Queen of Trees
By Sheena Moore
Growing up in a small town in northern Alberta, I was always surrounded by forests. My town is completely enveloped by hills, valleys, trees and rivers. I knew every trail and every path, even when no path could be seen through the thick foliage and underbrush. I spent my childhood camping, fishing, exploring. My dad took me out on his quad when I was only 2 years old. For me, nature wasn't just a backdrop. It was my entire life.
So when I chose to attend Grant MacEwan after high school, my excitement was mixed with a twinge of apprehension. At 8 years old I had declared myself Queen of the Trees, and here I was about to go start a life in the city. I tried to convince myself that I wouldn't miss the forest; I failed. I tried to believe that nature was overrated; I failed again. So when September rolled around, I took one last look at my small little town before it disappeared into its valley and said, “Well then, that's the last of it.” Buildings and skyscrapers would become my new forest.
But nothing prepared me for the real Edmonton. Not the West Edmonton Mall, or the Telus World of Science, or the Rexall Place that everyone brags about. It was the trees, intertwined with the steel and concrete of a bustling city. Even at its downtown core, the spirit of the Northern forest still existed. I could walk along Jasper Avenue one minute — loud and active and crowded — and with just one left turn, shelter myself in my forest once more. Just one detour, not even five minutes out of my way, and I could steal a moment to look out at the Edmonton river valley.
This summer was the first time I stayed in the city between school years instead of going home. I was driving around with a friend one night when I found myself turning off 142 Street to a quiet residential area. "Let's go for a walk," I suggested — never mind if it's 1 AM.
I was wearing sequined black shoes and a silk shirt, but I didn't care. I found the staircase that led into the river valley, and in my city clothes and makeup, I walked for 2 hours through the wet grass and dirt. Finally, in the nature that still dominates Edmonton, I was completely at home. The moon shone down on the tree-lined riverbed, and suddenly, we were alone in the world. The city didn't exist anymore; the people didn't exist anymore. In the heart of Edmonton, I forgot what it meant to be human.