Commentary – Your environment can help you thrive

Pearl Lorentzen

Since moving to Slave Lake, I’ve taken up birding. It complements my love of nature, which I find essential for my mental health.
The other day, I took my first photo of a Canada warbler. I was on the trail between the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation and Lesser Slave Lake. I showed the photo to a birder at the centre. She said these warblers are threatened and people come from far away hoping to catch a glimpse of them.
I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful place!
Anything can impact your mental health, and geography is no different. I know that walking in nature helps me thrive emotionally. Therefore, when I move, I look for green spaces. I need space to clear my head and things to look at that are not man-made.
I love to see plants, animals, and bugs. Growing up on the Prairies, the sky is important in natural spaces. In North Vancouver, I had two options of a place to rent. The one was surrounded by concrete and dismal lawns. The other had a lush garden. It was an easy walking distance from a small park right on the Burrard Inlet, so I could see the sky over the water. In the other direction, a longer walk took me to a harbour and a park, with trails through a cedar coastal forest.
Although it was 40 below and windy when I first came to Slave Lake, the sun was shining. On the drive, I saw snow-covered fields and forest and a few glimpses of the lake. The natural beauty was part of why I decided I could live here.
Slave Lake has a lot to offer nature lovers. For most of my nature fix, I go into my backyard or for a walk on Allarie Trails. I walk on them on my way to work and for fun. Occasionally, I cycle along these trails to Devonshire Beach on Lesser Slave Sake. The Allarie Trails cross Sawridge Creek in several places. There’s two foot bridges I cross often, two along roadways which I use less often, and another one that looks like it is going to some ancient gold mine which I cross from time to
time.
Outside of town, there are some hiking trails. I haven’t been on the northshore trail by Marten Beach yet, but I enjoy other parts of the TransCanada Trail [Great Trail] in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park. The park also has the Boreal Centre, Songbird Trail, and Lily Lake Trail. I like the cross-country ski trails at Nine Mile Recreation Area, by Widewater.
Lesser Slave Lake is also a draw with beaches at Canyon Creek, Devonshire Beach, Northshore Day Use area, and access at both the Boreal Centre and Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory.
Over the years, my geography has impacted the exact form of my nature fix, but it has always been an important part of my mental health.
When I was in the Middle East for a summer, green spaces were rather brown, but there were pines, grapevines, and the desert itself is beautiful.
In London, I lived on a university campus which had the River Pim flowing through it, a canal, and a lake nearby. The river was a creek at best, closer to a trickle. The lake was a pond or a slough.
However, like all healthy wetlands, the pond supported a profusion of life. It supported waterfowl from swans to crazy-looking Egyptian geese.
Take a moment to think about what you need to thrive and pursue it!

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