nature

It Might be Time for a Change

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A few months ago, on one of my little adventures in the bush, I had an experience that I just can’t forget. I had decided to go for a walk to explore the bush along the edge of a clearing. The clearing was roughly square-shaped, and I walked along one full edge, intent on checking out the corner, which had some vague interest for me. As I walked, I was pleased to find an abundance of wild strawberries growing in the clearing! I stopped to pick a few, savouring their intense flavour. Along the way, I came across a little pile of cut firewood; someone was obviously going to come back for that some day. The bush was pretty thick, but to be honest, I wasn’t looking into it much. I was distracted by the strawberries.

As I got close to the corner, I could see that there was a little opening in the trees where a couple of them that had fallen down in a wind. With one more step, a flurry of activity erupted from the bush. Grouse — local people call them “chickens” — flew every which way, as though with that one step into the bush I had tripped an invisible laser-alarm, and they could not sit still. I hadn’t seen any of them until they all moved — their camouflage is excellent — and after they flew away only one remained.

This one, lone bird did the strangest thing, this thing that I cannot shake the memory of. It was crouched on the ground, among the fallen leaves, again invisible against the background. It shuffled forward and I could see it again, and it made the strangest sound — exactly like a puppy whimpering. It did it again, a little shuffle and a distinctive whimper. I couldn’t believe how much it sounded like a puppy. It did it a third time, which allowed me to reassure myself that’s exactly what I was hearing.

How strange, I thought, and then realized that there must be a nest of young ones nearby, not yet able to fly away to safety. I was pretty sure I knew where it was — to my left, behind a log and near the point I had seen all the adults fly away from. I was very tempted to walk over and take a look, but the pitiful display of this lone grouse made me hesitate and ultimately change my mind. It had intentionally stayed behind when the others flew away to sacrifice itself to this strange, upright predator. It drew attention to itself with its cries and movement, making sure I could both see and hear it, the pathetic whimper as if to say “eat me, I’m weak and defenseless — an easy meal.” I just couldn’t satisfy my curiosity — to find the nest and see the little ones — after what this adult bird had done for its young.

But not just for its young; for all the young that were in nests nearby. I knew from the number of adults that there must be at least three nests, and this one stayed behind to save the young of them all. You know, all around the world we see incredible acts of sacrifice by people for their children, but not as often for others’ children. I, for one, had never seen such a display first hand, of an animal so willing to die that it would call out to the predator to ensure its strategy of misdirection and ultimately, its sacrifice, would be successful.

There is not much I can say. It was humbling. That grouse showed intelligence, compassion and courage. And it’s just a bird, with a brain no larger than half a walnut. I guess courage, compassion and intelligence don’t have anything to do with brain size, but it does make me wonder if I have been letting myself off easy, not demanding much of myself lately. My idea of an act of courage these days is to go into a crowded room where I don’t know anyone. Compassion consists of smiling respectfully at strangers, whatever state they are in (i.e. sober or not, poor or not), and my intelligence has been primarily engaged in knitting and dreaming up floor plans for tiny houses. I think it might be time for another challenge. I think it might be time for an extreme compassion adventure! It might even be time for a sacrifice, and damn it, I had better not complain, because I’m pretty sure I won’t be whimpering on the ground, hoping the predator will eat me instead of the children nearby. Wow.

I took this photo of a spruce grouse in winter as it crossed our front yard and driveway.
I took this photo of a spruce grouse in winter as it crossed our front yard and driveway.

Searching for the Simple Life

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Through aMINDmedia.com, I came across a link that led me to a video of Danielle Laporte‘s “Sizzle Reel” for her crazy-dynamic Firestarter Sessions. Listen to THAT once every morning and then try to be blah — won’t work! Her opening statement is

Life balance. How’s that workin’ out for ya?

