Ode to Lys

This post is in dedication of my best friend Alyssa. I am eternally grateful for her presence in my life, and for the freedom in which she has brought me, in so many aspects of my experience.

I first met Alyssa at a hillbilly metal concert in Cochrane, Ontario. We were both there in separate groups and had many mutual friends – Alyssa loved metal music and I was pretending to for the sake of the people I was surrounding myself with at the time. Happy those days are over with hahaha – I did however enjoy taking pictures at the concerts so, I bore it without understanding a single lyric in a three day span. People pleasers I tell ya!!

I felt immediate and powerful resistance when I met Alyssa. It should be noted that there is a huge difference between your fears / resistance and your intuition. There was never a time where my intuition kicked in and said “be careful” or “be aware” as it has and does. In this case, Alyssa triggered me – in time I came to realize that I was judging her character and her story without even knowing it. There was shame there – in not being able to honor someone who was so different than I was. In avoiding seeing someone’s light because focusing on their shadow fit into my narrative. She made me realize these things about myself without knowing it. I had to work through it before I could be a good friend to anyone in my life, really.

Later that year, I asked Alyssa if she wanted to join me at the annual fair. We went in together taking pictures and getting harassed by carnies who’s games we weren’t interested in entertaining. After that night we started introducing ourselves in each others lives – one of my favorite memories with her is clouded with the song Roses by the Chainsmokers, it was played on repeat one night she visited me in my garage converted bachelor apartment. We went through a period where I’d go to her apartment after work, she would usually have dinner cooked and waiting for me in the kitchen, we would listen to music, watch movies, and smoke joints in bed. Who’s got your belly? Hahahaha

In 2017, Lys started looking for work outside of town. I had worked a few hours away the previous summer for an extremely short stint, but it left a calling within knowing that I would benefit from leaving the area. She ended up finding work in Jasper, quite a jaunt from our small central town of North Bay. She would be taking a ride down within a few weeks of her interview. I remember a lot of folk giving her grief and doubted her plans but, she bought her bus ticket and that morning came and on she went with it, riding towards the West. The balls on this one, I tell you! I almost couldn’t believe it, as happy as I was for her – the distance seemed impossible to me at the time.

Within a couple weeks of Lys being gone, an opening came up at her work in Jasper, and she scored me an interview with her boss. I remember Steph (the boss) giggling at how excited I was just to be talking to her. Within a few days I was offered the job and asked to start within a weeks time.

I need to say while I can that I had such a severe phobia of planes that I was riddled with night terrors throughout my life regarding plane crashes and heavy anxiety waiting for flights, etc. etc. I most definitely watched the movie Alive a dozen too many times as a kid. I had a week to get from North Bay to Jasper, and I didn’t have enough time to dedicate up to four of those days in travel, as would have been the case with the bus or train. Plane it was. Plane it had to be. My mom sought me off on my first flight; I remember we were standing face to face separated by glass post check in, texting each other to say goodbye. I was so scared. I think it kind of made her proud.

So I got to Jasper, a grin overwhelming my face from lift off to probably around the time I went to sleep that night. I took the Sundog from Edmonton to Jasper and was the last to be dropped off. Alyssa ran out of front desk to greet me when I arrived, and I bunkered in to her room and started making home in a cozy shack that was built in the 70’s (I believe, could be wrong there) and hosted up to 13 staff at a time. We wrote on the walls with others from the years, and often quoted them on our walks to town for groceries. She took me out to the Whistle Stop the night of my arrival, which became our go to place for Kokanee beers and cherry whiskey (gross hahaha). The amount of times we found ourselves at Earl’s (three times in one day once, the “kart” day that must forever remain a secret) astonishes me; we have countless jokes about the reality we lived, using our last 11$ during happy hour to get some drinks (easy enough when drinks – and apps – are under 3$) We had a lot of learning and growing up to do, sure. I wouldn’t change a damn thing looking back on it though. It makes me laugh too much.

