How do I stop this train? #STFD

I’m currently sitting on the edge of summer looking into the vast, deep pool of autumn. With sunshine at my back and snowflakes on the horizon, I am fearful that I will have to take the plunge and leave my calm heart behind in the memory of my adventures in endless daylight.  Fearful of packing away my free spirit alongside my bikini and hopping onto a speeding locomotive, charging into the darkness of winter. 

For my whole life, I have felt a sense of anxiety and heaviness in anticipation for fall. Part of this worry is rooted in new beginnings. For many of us, September holds the memory of change.  As a child, teen and young adult it was the beginning of a new school year. Different expectations, new challenges, and the awareness that things are going to be harder. Stretching me. Pushing me. I would hover in my summer mindset and pray that life could be a perpetual August. I still do that sometimes.  In post-secondary education, fall meant moving. Moving away from home, from the safety of my wilderness to the cold cement of the city. Leaving behind one life for another. A huge transition. Now, as a parent, autumn means getting my son back into the routine of new and challenge. Mentally preparing myself for waking up on time, morning arguments, making lunches, homework and getting into a schedule that feels restrictive and occasionally, like a bit of a kill joy. 

Now, in saying all of that, it is important for me to explain that this change was (and is) typically positive. The challenges we face in “the new” are things that allow us to see success, grow, and learn. It creates opportunity for us to push ourselves socially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Although this can feel hard, once the push is over we can look back and feel good about what we have accomplished. This season also helps to support healthy behaviours and consistency.  A routine can help us with better sleep schedules, regular exercise and good nutrition habits. It can create the environment for us to establish and meet goals, and the space for us to engage in the expansion of self.  Also, I always look forward to the new shoes and wardrobe items and fresh markers (AHHHH how I LOVE the smell of new office supplies!) that come with the beginning of a new school year.  There is exhilaration in anticipation for freshness, evolution and reinvention. 

September also means the loss of light and warmth. The end of late nights, sleeping in, freedom, adventures, long days, temperateness and sunshine. For us, living in Northwestern Ontario, the cold comes now. The days get shorter and darker and a lot of us tend to turn inward. We tend to limit our outdoor activities and spend more time focused on tasks, work, and routine. We spend more time in front of screens. We tend to live more in our stress and hold out for weekends and holidays for a break. We let our tension build in the cold and in the dark and we press forward anticipating reprieve. What tends to occur, is that we shift our priorities into a different direction where rest, connection and the positive mental state that we had in July is buried. We put our heads down and try to make it through until December. Then for holiday, we cram months of lost connection, passion and/or relaxation into a few days. Then, holiday typically ends up with its own stress and pressure. We end up with a lot of scheduled activities, parties, and family gatherings. We end up eating too much and consuming too much alcohol. We end up perpetuating our stress (or drowning it) and come out of vacation still feeling exhausted. Sound familiar? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t (maybe you’ve figured this out already, but for the rest of us…).

There is something unsavory about the loss of summer. It is rooted in a vast emotional and cerebral shift.  This ‘freight train’ mentality. Why is it that the calendar rolls over to 01 September and it feels like we climb on this train and start going full speed down the track? Why is it that we have this expectation that its time to hunker down, put on blinders and forge ahead leaving summer in the rearview mirror? As I look behind, perhaps it’s not the season that I miss, its more the state of mind and state of spirit.

So, I have been doing some thinking. How do I stop this train? This is what I’ve come up with so far.

There is a light switch connected to summer. We turn off and give ourselves the permission to power down. Summer is about having a more malleable schedule, moments of relaxation and an overall feeling of rejuvenation. Who designed this switch? The one that gets turned off in June and switched back on in September? Why do we turn on with such intensity? Why does workload and expectation and stress increase so significantly? Now, I know for some people (students, educators, seasonal workers) different times of the year mean different workloads… but why is our experience colored and determined by that switch? Why can we not look at evenings, or mornings or lunch time or weekends through the summer lens? Through the lens of alleviation and rejuvenation? What is our psychological approach to this? How do we frame our life and transitions? Well, I am taking control and I am going to make more intentional decisions about when I turn the switch on and off.

The days change. As fall rolls in, the days get colder and shorter… much shorter. I think this causes stress and panic for some. I know that it does for me.  I feel that I must fit more into a seemingly shorter time frame.  Nighttime falls just after supper here in Northwestern Ontario and perspective shifts. We tend to stay inside. I think about how much more time is occupied with television, social media, reading and other activities that bind us to our houses when it is dark and cold. Who wrote the winter rule book that binds us inside? I bet it was the same dude who designed the damn switch.

We need to shift perspective and throw the rule book out the window. Last year, one of the coolest things that I discovered was how much fun it was to cross country ski at night. A few girlfriends and I would throw on our gear (that included a headlamp) and we would head out in the evenings in the dark and IT WAS AMAZING! Adventures and mindset and fun don’t have to wait for weekends or holidays. Snow shoeing to a beautiful lookout to watch the sun set and have a tasty cocktail or waking up early for a morning drive and coffee to watch the sun come up and snap some Instagram worthy photographs. Cold and dark shouldn’t limit our experience. It should drive us to find beauty and excitement from a new perspective.

Workload. I’m fully aware that there are times that the train you are on will need to “choo-choo” down the tracks in full force. There are times where our workload increases, and we are required to allocate more energy and time to our career, our family or life in general.  Life cannot be an endless vacation, and this is OK. It is not workload that we should be afraid of. It is not new or challenge or hard that we need to be rejecting. What is required is a shift in our approach, the way we perceive and the way in which we cope whilst riding the runaway train. The first step in this, is knowing where the breaks are. Knowing that we can be on a productive path, but we can also intentionally slow down.  We can adjust our priorities and we can make space for what matters.

I am going to create sacred space within my work week for more balance. I am going to push the train conductor out the door and take the wheel, baby. I am going to stop the damn train and get off and climb the mountain I have been staring at out the window. I am going to get out and have a picnic down by the lake with my friends. I am going to pull the breaks and I am not going to always schedule meetings through my lunch, I am going to run or eat or poke my nose outside. I am going to choose to get up 30 minutes earlier, so I have a bit more time to pause and meditate and stretch or eat a damn good breakfast. I am going to choose to do something that drives my passion rather than make the choice to drive the train. 

