Last week, I was driving home from work. I was tired, as I always am, but the rain had stopped and my commute that day took me through Pacific Spirit Park, a dewy green emerald slice of west coast rainforest.
On a whim, I pulled over and headed into the woods. The smell of mud and rain and wintering ferns pulled me in. Everything glistened. People ran past me with their dogs. Trees tapered stories above me into skyward-facing pinpoints. I swear the air in that place has more oxygen than other air. It goes cold into your lungs and passes out through your skin in vapours, taking molecules of trouble and worry with it.
I’ve been redefining what getting outside looks like for me right now, and it turns out I can still get some of the best parts of it.
I walked for about 15 minutes that day, and I spent every minute being grateful. That I have this place to disappear in so close to home. That I can get out of bed and leave my house. That I can work and leave work and go for a walk in the woods without having to worry about poverty or abuse or addiction. That I still have the luxury of believing things will get better.
Lots of people don’t have these things.
I wanted to make this post about love on Valentine’s Day this year: I think gratitude seldom travels without generosity – of time, of resources, of spirit – and both are expressions of love.
Why not give back? I wanted to highlight a few local Vancouver organizations that I think are worthy of your time, your expertise or your money. They get people outside who might not otherwise get there, and give them experiences like the ones we all get to have on the reg: humanizing, uplifting, life-giving.
Consider giving, to one of these organizations or to another of your choosing, to spread the love this week.
This organization brings women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on outdoor trips. They work with women who are facing what they call “multiple intersecting vulnerabilities”, organizing group trips that allow them to experience the transformative power of nature.
I saw the founder speak at an Arcteryx women’s event that I went to and she is doing very good work.
Forest and the Femme accepts donations online, and donations in kind, and relies on the efforts of volunteers.
Remember that time I wrote about Rich So and how awesome he is? Another thing that makes him awesome is that he volunteers with VASS every winter, helping people who require adaptations to get out on the slopes.
VASS volunteers run ski, snowboard and sit ski lessons, as well as working on the back end with marketing, fundraising and more.
Visit their website to check out the volunteering options or to make a donation.
I did my teaching practicum at the Take a Hike program, where Tim, the organization’s founder, was the head instructor. The teachers, youth and family workers and counselors all work tirelessly with the at-risk youth who join the program, teaching them the full curriculum, taking them on weekly excursions, and on several multi-day wilderness trips throughout the year.
I still bump into some of the students I had there, and they all seem to be working hard at achieving their dreams and goals.
The foundation accepts donations and offers many ways to volunteer. They also have several fundraising events throughout the year that are a lot of fun.
Do you know of a great organization that’s doing good work and getting people outside? Give them a shout out in the comments!