Do you ever close your eyes and think about your ‘happy’ place? The place that brings you calm, serenity and peace. The place that lights up your heart and soul from the inside out.
I do, sometimes even twice a day.
It happens when I close my eyes while I’m drink my green juice in the morning, when I meditate, when I’m running, when I’m working on my patience or even when I’m getting an IV put in….
It helps bring me down to that grounding feeling.
Here’s the story of mine.
In 2003, I left the safeness of Ontario and moved across the country to the mountains by myself.
I was 20, I was nervous and I was excited.
I had just up and left my boyfriend of 4 years (sorry Thomas) and I needed a change.
I needed to grow.
I got to Jasper on a sunny, hot saturday night at the end of the month of May.
I’ll always remember this…
In the middle of the staff accom quad, the bus pulled up to over 60 - 20 something yr olds drinking and playing outside. Getting off that bus was one of the most intimidating things I had ever done up until then.
But as soon as I stepped on to the grounds, I saw Jess.
Actually, I should say, I heard Jess.
"Woa, look at her!!" (PG version)
Thanks for that Babe….
As I nestled into the mountains, meeting forever friends and getting comfortable, I met an australian girl named Tiff.
This girl… She changed the game for me. I guess this is why, when I think of my happy place, she’s associated with it.
We were inseparable, she became my best friend, like a sister.
Day after day, I would climb thru her window (I never once went through the front door), we would smoke copious amounts of weed and make a plan on how to take over the world.
And I believe we did.
We took over our world at least.
Shoe Free Fridays? (This idea hurt as much as it sounds).
One morning (it was ungodly early, 6am?) we were going sky diving. Somehow, she convinced me. That was her, somehow, someway, she would make me see the fun in absolutely everything.
My fear and reason wouldn’t ration the idea.
I never questioned or doubted myself with her.
I believed I could conquer anything.
What a beautiful gift to give someone…
Thank fucking the authorities that my silent-sub-conscious prayers got answered and the flight was canceled due to bad weather.
I just don’t do heights…
But we were up and we had snacks packed, so we decided to go for a hike in the woods instead while playing the left and right game.
This is when you take a walk deep into the woods and at any given moment anyone can call Left or Right and you have to obey and change your course…
It was super fun.
We definitely won the game that morning!
Not to far from the lodge, we walked right into a lake and a boat. When you are stoned at 7 am, finding this discovery is pure magic.
We were stoked!
So we thought that getting into this random plastic dingy was a great idea, We made it ten feet out into the lake and the entire thing submerged on us. We were fully clothed. You can imagine how upset we were swimming back to shore realizing we had lost our one hitter.
RIP Tony (because he was the boss).
Ahhh, the great sinking of 2003.
From that day forward, we decided to make it our mission to retrieve it. So we built a fort on the lake.
To pass time.
Our fort, it became our sanctuary.
We had a lounge/bench where we carved our names and our invites names (the invites came much later in the game tho).
We had a dock that led into the water where we would light candles on logs and watch them float on the lake.
And then we had the fort. Ironically, we spent the least amount of time in the later.
Every night, when we were deciding on how to take over the world, we would grab a 40 of Old English (the fort was later named OE) and we would sit with candles, cigarettes and a new one hitter (Tony part 2), talking simplicity.
That was it.
That was the big lesson that I had to learn.
She made things simple for me.
She taught me how to make life simple.
No matter what was going on in real life, I would ask her advice and she would always set it straight for me with just a few phrases.
That was the serenity of the fort.
At the fort, we were always ourselves, we were the raw version of us, the real version of us.
I learnt to let go of all the fear I didn’t even know I was holding in.
Fear about accepting who I was, and who I wasn’t.
We laughed a lot.
For the fist while, it was just the two of us.
Our friends and colleagues would ask us where we would sneak off to for hours at night, but it was top secret.
Her and I, we shared the secret of what mattered that summer.
One day, that all changed. I don’t remember who was the first, but I remember it was by invitation.
What followed suit, were invited guest to come share our secret world - Our simple world.
Months went on like this, we grew, we laughed, we were silly, we were simple.
Thats the way it went.
Days were like groundhog day, but it was one damn good day.
My favourite night that summer, was my surprise birthday party. The fort was busy with my favourite friends and the sun was setting over the mountains. Tiff changed all the words to Tom Petty’s “free falling” and sang me the best birthday song, while our friend Mitch accompanied her on the guitar. She is totally tone deaf.
It was Perfection.
At the end of July, I was working a late shift at the restaurant, and Tiff ran into the hallway crying. It was an awful sight.
There was an emergency and she was moving back to Australia in a few days.
That was hard for me.
I felt like I still needed her.
That night, we decided to climb the highest mountain in Jasper. /div>
the mountain is called Edith Cavell and it stands at 11033ft, we left the next morning.
We were finally, truly, taking over the world.
This is what we’d been training for.
We did it! Fourteen hours later, we were eating poutines on our stoop.
Things changed for me on that mountain.
I truly saw and understood how strong I could be. That no matter what, I could get through absolutely anything.
And I have.
To this day, it is still the best day of my life.
I have that mountain tattoo’d on me and Tiff named her baby boy Cavell.
That’s how much it rocked us..
The best quote of that day was ’ This will do for now, but we have to get back to the fort’ Tiff ‘2003.
Hahaha, she still makes me laugh.
We wrote in the top-of-the-mountain capsule, that we would meet again August 3 2011.
Tiff made it, I didn’t.
Jess died a few days before she was supposed to pick me up for our road trip from Vancouver to Jasper.
It took me awhile to forgive him for ruining that for me.
It was a day that I counted down for 8 years.
I still haven’t seen her since 2003.
It just occurred to me that this piece was set out with an intention on writing about the fort, but it took a turn into describing one of the most influential friendships I have ever had.
Tiff came into my life for a reason.
She holds a huge part of my heart.
Unfortuanetly, life, it gets in the way sometimes… It takes over.
But 11 years later, twice a day and when I need serenity the most, I close my eyes and think of those summer nights at the fort.
And for that moment, I remember what its like to be simply free.