So here I am folks. I have a fancy conductor’s chapeau. I have the wheel in my hands with equal parts anxiety and excitement, ready to take control of this freight train. I threw the rule book out the window and flicked the switch. I am ready to shift my perspective. I am going to be relentless in creating space for what I need emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.  I am going to wade through the deep of autumn and into winter with a summer attitude and I am going to do this with one had on the breaks, so I can slow the f$#& down.  #STFD.

10 People 10 Adventures Five/Ten: Wyatt Markall

There are special souls in this world. I have come across a few. Incredible humans full of passion and kindness and adventure and life. When I meet them, the really amazing ones, I know right away. Maybe it’s an energy they emit or maybe it’s because they are so special they show their unique brand of incredible instantly. For the next subject of my 10 People 10 Adventures article series, I knew how awesome this human was the first time I met them. What astonished me, was how very young this vibrant person is. Let me tell you about him.

It was mid-February and we were setting out for a beautiful day of ice climbing near Kama Bay. The sun was shining, and the weather was perfect. A gang of six of us were hiking into an amazing spot. Aric and I, Andy, Rosalyn, Dallas and his son Wyatt. We started an ascent up to the base of the climb called Grandy Mardy Falls, bushwhacking through knee deep snow up a huge incline. The forest was alive with laughter and chatter as we fumbled upwards. This was an incredible crew to be a part of. Truly amazing people, each of them. But I clearly remember looking back at Wyatt laughing, teasing his Dad and pushing himself along.  He was so incredibly comfortable in this element, interacting with the rest of us with ease. He struck me as such a unique person as I don’t know many teenagers who would see crawling up a hill in deep snow as entertaining or approach it with as much joy as he did. I remember being impressed with his character and inspired by his outlook and positive energy.

Suddenly, my phone rang. It was my mom. She was crying and let me know that my Grandmother had passed away and asked that I come home. My heart sank, and I immediately felt the heaviness of grief grab hold. I called to the group that I would have to turn back and filled them in on the unfortunate reason why. A few deep condolences were passed and offers to join me back to my car. I graciously declined and felt the kindness and love of my climbing buddies. As I turned to go I saw Wyatt and he looked at me in the most genuine way and asked me if I was ok. This amazing kiddo, with bright eyes that just trudged up an exhausting hillside hauling his own climbing gear, was thoughtful and courageous enough to make sure I was ok before I left. I had just met him that day and knew from our few hours together that this tenacious, joyful, adventurous and kind human was extra ordinary.

Fast forward, about a month later. I get a message from Dallas that he, Wyatt and Erik were going to be heading out to Orient Bay and invited me to join them. I jumped at the opportunity and we soon found ourselves heading down Highway 11 to look for ice. We pulled over to check conditions at Steve’s Ice Fall and Waiting for The Dog. We couldn’t find the marked trail, so we bushwhacked up to the base of the climb only to find conditions were less than ideal. However, we found the marked trail on the way back out and did some recon for future adventures.

After some contemplation between heading up Mellow Yellow or continuing deeper into the Northern corridor, we decided to go for the sure thing and scooted a bit further down the highway to the epic and beautiful Psycho Icycho.  It was a much shorter approach, and we zipped up to the base of the climb.

While the professionals set up, I free climbed up a gradual slope to the left perched myself on top of a chunk of exposed rock jutting out of the side of the falls. I started drilling Wyatt for climbing advice and a tutorial for how to use ice screws. He was glad to give me a run down, after a staunch warning, that I was under NO circumstances allowed to try lead climbing after his tutelage, and that he was being helpful, and I was not allowed to sue him. We chatted about climbing and his other interests. He made his way up beside me and we watched Erik lead up the bright blue ice, as Dallas belayed from below. Dallas was poking fun of us on our icy balcony referring to the cantankerous Muppet duo, Statler and Waldorf after which we were happy to heckle him from above.

Erik made his way to the top with the graceful ease of a seasoned pro. I love watching people who are proficient at their craft. It’s almost memorizing how each movement flows with intention. Its strangely relaxing.

So, we sat and chatted and observed and watched and learned. When Erik reached the top, Wyatt and I down climbed from our Muppet perch and tied in side by side at the bottom of Psycho Icycho. Wyatt was quick to give me some helpful tips on my axe swing and grip placement. His kind guidance and words of encouragement were beyond his 14 years and I gladly listened to his wisdom as we climbed together.

The conditions were ideal. The weather was glorious at plus two degrees and the ice was perfection with each swing finding a strong hold. The sun was just creeping over the crest of the palisades and the Orient Bay corridor was glowing with golden light. It was beautiful.

Wyatt and I continued to climb and so did his words of encouragement and advice. We rose above the seemingly magical world. We finally got to the top of our climb and were warmly welcomed by Erik at the summit. Wyatt was belayed down, and I rappelled down shortly after. Once we both had feet on the ground we high fived. We were so stoked, it was a great climb on the most beautiful March day, and we did it together, side by side.

I was so inspired by Wyatt and knew he had to be the next person I interviewed for 10 People 10 Adventures. So, I asked him if I could interview him right then and there! He happily agreed, and his dad gave us the green light.

It was Dallas’s turn to head up Psycho Icycho. Wyatt suggested that we free climb back up to our icy balcony for a great view to watch his Dad and complete our interview so, we sat, on our Statler and Waldorf perch. We watched another pro dance up beautiful blue, glistening ice in Orient Bay and I interviewed this incredible human. Here is what I found out about him.

Wyatt started his life in Dryden, Ontario and he reports that his earliest memories of being outside are driving his bike down the dirt roads near his home. He told me that they grew up in the country and spent a lot of their time exploring outside, especially by bike. Wyatt started rock climbing when he was two and always remembers his Dad climbing. In fact, his family spent a lot of time doing outdoor activities. He recalls they had kayaks and quads and would race around and spend lots of time camping.

I asked Wyatt what his favourite outdoor activities are and with a huge smile across his face, let me know that he couldn’t possibly choose just one. He loves ice climbing, rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, road biking, target practicing with his bow and camping. He told me that he loves just being able to get outside and see beautiful things.

“The smells, the views and the sights. The flow of everything in nature. It’s all so balanced and beautiful and truly amazing”

Wyatt has also travelled away from home for some epic adventures. He was thrilled to tell me about the travelling he has done with his family in Quebec, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. He told me about adventures salmon fishing, learning to surf and one cruise where he went swimming with nurse sharks (which I was super envious to hear about!).