She goes on to say how balance is not the best when you want to BE the best, and going for it all out is a totally valid way to go. Why not pour your heart and soul into something you love, something that will be successful? Be creative, be obsessed with quality, go over the top! (I’m paraphrasing.) :)

wildrose-2Like it has a million times before, my computer screen saver came on, cycling through a slide show of various nature pictures. A photo I’ve seen a thousand times (and even made a watercolour painting of) I saw anew — the lovely complexity of a simple flower, the wild rose. Next up was a butterfly. Suddenly, it struck me that nature is not simple. It is complex. And in my life, I am always striving for simplicity, but perhaps it is a search-in-vain.

Danielle Laporte made me rethink the quest for life balance and now, I am rethinking the quest for simplicity. I often say that I want to have a simple life, but maybe that isn’t even something I should even be striving for. Maybe it’s not a principle of nature, a fact of life, or a way to thrive. The most abundant environments on the planet — the amazon jungle, the boreal forest to name two — are complex, not simple. A desert is simple; if I strive too much for simplicity, will my life become like a desert? Are simplicity and balance valid goals or limiting behaviours? Will eliminating things in order to make life simple inadvertently make it smaller, closed off, less interesting, or simply, less?

Yet they say less is more. That’s a great nugget of wisdom… or is it? It’s a proverb, but does it actually hold any universal truth? Many catchphrases don’t. I think perhaps when it comes to certain things, it is true that less is better, but I think I have that part down — I have a strong anti-commercialism streak these days. For me, less stuff is better. I think I need to expand on the idea that sometimes wanting more is okay too. I don’t want to be someone who chokes life off because of fear or risk-avoidance/seeking security. I want to be expansive, lovely and thriving — very much like nature is at its best.

Okay, so nature includes predator and prey and creatures that live off dead, decaying material… so, as with most analogies, you can’t take them too far! But the profound beauty of undisturbed nature is an amazing harmony and intricate balance… of many complicated things working together perfectly, like a mind-boggling biological machine. My body is a mind-boggling biological machine! So perhaps, my life — my home life, my business, my career, my hobbies — can be too. That will be my vision for my life from now on — beautiful, thriving complexity, that hums along smoothly and nobody dies and gets eaten. :)

Danielle Laporte’s kick-you-in-the-pants video is here! (Don’t mind the promotional aspects of it.)

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100_0591I’ve had some time to think about this (I wrote the above a couple of days ago but didn’t have a chance to post it). There’s no question that life, when it comes to physics and chemistry, is complex. Animals in nature live simply because they don’t second-guess; they know what they want/need and what they enjoy. (Don’t tell me that animals don’t enjoy things; my cat loves to nap and birds love to fly…)

I think our modern, complex lives have gone awry in the ways of enjoying simple pleasures: living in the moment, loving family, being with friends, eating simply. These I will add to my vision of life from now on, and I invite you to do the same!

Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers

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I love science. I even have a T-shirt that says “Eat. Sleep. Explore Science.” Mind you, I haven’t worn it in a while, but still, it expresses a certain sentiment.

The other day, I had a revelation. It’s a pretty big shift from that traditional “loving science” paradigm. That revelation is

Science is overanalyzing the one you love.

If you get it, feel free to click on to some other website now, perhaps one of the links to the right. If you don’t immediately get it, let me explain what I mean.

Science is great, but it is a lot of analyzing. It’s all left-brain. I think there are a few scientists out there using both hemispheres, but on the whole, it’s detached, objective and logical. Well, except when scientists get attached to a theory and then ignore evidence to the contrary of that theory, which happens more than we know, I think. But I digress.

The problem with living in the left brain is that we miss all the beauty, the art, the loveliness of the thing we are studying. We can measure the heck out of Mother Earth, and how will that help? I wonder if we could make more of a difference by just loving her?

Any happily married man will tell you — analyzing his wife, especially to her face, is not a good idea. It is not going to help her or their relationship. But loving her, and not focusing on anything besides the things that he likes about her makes all the difference. Could it be the same with Mother Earth?

