Take the people you love to the places you love
Every summer I come back home to Saskatchewan from university in New Brunswick and stay with my parents. I always work a full-time summer job, and my parents spend most weekends at our cabin. So, despite living in the same house, we always end the summer feeling as though we didn’t spend enough time together.
It’s the same way with my roommates and me during the school year. Even though we live together, our schedules are so packed and different that we’re lucky if we find the time to eat one meal together in a week. Even when we do spend time together, we are distracted and rushed and rant about what’s stressing us out instead of really connecting. Most people I know struggle with finding a balance in the same way. It’s hard to find meaningful time to spend with the people you love. Life always seems to get in the way.
As the end of summer started looming this year, I looked around and realized that I would be leaving home soon, and that familiar feeling returned: I didn’t spend enough time with my parents. I started missing them before I had even gone. Whether it was passing each other in doorways or trading surface-level concerns at the kitchen counter, all those little fragments of time never seem to add up to the right amount.
I grew up hearing stories about how my parents used to take my older siblings down to Big Muddy (the badlands that are less than an hour west from the Nature Conservancy of Canada's [NCC's] new Hole in the Wall property) for day trips all the time, but by the time I was born, they had stopped going. Life got in the way.
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I was working as the communications intern for NCC's Saskatchewan Region this summer, and when the opportunity came to bring my parents out to an NCC Conservation Volunteers event with me, I knew this was my chance to spend some real time with them.
The event took place on a Monday in July. My parents and I woke up at 6 a.m. and packed ourselves into our car to drive two hours out of town to NCC’s Hole in the Wall property in south Saskatchewan, near the Montana border, and out of range of cell phone service and city obligations.
I assumed that whoever wasn’t driving would want to be sleeping, but we ended up spending the whole drive talking. I played them music I thought they would like, and we had the kind of unhurried conversations you have when you can all just be present in one place together with no Wi-Fi or other places to be.
That day was maybe my favourite all summer. We got to the property and there were almost 30 other people there with smiles on their faces before 9 a.m., ready to walk our new property and record the species they found as part of its inaugural bioblitz. The property itself is beautiful, with rolling hills as far as the eye can see and the badlands hazy in the distance.
As we spent the rest of the day walking around the property together, talking about spiders, endangered birds and life, I thought to myself that there’s no better place to spend time with your loved ones than in nature. An hour walking around a natural area with no distractions is worth 10 hurried conversations over breakfast. It’s so much easier to slow down and connect to the people around you when you’re unplugged from everything else.
In my daily life, I can’t walk five minutes across my university campus without putting my headphones in to cut the silence. That day I could have walked through the prairie beside my mom and dad for hours without having to say a thing. Just experiencing the same thing at the same time with no distractions was enough.
When we left Hole in the Wall that afternoon, we decided at the last minute to drive farther away from the city instead of back toward it. We drove west until we saw the buttes (isolated hills or mountains with steep sides) of Big Muddy. They finally took me to the badlands.
The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Summer Work Experience program.