Despite all these amazing adventures abroad, Wyatt recognizes something particularly special about Northwestern Ontario. He explains that there are so many different areas here to explore and everything is super close, so you don’t have to drive far to do awesome things.

“I feel safe here, its where my family is, and I love it. You don’t have to worry about crazy things happening. Like you don’t have to worry about avalanches when you are out having fun ice climbing and stuff like that”

He goes on to explain;  

“It may be small, but there are a lot of amazing things to see, you just have to know where to look. Orient Bay is amazing especially when you get to the top of an ice climb, it’s so beautiful. The mountain biking trails are just amazing. My favourite is the Conveyer Belt trail at Trowbridge.”

Wyatt has a deep appreciation for the natural world, which Dallas proudly highlights.  He is quick to point out the beautiful things, even if it means stopping dead in the middle of a mountain bike trail, nearly causing a collision just to point out to his Dad how awesome and beautiful it is. He has a passion for exploration and is content just to observe.

“I love finding new ice climbs, looking around the area I am in, the different shapes and different types of ice. It’s the same with mountain biking, just experiencing a new flow or the different turns and jumps on a trail. I love getting to experience the different feeling I get from the activities I love”

From all the activities Wyatt enjoys, I was curious to know what his favourite piece of gear was. He reports that his Giant Trance 3 mountain bike and Trango Raptor ice axes are is favourite pieces of gear and he is super stoked to try out his new carbon fiber paddles for kayaking this summer.   

Dallas made his way back down from the climb. Wyatt and I threw out a few more heckling remarks in true Statler and Waldorf fashion and then climbed down and packed up our gear. It really was the most incredible day in Orient Bay and I was sad to leave. We made our way back down to the vehicles buzzing with stories, stoke and conversation. Although all good things must come to an end, we live in the hope that the next adventure is always just around the corner.

I am super grateful I got to know this ice climbing, mountain biking target shooting, kayaking, kind, helpful and vibrant young dude and I cannot wait to see what this kiddo accomplishes in his life. I am so grateful to you Wyatt. Thank you for being my youngest subject for 10 People 10 Adventures and for inspiring me and others to get outside and do incredible things.

The incredible Wyatt Markall

Mutualism. Our beautiful connection.

The weather was hot, and our water supply was dangerously low. Paige, Joanne and I were 14 km into a 21 km day. We had just made a small ascent onto a high, rocky outcrop and we were all exhausted and approaching dehydration. We had been diligent about filling up our water supply, but it was scorching, and the terrain was challenging. Our consumption was much higher then it normally would be, and we had not come across a water source in a few hours.

Paige was looking white and she had let us know that she was dizzy, we saw heat exhaustion on the horizon. This was day 3 into our 5-day hiking trip on Isle Royale and we were in the middle of the island, with no means of communicating with anyone. We were relying on each other (in more ways than one).

Although the journey this far had been a beautiful challenge, this was the first time that I felt worried.  We had pushed ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally on this trip. Pulling 20 km a day in various conditions, hauling around backpacks that were FAR to heavy (we were new to backpacking at the time and overpacked), nursing sore muscles and an obscene amount of bug bites and blistered feet. But all of that had been tolerable, a part of the amazing journey we had embarked on together. However, we were amid coping with dehydration, heat and exhaustion and we had one option. Stop and rest. We needed to lower body temperature, get fluids into us, fuel and get our bodies back to a place where we were able to continue.

We found a tiny bit of shade. My pack and shirt came off and I stretched out under a gnarly little pine tree. Despite my discomfort and worry, my energy and thoughts were completely dialed into the moment. Closing my eyes, I began to take deep breaths and focused on slowing down my heart rate and the feeling of gentle breeze cooling my skin.  I listened to the sounds of birds chirping and the rustle of leaves and took comfort knowing my friends were at my side.  

I began to think about our experience so far. Hours on the trail, pushing our bodies far past comfort. Deep and meaningful conversations, lying in the forest floor admiring the trees above us, sitting lakeside bathing with loons and leeches and all of the wondrous observations that continue to sit in my heart. The experience that we were sharing would forever connect us. I knew that we were going to get through this together.  When I think back to the trip on Isle Royale I always think about the concept of mutualism—the symbiotic relationship where organisms benefit from the existence of the other. That trip, in those moments I saw all of us connected in the experience and with nature.

Now, the end to this story is that we paused and hydrated and reduced exertion and lowered our body temperature and continued on. We eventually came across water and later that evening, made it to our campsite. We had two more days of GLORIOUS backpacking after… and it would take me a novel to write about all of the incredible things that we encountered in that journey.

That experience, in addition to MANY other adventures with these women have created a deep and profound connection. These experiences bond and bind us in something big and expansive and limitless. Glowing moments. Times in my life that I connect to with vivid detail.  The times in my life where I was completely dialed in.

I have been doing a lot of reflection lately. Thinking about humans in my life and places I love and why that matters. Thinking about why nature and outside are essential pieces to my existence and to why the relationships I develop in those sacred places are so deep, penetrating, meaningful and profound.

For me, there is something very different about outside and there is something incredibly unique about people who connect with nature, especially here in Northwestern Ontario. I have a keen interest in exploring those delicious nuances and exploring the ‘why’ of people here in the North.

Our world, as it exists right now, our time, energy and connection exist in a very virtual space. We are often spending hours behind devices, screens, at desks, under pressure, and stress and stuck within four walls. Although we have limitless information accessible at our fingertips, and instant gratification in a fast-paced existence, we are often disconnected. Our heart, relationships, and soul are often detached, filtered and observed behind barriers.

Here is what I’ve noticed: When we are truly connected, without the filtration of technology, it is an entirely different experience.

In nature we can unplug. We aren’t sitting across from each other at the dinner table with cell phones in hand, answering texts. We aren’t mindlessly navigating from one Netflix episode to the next, we aren’t answering “urgent” emails (also isn’t it funny what our definition of urgent is now?!), We aren’t worried about stopping to Snap someone we are attracted to with a filtered and edited picture that doesn’t even accurately reflect who we are inside or out. When we are outside we are not preoccupied with likes, views and followers and false connections.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is value to our virtual world. I utilize technology to build connection with likeminded people, to get reassurance, to use as a tool to build my feeling of self and connect with positive material. However, when I am truly honest with myself, I can sincerely say that no virtual connection, experience or engagement has EVER been as genuine, open, powerful, honest or impactful as those I have had outside.

