What’s Your Nature Story?

Our time in nature is like a lifelong relationship.  Like family, dear friends, or pets, it grows over time through experience and memories, building a connection subconsciously together.  For me, driving into the Bow Valley now is like a trip down memory lane. Recognizing familiar mountains and remembering hikes, skis, wildflowers, seeing grizzly bears, and other experiences that are a part of my history of experiences in the area.  I realize that I have a profound need to get outside, an almost biological pull. For me, being in nature makes me feel like I can breathe deeply, think clearly, and pause during my hectic life. Being in nature makes me feel happy and healthy. It floods my mind with beauty and simple pleasures that ground me, connect me, and calm me.  Simply put, I always feel better when I get outside.

From an early age, spending time in nature became a way of life.  In some ways, it was symptomatic of my generation and of my parents during that time.  I grew up in the 70’s before smartphones and technology.  After school, the only form of fun was to hop on our bikes, find our friends and roam the local neighborhood, climbing trees, swinging on monkey bars, and staying outside until dusk when it was time to go home.  In winter, I was building forts and quinzhees with my brothers or x-country skiing at the local parks. When school ended and summer holidays began, we packed our little car and headed to the country to spend two months at our small cottage in rural Manitoba, in the rolling hills near Riding Mountain National Park.

This was my favourite time of the year.  Two months living like a pioneer in a rustic house where we didn’t have plumbing, grew our own food and collected rainwater in order to bathe and wash dishes.  We spent our days outside playing croquet, hauling drinking water, working in the garden, fishing, picking saskatoons, catching frogs, playing cards, drawing, and swimming at the local lake.  We had to create our own fun because there was no tv. The bugs were bad, the stars were amazing, and every night we went for a walk down the country road, marveling at the wildflowers while soaking in the never-ending horizon of golden canola fields.  After 8 weeks my skin was tanned, my hair lightened, and I felt healthy and well.

These formative experiences in nature shaped me.  They created a muscle memory associating getting outside with feelings of happiness, health, and peace.  They created my tenet of helping and working hard and shaped my values towards savoring the simple pleasures of life and nature.  They developed my creative spirit and my ethic of conservation. While I have gone on to have many outdoor adventures all over the world, I go back to this place in the middle of nowhere each summer. I continue to shape my nature story and my relationship with the outdoors.

Yours in conservation,

Anne-Marie Syslak