Lately, with the increasing awareness and growing positive movements around water protection such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and The Grand River Enbridge case, I have been thinking a lot about my relationship with the river that did much to save my life. I want to share a bit of that story with you.
I moved to Kitchener when I was 13 years old. I had dropped out of high school due to my inability to function within its confines and previous experiences of severe bullying. Reading back on journal entries from the time, I frankly had lost interest in being alive. It wasn’t appealing to me at all. I had resolved that people were not kind and lacked independence of thought. I was a self-declared, misanthropic loner. Kitchener seemed like a fresh start and it was. Though I was confidant I wouldn’t return to high school, I did sign up for a few Toronto District School Board online courses to make it look like I was, well, “doing something”.
What I did do was spend most of my hours in our new townhouse learning to play guitar, writing and exploring my new neighborhood. We lived in what was considered a low- income neighborhood and yet I fell in love immediately. It still is, to me, one of the most beautiful landscapes in Kitchener-Waterloo.
There were so many trees everywhere. One day I followed them onto a trail and on that trail I stumbled upon a beautiful river. I stopped in my tracks and felt an intense and overwhelming sense of peace sweep over my entire being. I felt as though I was home. Day after day, I would return to the river. I scarcely saw anyone on the trail, or by the river, so having adopted a taste for solitude; I would spend my days alone by its side. Sometimes I would just sit for hours, looking at and feeling spoken to by the trees. Sometimes I would pull out my notebook and feel overcome with truly other wordly inspired passages of thoughts, lyrics and poetry. Mostly, though, I felt as though it didn’t really matter whether I fit into highs school or society. I understood the river and the river understood me. It made me feel small and boundless all at once.
This was my wonderful life for about a year and a half; until I decided to give high school another shot and, to my surprise, eventually graduated.
When I had moved back from Toronto after attempting and dropping out of College, followed by a period of confusion and depression, the river was my sanctuary.
When I had moved back from Los Angeles after a whirlwind of a major label record deal and a real loss of interest in continuing in the industry, the river restored my soul.
Time after time, I come back to the river and time after time, the river teaches,
heals and speaks to me. I bring friends to the trails and the river to experience its magic. Its beauty always amazes them and one remark I hear quite often is “wow…I didn’t even know this was here”.
Many people live near water without acknowledging it. Even though it feeds every cell in their body. Even though every single drop of water in this world is connected. The oceans connect the lakes, connect the rivers, connect the streams, evaporate into clouds which travel on and on, dancing around this beautiful planet.
“People don’t even understand that every bit of our food was once alive. We take another creature, plant, animal, microorganism, tear it apart in our mouths. And incorporate those molecules into our own bodies. We are the Earth in the most profound way. ” – David Suzuki
The same applies to water. Seeing it as a life force isn’t just a spiritual quality of organically empathic people around the world; it’s science. It’s real.
November 30th is a big date. My good friend Myeengun Henry goes to The Supreme Court of Canada to fight for Indigenous treaty rights and ultimately, to protect the very river I just told you about. The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Grand River Enbridge case are big cases, but there are people trying to relay the messages of the earth on every square inch of it. Listen to your community’s elders, Indigenous and environmental advocates.
My new music video, “Changing The World” was shot on one of the trails beside The Grand River. You can watch my video right here:
∼ Written by Alysha Brilla