Why does the natural world allow us to plug in?

When we are separated from the filter of our devices, our attention is no longer fragmented between what is going on in front of us and what is going on in our virtual space. Outside we are presented with the opportunity to connect to the moment. We can allocate our whole attention to what is going on in real time. We are able to dial into our sense of wonder, delight, joy, or even engage in challenge with the world around us.

We can connect with the sight of eagles soaring overhead, or the sound of squirrels chattering on tree branches. We can be inspired by little mountains, the smell of pine and juniper and cedar in the hot summer sun, the rustle of leaves blowing in the wind, the feeling of dipping your toes into frigid water. These experiences ground us in the present moment. Raw. Unfiltered. Genuine. These experiences allow us to open ourselves, to be curious and vulnerable and attentive.

These experiences also create conditions for meaningful connection. Think about the times you’ve been outdoors with friends. I know that every time I’m around adventure buddies, these words always come out. “Remember that time….” In recalling every detail about a shared experience, the challenge of the hike, the excitement of the climb, the shape of the moon, the temperature of the water, all the beauty around us.

I also think about times that I have been out with strangers, with people for the first time, or with people I know I would never see again. Sometimes we walk out into the wilderness as strangers and on the way home, discover that we are forever connected in something vast and endless and profound.

So today I express my gratitude to all of the people that I have shared pure space with. The people that have been with me in nature and with whom I am connected. You contribute to my happiness, well-being and health more than I can ever explain. Thank you for the experiences that bind us and for the symbiotic relationship we share.

Until the next adventure,

Deana

What men say about me in the locker room.

A bit of an overture to this piece. It’s been inspired by a series of serendipitous events. Thing number one. I had an amazing conversation with a colleague who was in the post office today and heard a few older gentlemen talking about fit people. My name came up. Along the lines of… “You know who is fit? That little Renaud girl” Now, considering small town dynamics and the probable age of the men talking about me, it’s likely that they have known me my whole life, so I am ok with being “that little girl”. Also, at 35, I am not antagonistic to the idea of time reversing and being perceived younger than I am. It also triggered a memory of one of my favourite stories of what men say about me in the locker room.

Alright thing number two. Today I attended a workshop on human trafficking. It was heavy and sparked some interesting discussion with the people I work alongside. The conversation was triggering. I learned about at-risk youth, young girls who are involved in human trafficking in our communities. It made me reflect on the perception that our society has on women. Our bodies. The acceptance that exists in our culture that we can be sold and that our bodies are an avenue for commerce.

Thing number three. I am currently engaged in a mental health promotion initiative with my current work around Bell Let’s Talk Day. If you weren’t aware, Bell Let’s Talk is focused on building awareness, acceptance and action in mental health. Now, more than ever, especially considering we are amid a global pandemic, mental health matters. I want to put my money where my mouth is. I want to make an important connection to this story and my struggle with mental health as a teen coping with anorexia.

Whoa. If those three paragraphs didn’t scare the shit out of you, I recommend you read on.

Rewind, to before the pandemic. To the beginning of winter. I was in the gym and I was working through a WOD (workout of the day) that involved 205-pound back squats and 135-pound clean and jerks. That is a considerable amount of weight. Amounts that I built up over years of going to the gym, getting coaching, participating in competitions and just loving lifting weights. There were four other people in the gym. All of them men. All of them within 10 years of my age. All of them from out of town. They didn’t talk to me. They didn’t pay much attention. I had my ear phones in and my mean face on. I was there to focus. I was there to work out and I did! It seemed like an uneventful gym session. Until one week later.

Back at the gym seven days later. It was empty, and I had the whole place to myself. My friend James walked in. James works at the community center and he and I have been friends since high school. I always enjoy our conversations and will take off my mean face and put aside my focus anytime for a conversation with him. Today he walked in with a smirk.

“Deana, I have to tell you something. Your name came up in the dressing room at hockey”

My heart sank, and a little bit of panic started to whirl around in my chest.

“Oh, yeah?!” I replied

“Yeah… They were talking about the little blond girl in the gym”

I felt yucky and James must have noticed my reaction right away. He started to laugh.

“Yup, you sure know how to scare the shit out of these young guys, one of them came to hockey and talked about this tiny blond thing in the gym throwing around huge weights… he felt pretty inadequate and actually left to come back after you were gone”.

I let out a belly laugh. It came out much louder that I had anticipated, likely out of relief! James continued to talk about the conversation and about how impressed the guys were with the workout I was engaged in and that there were a lot of fit women in our town.

Now, I know that every time a woman’s name is brought up in a locker room the conversation isn’t always about the weight she can lift. However, it was incredibly powerful and impactful for me. Let me tell you why.

I struggled with my body my entire childhood. I have struggled with my value as a human being, because, for much of my youth, I connected value to my appearance, my weight. I remember first feeling this way at the age of five. Playing with Barbie, and thinking that this chubby, brunette, curly haired girl with a crooked nose didn’t look like dolls I was playing with. Why was there so much value in them? Why did people on TV and people singing songs and people in magazines not look like me? I remember thinking that at 5.

As I grew, those nagging and negative thoughts continued. I was teased in school for being fat and was constantly confronted with my body. I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be worth much, wasn’t going to be loved, or wanted, if I wasn’t thin, if I wasn’t blond, with long hair and big boobs. When I was 14, the thoughts became overwhelming and started to impact my behaviour. I started to drastically reduce the amount of food I was consuming. I lost weight and I got an INCREDIBLE amount of positive attention as a result. That positive reinforcement solidified and perpetuated my behaviour. I went from 160 pounds to 102 in a matter of months. I started to lose my hair and I passed out at school, but the positive attention continued. Unfortunately, the way I felt about my body did not. I was depressed and never reached a point where I felt good enough, thin enough.  It came to a head when I passed out in choir practice. There was a bit of an intervention from friends, my boyfriend at the time and our schools nurse practitioner.

Now, I am going to pass over some of the complexities of me getting better. But for the sake of this, want to highlight how I changed the relationship I had to my body. In the midst of recovery, found weight lifting. I needed to exercise and to move my body and fell in love with being around friends and positive people at the gym. I started to focus on what my body was able to do, rather then what it looked like. My attention shifted from pounds to lose to pounds I could lift. Something that stands out for me, was the opportunity to do this at school. They opened up the gym for students and I was often in there with one of the tech teachers. Mr. Broadhurst I don’t think he ever knew the impact that had on me. Someone to show up, just to be there and allow me the opportunity to do something that was changing who I was.

