When asked to make a visual of our favourite outdoor spot I immediately knew what I was going to do. I created a bench from popsicle sticks to represent my grandparents’ memorial bench at Waskesiu Lake in Prince Albert National Park, along with a picture of me sitting on the bench.
Years ago, my grandparents owned a boat business at Waskesiu Lake called Brayford Boats. Their memorial bench overlooks the site of where Brayford Boats was located. My grandpa spent many summer hours taking people on guided scenic tours of Waskesiu and surrounding lakes (day trips and overnight), showing them the beauty of the National Park. His favourite trips were the guided fishing tours as he was an avid fisherman himself who spent hours on the lake. He actively portrayed his love for the outdoors while unconsciously showing this to others as a, “’subversive science’ for its power to cause us to reconsider the place of humans in the natural world” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 218). After their children reached school age, my grandparents sold the boat business but continued to spend every summer at the lake until their deaths. In total, my grandfather spent 67 consecutive summers in this special place, connecting with the outside environment daily and truly living the quote, “the land is the real teacher” (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 222). My grandparents were a huge part of my life. Each summer we would go and visit them and other family members with cabins there as well. I, myself, have spent time visiting and vacationing in the park over 22 summers, only missing two summers in my entire life.
The plaque on their memorial bench reads:
Mel and Sheila Brayford
Looking at the view of “Brayford Boats” at the main docks circa 1950
I included a photo of me sitting on their memorial bench as I am the fourth generation of Brayfords to enjoy the park. For us, it is a symbol of how deeply my grandparents were loved and that they will never be forgotten. Not only does this bench represent my grandparents’ deep connection to this special place, but also allows me to feel connected with nature just by sitting on the bench surrounded by the beauty of the National Park. I spend time looking out onto the former site of the boat business and imagine what it was like when it was a part of our family. In those moments I feel and understand harmony” in a way I had never before or have been taught in the classroom (Kimmerer, 2013, p. 222). I feel at peace with nature and with the memories of my grandparents. Waskesiu as a whole makes me feel connected to my grandparents as I have so many fond memories of times spent with them there. I experience a sense of peace and calmness that I have never felt before. In those moments, I am at harmony with myself and with the natural environment. This peacefulness allows me to reflect on the memories of the past without sadness. I remember how much they loved me and imagine how proud they would be to see what I have accomplished and what more I will still accomplish. As Kimmerer says, “my job was just to lead them into the presence and ready them to hear” (2013, p. 222). My grandparents were my leaders. They taught me to love, respect and appreciate the beauty of nature over many long, summer days. Simply sitting on “their” bench today, transports me back to those memories and lessons, and allows me to once again feel and hear the messages of nature surrounding me.
Kimmerer, R. W. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.