North Road: The Oldest Road in the Lower Mainland

I tend to find things that I can really relate to the most interesting, especially when learning from as dry of a textbook as we Grade 10s get for Socials Studies. So when I first heard the story of North Road from Mr. J during a discussion, my curiosity was instantly piqued, as I take the bus down that road once or twice a day. After our next assignment, to research any part of BC history, was assigned, I began searching for sites about North Road and other things that were tied up with that research, including the Royal Engineers and the intertwined histories of Port Moody, New Westminster, and Coquitlam.

As I searched website after website, I eventually found myself on this site and received a flash of recognition, from seeing a picture of something that I passed daily and occasionally glanced at as the bus drove by. I never really noticed it before today, but to be fair, it is a fairly inconspicuous utility box. Since looking for them on the bus ride home today, I’ve seen two, at the corner of Austin and North Road, and on a street near the skytrain station.

Today in class, I utilized (and was quite impressed by) Google street view, and scanned the intersections along North Road to find one of these boxes, so I wouldn’t have to go search for them by foot. I found one on the Austin Ave-North Road North Road Box [640x480]intersection, and so when I got to the stop, I stepped off the bus into the rain and walked over to the box. I walked around it for a look at first, then remembered a notepad and pen I had in my backpack. I stood there for quite some time in the rain noting the pictures and inscriptions, long enough to miss one bus but catch the next. As the ink on the paper turned from dark blue to a watery purple in little circular droplets, I paced back and forth at the corner, trying not to be too obvious that I was copying out the entire heritage plaque on the box.

Shown on the near side of the box in the picture are Clement Moody, ca 1859, for whom Port Moody was named after, and below that, a street sign at the intersection at North Rd and Barnet Road, ca 1914. There were a few other pictures as well, including a picture of North Road dating back to 1919 and a picture of the Aliceville Hotel in 1892.

When New Westminster was chosen as the site for the first capital city of British Columbia in 1859, Colonel R.C. Moody, a Royal Engineer, developed a plan to defend the city from American attack. A primary concern was maintaining access to the ocean, should the Fraser River be blocked by ice during the winter. Moody immediately ordered the survey and construction of North Road to connect the capital with Burrard Inlet. At the end of the road, land was reserved for a proposed dock and Blockhouse with supplies and ammunition.

Fortunately, the feared assault never came and North Road was used primarily by Royal City [New Westminster] residents who wished to picnic at the beach. In the 1880’s the road was used more often as a route to the inlet where travellers could board a ferry for the City of Port Moody. Later the village of  “Aliceville” developed at the end of the road with a railway station, two hotels, and several summer cottages. The road’s route over the mountain remained in use until the 1960’s, when this section was closed to traffic. North Road today is a historic trail and the oldest road in the Lower Mainland.

Song of Myself

I can’t count the number of times I’ve fallen asleep on the bus. I guess I could count how many times I’ve slept, and then been poked awake by other people – that would be two; once by the bus driver, and once by a fellow passenger. Today however, I got lucky, and awoke less than a minute before my stop. Avoiding the slightly creepy stare of the guy sitting in the seat ahead of me, I grabbed my backpack from its place at my feet and jumped off the bus. I was half an hour early to meet a friend, so I walked to the city library, deciding to try to find a book as I walked. Unlike any other book I’ve willingly gotten from a library or bought, this one was a book of poetry.

About a week ago, I checked Paper Towns by John Green out of our school library. In it, the main character Quentin’s friend, Margo, ran away from home, and she left him a trail of clues so that he would have a chance of finding her. One of these clues led him to find a book of poetry, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, and he spends most of the remainder of the book reading and interpreting a poem in it, “Song of Myself”, which Margo had highlighted passages in. In the book, although Quentin is trying to find Margo, I think he’s also trying to find her in the less tangible sense, the part of her that’s made of thoughts and decisions and heart, as well as the physical part of her. As I read through the book, and through Quentin’s interpretations of the poem and how it related to his situation, I found myself wanting to find a copy of Leaves of Grass for myself and read it and interpret it for myself. It seemed that it was about finding oneself in others, and how everyone and everything is one, and I saw some definite parallels between the book, the poem, and my life, and I wanted answers. So I decided the library would be a good place to start.