It was a long journey for me. It required an incredible amount of work. But I got there. I began to see value in what my body could do. Then I saw value in my intelligence, and then my emotional worth and then my spiritual worth.

The challenge in working with body image in a culture where there is so much pressure for perfection is overwhelming. The challenge is seeing value in ourselves as women, as people, in a society where our bodies are worth currency is overwhelming. I was reminded of that today learning about sex trafficking in our region.

But here is where hope lies. There is incredible power in talking about what we go through. Whether it’s reaching out to someone to deal with something challenging, or to inspire change in others. Our actions matter, even small ones. Every time we present an opportunity for others to be valued. Every time we provide unconditional regard and support. Every time the conversation is changed and boys in the locker room talk about the weight we lift, and not the weight we carry, there is hope. So, I challenge you, not only for Bell Let’s Talk day, but for every day. What are the tiny steps each of us can make? How do we change the conversation? How can we be there for each other? Because, within every small action there is possibility to make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Until the next adventure…. do something powerful

-Deana

Overcoming November Blues and Seeking Resolution in 2021

Mother nature, why did you have to turn off the lights at dinner time? Why does the clock say 7:00 pm but it feels like midnight? It’s too cold to do summer things and there is not enough ice or snow to do winter things. We’re still in a pandemic and I can’t even go to the bar and drink my blues away, sing karaoke or plan a vacation to an exotic place to distract me from my misery. November. WTF?!

It’s a challenging time in general, even more so with the craziness that the year 2020 has brought us. Here in the North our seasons are in transition and we anticipate the onset of winter. Its dark most of the day, it’s hard to get outside into nature, especially during the week and it is easy to turn inward and engage in hibernation. It’s easy for mood issues to arise and it can be challenging to cope with emotional lows. On top of it all we are suffering from fatigue deeply connected to living through the fear-soaked experience of a global pandemic. We are putting a lot of energy into coping with the challenges of COVID and we are running out of steam and positive vibes. In my darkest moments this year, I was caught up in my grief reaction. I was angry at 2020 for taking away a trip I had planned to Costa Rica with my mother and son. I was mad that I was forced to work from home and be isolated from my colleagues. I was frustrated that gyms were shut down and I was stress eating and gaining weight. I missed a dear friend’s wedding and I couldn’t attend a funeral for someone important to me. I was isolated from my friends and somedays I felt trapped in my house. There were some moments where it took a lot to get out of negative headspace.

Even with the best intentions it takes a lot to harness energy, set goals and have adventures. It takes clarity and motivation, which is not easily attained. So, what are our choices? Shut down, give up on exploration, succumb to this new existence of being tired and stuck on the things that we can’t do? Or do we work at shifting our perspective, practice gratitude, look to the future, embrace the darkness and cold and find adventures as we dive into winter and a second wave of managing pandemic times?

If I am given the choice I am going to make the most of what is in front of me. I am going to look to hope and future opportunities. It got me thinking about 2021 and what I am going to do with this year. I am going to get to my resolution early and start on shifting my perspective now. Right now.

Before I set clear intentions for new adventures in 2021, I want to reflect on the infamous year that was 2020. There have been challenging moments FOR SURE. But if I look over the last year objectively and mindfully, I can easily identify amazing moments and huge positives. My resolution last year was to log 1000 hours outside. Due to COVID, working from home and adjustments to my schedule, I was able to make that goal by August! Now, I had a few multi-day backpacking trips that added some huge hours. BUT, walking my dog at lunch every day and having outdoor adventures in beautiful weather after work meant that we were averaging three hours outside every day. NEVER in normal times would I have that opportunity. I was able to be present with my family and travel from work was eliminated. I had time and energy to cook nutritious meals and could stay on top of chores. So, weekends were filled with much fun outside. I was fortunate enough to be able to hang out with friends because here in the North social distancing is a breeze out in the bush. I was lucky.

When I look to 2021, I am looking with a new perspective. I’m anticipating another year where international travel plans will be postponed and the big adventures I was dreaming about remain a dream for now. I am better prepared to wrap my head around finding beautiful adventures that exist in my back yard. I have a new-found passion for exploring my region and big plans to find new activities, new places, new people and new experiences even in our COVID reality.

Here I go. My resolutions for 2021.

1. Flex my creative muscle every month. Paint, photography, sculpt, write, play guitar, create. Have week night evenings with more time pouring my soul into making beautiful things rather than occupying energy on social media.

2. Plan for weekend staycations, especially in the winter! I want to look for a cool year-round cabin to rent, or a yurt or try winter camping. I want to road trip to a different community and try out some new trails, fishing spots and explore.

3. I want to network. I want to meet more people in North Western Ontario. I want to connect with people I know in my hometown but don’t necessarily hang out with. I want to take new people to my favourite places. I want to see it from their eyes and find new ways to explore the familiar. I want to collaborate with other humans on creative and adventure projects.

4. I want to try something new. Dog-sledding, kite surfing, snowboarding…. something different, something to fail at, to learn more about, to get my heart pumping.

I want incredible opportunities, cool places to stay and amazing things to do. I want to meet new people and establish deep and meaningful connections with humans. And GUESS WHAT!? I can do all of that here. During COVID. All I need is my shift in perspective. Wish me luck.

Until the next adventure,

Deana

Recovery in the Wilderness OR What to do after you try and stop a moose with your forehead.

The water was warm and everything felt weightless. It was like waking up amongst a stream of existing consciousness. I was already in the middle of something. I was in the bath and my body was engaged in motions but my awareness was playing catch up. I was sore, a numb sore. There was no stabbing or immense pain, but my body was tired and there was a dull stinging in my head and face.

I was sitting up, looking down through my chest into my scratched and bleeding hands. I moved them through the water. It was warm and soothing but my movements were trailing and slow. Existence was dreamlike.  My hand through water felt as thick as pudding. I scooped up the unusual liquid in my hands and brought it to my face. I could smell bleach. I could smell hospital. I released the water onto my face and it stung.  Red dripped through my fingers and droplets fell into the tub below. As the red found a new home, it danced gently in the bathwater. Beautiful ringlets expanded like watercolor paintings and the water turned pink.

