Posts tagged ‘nature’

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:

December 23, 2014

Thoughts on nature from a wilderness dweller

I’m reading an excellent series of books by Chris Czajkowski, a British woman who has for over 30 years lived off the grid, on her own, in cabins she built from scratch in the Chilcotin wilderness of Central British Columbia. Here are a few of her ideas about the natural world and our relationship to it that I think deserve consideration:

Thoughts on silence, from Diary of a Wilderness Dweller:

Most people will spend their whole lives never knowing what it is to live without human noise . . . . These people, and probably the majority in today’s world, will never know the beauty of silence. And if they were presented with it, it is likely that the first thing they would do would be to destroy it.

Thoughts on how we educate our children, from Nuk Tessli: The Life of a Wilderness Dweller:

People who question leaving the city while their kids are still in school, worried that they might “miss out on something” should think again. To teach a child that he belongs in an interdependent ecosystem that deserves respect is surely the greatest, almost the only, inheritance that he or she needs.

And thoughts on the importance of accepting and respecting all aspects of nature (not just its romantic beauty), again from Nuk Tessli:

Nature is fascinating, beautiful, and uplifting to the soul. It is exciting, exquisite and miraculous. But it is also dirty, uncomfortable, itchy and cold, full of disinterested murder and terror, unnecessary cruelty, misery and waste. To accept the wilderness you have to understand that both sides are valid, both are part of the intricate relationships that give us our water, air, all life-support systems and sanity. To deny one side of nature is to abrogate the other, and to understand the essence of these natural laws provides insight into our own behaviour as a species. We are part of nature and nature is part of us. To ignore that is to ignore reality, and I am afraid that is what most people do.

January 1, 2014

January challenge: Become a wild child!

This month’s challenge is inspired by the lyrics from the song “Wild Child” by Enya. Your goal is to start the year off by trying to be completely present to as many of the events, experiences and sensations swirling around you as possible. Take an hour, a morning or a day — or several days! — and give in to the magic of it all. Big or small, loud or quiet, every moment has much to offer, if you give yourself over to it. Even the rain can glimmer with beauty and joy; just look with an open heart.

Best wishes for 2014!

Ever close your eyes?
Ever stop and listen?
Ever feel alive?
And you’ve nothing missing
You don’t need a reason
Let the day go on and on.

Let the rain fall down
Everywhere around you
Give into it now
Let the day surround you
You don’t need a reason
Let the rain go on and on. . . .

Only take the time
From the helter-skelter
Every day you find
Everything’s in kilter
You don’t need a reason
Let the day go on and on.

Every summer sun
Every winter evening
Every spring to come
Every autumn leaving
You don’t need a reason
Let it all go on and on.

What a day, what a day, to take to
What a way, what a way, to make it through
What a day, what a day, to take to
A wild child.

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. 

September 19, 2013

A place where everything else falls away . . .

I can associate with these words from Claire Fontaine, co-author of the book Have Mother, Will Travel:

Silence and solitude are as necessary to me as air. It’s where anything false about me falls away and I’m only and ever my most essential self, as true and powerful as we all are at our core.

Beautiful. In today’s ever-moving, ever-talking society, it can sometimes be difficult to find that silence and solitude, that air for the soul. But it is there, if you look for it. It is in the peace and serenity of a solitary walk in nature, the sun warming your skin and magnifying the sights and smells of the life around you. It is in a quiet evening at home, candles lit, a carefully prepared dinner for one on the table before you. It is in your breath, gentle and nourishing, as it glides through your body when you wake up in the morning, when you go to bed at night, and at all points in between. It is there, if you look for it, and if you make space for it. It is there, always.

September 8, 2013

How do you treat your home?

I like this quote from canoeist Bill Mason’s documentary Song of the Paddle, produced in 1978 by the National Film Board of Canada:

Wilderness . . . is a white man’s concept. To the native peoples, the land was not wild, it was home.

 

July 2, 2013

How gathering mussels on a beach can fill you up inside

I like this quote from poet Susan Musgrave about the enigmatic lure of life on Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands), a wild and sparsely populated archipelago off the northern coast of British Columbia. Musgrave has been a part-time resident of Haida Gwaii since 1972 . Like many local residents, she built her own home, forages for food, and lives according to the rhythms of the land and sea around her. This quote appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of British Columbia Magazine.

If you spend the whole day getting mussels off the beach and you come home and cook them up with some snow peas from the garden, and you’re tired and wet, it’s more fulfilling than buying them in [a grocery chain like] Thrifty’s, because you actually had to participate in the process of your life as opposed to just being a consumer. Haida Gwaii does that for people; it allows them to go back to a time when they were more involved with their own lives, as opposed to when they were just watching or being led.

Would that we all had the opportunity to exist, at least for a time, in such an elemental state of engagement and harmony.

May 7, 2013

The taste of joy

Quote of the day:

If you could bottle joy, it would taste like fresh birch sap.

This from freelance writer and songstress Laurie Sarkadi in her article “Tapping birch” (Canadian Geographic, April 2013).  As for what fresh birch sap tastes like, Sarkadi continues:  “think cold, pure spring water with notes of honeysuckle.”

Sarkadi is lucky enough to live in an off-grid, lake-front home in the boreal forests outside Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.  Surrounded by birch trees, she joined a birch syrup-making co-operative and found herself — a staunch environmentalist and conservationist — confronted with the questionable task of drilling a hole into the pristine trunk of a thriving paper birch tree on her property.

Despite her knowledge that proper tapping techniques wouldn’t harm the tree, Sarkadi still found it difficult to drill that first spigot hole, as if doing so were a violation of both the tree and the natural world she strove so hard to protect.

Her conservation ethic put to the test — and the hole eventually drilled — Sarkadi arrives at this conclusion:

It is the paradox of conservationism that in our desperation to save and protect our natural spaces, we lose some of our own wildness.  We put our trees into tree museums (as Joni Mitchell astutely noted) to look at them — like fine china that sits untouched — instead of building sustainability inside our forests in the spirit of cohabitation.

True balance with the natural world, Sarkadi suggests, sometimes means interacting with it at an intimate, reciprocal level, wounds and all.

April 29, 2013

Observed on the street: A circle of life, turning, turning

I came across this beautiful rendition of the aboriginal medicine wheel (also called the wheel of life or the sacred hoop) on the outer wall of my local/district community arts council building:

wheel_of_life

 

I love the grounding stones at centre; the depiction of the cycles of nature, the seasons, the sun; the symbolism of birth, growth, death and rebirth — of life itself.  I love how the prints of humans and animals exist together in the soil, intermingled with the roots of the trees, connected to both the seeds of life and the earth to which all living things eventually return.  I love how each component of the circle relies on every other for balance, for continuity, for solidity, for completeness.

We are all one, forever united in the loop of this enduring narrative.  We share the same history; we share the same future.  Let’s take care of one another the best we can.  Peace.

April 18, 2013

Poetic wisdom for open eyes and a wild heart

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean —
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?