I think we may already have our answer. If you look at the science that has been done on our planet, most of the time, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for our future. But when I am actually out on the planet, in the wilderness enjoying myself and loving it — loving the Earth — I can see nothing wrong with it. I don’t see global warming. I don’t see any of the other myriad of problems the scientists say Mother Earth has. Perhaps this is just another example of the Law of Attraction at work, I don’t know. I want to see beauty, I focus on joy, so that’s what I get. Or, maybe I am just putting my head in the sand. But I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we all did it my way, and gave less power to science?

And I’m not saying science is all bad. But if you go looking for problems, you will find them. I look for beauty instead (all right-brainy now, I know)!

The Cure for Mental Illness

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I have been off the water for a week. On the York boat, I spent about a week’s time continuously in nature, and this just reminded me of an inspiration I had about few weeks ago: spending time in nature is the cure for mental illness.

We humans are complex beings. Putting ourselves in boxes — apartments, condos, office buildings, skyscrapers — is simply not a good way to treat such amazing, creative beings. It is akin to putting wild animals in zoos or fish in aquariums. They are neither happy nor healthy — they need stimulation, territory to roam, prey to chase and the world to explore. Freedom. So do we also need stimulation, space to explore and be free, and there is no better place than out in nature.

I know some people get sad over trees being cut down and green spaces in cities being removed. I can relate — but I can also show you places where the trees are eager to grow! They are so close together, it’s amazing they have enough soil. I’ve seen trees grow out of cracks in rocks. Don’t fret about the trees — they are still growing lots, all over the place! You just aren’t in the right place to see them.

We have a connection to nature that no other being on the planet has, and when that connection is rusty, it shows. We can observe nature, learn from the animals and plants that we see, but most importantly, we can learn to appreciate it. Appreciation is the most important vibe in the universe, and feeling raw, unencumbered appreciation is incredible freeing. It is impossible, I think, to be depressed while watching birds chase each other around the sky. And they sing just for the joy of it! How can we worry or fret when facing the abundance of a mighty river or the soft, green moss of a lush forest? Even in the desert there is an amazing beauty, and life abounds everywhere on this planet.

Except perhaps in big cities. Sure, there are some birds, but it isn’t the same. Cultured outdoor spaces, like golf courses or manicured parks, aren’t the same as nature either. Wild animals simply don’t go into urban areas with no plants, no green. Every city needs some parks, so if you live in a city, find the green space and go sit in it. Even better — get out of the city, and breathe some fresh country air. Get into the wildest (unmanicured or untouched) place you can. Watch the birds fly. Notice the trees sway. Soak in the blue sky and become fascinated by the clouds. Feel the sun warm you and enjoy the breeze on your skin. Listen to frogs, look for critters and remember who you are: a creature, yes, but a creative one, full of imagination and life, intuition and connection, Spirit and intelligence.

I would love to help someone do a formal study of mental health patients spending time in nature, going for walks in the bush or sitting on a river bank. If you know someone who would be interested in studying this, please contact me.

First Impressions of Wrigley, NWT

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I arrived in Wrigley yesterday afternoon and loved it immediately! I don’t think it had anything to do with the last twenty minutes of the flight being turbulent and my boss and I being gently tossed like la salad-du-jour. We chartered at Cessna 172 to fly us from Fort Simpson to Wrigley, a total flight time of about an hour for a plane of that type, depending on the wind. Yesterday, it was a tail wind for us, but it still tossed us around plenty as we came over the ridge, very much as our pilot, Serge, predicted it would. He let me fly for a while in the middle of the flight, and I had a tiny bit of turbulence, which was fun! We had the plane loaded pretty heavily, although not at its capacity, Serge assured us. I told him as we started to taxi, “if you think we are overweight, say so now and we’ll stop!” But no, he assured me, we were alright. My boss and I are both pretty slim, plus I had packed light — heck, I didn’t even really take all that much to Fort Simpson in the first place — but as it was, I had overestimated the size of a Cessna 172. It had room for 2 in the front, 2 behind, and then a “trunk” space about the size of the foot-well in my car. Serge, however, was not new to this game and really knew how to get the most out of the plane’s overall volume. We had to leave a total of 5 items behind, one being my bag of knitting stuff and another being my cooler, filled with frozen meat.