I heard footsteps approaching. I sat back and my mom walked in.  She was talking but I don’t remember our conversation. I don’t remember if I was responding to her. In reflection, it is an unusual experience having your mother walk into your bath at the age of 35 and give you assistance just as she did when you were a child. In the moment though, it was strangely comforting. I needed her to be there.  She poured a few cupfuls of water over my back and head.  The stinging returned and my mood darkened, I asked for privacy.

I sat back and looked at the ceiling. Such an unfamiliar setting. The harsh fluorescent lights were irritating, blinding and almost painful. It brought clarity to the soreness in my face and head and I brought my hands up. I ran my fingers across my forehead and felt dirt, animal fur, blood and cuts. I felt foreign objects embedded in my skin. I used my aching fingers to remove one of these objects and brought it down to eye level. A piece of glass, my windshield actually, as big as my thumb nail. In that moment I had an overwhelming and deeply alarming thought: I shouldn’t be here right now. I shouldn’t be alive right now.

I continued to take out pieces of glass from my face, forehead and scalp. I lined them up on the edge of the bath tub and examined the row of tiny sparkling shrapnel. They were almost beautiful. I wanted to escape the fluorescent lights and rigid, clinical setting. I relaxed my muscles, eased back, slipped down and completely submerged by head under.  I opened my eyes and looked up through the water. I wished I was outside. I wanted to be in a lake with the sun shining over my head. I wanted to be under clear skies with wind in my hair. Things here were cloudy and disconnected and surreal and melancholy. Then, all of a sudden I was reminded of my mortality as my breath ran out and I pushed my head to the surface for air. Disappointed when I looked around and realized I hadn’t escaped to the wilderness.  

This was my first vivid memory after I hit a moose and totaled my Mazda CX5 on September 26, 2020. On that night, I was coming home from Thunder Bay and I was 6 km away from my house in Nipigon when it happened.  I have no active memories of the crash. I don’t remember seeing an animal, I don’t remember the impact, I don’t remember how I got to the hospital. I remember coming around to real memories in the bathtub after being admitted from the emergency department. The crash was a bad one. My injuries were not. I suffered a concussion, one significant enough that the accident did not feel like it was mine, but the symptoms after were.

Aside from typical headaches, confusion and dizziness one of the symptoms that has been particularly impactful for me has been intense bouts of depression.  Moods that don’t feel like my own. They are fleeting and temporary, but they are significant and challenging to navigate. They are triggered by exhaustion, they are triggered by frustration and they are the worst when I am inside and when I feel trapped. Trapped is a feeling that I undoubtedly feel when my heart yearns for every moment outside and I have to face the nearest four walls in a temporary recovery situation.

My circumstances gave me a rejuvenated appreciation for people who are recovering from actual, serious accidents, surgeries and illnesses. I developed a deeper understanding of gratitude and was incredibly thankful that my injuries weren’t worse. I was thankful to be alive. However, despite my injuries being minor and my symptoms mild, I was frustrated in contending with the psychological effects. I felt my mood tank at 100% and I felt the loss of my outdoor sanctuary immediately.

If you have never read anything I’ve written or do not know much about me, I have one thing that is essential to my survival on this planet. The ability to be outside. To wander in the wilderness, explore new places, visit familiar trails, anything… everything out of doors.

At six days post accident with no days outside in the wild, my body needed fresh air. I needed dirt beneath my feet and sunshine on my cheeks. My mood had been tanked for a few days and I was running on coffee and hope. I was exhausted and my brain hurt because every little task required far more effort and energy than I was used to providing. I had a weird sense of survivors guilt and it was difficult for me to be positive. I knew I needed to be outside. I texted Joanne, one of my most reliable adventure friends, one of my favourite human beings. I knew she would understand and would keep an eye out for my well-being.  She was at my house in 15 minutes.

My body knew where it wanted to be. I wanted to be looking over Jackpine River. It wanted to be in the same place I was two years earlier with my amazing friend, Sue. It wanted to see fall colours and Lake Superior from up high and it wasn’t able to manage a long or arduous hike to get there. So we set out on a short trail. My body was slow and my mind was slower. I felt like I was crawling but each second outside made a difference. My symptoms didn’t matter, depression didn’t exist for me there. All I could hear was crunching of leaves under my feet, all I could smell was fall and all I could feel was cool fresh air over the scars on my face.

We got to our destination, a lookout I know as Pride Rock. It was everything I needed it to be. Vibrant yellow and orange and green stretched out over glorious Canadian Shield and into turquoise cold Superior waters. I harnessed it. I absorbed every second of energy because I knew there were going to be moments I would need it. We talked and I unloaded. This was my therapy.

So why write about this?

I was really blindsided by the shift in my mood and outlook after getting a concussion. I’m fortunate to know what my coping strategies are and was lucky enough to be able to access them. The outdoors helps me every day. It alleviates pain, it shifts my perspective and it thrusts me into to a state of perpetual gratitude. Every moment outside is spent appreciating. Its cleansing.

Aside from the outdoors, I have caring colleagues and outstanding workplace, amazing friends and the most supportive and loving family. I have bright moments in the midst of the darkness.

I write this because perhaps in my healing, I can spark healing in others. Maybe in my healing, I can help someone. Maybe in my healing I can challenge another human to reach for something beautiful to get them out of the darkness and perhaps by writing this I will be reminded of what I need to do to heal myself.

Until the next adventure

Deana

10 People 10 Adventures Four/Ten: Susan Powell

When I think of the people in my life with whom I have a deep, soulful, natural affinity, they are  humans roaming this world with whom I shed my layers, expose my vulnerability, remove my mask and give myself permission to be my most honest and authentic self. They are people who understand me without justification or rationalization. Where there is a cosmic connection of minds, mutual respect and the ability to walk along side one another in peaceful comfort. People who add value to existence in a reciprocal and harmonious dance. These people just get it. The value of a simple life, the call of the wild and beauty of the world around us.

My next subject for 10 People: 10 Adventures is exactly one of those humans. My Soul Sister.  I started off as her patient, transformed into to a colleague and blossomed into her friend. I have known her for more than 20 years, but it hasn’t been until the last several that I really got to know her well. We started our friendship having morning coffee and deep conversation in my office when I was working as a mental health and addictions therapist for the Family Health Team in Nipigon and she was a respected and valued Nurse Practitioner. We had often talked shop, working together to problem solve challenging cases.  However, conversation always seemed to transition into setting goals, vocalizing intentions, discussing gratitude and sharing plans for adventure.