After spending the next twenty minutes or so feeling slightly detective-y in finding the book, and then finding the poem within the book, I walked out of the public library, my backpack slightly heavier than it had been when I’d walked in. After finding out my friend would be late, I decided, once again, to spend the next half hour in the wonderfully comforting presence of a good book. I walked down to the lake and sat on the raised bit of concrete lining the pathway, making sure to choose a spot away from the fishermen, flicking their sharp, pointy hooks over their heads. I opened the book and flipped to the first page of “Song of Myself”, and began reading. I lost myself in the poem, but I found that no matter how I concentrated on the words, I couldn’t fully take myself away from the sounds of the bright day around me. There was a girl riding by on her bike, screeching as her dad chased her on a pair of rollerblades, stopping occasionally to fix kneepads strapped to his legs. I looked up for a moment and wondered at the fact that he wasn’t wearing a helmet, but became distracted from the distraction and found my spot in the poem once more.

The rhythmic sound of the many fishermen lining the side of the lake calmed me and set a pace to the words in my lap, flicking and reeling in their lines, flicking and reeling, flicking and reeling. I caught snippets of conversation as people walked, ran, and rode past me, indignant cursing at a mutual acquaintance, gossip floating in the air, and the pleasant chatter of friends out for a walk. Distractions were plenty, yet I continually found myself drawn back to the poem, finding something within the words I hadn’t yet found in poetry, at least not in poetry this long. In the edition I checked out, nearly fifty pages are filled of the pretty, flowing, yet understandable words of Walt Whitman in “Song of Myself”. More than once I stopped what I was reading and reread a verse or two, too taken aback by something he’d written to only read it once.

In only four days we depart for our five day long adventure trip, a trip of hardships and friendships, with lots and lots of physical activity thrown in for fun. I have enough to do in my spare time, what with taking on the filming, directing, and production of a video, along with a few friends, but also needing to practice guitar, and a lot. Nonetheless, I know this book will be with me, and taken out more than once to peruse, and continue to be amazed by.

Do you ever think they ever thought they got what they deserved?

(The title is one of my favourite lines from Josh Ritter’s song “To The Dogs Or Whoever”.)

My first introduction to Josh Ritter was from Mr. J, as a suggestion for my guitar hero project for guitar class. He gave me some tabs to a bunch of his songs, and before I even heard any of them, I instantly loved all of his lyrics. They have this brilliance to them, and he writes a lot of those lines that make me stop for a moment and think.

Peter said to Paul
“You know all those words we wrote,
Are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go.”

Lying on your back as the sun goes down, you know it’s perfect cause you’ve got to leave

I had a dream last night
And when I opened my eyes
Your shoulder blade, your spine
Were shorelines in the moon light
New worlds for the weary
New lands for the living
I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes I kept on swimming

The crickets all leapt up and met the moon with a standing ovation

That book of tabs rarely left my sight for the next few weeks, and I slowly got to know all of the songs pretty well.

Instead of writing a full introduction to Josh Ritter for the poetry unit, I decided to just make a video, so he could introduce himself, and parts of a few of his songs are mixed in too.

I love…

(Inspired by this)

I love…

…waking up from a good dream, and not even wanting to go back to sleep, because real life is still better.

…laying back in our boat when my dad drives back to the parking lot after a day on the lake, and seeing the light filtering through the leaves above us.

…diving into the cool water, and holding my breath as far as I can go.

…those days when nothing can hurt me.

…being surrounded by friends, and knowing that they’re there because they want to be.

…listening to a song, and understanding what it means to me for the first time. And then finding more meaning in it each successive time I listen to it.

…writing, when I finally get how I’m feeling or thinking down how I want it to be.

…the sound of my guitar, playing along with my itunes or youtube, playing with others, and alone.

…looking out at a crowd of people, no matter how small, and knowing that they’re listening to what I have to say, or what I have to play for them.

…being constantly astonished at how amazing the people in my life are, and feeling happy for them instead of envious of them.

…caring about someone enough that knowing that they’re happy makes me happy, even when I don’t feel like I should be.

…late night conversations, and not only at sleepovers.

…not noticing that 11:11 is approaching, but just catching it anyways.

…feeling like I’m a part of something.

…looking out at the rain, and at first feeling a little depressed, but then realizing that rain is wonderful, and pretty, and cleansing, in the nicest, purest way.

…coming home, and instantly feeling good, because both my dogs come up right away to say hi.

…setting myself a goal, to learn a song, jump a jump, talk to someone, or just finish my homework, and reaching it.

…breathing in cold winter air, the kind that burns as it goes down your throat, but in a good way.

