Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].
A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from a friend of mine suggesting a profile on another one of Huntsville’s extraordinary humans (I’ve quickly learned this small town is full of them!) This is what it said: Keri-Lyn Butts…just moved back from Calgary where she was an assistant store manager at an organic grocery and wellness store. She also worked as a medic way north at the oil patch. She has travelled across Southeast Asia, a year through South America, across Canada and has now moved back home to Huntsville. She is an artist and currently working part-time at The Great Vine.
Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. Just from those few words, she sounded interesting. Over the last week, I’ve learned just how extraordinary Butts really is.
“To be completely honest, this is the first time in my life that I haven’t really got a plan. A huge driving force for me to come back to Muskoka has been to put down some roots… to kind of slow down from living in the city. I feel like I have lot of opportunity right now… and there’s a bit of freedom in that. To just be able to coast for a couple of months, not everyone gets to do that.”
She’s pretty much the whole package: beautiful, intelligent, courageous, and creative. She’s travelled all over the world and she’s worked different jobs in a variety of fields.
Butts is a free bird. A mover and a shaker. She’s 32 years old and she’s done more with her life than some people have who are twice her age. She cares deeply about the environment and knows about the importance of buying locally, whether it’s products or food. Oh, and did I mention she’s a self-taught musician, too? She plays the guitar, writes her own songs, and has a voice that could potentially make a grown man weep. She lives for music. It’s always been part of her life.
“I count my lucky stars every day,” she says of being fortunate to explore different parts of the world.
And when it comes to her artistic capabilities, “I don’t try to force anything. I put my energy into what feels right at the time.”
Since she’s returned to her native soil of Allensville from living out west, Butts has been busy channeling her creativity into various art forms. From her quaint studio in her apartment, she makes unique wooden jewelry, which she is currently selling out of The Great Vine. She paints and does her art on wood that’s been recycled from area construction sites or that’s been given to her by friends and family. She’s also starting to make wooden signs for businesses.
After graduating from Huntsville High School, Butts followed her desire to want to make a difference in the world and studied environmental technology at Sir Sandford Fleming College’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. It only took a short gig working out west in the oil patch for her to realize her heart wasn’t in it.
But then she landed herself a job at Community Natural Foods in Calgary, a job she maintained, on and off, for the next seven years. It stood for everything she believed in: local food, health and wellness, and alternative living. When business started to boom, she quickly climbed the corporate ladder. It was her love for people and hard work and dedication that led her to becoming an assistant manager.
“I believe every dollar we spend is like a vote so it’s important to choose the way you spend money wisely. Be favourable to local artists, local food… things that don’t have to travel because that way you’re already decreasing a carbon footprint and making an impact in a positive way. If everyone is making small contributions, it can have a big impact. ”
Although she wasn’t exactly following a career path that focused on her schooling, Butts found it more rewarding in terms of the freedom it offered her. She had an itch to travel. And her job let her do that.
I met a lot of dynamic and beautiful people. When the time came to go, I just left. I was free to do what I wanted.
With nothing but a backpack, she journeyed to Southeast Asia. She spent some time travelling with a friend and after a short time, they went their separate ways. For five months, Butts stayed in hostels and visited places like Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia. It opened her eyes to a whole new world. She bought a guitar in Bangkok and played music on the beaches. She cruised around on a scooter and even volunteered in south Thailand at a street dog rehabilitation centre.
“There were definitely moments that felt like, ‘yeah, I’m alone.’ But you end up meeting people who are attracted to your energy and who you are. I met a lot of dynamic and beautiful people. When the time came to go, I just left. I was free to do what I wanted.”
After Butts came back from Asia, she spent eight months working as an industrial site medic in the oil patch in tiny communities in northern British Columbia and Alberta. A days’ drive to the site, it was one the toughest eight months of her life. It was great for money, but the living conditions were difficult. In the back of her mind she knew she wanted to keep travelling, and the job helped her save for future trips abroad.
Again, with nothing but a backpack, she journeyed solo through South America. She volunteered at a permaculture farm and one of the highlights of her year-long stay was volunteering at an animal sanctuary in the Peruvian Amazon. She took in the sites, lounged around on beaches and discovered a love for jewelry making. It became a creative outlet for her.
“It’s really humbling,” she says of being able to have the opportunity to see different parts of the world. “It makes me feel grateful for what we have in Canada. Honduras was probably one of the most unbelievable places I’ve ever been. I remember seeing some kids literally standing on a pile of garbage on the side of road drinking a Coke and when they were done they just tossed it onto the pile of garbage they were standing on. When poverty’s present like that, the environment isn’t a priority.”
In 2014, she went to Ireland for three weeks to visit one of her best friends. Calling it a “history and architecture adventure,” Butts travelled around the island checking out castles and cliffs and then headed over to Amsterdam for a few days.
She believes that growing up in Muskoka has played a huge role in shaping who she is today. And that’s part of the reason why she keeps coming back. She says she might like to plant some roots. Her family and friends are here. And absolutely nothing – not even the cascading waterfalls and lush jungles in Indonesia – can keep Butts from coming back to her hometown in the summertime. It’s the most beautiful place in the world, she says.
Check out some of Keri-Lyn Butts unique handmade creations on her Facebook page Burnt Timber. She also does custom work for her jewelry, paintings and business signs. Anyone with inquiries can email her at [email protected].
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