Our relationship deepened in the outdoors. We have spent countless hours with dirt beneath our feet, sunshine on our faces, lost and directionless, sharing epiphanies and in deep reflection on things that matter in this life. I hold her personally responsible for developing my passion for hiking, for fostering my independent and wild spirit and for getting us lost at least three times (for what I can remember). She is my teacher, my guide, my touchstone, my muse.  I am so very excited to introduce, Susan Powell.

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For anyone who knows Sue, it is a challenge to think of her as a city girl from Southern Ontario.  Her free spirit and connection to the land is typically Northern. She is often found with a pack on her back, skis beneath her feet or paddle in her hand.  But our Suzie is a Southern Ontario import. Sue grew up outside of Richmond Hill, North of Toronto. She recalls that her earliest memories of being in the outdoors are back in the flats exploring the natural world. She grew up with a curiosity for living things and remembers being inspired by the flora and fauna in her back yard. She recalls a keen sense of adventure at an early age, pretending and playing outside and searching for salamanders.  She even recalls leaving school as a young child to search for these little creatures, to bring back to show her eager classmates and baffled (and probably irritated) teacher.

Sue’s early family life was not spent in the outdoors.  Her Father owned a company and farmed, but tragically passed away when Sue was only nine years old. Her Mother was a parent and homemaker and not very outdoorsy.  Sue also has two older brothers  whose varied interests kept them from exploring extensively outside. Sue feels that if she would have more influence from her Dad, they would have done more outdoors.  She reports that he used to come bear hunting in Northwestern Ontario and perhaps, she inherited some of his adventurous spirit.

Fast forward through years of amazing experiences, education, travelling, challenges, grief, joy and adventures,  Sue finds herself in Northwestern Ontario. She finds herself in love with a region that sings her heart song. A place to plant her roots, to act as a base to explore the world from. It was so curious to me, in knowing Sue and ALL the places she has been. Why settle here? What is so special about our little neck of the woods?

Sue’s relationship with the outdoors is one of passion and healing and genuine love. She enjoys absolutely anything outside, from hiking to show shoeing, to cross-country skiing, biking and kayaking. She has always told me, it’s where she goes for clarity and to work though challenges. She identifies that being in the outdoors is essential to her overall health and well-being and that it is the thing she has prescribed to her patients most often. She truly understands the power of nature and activity outside.

“Northwestern Ontario…” Sue explains,  “…has world class hiking. Classic hikes, challenging hikes, incredibly beautiful hikes.  I have hiked all over the world and some of the best trails have been in Nipigon”.  She goes on to explain that “the natural beauty, the geology, geography, biology and variety of the seasons keeps activity interesting and constantly changing.  In the sun, rain, snow, fog, cold, ice. Every time you walk out your door, it’s magic”.

Sue also appreciates the peaceful isolation of the region. She gratefully reports that “there is no overcrowding, sometimes you can be the only person on the trail and this can give you the opportunity to just reflect and just be thankful”.

Sue is very much an advocate of the outdoors because of the powerful impact it has had on her life. She explains that it gives her “peace of mind and peace of soul”.  She goes on to clarify that:

“I have a busy mind. I question if I am on the spectrum of attention deficit. When I am outside there is so much stimulation it calms me, and gives me a soothing,  happy feeling. I’m not sure if I enjoy [nature] more for the mental or physical benefit, but often I think it’s a symbiotic experience”.

I know that Sue is an avid traveler. As much as she enjoys the outdoors in her own back yard, she has truly experienced life abroad. She has spent time in New Zealand playing in the mountains and ocean, and spent lots of time hiking and enjoying the landscape, which reminded her very fondly of Canada.  She has hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, a rewarding and challenging experience.  She recalls that the Inca trail she completed was the most beautiful and different, but the most incredible place she has traveled [outside of Northwestern Ontario, of course] was Newfoundland. She tells me she first went at the age of 50 years old and has been back a whopping 7 times in the last 12 years.

Sue had difficulty finding the words to explain her experiences in Newfoundland. She said that the beauty and whole atmosphere was almost indescribable. The geology and landscape are incredible. But aside from the physical place itself, a huge contributing factor to the splendor of this place, is the people.

“Every little town has its own hike, you find these places by asking locals for directions.  I found the best hikes by asking local folks, who were all very welcoming, beautiful, kind people. It is incredible what kindness can do for you,  just absolutely caring, refreshing people.  Everyone we met had a good sense of humor they were full of pride for their province and most lived a simple, happy life. Very similar to the amazing people in Northwestern Ontario.”

So, in having the pleasure of spending time with this absolutely incredible, independent and adventurous woman, who has been many places and done many things, there are a few pieces of guidance I have gathered from her.

  1. Doghead Mountain. Doghead is Sue’s favorite hike in the entire world. She introduced me to this trail, which is not easy to navigate if you don’t know the way (we actually got lost on it once). We have shared amazing conversation on this trail and have completed it together on several occasions. Every time I am on it, it think of her.  Something very interesting about Nipigon is that there were dozens of really amazing trails developed in the past by local legends, but a lot of these trails will disappear into history if the next generation doesn’t take the time with these seasoned explorers to learn about them.  Doghead is one of those trails. It has a certain energy that makes those who travel it fall in love in fact, it is where Sue wants her ashes to be spread.
  1. Pole, Pole (Swahili for slowly, slowly). Sue learned this piece of knowledge climbing Kilimanjaro. She so graciously passed on to me on one of our hikes. We were talking about the physical challenges of our adventures. She would always tell me to slow down, that I could accomplish anything of I just set a reasonable pace and made a concerted effort to shush my ego’s desire to get something done fast. She constantly reminded me to stop and face the sun, open my arms and enjoy the ride. She also reflects that her own journey with fitness and endeavors in the outdoors have been slow climbs and that she is always in a constant state of trying to better herself. This doesn’t always mean being faster or stronger, but more so, being grateful for where we are at and taking the time to find enjoyment in the activities we engage in. Finding ways to develop our soul.
  2. The Green Fridge. A lesson in conservation and a simple life. This lesson came from a wonderful story she has about another very adventurous and outdoorsy couple in Nipigon, Margo and Rob Swainson. She reports a visit at their home and noticing that they had a older green fridge. The discussion turned to updating and remodeling and getting the latest white or stainless steel version to keep up with latest trends, or style or neighbors or whatever. The solemn response and very important lesson she learned in this fateful visit with the Swainson family is: Why replace something that isn’t broken and still has purpose? It is a concept I reflect on all the time. We don’t always need ‘new’ just because. Be happy with what you have, make your priorities the experiences with other people. At the end of the day, the people you have in your home, around your table, sharing stories and laughing are not there because you have the latest appliances, they are there for you.
  3. “I can do anything, as long as I have my headlamp”.  When I asked Sue about her favorite piece of gear, she without hesitation exclaimed it was her trusty headlamp. When she was hiking the Inca trail, she was continually challenged and each day focused on the destination, getting to camp. Her headlamp was a touchstone to ground her. An item that gave her comfort and helped her to press on. She recalled “if my headlamp was in my pocket I could take my time and take as long as I wanted. Night doesn’t have to stop me, I don’t have to be worried about holding other people up, I don’t have to be in a hurry.  This whole concept has transcended for me, beyond the simplicity of a piece of equipment into the idea that we have things and experiences and people in our life who act as matter to ground us. To give us courage and strength and patience. For some of us that may be a friend, partner, mantra, challenge we have overcome or it could be light in dark places, a headlamp.
  1. Gather people around you who ‘get it’. Sue explains to me, that there is nothing more satisfying or better for your soul then finding other humans who simply understand the value of a simple life and beauty in the natural world. When you surround yourself with these people, wonderful things happen. There is nothing quite as rewarding as sharing a hike or paddle, or coffee or conversation with other people who get it. It’s just the best transfer of energy and excitement and joy. You share in experiences that are healing and positive and to top it all off, it  gives you the most beautiful accessory… a giant perma-grin.