There is no store in Wrigley. Well, that isn’t entirely true. There is a very small store with limited stock, open for limited hours in the middle of the day (while I am at work). It may or may not only take cash — leave your plastic at home. You can leave your cell at home too, because the nearest cell service is about 120 km away, as the crow flies. I had wondered if there might be a tiny pocket of cell service, from perhaps a single tower, but no. That is the case for Fort Simpson, a village of about 1200 people, so a mini-village of 170 or so doesn’t even have a chance. Cell towers aren’t cheap, so no cell company would put one up in a place where they’d never make that money back. But I digress.

Wrigley, NT (NWT) Terminal buildingI absolutely fell in love with the terminal building the moment I saw it. It is so cute, well-maintained, and the CARS station is raised above ground level. It’s like the world’s smallest air traffic control tower, and I love it! The station itself was neat, tidy, sunny and warm. It had a nice, cheerful feeling to it, and I took to the place like a fish to water. My boss and I only had about an hour to spend before our ride came to get us, so we went through some of the paperwork left out, exclaiming how great it was that the keys we had brought worked perfectly and everything was coming together so smoothly. I didn’t tell him that things always go smoothly for me (but I think he is starting to see that)! I started checking out the radio equipment, wind instruments and altimeter. I was so excited!

The main reason I was there, and indeed the reason we had to fly in, was because the ice road had closed due to spring break up. As I mentioned in my last post, this doesn’t mean the ice was dramatically moving, but simply unsafe for crossing. So, Wrigley became a strictly fly-in community, and as such, it was more important than usual to have someone working in the CARS station to provide current weather observations and information for pilots inbound. The next day, just after I sent my second weather observation out on the internet, the phone rang.

“Wrigley Airport Radio,” I answered the phone. Man, it’s going to take me awhile to get used to saying that.
“Awesome!”
“You saw my weather, did you?”
Yeah, it’s awesome!” It was a man at Simpson Air, clearly tickled pink.
“Well, I’m glad you appreciate it”
“Oh, Teresa you have no idea!”

That made me smile, on the inside and the outside. I’m not sure I can describe how happy I feel being here. I will be staffing a one-person station. I have full run of the place, can do my own thing, keep the place exactly as I want, and enjoy its cozy, sunny view. The station faces the Mackenzie River, which is down the bank from the flat the airport is on, only about a quarter of a mile away. The runway is really just along the river! The river itself isn’t visible, due to being down the bank, but one day I plan to walk to the edge and enjoy the view. Across the river there is a lovely mountain range, starting about 4 miles away with Table Mountain and stretching off to the southwest to a distance of about 35 miles. The hills are high enough to be bare rock (and snow) at the top, and their white tops make me smile too! I have always enjoyed topography, perhaps because I grew up on the prairies, so mountains and foothills still hold a romantic attraction for me. They speak to my adventurous spirit, and they are so beautiful, my heart can’t help but smile when I see them. So, I am in a lovely spot, pretty close to the middle of nowhere, at 63 degrees North, and I love it. There is a second mountain range to the east as well, and foothills that are only about a mile away. Around my home and the airport, there is a healthy mixed forest, with two types of spruce (from what I can tell) and poplar. Some of the evergreens are so windblown, they have a swoopy look to them at the top. I haven’t seen any birch, but maybe they are there somewhere.
Camsell Range, the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Wrigley, NT
My living quarters are about 3 km south of the airport, which is itself about 1 km south of the village. We flew over the village as we were on approach to land, and wow, it sure is small. Wrigley doesn’t look like many towns and villages where the early settlers cut down every tree to build their house or burn for firewood — they have lots of trees standing. No roads are paved up here, and Wrigley is actually the end of the all-season road that is the Mackenzie Highway. Farther on from Wrigley, winter roads are built to Tulita and Norman Wells, but these have been closed for several weeks. (From Fort Simpson on, the Mackenzie Highway is all gravel, I believe. From the Highway 3 turnoff (to Yellowknife) the road is mostly paved with gravel sections. I think. When I came up, it was basically compact snow, and from what others told me, I have no right complaining about it (remember 2 posts ago?) because it only got worse once it warmed up.) I know, it doesn’t seem like a gravel road should be called a highway, but it is! It’s wider than a typical country road, but yup, it’s gravel.

