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There Are No Mirrors in the Mountains

Some of my greatest inspirations for the songs that I write come from the natural world around me. So much so that nearly all the tunes on my upcoming album contain at least some kind of natural imagery at some point. I write songs about nature so often that it's now become a running joke among my classmates that it's impossible for me to write a song without referencing the Earth in some regard.

This past week was reading week at my school and because I live in such a small town, I wanted to get out for a while so I decided to take a couple of day-trips. I went on two adventures this week and they were two very different adventures for very different reasons. For the first trip, my good friend was in need of some new shoes so we drove about an hour to the nearest mall. I never use to have problems with shopping malls, I actually use to love trips to the mall and was an avid shopper but lately shopping hasn't filled me with the same kind of excitement as it once had and it hasn't been until recently that I've discovered why. In my experience, every mall I've ever entered is filled with people who are dressed in nicer clothes than I am, both on the manikins displayed in every window of every store as well as on the people working in those stores (and sometimes they're not even clothing stores). I always feel the need to dress up a bit whenever I know I'm going to a mall because I feel like there's always going to be better looking people than me and I want to portray myself as someone who is 'hip' and 'in with the now' as the kids are saying these days. In addition to finely dressed people, malls are also filled with mirrors which act as constant reminders that what I'm wearing is never as pristine as what the clothing companies are trying to sell me. Mirrors not only boarder the walls inside the shops, they also often line the walls of the halls in between them. Needless to say, whenever I enter a shopping mall, I end up spending far longer thinking about myself than I ever should. "I could really use another pair of jeans" (I really couldn't) "I'm not dressed as hip as those people" "If I bought this sweater, I'd be happy and I'd be super trendy" Now, for the most part malls are not evil in any way; my first road trip was actually really nice! I spent the day with good friends and got to meet new people and in my opinion, that's a win... but my second road trip filled my soul to the brim and left me with lasting joy..

For my second winter-break adventure, I went hiking in the beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains up by Banff, Alberta. It was a day filled with magnificent mountains, plentiful trees, and stunning lakes. Growing up in the Prairies, I never really saw much of the mountains and when we did take trips up there, it was always too foggy to really see them, so I spent much of the trip in awe of the "majestical" beauty that stood in front of me. Because I had spent a lot of time wandering through the mall earlier in the week, I wanted my time spent in nature to be less "people-y", but I unknowingly chose a fairly popular trail to hike and in the end I'm glad I did. Though small groups of people met us from time to time and many of them had some pretty nice gear, unlike my experience in the mall, I never found myself comparing myself to others while on the hike because it's hard to compare yourself to anything when you're surrounded by such beauty. Another reason I discovered why I love the trails so much is that every person or group of people we met were on the journey with us. It didn't matter that we traveled there in different vehicles or that we'd never met before that moment; everyone on the journey was in it together- especially in the winter time when half the trail was pure ice. Through the journey we became quite closely acquainted with the people we traveled with; we helped each other up when we fell, we stood so close our noses touched in a tiny cavern to see the frozen water falls, we trusted each other with our phones and cameras to take goofy group pictures of one another. Never once did I feel less than my new companions I had met along the trail and maybe that's because unlike a mall, full of good looking people, mirrors, and free wifi, the narrow trail forced me to be close to the people surrounding me and I came to realize that when you get to know people, even if they do have nicer hiking gear, they're really no different than I. Like me, they were drawn toward the natural beauty around them and because of that we were kindred spirits.

When I walked down the wide, easy, indoor pathway, everything I saw reminded me of everything I lack but when I walked down the frigid, icy,

narrow pathway, I was reminded of everything I have. My adventure to Banff this past week made me more mindful of the gift that creation really is, more grateful for the people I've been given to walk along-side me in this journey called life, and more focused on being fully present in the moment than on my outward appearance because there are no mirrors in the mountains, there's only a reflection of the one who created them and who can compare with that?

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