Six months ago, I attended an environmental leadership camp that changed the course of my life.
Through Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound, I connected with a community of people whose hearts spoke to mine: people who love the outdoors, are passionate about Howe Sound and want to make a difference. Together, we were guided through beautiful experiences, enriching workshops and meaningful challenges.
When we arrived, we were honoured by the Squamish First Nation with welcome songs and dances, and later, with stories. It was a heartfelt welcome that set the stage for what can only be described as a magical week.
As a mother, I came to Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound with some trepidation. It was the first time I would be away from my youngest child, and I wondered how we would both fare. What I found was that I carried my motherhood with me, and simultaneously forged my own sense of self.
I found inner strength, and challenged myself in a great many ways: stand-up paddle-boarding, dock jumping, spending a night alone under the stars.
I had quiet moments — far more than I had experienced in years — where I could simply be. I took a few photos, I wrote a few things, but mostly, I just took it all in. I gave myself freedom to feel and live into the experience. I danced like I hadn't danced in years.
Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound was the culmination of many of my long-held dreams. I spent a week in Howe Sound, a place that holds great significance to me. A place that I hope to one day call home. But, in the end, it wasn't the fulfillment of that dream that mattered; it was finding my identity and my community.
I came home from Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound knowing that I was — that I am — an environmental leader. My passion for this planet informs my life, and that knowledge has already taken me on a deeper and more intimate journey than I had ever imagined.
That week, the Squamish people shared with me a fresh perspective, one that hit me with deep conviction. Howe Sound, this place that I cherish, is not mine. Nor really is it theirs. It belongs to the future generations. It belongs to our children.
Everything I experienced — from community-building to ethnobotany to shoreline exploration — I longed to share with my kids. The lessons I was learning spoke to me as a mother, and I knew I wanted to impart that wisdom to my three young children.
This summer, 150 children will have the opportunity to attend Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound. They will get to experience the sacredness of Howe Sound, the wonder of the natural world and the ecosystem in their own backyard.
I don't fully know what will come for them as a result of the experience, but I am grateful that they will have the chance to find out.
I only hope that mine will be among them. Will yours?
About Kelly Woods
Kelly Woods (BA, MLIS), is a mother, librarian, educator and art studio owner. She is passionate about green living and nature education, and loves sharing the gift of creativity with others. She currently lives on Gambier Island with her family, and writes about their journey at seaandforest.com. She is also a past participant of Camp Suzuki: Howe Sound, and counts it among the best experiences of her life.