When a tree falls and no one is around, does it make a sound? This question isn’t new to us. We have all pondered this question. So, does it? Of course, it does, just no one is around to hear it. We are all making sound and sometimes people choose to ignore it, sometimes it is drowned out by other noise, and sometimes it is loud and clear. The tree doesn’t have the choice on where it is going to grow, but we do as humans. We can decide and we can ask others to listen.

The other day I was contemplating whether to speak up on the amount of mining in and around Crowsnest Pass or whether to be silent. The amount of proposed mines irked me so much that I was losing sleep. It was changing the way that I presented myself to the world. I was irritated, anxious and annoyed. A good friend picked up on this and asked me what was wrong.

When a tree falls and no one is around, does it make a sound?

I even hesitated in this moment, “Do I want to tell her?” Opening up that conversation made me feel vulnerable as mining is a controversial topic in Crowsnest Pass. Some people see mining as the only way to fix economic problems. I see it as one option out of many, and see mining as an easy, short-term option. The best things in life for me, have been the things that I’ve worked hard for and I did not hit the easy button. The best things take time, patience and hard-work.  

I decided to be vulnerable and I told her what was on my mind. I’ve been listening this past summer about stories and speculation of mining companies in the area. Seeing mine companies slap their company name on a building to announce their arrival, even though some have been around, but just decided to stay quiet. I told her about the letter I received in the mail about a drilling program in a high-use recreational area. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with this information.

She told me that I needed to make a decision on what to do. But it was what she said afterwards that really affected me. She told me that she doesn’t think that as an individual, that she can make a difference in this world. This broke my heart for two reasons. First, she didn’t believe in herself. Second, that she doesn’t realize that she already makes a difference in this world, just by being her awesome self.

Initially, I told myself that she was right. What difference can I make anyways? I have so much work to do, I can’t be sitting around trying to make a difference. I need to work on my website, design programs, study for exams, build my social media for the week, email upcoming guests, get my newsletter out, work on the film fest, do my books, organize my winter and summer programming, create my booking platform, and the list goes on and on. I don’t have time to take on another big thing, besides what difference can I make?

There is so much going on, how can I make a difference? We don’t do it alone.

I’ve never been the kind of person to back down from a challenge because of the amount of work that goes into something. I actually love to work and be busy. I love to inspire, create culture and build community. Workloads have never stopped me. Maybe it is my childhood and growing up on a farm; there was always something to do, even on a rainy day. I stopped being intimidated by a challenge. Maybe this is because I’ve been through so many traumatic events and I’ve had to work hard to overcome what seemed like impossible mental obstacles. These events have shaped me to be someone that sees beyond a challenge and beyond what is staring me in the face.

My friend inspired me to take the next step and speak up, to be vulnerable beyond concrete walls. I wanted to show her that one person can create change. While not everyone will have the same opinion as me, I know that many will and I’m just the one speaking up. I’ve often taken on supervisor or leadership roles and being a good leader is never about being one person, that person is just the leader and showcasing the talent that exists in the group. That is all I am doing. I am speaking up for outdoor recreation and our environment is connected to these activities and to the place that we love. To be honest, there are several people in this community that are already impactful, smart, and passionate. I see myself as someone that can speak up for them or as someone that will showcase them to the rest of the world. That is how I, as one person, can make a difference. I make a difference by working with others.

So, I did something that I was scared to do because I felt vulnerable. I spoke my truth. I speak from the heart though. I speak from my education in business, environmental sciences, and professional guiding. I speak from my experience in government both federally and provincially, environmental consulting, marketing, tourism, customer service, and guiding. I speak from my past experiences being someone who has used nature to heal from traumatic events and seen the power of what one tree can do to make you feel connected, engaged, and loved. I speak from a place that is much deeper than a bank account statement or a pin on a map. I speak with integrity because this is who I am and what I believe in. I speak for the future and what I have witnessed with my own eyes from years of guiding and tourguiding in several mountain communities, and travelling the world. I speak my truth.

I don’t think that anyone can argue that I have fallen in love with Crowsnest Pass. This is my home and not just because of the people, but because of the place. When I speak these things, I feel these things. I feel the connection, the joy and hurt, and the pride in this community. I feel the worry that people have because they want to see Crowsnest Pass be a successful place for their family to grow and prosper. I see it, I feel it, and I speak it.

My friend taught me a lesson that day when she said that she doesn’t feel like she can make a difference. She taught me that we can. One person doesn’t do it on their own. They create a community. One person can create this and together they create change. I decided that it was worth it for me to be vulnerable because I wanted to show her that not only can I make a difference, but she can too. We all can.

Nature teaches us more than we give it credit for.

