Reclaiming My Love For Nature
My name is Aicha, I am a biracial Canadian Muslim woman. I considered myself blessed growing up because my parents were both nature lovers. My father is originally from Morocco and told me stories of swimming in a lake with his horse, or about the time my grandfather had to fend off wolves lurking around his campfire. My French Canadian mother grew up in the countryside and passed down to me her love for birds. We would often observe them in our yard and try to find their names in the encyclopedia together.
As a kid, I referred to myself as “Nature Girl”. I was lucky to have a lush backyard and lived in the suburbs where forests and farms were not too far off. I loved going out there as often as my parents would let me.
Sadly, my parents divorced in my early teens and we moved to a small apartment in the city, far from forest and farms. My exposure to nature diminished drastically, and I let people in my new environment convince me that being passionate about nature was a “nerdy” thing.
Other things became more important, like finding a job and finding a man. I still enjoyed casual walks by the river but it was nothing like the exposure to forests I had as a child.
While I may not have been as exposed to Nature at that time, I was beginning to explore my faith and identity as a biracial woman in Canada. During early adulthood, I found myself gradually leaving behind the conservative views I had been raised with and started reclaiming my own spirituality.
At the same time, I found myself questioning my place in Canada as a brown woman. I wore hijab (the Islamic headscarf) from a young age and was often a target of slurs and insults from passersby.
Would I ever truly belong or be accepted in this country? Are my faith and culture truly compatible with Western norms? These questions raced through my mind on a regular basis and contributed to an identity crisis.
It wasn’t until recently that things took a turn. In 2015, I moved to Alberta with my husband and our two boys. We now live in proximity to the Rocky Mountains. I’ll never forget my first time looking upon the face of giants. I felt so tiny and insignificant, in the best way possible.
I fell in love with the mountains instantly and felt like I had regained a lost piece of my identity.
Out here in the forest, everything made sense. I felt the presence of God in such a raw way that I hadn’t in a long time. I also felt the most Canadian that I’d ever felt in my life.
I realized that what makes this country great is the land that ties us all together. Out here, we are all just people. This land was created for everyone and none of us has a greater claim to it based on our faith, skin colour or political affiliations.
My mission now is to pass down my love of nature to my two boys. We take them hiking in the mountains as often as we can. If we can’t make the trip, we try to at least bring them out on nature walks within the city on a regular basis.
I firmly believe that being in touch with Nature is one of the most grounding experiences a person can have. I hope to inspire my children but also anyone and everyone to get out there and find themselves. After all, Nature is where we come from and were we’ll be in the end.