Archive for January, 2015

January 29, 2015

Nature makes you a different person: it makes you healthy

Some First Nations wisdom for the rest of us, courtesy of Gitga’at elder and matriarch Helen Clifton (as quoted in Arno Kopecky’s book The Oil Man and the Sea):

When you watch bears and eagles time their cycles with the salmon, when you see whales breaching and sea lions shouting from the rocks, it has a deep effect on your psyche. It makes you a different person. It makes you healthy.

Clifton lives in Hartley Bay, British Columbia, a remote Gitga’at coastal community perched at the mouth of the Douglas Channel, a 90-kilometre inlet stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Kitimat. Clifton has seen these bears, eagles, whales and sea lions, first hand, for all her life. She, too, lives each day in time with the cycles of the salmon.

But all that might change: Kitimat is slated to become the western terminus of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands. Heavy oil from the pipeline is due to be shipped, in massive, hulking tankers, down the Douglas Channel, past the bears and eagles and salmon and whales and coastal communities, on its way to Asia.

An accident or spill is, at some point, inevitable. And that puts the health of coastal British Columbia — and, ultimately, the health of each and every one of us — at risk.

For more information, or to add your voice to those concerned about the health of our coastal marine environment:

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January 16, 2015

Beauty in small pieces

A beautiful poem by Jason Mayes, as it appears in the 2002 anthology The Fish Come In Dancing edited by Kate Braid:

Life holds nothing
but beauty in small pieces
which only seem small
from afar.

January 13, 2015

Adversity is an ally that helps you grow

I just finished reading Robyn Davidson’s excellent book Tracks, a bitingly candid account of Davidson’s mostly solo camel trek across 1,700 miles of Australian desert.

Davidson’s inner landscape understandably shifts considerably during her arduous journey. At one point, she falls into a deep depression and arrives at an observation that I think holds value for how we handle moments of despondency in our own lives:

In the past, my bouts of gloom and despair had led, like widdershins [water-worn gulleys] to the same place. And it seemed that at that place was a signpost saying, “Here it is,” here is the thing you must push through, leap free of, before you can learn any more. It was as if the self brought me constantly to this place — took every opportunity to show it to me. It was as if there was a button there which I could push if I only had the courage. If I could only just remember. Ah, but we always forget. Or are too lazy. Or too frightened. Or too certain we have all the time in the world. And so back up the ravines to the comfortable places . . . where we don’t have to think too much. Where life is, after all, just “getting by” and where we survive, half asleep.

What I take from Davidson’s words is this: life’s low moments often point us directly to the issues, challenges or shifts that really matter — the ones that we must, at some point, overcome or address in order to grow as people. To ignore these “signposts” and hightail it back behind the safety barriers does us no good in the long run. We grow through discomfort, not ease, and we must tackle discomfort head on in order to realize our full potential as human beings.

In this way, adversity becomes our ally — a partner and collaborator in the exercise of stretching our lives and our selves to new heights. We’d never get to the point of having to choose “leap or retreat” (“grow or stagnate”) if not for adversity constantly forcing us down the road upon which that choice lies.

The next time you are confronted with a “signpost” in your life, what will you do? Will you muster the courage to stride past it into the unknown, knowing that the true value of your life ultimately lies in this direction? Or will you quail, turn tail and scramble back to safety, mumbling excuses all the way? The direction is clear, but the choice is yours to make.

January 9, 2015

Observed on the street: Winter traffic signs in Canada

I encountered this barely visible stop sign in the parking lot of a grocery store in northern British Columbia.

20150109_WinterStopSign

January 5, 2015

This new year, discover what really matters

A perfect quote for the new year, courtesy of Robert Brault:

Life is about discovering things that do matter in the end.

May 2015 bring you closer to realizing (and acting on) what really matters in your own life.