Posts tagged ‘wilderness’

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.

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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.

 

June 30, 2013

Your “bucket list” is waiting . . .

On the night of October 19, 1984, then-RCMP officer Scott Deschamps survived a fatal small-plane crash that took the lives of six other passengers in northern Alberta. Critically injured, Deschamps spent a night clinging to life beside a campfire stoked by three other survivors. As the hours passed, Deschamps found himself writing a mental bucket list of all the things he had wanted to do but hadn’t done yet — earn a university degree, travel, learn to sail, learn another language, spend more time outdoors, have children . . . . Four months later, Deschamps left his job with the RCMP. In this passage from Carol Shaben’s book Into the Abyss, which tells the compelling story of the plane crash and its aftermath, Deschamps explains why:

During the crash I spent fourteen hours lying in the snow unable to move . . . . That environment facilitated a time of reflection which prompted my decision. I’ve always wanted to go to university ever since I can remember and I’ve never done it.  I was always working. Now I realize that life is so fragile. People talk about the right to life. I don’t talk about the right to life; I talk about the privilege it is to live because any one of us can be killed at any time. It is so easy and it happens so quick. So if you haven’t done the things that you’ve always wanted to do, it’s time to do them.

In the years that followed, Deschamps crossed every single item off the bucket list he had created that night.

What will it take for you to do the same?

Life is short.  Live it.

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 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?

April 5, 2013

Book Recommendation – “The Raven’s Gift” by Jon Turk

The Raven’s Gift chronicles adventurer Jon Turk‘s journey to healing and self-awareness over six years of travel on the Siberian tundra and a series of encounters with a “magic” that permeates the natural world and connects it (and us) to the spiritual realm.  Insightful and incredibly well written, Turk’s story is a reminder of both life’s fragility and its resilience.  His experiences suggest that moments of awareness, connectedness and self-understanding are out there waiting for us, if only we trust enough to switch off our rational minds and just believe.  “It’s not how we seek self-awareness,” writes Turk, ” it’s whether we take the time and energy to make the journey [italics added].”  An excellent read.

 

Image of the cover of the book "The Raven's Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness" by Jon Turk

“The Raven’s Gift: A Scientist, a Shaman, and Their Remarkable Journey Through the Siberian Wilderness” by Jon Turk