…stopping in the middle of a run snowboarding, because I was so taken away by the beauty of the view laying in front of me.

…everyone in my life who’s made a positive difference. Thank you.

…music, happiness, sunshine, rain, laughter, guitar, friends, and family.

…the fact that this list is just getting started.

On assimilation, and loss of culture

I can’t imagine life without music. Music is a part of who I am, it’s my culture, my life. When I’m at home, doing homework, I usually have my guitar on my lap, and I take lots of breaks to play a song or riff, and when I’m not playing guitar, there’s always music in the background; it’s always there.

Just thinking about having that taken away from me is incomprehensible, and yet that, and much more, was exactly what happened to Native people from 1876, when the Indian Act first was implemented, to around 1951, when the Indian Act was amended to lift bans on the Potlatch and other ceremonial traditions. Natives were stripped of their culture and identity, in an attempt by the Canadian government to assimilate them into European culture.

In 1884, an amendment was made to the Indian Act, making it against the law to participate in the Potlatch ceremony and to perform the Sun Dance; children were sent away from their parents to residential schools and were banned from speaking their language or performing any aspects of their culture, and were beaten and abused regularly; in 1895 yet another amendment was made to the Indian Act banning Indian festivals, dances, and other ceremonies, and many other acts and laws were implemented to try to end the Native culture.

This was all done in an attempt to “civilize” Native people, but whoever said that they weren’t the civil ones to begin with? Native people learned to live off the land, such as the Plains people using the buffalo to survive off of, and the Inuit being able to live in the harsh lands in Northern Canada. In contrast, the arrival of the Europeans destroyed natural ecosystems by wiping out species of animals and using up non-renewable resources.

So they were here first, they respected the land, and they cooperated well enough with the arrival of the traders. Why did the government feel as though this Indian Act was necessary to create in the first place?

Frankly, I have no idea why they would’ve wanted to do any of this, or for that matter, how they got away with it. And I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it would be to have my culture taken away from me, or even just one aspect of it, such as my music. But there can’t possibly be any justifiable reason to take away someone’s identity. It’s wrong, and we still haven’t fully fixed the problem, although we have made steps in the right direction. We just need to find a way to give them back to themselves.

Adora Svitak, Child Prodigy

I just felt this need to share this awesome TED Talk; Adora Svitak, the speaker, has some great ideas, and I think she speaks brilliantly for kids everywhere. Part of this talk focused on her ideas for learning between students and teachers, and I think a lot of what she’s saying is embodied in our Talons program everyday, how teachers shouldn’t be standing in front of the class, telling their students what to do, but instead having a different sort of learning, where everyone learns from one another.

“Every time we (children) make irrational demands, exhibit irresponsible behavior, or display any other signs of being normal American citizens, we are called childish, which really bothers me…The traits the word childish addresses are seen so often in adults that we should abolish this age-discriminatory word when it comes to criticizing behavior associated with irresponsibility and irrational thinking.”

Adora Svitak

Watching the clock

11:11. I may not believe in superstition, luck, or wishes really coming true just because I make them at a certain time, but nonetheless, every night at 11:11, unless I accidentally miss it, I make a wish, and hope for it to come true. Because I might as well, right?

A friend and I once googled 11:11, and according to one blog, there are lots of rules surrounding the 11:11 wish, including not waiting for it to come around, but instead, just spontaneously seeing it, and immediately looking away once you see it. There were other notes as well, such as how the nighttime 11:11 tends to be stronger than the morning one, and that digital clocks are more powerful than analogs. I prefer to keep it simple, though, and tend to wait around for 11:11 every night, and I almost always watch and wait for the clock to change over to 11:12 before going back to whatever I was doing before.

It’s interesting, really, finding out what I can think of to wish for within the space of less than a minute. Sometimes, random things pop up, like being able to play a new song on guitar, and other times, deeper things, things sometimes I didn’t realize were there before, come to mind at once. And it’s odd, too, knowing what that thing is that I want to get out of the next day or week or month, or sometimes, even the next year. But it’s nice to know, and to have something to strive for, I suppose.

I never really wished for the typical (actually, I’m not sure what “typical” is…) sorts of things, what I imagine are world peace, and the end of hunger and poverty and disease, because it’s just not going to happen. And if I have a wish, I figure I may as well spend it on something that has a chance of happening, however slight that chance may be. So I do. I usually make my wishes specific to my life, and they tend to revolve not around things happening to me, but rather, around myself having the courage to make things happen on my own.

