[Report written in November 2003 by Jared Robson, Richmond, VA, Robson420@aol.com, a Current student at Kiatou]
Stepping off the plane in Ottawa, I had really no idea what to expect. Going through Customs was a hassle; the questions they asked me were inane. Now I understand why they were a little hesitant to let me in - I had no idea how long I would be, could not really decide whether it was business or personal, and I did not know where I was exactly going. Although, that last part seemed to be my main problem for the past four years. I was born in Richmond, Virginia, but had traveled all over the country, trying to find myself. All I found were parties and trouble.
Hitting a wall at 100 kilometres an hour is horrible. Hitting it going 25, then backing up and hitting it again and again and again is much worse. This wall does not necessarily have to be a physical wall; it can be an emotional or mental wall as well. Getting fed up and tired of your situation, not having any goals, or just not caring about the world around you; these are things that can make you hit a wall. Most people do not see the wall coming. This is a blessing, for you have no time to think about it; it just happens. However, when you can see it coming, and there is nothing you can do about it, that’s truly painful.
Finally, after running from legal troubles in California, my father told me about Kiatou, a wilderness therapy program in Canada. Since I had no direction or purpose, it seemed like a good idea, and I went. I thought that it would be a nice break from my running, and even help to give me some direction.
At that point, I envisioned my wall as a twenty-meter high, one meter thick, steel reinforced concrete structure a kilometre long, with no real way to go around it. I thought that if I hit my head against it long enough, it would break.
When I got to the house at Kiatou, I was amazed. There were forests and a lake, and I felt completely isolated. When I woke in the morning, I heard birds sing and saw the last of the geese head south for warmer climates. The peace was overwhelming, and I felt a little nervous about it. After all, I am mostly a city boy, and even though I lived near woods, I had never really spent long periods of time in them.
I began to see that my wall was stronger than I thought; all I was accomplishing was giving myself a monster of a headache. It was this wall that was blocking all of my progress, and unless I broke through, I would be stuck where I was for a very long time.
We went canoeing and stayed in a small log house in the middle of nowhere, twelve kilometres from the nearest phone. I saw a beaver swimming across a huge lake with a branch in his mouth, bound for his lodge, a last minute preparation for the oncoming winter. I saw a waterfall that had carved its way through rocks over the course of eons, and my problems seemed very small and temporary. The peace of the place was very profound, and when trying to call it back to me in civilization, I found I was unable. I think that is the magic of the forest. After all, some forces just can’t be bottled, or packaged, or contained, and that is what makes the magic so special, so rare, and so important.
I began to realize I was tired of fighting my wall. All I wanted to do was lie down at the base of it and take a very long nap. That way, I wouldn’t have to deal with it, and I could make believe that the wall is not there. Does this mean that the wall is gone? No. All it means is that I have given up trying. I saw that I could not allow myself to do this.
Being a city boy, we never really used fire as a source of heat. We always used central heat, or some other modern day convenience. If there happened to be a fireplace in a home, more often than not, it was a gas one with faux logs that turned on with a flick of a switch. When there was a real honest-to-God fireplace, people bought small quantities of pre-split wood, or used the fake particle logs that you buy in Wal-Mart. I can only remember three or four occasions when anyone in my neighbourhood used an axe to split wood for the fire.
Naturally, it was a surprise for me when I first got here and I was asked to split wood. Having never done that, I was slightly nervous about how to proceed. The first few swings were clumsy and awkward. However, the rhythm soon came and I found myself actually enjoying the task. Despite the chill, my muscles began to warm and I started to sweat. The steady thud of the axe and explosion of logs seemed to mirror my own heartbeat. Time slowed down. The next thing I knew was that it was almost dark, and I had run out of logs.
Sitting there, collecting my breath, I watched as the last light of day slipped behind the distant hills; and so another day turned to night. Enjoying the quiet and the solitude, I reflected on the past two hours. My normal busy mind had been strangely silent. No thoughts of home, or what to do next, or how I was going to change my life. Only the constant rhythm of metal on wood and the repetitious task of stacking another log on the block.
It was then than that I saw that all I have to do is get the courage to climb above my wall. I realized there are cracks in this wall that I can climb, and perhaps, just perhaps, if I have the strength to see it through to the end, then I can witness what it is that is on the other side. So I begin climbing; my future waits. My mind stilled and my thoughts became clear. I was able to think straight and true, thanks to the miraculous therapy of hard work.