(Along the Tantalus Loop, Brohm Lake, Squamish, BC).
“You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.” -Cheryl Strayed
When I moved to Squamish from Victoria in 2012 I gave myself, my boyfriend at the time, my work, my friends, and my family two weeks notice. I arrived with Lil’ G chock-block full of things I don’t own anymore, with Katie in the passenger seat. The sun shined throughout the sea-to-sky corridor that day. I can still feel the heat of the sun on my forehead, the burning in my eyes, as I rounded the corner past the Cheif.
I felt like I landed in my elsewhere home that belonged entirely to me. That pieces of me didn’t somehow belong to other people. No one but me had a claim over where my time would go; I was movement on the outside, stasis on the inside and that tension overwhelmed me with so much hope, love, and enthusiasm.
Squamish has my soul because it loves you in a fierce kind of way, begging you to join all the protests, all the climbing, biking and hiking clubs, and just like, be best friends forever. Squamish knows the importance in doing this because Squamish has witnessed environmental degradation; because the violence toward the land has been replicated in many of the homes in the area.
Love ya’self whole again, it seemed to tell me, as I rented an apartment on the top floor of a low-income housing complex.
Anytime I felt restless I would take myself for long walks along the river. Up and down The Squamish River, sometimes detouring toward the Mamquam.
Nothing remarkable ever happened on these walks. I didn’t have any awe-inspiring internal awakenings or adventures. I saw some bears. I saw a lot of eagles. I met a lot of really incredible humans living their life in a good way. Taking small simple steps toward unlearning and healing.
On my last hike in Squamish I decided to do the Tantalus Loop, which was probably my favourite hike because it goes deep into the forest and then you emerge at this magnificent look-out that seems to frame the Tantalus Mountain Range. There’s one part in this hike that’s really quite bushy, for lack of a better descriptor. There’s moments, especially on the first time I did this hike, that I questioned if I was still on the trail. But on this last hike, as a seasoned Squamish hiker, I felt so totally zen’d and content with my one-ness with nature. I AM NATURE, I thought to myself, so wild and free….
But then I started to hear the sound of a giant beast hurling through the bushes and I was like WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?! I reached for my knife I forgot at home and then just stood there frozen for a second waiting for this thing to… I don’t know… eat me I guess.
And then I heard LUCY!!
And then I saw Lucy– a giant labradoodle.
Oh, I’m so sorry, the woman said, as she too emerged with two other dogs. She was wearing a flowered dress, a fanny pack and hiking boots. She had a whistle wrapped around her neck and her hair was down, long and brown. She looked about 40, which seemed ancient and impossible at the time.
So we got to talking and we decided to finish the hike together. We talked about her family, how she’s taking care of Lucy (who is just the most badly behaved dog and it’s stressing her out). She thought I looked like Keira Knightly and took my photo. She said she’s going to send the picture to her folks in Ontario and tell them she met a celebrity on her hike.
She thought it was really funny.
Then we started talking about me moving back to Victoria. About my school. She told me that she just knows it will all work out for me. That there’s something special about me (what that something is, no one quite knows for certain).
I told her that I liked that she was wearing a dress hiking. She said, people think they need to wear all these expensive outdoor clothes to hike. You can hike naked if you want. You just need good shoes. We should all wear dresses hiking! You can wear a dress too.
At the end of the hike we hugged. She said she can’t wait to meet me in five years. I wished her good luck with Lucy, who at that point was running out toward the highway. I got into my car listening to her call out LUUUCCCCYYYYYY…
Sometimes I wear one of my dresses hiking and think about her, how she so entirely inspired me.
That some people will never see the beauty in just existing and not documenting; she was presence and quirk and honestly, a huge piece in helping me become stable with who I am.
So, in gratitude to this woman.
And also, I’m moving to Prince Rupert.