But in the end, it all comes down to one thing: knowing what that one thing that I really want is, and wishing, and hoping for it to come true.

It’s 11:11. Close your eyes, and make a wish…

We got 3 R’s…

Three, it’s a magic number,
Yes it is, it’s a magic number,
Because two times three is six,
And three times six is eighteen,
And the eighteenth letter in the alphabet is R.

We’ve got three R’s we’re going to talk about today.
We’ve got to learn to,
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Earth friendly days this week!
* Sunday March 21 – World Forestry Day
* Monday March 22 – World Water Day
* Tuesday March 23 – World Meteorological Day
* Saturday March 27 – Earth Hour – Global

This week is an important one, one to think back and look at what we’ve done to the environment. Along with Earth Week, which occurs from April 16 to April 22 (Earth Day), I think it’s a really good thing that so many people and companies are finally taking some real action. The Olympics, for example, had a large emphasis on sustainability, and there was a lot of talk prior to the actual games about how “green” the Olympics would actually be. I think in the end we did a pretty good job of at least trying to be as sustainable as possible, and keeping awareness about the fact that they were trying for a greener Games.

If you’re going to the market to buy some juice,
You’ve got to bring your own bags and you learn to reduce your waste.
Gotta learn to reduce.

Looking ahead to Earth Week, I think that the idea of such an unofficial, but nonetheless widely recognized week, where people take their own initiatives to organize events and activities in their own schools, neighborhoods, and cities is a really awesome one, because no one is really being told to do anything in the first place.

And if your brother or your sister’s got some cool clothes,
You could try them on before you buy some more of those,
Reuse, we’ve got to learn to reuse.

Just the fact that one of the things that most people wanted to talk more about in their blogs (in the student blogging challenge) was the environment, is really great. Looking around our school, I see posters up on the walls telling students to reuse water bottles, slides on the TVs reminding us of why our school is so clean (students and teachers actually cleaning up after themselves, as well as others), and posters telling us how easy it is to throw garbage in the can, instead of on the ground right next to the cans.

And if the first two R’s don’t work out,
And if you’ve got to make some trash,
Don’t throw it out,
Recycle, we’ve got to learn to recycle.

All in all, even though we have done a lot of damage to the environment, and are continuing to do so, there is a lot of initiative and action being taken to resolve that, and work towards a greener future. And I think we should be looking at the positives about this, instead of the negatives, because there is change happening, and that, if nothing else, is a good thing.

We’ve got to learn to,
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Because three it’s a magic number.
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
3, 3, 3.
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36.
33, 30, 27, 24, 21, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6, and,
3, it’s a magic number.

Half Japanese, Half European. 100% Canadian.

I often find myself asking my mom which language she thinks in, her native Japanese, or her adopted English. I’ll ask who she’s rooting for during the Olympics, whether she really feels Canadian or Japanese, or even just keep track of which country she’s been living in for longer. While she has a Canadian permanent resident card, not to mention a family, job, and life here, she retains her Japanese citizenship.

A lot of the time, I feel confused about my roots. I don’t really belong with the Asian side of myself, having no stereotypical “Asian parents”, nor do I worry too much about my grades or feel like I fit in with my nearly all-Asian Japanese class. But at the same time, I’m not exactly white either. To be honest, I’m not even sure which countries my dad’s side of the family comes from. The furthest back I can really trace my family tree is merely with the people that I know, and that doesn’t go back very far.

So when the winter Olympics came to my home town, who was I rooting for?

Well, Canada, of course. Even though I may not know who my ancestors are, or exactly who I am, as far as ethnicity goes, (I’ve been called a halfie and a hasian, among others) I am still a Canadian, through and through. I love my country; I love how beautiful and vast it is, I love the diversity of it. I love that we have the two national languages, and that, for the most part, we are accepting of different cultures and are in fact a “mosaic”, rather than the American “melting pot”.

I loved how intense everyone got when the Olympics came here, how probably two-thirds of the people downtown were wearing Olympic clothing, Canadian flag capes, red and white face paint, and how the beeping of passing cars and screaming of people didn’t cease for quite some time after we had won a hockey game. I love how the entire few hundred people I watched the gold medal hockey game with at Holland Park in Surrey jumped to their feet and yelled every time we scored, and how we collectively sung our national anthem after the winning goal. I love that commercial that said “Let’s make sure everyone knows whose game they’re playing“. I love the national pride the Olympics brought to our country, and to me.

