by Taylor Powers, Marin Catholic High School, MMWD 2018 Water Scholar
As an anxious child, I was always lost in my own mind. My hands were dry and scabbed from obsessive washing, my eyes wet and swollen with tears, and my confidence hidden in a shoebox next to the monster under my bed. My anxiety was an ocean, sometimes peaceful, while other times turbulent and never-ending. At such a young age, I didn't understand what was happening, but I did understand I was different and being different felt wrong.
Growing up, my parents and teachers told me to "take a lap". If I became anxious, scared, or angry I was instructed to go outside and run. I didn't run far, a quarter mile was all I needed. Many times, I refused to take my lap, I wanted to sit and let my emotions churn inside me. Eventually, I took my lap, entering a euphoric state with a clear mind and slight burning in my chest.
As I got older, my demons got darker and I was no longer able to take a lap, it simply didn't fit into my busy schedule. Drifting through the early high school years, my boat steered off course with the diagnosis of my mom's breast cancer. After hearing the news, I immediately, grabbed my running shoes and took a lap. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. The little positivity and confidence I had began to dissipate until nothing was left but my little paddle boat drifting in an abyss of depression and uncertainty. Waves of negativity nearly sunk my boat as despair engulfed my lungs.
I craved happiness and allowed the tide pull me away from my former self to a remote island - a 400 meter round oval with eight lanes. I took a lap. I wasn't fueled by food and water but rather anxiety and determination. As running became a daily ritual, I found myself craving to explore the trails Marin has to offer. Beginning with track, I was introduced to the Phoenix Lake Loop. Although a simple loop, I never ran alone with fear of getting lost. Over the summer the cross country team introduced me to a little more of the watershed. I became familiar with the Allen trail, Yolanda, Five Corners, and all the water fountains! My favorite fountain is located on Eldridge where the trails diverge and the wasps graze on hot days. Our group would explore, taking time to observe the newts, lizards, and snakes. As I became more confident with my surroundings, I began to explore on my own. I now know the Watershed like the back of my hand. I know all of the trails including those connecting to Crown Road and up Mt. Tam. But my favorite thing in the world is running an Allen Lake Loop up to Five Corners and to Taylor in the rain as I constantly stop and observe the surrounding nature. I have special places scattered around the Watershed, such as the shady side of Bon Tempe, the tiny waterfall before the Allen Trail, or the path leading from Yolanda to Five Corners. Hiking to Hidden Meadows with my mom, I noticed the top of the log cabin peeking over the tall fence. I always saw the fence in my peripheral vision but never knew there was a cabin there. Weeks later I saw the log cabin in its entirety, no longer was it hidden behind the tall fence. Running past the gorgeous redwood structure I imagine living in my favorite place and how cozy the cabin would be during a rainstorm .
The watershed is magical, filled with natural beauty. During a long run, I often imagine fairy gardens being created in the tiny brooks that form along the trail. I bond with the trails through all of the seasons. The winter months are wet, slippery and a little cold. When running around the lakes, I constantly focus my attention on the ground avoiding the newts, frogs, and worms that are enjoying the trail too. The spring is gorgeous, the mountains are green and purple flowers begin to bloom. Summer is the season of lizards and snakes! Rather than running, I find myself hopping side to side avoid the sunbathing reptiles. My favorite season to run is the fall. The air is crisp as the leaves begin to change color and I'm accompanied by my amazing cross country team.
The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed is my home; it's my go to place when I have a struggle in life. The surrounding nature has taught me that like life, nature isn't beautiful because it's perfect, nature is beautiful because it's unique. After a long climb up to Five Comers, I find myself mediating. While wishing there was a water fountain, I think about the different trails I could take and the unique journey they each will give me. When I'm anxious, I take the trail leading to Yolanda. When peaceful, I run to Taylor, and when feeling daring, I run up Shaver, eventually reaching the upper lakes. The trails have seen me at my worst and certainly at my best. I've literally left blood, sweat and tears on those trails. I have scars on my arms and legs from tripping over my own feet, reminding me first, to keep my head up and run with confidence and second, that I'm clumsy.
The watershed is special because it's my place of healing, peace, and happiness. With the help of the watershed, I've taken my anxiety, which was once my greatest weakness and I now use it to my advantage. When I'm faced with a difficult test or a stressful circumstance, I tell myself, "If you can run up Mt. Baldy, you can conquer this situation". When facing occasional anxiety attacks or moments of depression, I return to the serenity of the watershed and find my inner peace. I'm so grateful for the gifts the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed has given me. Not only do I receive clean water, I receive over 21,600 acres of protected land to explore and conquer.