This last week, I was taking courses in Canmore for my continuing professional development hours with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. I see how tourism has shaped so many other mountain communities and in a positive way. I notice that people are starting to change their opinion of Crowsnest Pass from, “Where is that?” to, “I’ve heard how beautiful it is there.” This is amazing progress in a short period of a couple of years. It takes time to create change and just when it is happening, we are faced with the reality of it deteriorating because of familiarity or instant (but short-term) industry. I told someone about the potential for mining companies and I could instantly see that she changed her mind about visiting and investing in the area, which she confirmed by saying that she was considering to buy in Crowsnest Pass, but not if a mine is going in.

To create efficiencies in my travel to Canmore, I decided to write an exam while I was there to become a Professional Interpretive Guide for all mountain National Parks. Professional Interpreters are known as experts in the Parks, and experts at communicating and connecting people with nature, culture, and history. I already wrote the exam for Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay. However, Waterton has its own exam because of how different Waterton is from the rest of the National Parks. I’ve been studying the Waterton history, geology, flora, fauna, etc for a while now and I finally wrote the exam (and passed, yay!). I can’t help but recognize the similarities of why Waterton is unique and how Crowsnest Pass and Castle Parks share these special characteristics. So much, that when Fredrick Godsal wrote his letter in 1893 to the government, he asked for “The Crows Nest Pass and Waterton Lakes” to be protected.

Over a century later, we still recognize this area as being special, but it doesn’t have that same category attached to it because it is not listed as a National Park. Our landscape does not have a boundary, we as people have put the boundaries on it. The geology, the flora, the fauna…. these things are things that are shared regardless of a titled boundary.

After my exam, I decided to spend some time in Banff. Truthfully, I don’t spend much time here because I prefer the less busy places. I know so much about the area through my training though and I want to spend some time in these areas. I’ve been wanting to hike the Fenland Trail for some time now. It’s a short hike, just outside town. As I meandered through the trail, paralleling a small river I dove into my thoughts and enjoyed being surrounded by nature. Banff just had a snowfall and the sun was shining. The snow is glimmering in the sun and as the snow heats up, it falls off the trees. I looked behind me as I heard the sound of a patch of snow as it fell to hit the next branches, collecting more snow and together falling to their destination. I couldn’t help but link this event to what I’ve experienced in the last week. Building community isn’t about doing it alone, it’s about being vulnerable even when it’s hot, finding others to join you, and taking a chance to fall to get to your destination. Doing this collectively creates even more sound.

I walk by a tree that fell into the creek, likely several years ago. One tree changed the course of the river and eroded the bank slowly. One tree made a difference and showed the water to take a different path. This took time and holding its place in the flowing waters. If the tree moved and floated downstream, it would not have had the same noticeable impact. The tree changes so many things like the microhabitat, the sediment that eroded away will then settle in a new location downstream, the tree now provides habitat to fish, and the list goes on. One tree, my dear friend, one tree made a difference.

One tree making a noticeable difference.

I finished this hike feeling empowered and uplifted. I felt calm, a feeling I often get when meandering through a forest and creating a connection so deep that it changes the way I think. About to cross over the bridge, right before the new Banff sign, I look up and am quickly reminded that I’m in nature. Face to face with a big grizzly bear walking towards me about 50m away. I don’t want to be on this bridge when we get closer, so I backup and offer space. I am reminded that I need to give room for some of nature’s most glorious things and remind myself that it is not my home… it is theirs.

I finish this walk, this story, pondering about a tree falling in a forest and when no one is around, we don’t hear it. If we want to make a sound, we have the choice to be around others or to be on our own. Although making a difference does not come by soloing it; making a difference comes from being vulnerable, taking a chance to fall to connect with others and finding a destination together. Whatever you decide to do or whatever opinion you have, it is your choice and up to you to decide what to do to with it. Just like one tree can change the course of a river, one person can change the course of their future. Unlike trees, we get to decide where we want to grow and who listens. You can make a difference.

I write this with admiration for the people that surround me and am grateful for those that inspire me, cheer for me and my business, and share their time with me. I am passionate about the outdoors and decided several years ago to dedicate my time to be outside, connect others with our planet and to discover our nature around us.

6 Comments

  • Lana Ross,

    The depth of your love for this community is shining brightly Heather. You and Uplift Adventures WILL make a difference. Thank you for writing this with all the passion and wisdom that you gather as you walk amongst the trees.

    • Uplift_Admin,

      Awe, thank you so much Lana. Together we create change.

  • Karey,

    Well written Heather! I always listen to the trees.

    • Uplift_Admin,

      Thanks Karey! There is a lot around us that we can learn from, we just need to stop and listen.

  • Shannon,

    Great piece Heather!

    • Uplift_Admin,

      Thank you, Shannon 🙂

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