Nature Is Our Ritalin

Who is a Fernie Mountain Mama? She is the woman next to you in line at the grocery store. She is your next-door neighbour. She is the girl who hitchhiked west or drove north or cycled east and found her forever-home in the Kootenays. She came to Fernie for a reason or a season, led by a call to be free, to live a different life. She is your daughter, your sister, your friend, or if you’re lucky, your mama. First comes love of the mountains, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a MEC-Shuttlecraft-Child-Carrier. Or something like that...

Dayna Conway is a Fernie Mountain Mama who is a teacher and counsellor for School District 5. She is also a free-spirited and fearless mama, seeking adventure. Dayna understands the importance of nature in one’s life and thrives to teach her son how to move lightly in the outdoors and most importantly, how to play. When becoming a mother it was her priority to maintain her sense of freedom. For Dayna, “freedom has always been tied to being in nature.” Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in The Woods, agrees, stating that “The woods were my Ritalin. Nature calmed me, focused me, yet excited my senses.”

Spending time outside enhances the nervous system and soothes the soul. Dayna understands these health benefits. Her mother would skate across frozen lakes with her rosy-cheeked baby poking out of her jacket. It is essential to Dayna that she provide the same adventure-filled childhood for her son, as her parents did for her. She remarks with a smile that her outdoor experiences with her parents shaped her and her brothers into confident, positive and determined people.

Dayna states that she is happiest with snow under her skis or gravel under her boots. As a new mom, maintaining one’s health and well-being is the best thing she can do for her son. Research shows that loving care and a secure attachment are the cornerstones of healthy child development. And while her sense of freedom has taken on a new form and welcome adaptations, Dayna has found renewed solace in the mountains. Where she used to seek adrenaline, she now seeks peace. Her son, Arlow, has taught her to slow down. “I move at his pace,” she reflects, “and find myself taking in more of my surroundings. Noticing his giggles as the wind and snowflakes tickle his face … The complete enjoyment and amazement he finds in running his hands over moss … or watching water drip from the canoe paddle.” The world is full of wonder. Children remind us of nature’s many gifts.

This spring, Dayna encourages other mothers to hit the trails. Rain or shine. She follows the Scandinavian model that, “there is no bad weather just bad clothing.” If you’re a potential Fernie Mountain Mama, Dayna suggests reaching out to other moms to tackle a new trail. Arlow has been hiking, canoeing and skiing with his mama since he was merely four weeks old. “Infant or not,” Conway warns, “it is always important to understand the risks of any outdoor pursuit.” Be sure to properly prepare by bringing extra clothing, fluids, food and a first aid kit. And to always let someone know where you are are going and your estimated time of return. May Dayna’s positive experiences, expertise and courage be an inspiration to us all.

If you’re in need of trail maps and guidance, check out tourismfernie.com or pop into the Fernie Visitor Centre on Highway 3. Please feel free to share your outdoor, family stories and photos by writing to ferniemountainmamas@gmail.com, or hashtag #ferniemountainmamas to encourage more parents to take their little ones outdoors and share in all the fun that Fernie has to offer.

Happy trails!