Alyssa and I didn’t have a ~perfect~ friendship – we had much to teach each other and I feel we acted as a source and reminder of growth for one another. She served as my mirror. A reflection of the shadow parts of myself I had yet to accept. What a beautiful gift her presence in my life has been for that reason alone. Everything else, what a bonus. I feel like we were able to ignite a fire within each other that inspired us to be better to ourselves and better people towards others. Something like that. We had a few arguments throughout our years, some bigger than others, and unfortunately some of the biggest occured when we shared our close quarters in Jasper. But those moments helped me grow as a person and understand how to be a respectful and honest friend to another human being – especially at such a pivotal moment in our lives. We both have said things that we once regret, both have held beliefs that were untrue and biased based on our own emotions and projections. We are human, after all. There is strength that comes from the ability to confront one another, to have difficult conversations, and remain standing tall together, supporting each other, even if in total disagreement. I am, beyond grateful to have been able to talk these moments out with her, each of them serving as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and each other. We have had terribly difficult conversations and confrontations, and I am humbled by them. Our friendship has drawn impeccable strength from them.

There are memories from Tekarra that I cherish and love and laugh over regularly.

Lys and I used to find the sappiest videos on youtube, push our beds together (so that our heads would be next to one another) and cried over these videos at the top of our lungs – like the sad stories on singing competition / entertainment shows. We would find the most ridiculous things to laugh at, for hours and days until they became a “thing” in our lives – inside jokes that still send us over the edge. Example: I was making my bed in our room one night asked Alyssa if I could place a few things on her bed while I organized mine. She sat on her bed across from me and watched, expressionless. Once finished, I sat on my bed and looked at her. She then got up and asked if she could place a few things on my bed. She then continued to re-make her bed and I laughed blurting “Alyssa it’s not a competition” – and that would go on to be the running joke of our friendship. Another time, Lys jokingly told me to calm down and I immediately felt my face turn into a hot tomato. She gives me shit for that sometimes, too. Ya can’t help but laugh!

Lys wrote her name above her bed during her year at Tekarra. When I returned the following year, I had her side of the room & bed, so I wrote my name under hers.
Always matching outfits not sure if accidental 😂

My first Western road trip was with Lys – we drove from Jasper to Banff / Canmore to pick up our boss one afternoon. Our trip down the parkway started with a black bear crossing the road in front of our car before the fog had lifted from the earth. We stopped at Athabasca Falls and the Glacier, and pulled over a few times to gawk and sob over the beautiful mountain ranges we were driving into. We listened to John Butlers “Better Than” on repeat for two hours straight while Lys caught wind with her hands riding out of the car window. We hiked up to Peyto, and cursed at each other while trying to find parking in Banff. Never again.

This is when we pulled over to cry and take pictures. Icefields Parkway, 2017 on 35mm. *Note: none of these images are originals but copied versions, and thus very low quality. they were shot with a Nikon FG.
my bed at tekarra on 35mm
out the bedroom window 2017, on 35mm (this is no longer the view – in 2017 construction began for the new staff house that was placed further along the property lines, providing a little more distance between guests and staff. by june of 2018, we were 21 staff living in the new house – but were very cozied in the original staff house for a month, being the last to live in the house before it was dismantled later that year).
Bathroom 1, old staff house (1 of 2 – the new house has 4). 2017 on 35mm

I ended up leaving early that season, to be home for one of Pepe’s medical emergencies. Lys came home about two months later, in October of 2017. But being back home made me feel like I was betraying myself somehow. Like there was something I was deeply missing in having returned to Ontario. The feeling gnawed at me all season, all winter, and in the Spring I told my mom that being in Jasper was the first time I was truly happy and felt love in my life. She used her flight points to buy me a one way ticket back in May 2018.

I’ve been living out West ever since. I know that I have Alyssa to thank for that, ten fold. She gave me the courage to finally leave and the courage to stay. To keep trying to figure out what was drawing me in so intently. By the end of August, I started hiking, camping, and I met Curt on the 31st. Once he and Yellowhead came into my life, I knew I was home – this is what was drawing me back in.

Lys has a beautiful boy named Jude, and I cannot wait to join her in the realm of motherhood. I often dream about sharing land together where our kids could grow up; but also so that I could give her a home in the mountains to be when she wants and needs to be, as a thank you for everything she has brought into my life, since the first day I saw her at the concert. I have never been one to have many friends at once, and with the friends I’ve made, I dedicate myself towards happily and lovingly. But not many friends throughout my life have taught me sufficient life lessons as Lys has – and I’ve noticed that none of them have ever stayed with me and supported me through the dark as Lys has. She is a true and genuine image and example of a compassionate and considerate human being, making me brilliantly proud and grateful to have her presence and love in my life.

I cannot wait to share this with you, Lys. You deserve the best life has to give. Thank you so much for our friendship booboo. I love you guys so darn much and can’t wait to hug and squeeze you!!

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