opportunities for growth I have received over the years.

By the time I am recovered from my latest surgery it will be two years since I last fully participated in my work in the garden. A lot has changed in my life over this time and I am ready to move on and see what is in store for the next part of my journey.

I began my Haven journey in the kitchen, working with my friend John Brennan, who was the chef at that time. It was in the kitchen that I came to know Ben and Jock as they used the kitchen to prepare their own meals when the lodge was in shutdown. I also did town trip one day a week during this time, lots of adventures herding the old blue Chevy van around Nanaimo.  

The gardener at the time, Dana, asked if I would be interested in spending one day a week in the garden with her. I was thrilled to get my hands in the soil and the next season Dana left Haven and I became the “Grumpy Gardener”.

As I fell more and more in love with the Haven property I also started to notice the participants and to see the exciting life changing experiences they were having . I remember talking with Ben one day about the programs and my feeling apart from that part of Haven. Ben quietly told me not to get in a hurry and that I was actually getting it through osmosis. For me this was an invitation to stay curious and listen, thus began many years of interaction with participants where I learned to ” listen with my deepest self” (~Joann Peterson~), and open my heart to those who wanted my ear. 

I became friends with Joann Peterson through our mutual love of plants and it was through my trust in her that she finally dragged me kicking and screaming into my first program, Anger Boundaries and Safety, thus began my love affair with Haven programs, and over the years I have done almost all of them. The programs changed my life and gave me my Voice, which I had lost for many years. It was at this time that I met my greatest friend and mentor, Ernie McNally. Ernie and Cathy were my mentors in Living Alive Phase I and II, they guided me into myself and from there into my search for my true purpose in my life. Together the three of us began our journey with Mark Nepo, who is every day a huge part of how I go about living my life.

Through the years I have met and become friends with hundreds of people through The Haven, far too many to count or name and each and every one of you holds a special place in my heart and all the stories are sacred for me. I will miss you all. I always felt so fortunate after doing a program and watching my fellow participants getting ready to leave that I got to stay on, I was home, and now it is my turn to head off into the world. I guess I finally “done graduated”!  I won’t be leaving Gabriola so there will be lots of connection and please feel free to contact me if you are back doing a new program or just for a visit, I would love to hear from each and every one of you. During my journey with cancer your well wishes and loving cradled me through some very difficult times.

And so I say my farewell, with much gratitude to Ben and Jock for their wonderful vision, to The Haven and all the friends and loved ones I carry forward with me.

With much loving, Don.

When I rise up

let me rise up joyful

like a bird.

When I fall

let me fall without regret

like a leaf.

~Wendell Berry~

Gather with us at noon on Tuesday March 28 to celebrate Don and Vivien and the many years of loving dedication and hard work they have given to The Haven. Contact the Reception Desk in advance if you would like to reserve a place for lunch (1 800 222 9211 If you can’t be with us, you can send a message to Don and/or Viv to

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