My country is my ethnicity, it is my roots. Although I may be half Japanese and half white on the outside, on the inside, I am a Canadian.

(This was my roundabout way of doing this week’s student blogging challenge, by the way.)

Finding the beauty hidden beneath my fear

Winter, 2010

“Come on, girl,” I say to my dog as we walk along the networked trails near my home. It is a new area to me, and while I’m not completely sure as to where we are, I’m nonetheless comforted by the sounds of dozens of cars driving by on the highway, assuring me to the presence of people nearby. I watch the narrow boardwalk below me, making sure my feet fall on the thin strip of grip tape instead of the slippery wood next to it. I look up, and, staring around myself, feel an all too familiar feeling of fear stab my heart for a moment. In my mind’s eye, the empty forest surrounding me is full of bears, hiding behind fallen logs and moss-covered boulders, waiting to jump out at me.

Summer, 2008

I reached the bottom of the run, and turned my head both ways in search of my brother. I jumped off my bike and called his name, choosing a trail and walking down it, squinting ahead in search of him. Suddenly, I heard a rustling slightly ahead, in the bushes. I stopped in shock, but assuming it was just someone’s pet, I continued walking forward in search of my brother. Then my heart began to pound as my eyes, but not mind, registered a large black blur stumble out of the bushes slightly ahead of myself – a black bear.

I froze in fear and shock, and took a moment to comprehend what had just happened. When I regained control of my mind and body, I backed up, and, stumbling, turned and ran up the trail to my parents.

“Bear.” I choked out, “There’s a bear.”

My dad simply stared back at me, and I realized he was feeling the same feeling of shock I just had. Then he told us to drop our bikes and run. Without question I released my handlebars and watched my bike fall, in slow motion, into the bushes. I vaguely heard my dad telling my mom as I pulled myself up onto a log ride and began my hike up the mountain. I jumped from one part of the trail to the next, ripping off my helmet and gloves as I went. I chucked both on the trail, and stopped for a second to catch my breath and watch as my helmet rolled down the slope, finally resting against a stump. I stood and watched it for a while, wondering if I’d ever see it again, then turned away and restarted my hike.

Quickly diverting my eyes back down to my feet, I’m able to erase the forest around me, and create the illusion that only myself and the boardwalk exist. In my mind, I focus on the soft sound of my puppy’s feet pattering on the wood, and try to block out all other thoughts. But when I look ahead, I see the path twisting away into the forest, and wonder to myself how far it goes, and when I’ll be back to the safety of civilization and people again.

Walking alone on the boardwalk, I begin to long for the presence of people. With only my dog as company, I feel bare and exposed in nature, as though there are eyes watching me from every angle. My pace quickens, hoping to find more populated trails to escape to. Everything within me begins to speed up, my heart, jumping on a trampoline, is beating higher and higher into my throat; my gaze, darting around, following an invisible fly; my breathing; and my pace, changing from a walk, to a trot, then breaking into a jog. As I run further and further into the forest, my eyes look up at increasing intervals, quickly scanning the trees around me, and then dropping down in fear of finding what I’m searching for.

As my breathing began to slow my hike, I took a short break and thought about how untrue that conception is – that when your life is in danger; you find an energy you never knew you had. I looked up and down the trail, and seeing my family below me, could only think the unthinkable – the possibility that we may not all make it back home. Painful images of the bear ripping apart my family entered my mind and seared the vision into my brain forever. The realization of how real this could be set in, scaring me out of my stupor. I jumped, and continued up the trail, making sure only to slow, not stop. I turned and looked back at my family for a moment. Fear, my newly acquired stalker, crept up behind me once more as I noticed my mom lagging behind. The whole of my mind screamed out for her to speed up, but instead, I turned away.

I enter panic mode as I begin to race across the boardwalk, stopping momentarily to pick up my dog, whose short legs prevent her from running too quickly. I hold her close to my chest as we dart through the trees together. In my mind I repeat a mantra: “Please, just let me find somebody.” I don’t know who I’m speaking to, but I ask for it anyways. Somehow everyone in the forest, which seemed to be full minutes ago, had disappeared. Indecision rips across my body, trying to tear it in two, as I halt for a moment. It occurs to me that I could turn around, go back to where I’d come from, and find people for sure. The other half of me screams for me to continue, and potentially find civilization around the next corner. The knowledge of people waiting for me back where I’d just been wins, and I stumble as I quickly turn around and head back into the darkening wilderness.

