Posts tagged ‘landscape’

December 26, 2013

Why I love B.C. – Geography on a grand scale

Everything about British Columbia is big — so big that the province’s physical dimensions, geographic features, cultural diversity and biological plenitude often defy imagination. Author John Vaillant pays fitting homage to the grandeur of this fair land in his book The Golden Spruce:

By any measure, British Columbia is an absolutely enormous place; it occupies two time zones and is bigger than 164 of the world’s countries.* All of California, Oregon and Washington could fit inside it with room left over for most of New England. From end to end and side to side, the province is composed almost entirely of mountain ranges that are thickly wooded from valley bottom to tree line. Even today, it is a hard country to navigate; the drive from Vancouver, in the southwest corner, to Prince Rupert, halfway up the coast, takes 24 hours — weather permitting. There are only two paved roads accessing its northern border, and one of them is the Alaska Highway. B.C.’s coastline — including island and inlets — is 21,000 kilometres long, and all of it was once forested, in most cases down to the waterline. . . . [T]his landscape exudes an overwhelming power to diminish all who move across it.

* There are 196 countries in the world as of this writing. 

January 5, 2013

Mountains, endless mountains, flowing through my veins

I grew up in the mountain-rich province of British Columbia, but I spent several years living in the “flatlands” of Ontario.  I often wonder how my perspectives on geography and landscape would be different if my roots were reversed, if I were a child of Ontario arriving in British Columbia for the first time.  Would I miss the gentle slope of Ontario, the endless horizon, the enormous sunsets?  Would the mountains of British Columbia stun me, humble me, leave my mouth agape with awe?

Mountains are in my blood.  They fill my horizon, fuel my body, comfort my soul.  Perhaps that is why I like this quote from Jamie Zeppa’s book Beyond the Sky and the Earth:  A Journey into Bhutan.  Zeppa — an Ontario girl for all of her then-23 years — has this to say of her approach by plane into Paro, Bhutan, a town crouched at the eastern edge of the Himalayas:

I used to wonder what was on the other side of mountains, how the landscape resolved itself beyond the immediate wall in front of you.  Flying in [to Bhutan] from the baked-brown plains of India this morning, I found out:  on the other side of mountains are mountains, more mountains and mountains again.

Those of us with mountains in our blood know this to be true, and we are grateful for it.

Rocky Mountains in Western Canada

November 2, 2012

Children. . . . The future of our past

My children are the future of my past.

These words come from Alyce Johnson, a professor of First Nations Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia and a member of the Kluane First Nation in Yukon.  She shared them yesterday as she led a group of six women on a “trail talk” along the trails of Forests for the World, a park and demonstration forest in Prince George, B.C.

Alyce spoke to our small group, of which I was a member, about how trails — whether “natural” or “man-made” — carry knowledge of people, landscapes and traditions, and help define languages, narratives and, ultimately, world views.

To me, Alyce’s words drive home the importance of immersing our children in the stories, protocols and traditions of our families, our people, our communities, our earth.  The past (and our cultural histories) cannot be integrated into the future unless carried there by our young ones.  We must therefore equip our children well for the task.

I also love this beautiful quote from a handout Alyce provided during the walk:

I am a map of a storied world expressed from a language that the earth remembers and a people speak.

The Earth remembers, a people speak, and we are one.

(The “Trail Talk” I attended was one of a series organized by the University of Northern British Columbia’s Northern Research Group.)