“Aki-Earth. I will walk her skin today, attuned to her heartbeat, the feel of her thrumming through the soles of my feet.”

                        -Richard Wagamese from “Embers”

I got dressed very carefully this morning. I started with a two-piece set of long underwear that hasn’t seen the light of day since I left Alberta. I topped that with a t-shirt, some comfy pants, and the only pair of socks I own thin enough to be worn with my mukluks. I even put on one of those neck thingies you can pull up to cover your ears and face. Finally, I borrowed a hooded jacket from Santana because I knew the cloth coat I’ve been wearing for the last 30 years wouldn’t be warm enough. Apparently, I’ve become acclimated to the Okanagan.

As I promised myself last month, I was going to try to spend less time driving and more time walking, both for my health and the environment. Even though the temperatures were hovering above zero and rain wasn’t forecast until later in the day, I wanted to be prepared.

This seemed like a good morning to visit Woodhaven Regional Park in Kelowna, just a short drive from my house and as yet, unvisited by me.

When I arrived at the park, I was greeted by a five-year old and his mother, who was dropping him off at the preschool on the edge of the park.

“There’s a whole family of deer living here!” he said.

“Is that right?” I knew the endangered Western Screech Owl nests in these woods, and I was hoping to spot one. But a family of deer would be nice, too.

His mother, watching me unload my walker from the car said, “Be really careful. The trails are icy. And the one coming back is steep. I wouldn’t try it unless you have cleats on.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate that. It’s unlikely that I’ll make it that far, but good to know, just in case.”

“And there’s a cougar out there,” the child said. He looked at me and frowned. “Don’t get lost.”

“I won’t,” I promised.

Funny… I’d just been thinking about the word lost. It came up as a prompt in this daily writing thing I’ve been doing.

I started out on the trail. It was mostly level, rising only slightly, but it was indeed icy. There were also rocks and roots to consider as I made my way down the main trail, stopping to lift my walker over obstacles.

I don’t remember a time in my life when I was truly lost, unless it happened way back in my childhood. It didn’t matter if it was an unfamiliar city or somewhere out in the hills—if I found I didn’t know exactly where I was, I was unshakeably confident I could find my way out, find my way back. I always did. I’m grateful for that.

The trail was winding it’s way through the woods until I could no longer hear the sounds from the street. I stopped often, to sit and rest, to take photos, or to try and feel the heartbeat of the earth.

No, for me, being lost is something that happens on an emotional level. Too many feelings at once leads me to feeling lost, overwhelmed, anxious. But what better way to triage my emotions than a walk in the woods and some quiet sitting.

I reached a clearing in the forest. There was a bench sitting there. I sat there for quite some time, taking stock of the moment. What was I seeing, feeling, hearing? Just outside the clearing were a pair of squirrels, playing…tag? The air was cool and prickly on my face, and in the distance, I could hear ducks and a crow. The air was sweet with the smell of bark, mud, and green growing things.

Mentally, I think feeling lost is one of the more underrated aspects of mental health, in part because if it isn’t dealt with, it can grow into even more complex mental issues. I need to develop the same confidence in finding my way back emotionally as I do physically. Luckily, I have tools an my disposal to help me learn how to do just that.

Not far past the bench, the trail took a steep upward turn and the sunlight filtering through to the forest floor glared brightly on its surface. I turned around and slowly began to make my way back.

I didn’t see the owl, or the deer. I didn’t see the cougar, although part of me wished I would have. Okay, most of me. I even carried my camera around my neck in the “on” position, just in case. I imagine it’s just as well. If I  had seen the cougar, it most likely would have been the last thing I ever saw. But what a sight to go out on!


Author: Featherstone Creative

Sally Quon is a photographer and writer living in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, where she is blessed to live, love and grow on the traditional and unceded territory of the Syilx people. Her photography has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and in Nature Alberta’s various birding brochures. Sally was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul - The Forgiveness Fix and was long listed for the Vallum Chapbook Award. She is an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets. One of her photos was chosen for inclusion in the Photographer’s Forum “Best of 2018” Collection. She has two beautiful, almost grown children and a cat who loves her.

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