I turned the corner and almost tripped in shock. There were two guys standing at the trailhead, taking a break before starting the run. I felt like the outside world had returned, and nearly fell over as the rush of realization that the world remained swept over me. They asked me what I was doing; obviously curious as to why I would be running up a biking trail lacking both a bike and helmet. I told them the same thing as I had told my father, barely able to speak the four words. “Oh, that’s cool,” was the response I received, but once my dad made it to us, he was able to properly explain that not only had we seen a bear, but that it had decided to come up the trail after us. If they felt any fear, their faces gave nothing away, for they merely picked up some large rocks and told us to help scare it off.

I clutched the back of my dad’s biking shirt as the bear came back into view. Then, just as I had started to become accustomed to the idea, another appeared behind the first. This had barely registered in my mind when a rock sailed through the air over my head, and I winced as it smashed into the ground feet from the bears. They both jumped slightly, but held their positions. Then, as though saying that we weren’t worth their time, they stood still for a moment, and then stumbled off the side of the path.

As I step back onto the main trail, I feel safer, but at the same time, a deep unease begins to settle in my stomach. Why couldn’t I make it through the forest? Why didn’t I push past the fear and finally accomplish something? I could’ve continued on; instead, I turned back, and the failure to face the wall preventing me from moving forward begins to encompass my mind. As I climb the trail heading back to my house, I feel as though I’m not moving forward at all, but instead only walking away from the challenge I stood in front of and walked away from only minutes before.

“We need to find our son,” my dad told the bikers, who had stepped back and told us they’d continue down the mountain on a different trail.

They wished us luck and left, leaving us alone again. My dad told my mom and me to grab a rock each, just in case the bears came back. We picked a few up, and held the feeble weapons in our hands, and after taking a few deep breaths, started to make our way back down the trail we’d just been chased up. My dad spoke to my mom and me as we continued down, his voice getting more frantic and less reasoned as we got closer to where we last saw my brother. We all began to call out his name, over and over again, and the word echoed in the forest around us.

I checked both sides of the trail for my helmet and gloves, and used their absence to push thoughts of my brother out of my mind. Eventually, though, I found them, and my brother returned to my thoughts, scaring me with the idea that I may never see him again. It seemed wrong, impossible, that it could be true, and my heart began to race again, that clawing feeling in my throat returning.

A week later, I stand at the trailhead of the forest near my home, unsure of whether or not to enter. What could lie within the forest scares me, and both that and the thought of being unable to face that fear holds me still for a moment, teetering on indecisiveness. Standing there for a moment, I think back to all the other times I haven’t been able to enter a forest, and, not wanting to add this time to that list, I take a deep breath, and enter. Unlike the last time, I have an idea of where I am, and I keep track of my progress as I walk deeper into the forest. About a quarter of the way there, about half way, about three quarters, and finally, I reach the spot I turned back at only a week previously. I step past the point and into an unknown area. As I turn the corner, I try to focus on the music in my ipod rather than my own thoughts, and notice that the light is brightening.

“Come on, buddy,” I say to my dog excitedly, stepping up the pace and beginning to jog, rounding the corners of the pathway faster and faster. We pass a bench, and then I see the main path once more. Stepping out into the sunlight, I smile, and tilt my head back to look at the cloudless sky.

“I did it!” I think to myself, and jump into the air, filled with happiness. I tug on my dog’s leash and begin to make my way back home, but this time, I’m not walking away from the fear; instead, I’ve walked straight through it.

As we made our way down to the last part of the trail, and all I can hear is my brother’s name, being called out repeatedly by my family, I take a deep breath, and step down from the last ladder bridge to the main trail. Seeing my brother standing there, grinning at us, nearly made all the weight I’d just had on my shoulders crush me, but instead, I simply stood and stared at him. I heard my dad talking to him from a distance, but really, my mind had become blank. “We made it,” I thought to myself, hardly able to believe what had just happened.

Now, as I walk the forest paths each weekend, I’ve slowly stopped looking through the trees, panicking when people don’t come around for a few minutes, and even bothering to think about bears at all. Instead, I’m able to relax and think about life, and just enjoy walking alone with my dog. I much prefer this way, it’s peaceful and contemplative; it just took a lot of courage to get to this point. Now, I look through the trees, and instead of seeing fear, I see the beauty that lies before me.