So my beautiful friend,  my soul sister, my headlamp wearing guide through the wilderness and fellow wanderer. I want to express my gratitude to you for everything you have shared with me. May all of your adventures be wondrous and may you always find your way when you get lost (because lets be serious, as incredible as you are, your sense of direction is not).  I love you.

Until the next adventure,

Deana

The Subtle Art of The Rock Hound.

Growing up on water has gifted me my favourite childhood memories. Adventures and laughter and precious time with my family. Fishing and island hopping and exploring the amazing and less travelled corners of this region.

Yesterday we set out on Lake Nipigon with no plans in particular, only the intention to enjoy a beautiful hot day on the water. It was incredible. Warm breeze, calm water and great company. We stopped at the Virgin Islands to go exploring, and something struck me. Without words or explanation, all four of us, my Mom, Dad, myself and my son all moved into the same position as though the spirits of Lake Nipigon herself were gently guiding us. All of us, perched on the shoreline… heads down sifting through sand and rocks and debris. Searching.

An epiphany hit me then, one of the most simple activities connected to life on the water has given me the most joy. It is something I love to this day and something my seven year old son is developing a great affinity for. Rock hounding.

My younger years are filled with memories; sitting on shoreline for hours watching my Mom and Dad scour the waters edge for treasures. I grew up digging in pebbles, face pressed to the earth looking for the amazing and wondrous things that nature produces. I was educated at a young age to the differences between agate, chert, limestone, shale, mica, gold, quarts and granite. I even remember my Uncle Len giving me lessons on how to pan for gold.

I remember the joy of finding fossils, beach glass and pottery and even an arrow head. The incredible feeling of having hundreds and thousands of years of history connected to you, gently resting in the palm of your hand. Sometimes I even squeeze these little treasures in the hopes of absorbing some knowledge of the ages.

For us, rock hounding almost seems like a competitive sport. Eagerly awaiting the opportunity to find the day’s greatest treasure. Something unique and beautiful to put in your pocket and add to the collection of others at home. The greatest find of the day that would make everyone else ‘ooh and awe’ and receive accolades and maybe even spark the slightest bit of envy.

In thinking about this activity is seems so strange. I wonder if anyone else shares the same love and wonderment for tiny stones or feels the same sense of excitement in finding something you feel is beautiful.

Regardless, keeping our eyes downward and hands in the earth has given my family an activity we secretly share and enjoy immensely together and there is no treasure more beautiful than that.

Medicine

Throughout this pandemic there have been three things I keep reflecting on as inherent, profound and essential requirements for my survival (and sanity). I need the outside. I need other humans and physical contact and I need to prioritize my mental health.

For me, working from home has meant endless hours spent in front of my computer screen on Skype, reading, researching, answering emails and preparing resources. It’s meant having to redirect my seven year old’s attention 100 times a day (because it’s difficult to understand that Mom is at home but she is working). It’s meant being in my bedroom behind a closed door, away from human contact for the majority of the day.

Over the course of the last few months there have been a few really bad days. Frustrating, exhausting, maddening and devastating. Yesterday was one of them. I will spare you the details and fast forward to the climax: Steven and I both screaming at each other, unable to find words, unable to identify antecedents, unable to regulate our emotions. Both of us crying and hugging and me, the parent, the supposed all knowing… not knowing how to fix this mess.

So I did what I always do in times when I don’t know what to do… made a plan to get into nature. However, we also needed other people. I needed a friend and so did Steven. So we reached out.

I believe that there is an important purpose for social distancing. I believe that it is important to follow guidelines. I ALSO believe in taking calculated risks when you are at a breaking point. Today, a phone call or FaceTime would not have cut it. So I closed my laptop and shut work down early (with immense guilt… and don’t worry, I made up that time PLUS hours more) and made the conscious and deliberate decision to be around other humans.

We met up with our friends to hike Mazukama Falls. It was a beautiful sunny day. There we’re nothing but smiling faces. We got dirty and wet and sun kissed. We laughed and talked and met up with other amazing humans on the trail. You could tell that everyone was seeking connection that day. It’s strange in the midst of all of this craziness, how encounters with other people have become more meaningful. More profound. We stop a little longer. Ask a few more questions and are more present when we listen.

When our friends left to go home, and the other hikers made their way off of the trail, Steven and I stayed behind for another hour and a half. Sitting in pools of water and playing in little falls. Talking and hugging and holding hands. Repairing the mess that working from home, and distance learning and social distancing and covid have caused.

On the ride home, Steven looked at me and said (with wisdom and insight beyond his seven years)

“Mom, I think that this hike fixed us. Just like medicine”

The truth in that statement was alarming and it made me feel overwhelmed with gratitude.

So thank you to my friends, the people we came across yesterday. The conversations and smiles and connection. Thank you Mother Earth, Kama Falls, dirt trails and wet shoes. You were the medicine we needed to fix us.