"Dear Sarah, Don't ever forget yourself. The confidence that you can be you and achieve what you want…Maybe it's a stressful time now, school's getting hard and things aren't the greatest. Now think of this place. It's still here, no human breath touches it's air. The mountains are standing tall and pristine, glaciers melt, Hellebore flowers send their roots into the ground waiting to rocket out of the earth, shining proud just because they're living, growing, being.
Don't forget where you stand, and what you love.
Remember what is important.
Never forget the mountains.
This is an excerpt of a letter I wrote in 2003, addressed to my future self. Reading it 14 years later, I'm amazed at how revealing it is (yes, even the part about glaciers melting). Surprised that the voice behind the words wasn't the teenager that was stressed out about school and trying to navigate the akward and confusing journey of adolescence. The voice of the letter seemed tapped into a truer, wiser self. It's words were written in pencil while outdoors, at the foot of towering mountains.
When I was seventeen years old, I went on a backpacking trip with Outward Bound. Along with nine other teenagers and a few guides we spent a week in the mountains around Pemberton, hiking through forests, scrambling over rocks and climbing up to breathtaking views. We hiked long hours, with everything on our backs and the August sun pouring down on us. We ended the days sweaty and tired around the campfire. I don't remember the specifics of the trip now but I remember how strong I felt, how capable and alive.
It was a time of firsts. Backpacking, doing a solo-camping night, rockclimbing and doing a 10k run on the last day, once we had hiked back down closer to town.
The trip showed me what I was capable of. Being in a group and learning from the guides was super important, but it was Nature that was my biggest teacher. It was the mountains that said 'climb me and see how it will feel when you've reached the top' It was the lake, that said 'I'll take care of you as you rest beside my shore, alone in the wilderness'. It was the plants and animals living their plant and animal lives, without anxiety, without striving. It was nature, who told me 'be, that is enough'.
These are lessons we learn, unlearn and learn again. I can see, only now, what a transformative trip that really was.
***This is part of my series called #lessonsfromnature, during my artist residency for the Wild About Vancouver outdoor education festival. You can head over to instagram to follow the whole journey there.