I have a house trailer all to myself to live in! It is not particularly new, but it’s in very good repair. The last people to stay here, apparently, were women, so when we walked in, it was spic and span! What a nice sight to see! There were only a few coffee cups left in the sink to wash. The kitchen is quite well-supplied — I was worried there wouldn’t be any frying pans or dishes — and I have everything I need. I bought a Brita to filter the water, which is, like so many northern places, stored in a tank in the porch. There is a pump to keep the line pressure up, and the tub faucet leaks a little, so the pump goes on for about a second about every 3 minutes or so. It’s easy to just turn it off at night, though, and then it’s very peaceful here. This morning, my boss ran out of water twice — once because the breaker for the pump kicked off, and once because the pump overheated. So, I skipped the shower. I had one tonight and had the pump kick off right as I was starting to rinse my hair! Gads! But, before I could get out, all soapy and naked and run to the breaker panel, the pump came back on so I knew it had only overheated. Yay! It cut out once more and I had to wait a minute or so, but I managed to rinse off and finish the shower. I think tomorrow, I will try closing opening the window near the pump to vent it better and hopefully it won’t overheat. The furnace and all appliances work good, and the fridge was even spotless! No sticky gross stuff in the bottom of the crisper drawers! I am so impressed.

I live in what the locals call “the highways camp.” It is a fenced-in area where the NWT government keeps the snowplow, grader, a shop and various other equipment. There are three house trailers in the yard, one of which is empty, and then I have one and Albert has one. He is the highway and airport maintainer — the man who runs the grader to keep the road in good shape. As far as I can tell, he does an excellent job! I met him yesterday and he seems very nice. The yard sort of reminds me of home, as it’s a bit like a farm yard with tractors, tires, piles of wood, etc, scattered about. Apparently, there are quite a few bears around, but when my boss and I went for a walk along the highway last night, we didn’t see any. I have bear spray which I will not go walking without. Albert has a dog, too, so I might ask if I can take it with me. :) It looks quite cute but a bit forlorn, so I think it would love to go on a walk. Not tonight, though. It is almost bed time and although I slept awesomely well — it is a talent to be able to sleep almost anywhere? — I am ready for bed. Maybe it’s the Micheal Logozar album I am listening to, getting me all relaxed! It could also be that I’ve been on day shifts for 5 days now, so I’m used to getting up early and going to bed early. Which brings me to my last point, and one thing that makes working in Wrigley so great. It is strictly day shifts, no nights, and it is a short 8 hours, compared to 12 in Fort Simpson. Can you believe it?!? I feel like I have won the lottery! A cozy, sunny place to work, with a great view, in the North, and I don’t even have to work shift work. Monday to Friday, 8 to 4. Wow, I am in heaven!

Oh geez. I thought it was mildly funny that I was going to be saying “Wrigley Airport Radio.” But man, what is someone from Wrigley called? A Wrigley-ite? A Wriglean? A Wrigler? LOL :)

Poem to the Riverside Plants

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A Poem to the Riverside Plants

Hello little plant.
You have been my constant companion.
I have stepped on you,
pushed you aside,
pushed you over,
put my tent on top of you,
and now, I sit here among you
using you as shelter from the storm,
knowing that you are a little taller than I am
so if lightning strikes, it’ll strike you first.
I have taken you for granted,
mistreated you,
maybe even abused you,
and still you shelter me
and love me and produce oxygen for me.
You are Nature.

I wrote this poem on day six of my kayak trip this summer, after sitting out a thunderstorm on the shore of the Peace River, with no shelter or protection from the elements except for a rain slicker and the small willows on the muddy bank.