When I got my invitation to The Build Up it was like someone had reached inside of me and turned on a light in what was becoming a very dark space. I was in the midst of the toughest couple of months of my life, feeling emotionally and physically battered. I’m not going to pretend that seeing the email from Gail changed everything, but that tiny spark gave me something to work with.
I lay on my bedroom floor and imagined I was on the way to Banff. I set about my physio exercises with new vigour, I cut sugar from my diet. I forced myself into a freezing cold bath when I woke up. Head under. In this way, The Build Up gave me so much before it had even happened.
A couple of months later and my manifestations, as they often do, became reality. Nikki, Zuzy, and I made the journey across the border into the Rockies. I wasn’t as far along with my recovery as I had hoped; my knees were still tender, squats evaded me, and stairs remained a frustration. A part of me considered bailing out of the week, considering I couldn’t see much digging in my future and I didn’t want to show up without being able to pull my weight, but the opportunity to meet women from all over Canada for this inaugural event was irresistible. My fears about not being well enough were quickly extinguished by Gail’s first words to everyone.
“This is not about performance. This is about showing up and being part of it all,” she told us on our first day at Sunshine Village. “You are here because you deserve to be here. You have nothing to prove.” I quickly learned to pay attention when Gail spoke.
That first day I took a great deal of satisfaction in putting on my snowboard boots for the first time in months: pulling up, securing the strap, tightening the laces. Movements that are second nature. Being on my board was just as wonderful. My physio had counted me out for the season but my knee was feeling okay and I gave into the impulse. I did one lap that week and it tasted so sweet. If there is a better feeling that bombing down a mountain with a riot of like-minded people with the wind on your cheeks, I’d like to know.
We had a planning session that afternoon in which we each envisioned the terrain park that we would soon be building. We then took it in turns to share our ideas. To be honest, it was terrifying. This is what I’d written next to my drawings: I’m scared. I’m scared to speak up, I’m scared to share, in case I’m wrong, in case it’s been done before, in case I’m not good enough. Remembering Gail’s words. You are here for a reason. Time to be vulnerable. Time to let your voice be heard. It was an empowering experience.
I think we put pressure on ourselves that somehow this terrain park was a reflection of the talent of the entire female-identifying population. As if to teach us a lesson, things didn’t go to plan. With the cat down, plans changed, and Springhill Park wasn’t getting built quickly. There was however an underlying sense of peace and confidence, of camaraderie and optimism that it was all going to be fine. Hell, if the park wasn’t full then so be it. We’d put in a couple of good features, and this event was so much bigger than those days spent with tools in our hands.
I had meaningful conversations with every person there and I was inspired by the strength of character in each. Over the week, I felt my self-doubt evaporating. The parts of me that felt undervalued felt seen, the parts that felt unsure grew to confidence. I could let both my light and my shadows be seen and heard. Erin, Monique, Sam, Maggie, Jax, Coralie, Nikki, Lexi, Lucas. You all took my breath away. You are all so different and I am so blessed to have shared this week with you.
Gail gave me a book at the beginning of the week to flick through in my down moments. There was a sentence that I wrote down. “When we meet people who have touched on their divinity, they are so full of peace and simplicity; they radiate such a feeling of love that we thirst to be like them”. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe Gail. It takes a certain amount of courage to have a dream and see it come to life. Gail, you brave soul. Thank you doesn’t feel like enough.
The park turned out incredible, in the end. Lucas was unstoppable once the cat got moving and the crew was powered by unrelenting enthusiasm. The morning of opening the park to the public, the excitement among our group was electric. Everyone was amped to finally do some laps in this playground born from our own hearts and hands.
This was the hardest morning for me. I was devastated to not be bringing my board up and riding. When I got to Sunshine, I got a sled ride from John, the Terrain Park Manager, up to Springhill Park. Let me tell you this, John rips on a sled. I think I laughed out loud as we boosted up the mountain, the early morning sun and fresh air whipping at my skin. That burst of energy gave me the strength to realise that the quality of my consciousness was unrelated to my experience that day. I could have as good of a day on my board or off, injured or not. And though I could acknowledge that I was sad to not be able to dig or ride, I had been surrounded by strong and powerful people all week, and it finally sunk in that I was one of them. I was going to be okay.
And when we opened the park to the public, the reaction was exceptional. I would know, I sat up there in my green lawn chair as we dropped the gates and people descended upon our creation. It’s safe to say that Springhill Park never looked so good.