Category Archives: nature
A few weeks ago I began a blog post entitled “Veering toward the mud.” It was a whimsical piece about a mother with two toddler children I passed on my walk home from the bus stop. All three played with joyful abandon in a deep puddle. Her refreshing lack of concern about how dirty and wet the children became with each passing moment struck me as so rare in these times of overprotective, germ-fearing parenting. I imagined her returning home after to wring out wet socks and turn up their rubber boots to let the water run out. I thought about how, as adults, we veer away from puddles but every child veers toward the mud. At what point, I wondered, do we lose that childlike enjoyment of getting wet and dirty?
I didn’t finish the piece because busy life intervened. I thought, “I’ll get back to it. I hope I manage to do that before our spring mud clears up.”
I needn’t have worried, because then came the flood.
All nature’s forces combined to create flood conditions in the Ottawa River valley and surrounding area that haven’t been seen in the living memories of inhabitants. People didn’t need to veer toward mud and water in the Ottawa-Gatineau area; it veered right into their living rooms.
I took the picture below on Saturday at a local park. This area is usually grass and park benches. The bird in the distance that looks like it’s sitting on a log? That bird is perched on the back of a park bench.
This is a picture of the same area on Sunday. The park bench where the bird sat is now submerged.
How could I write about playing in water when people a few kilometres from me had to wade through waist-deep water to get to their homes, if they could get to them at all?
There is no joy in that. There is no joy in this mud-ville.
The only solace to be found comes in the goodwill of people. Neighbours who might have only nodded in passing before are now bonding as they work together to fight back the tide. Countless volunteers are spending hours hoisting sandbags for people they don’t even know. The Red Cross, as always, first on the scene to give comfort, compassion and the bare necessities for survival—a ledge for people to cling to by their fingernails in their time of crisis.
The only solace comes from community, in mud and flood.
In honour of International Women’s Day, I shall describe the visitor who came to us during our recent Florida vacation as female. Apparently male and female egrets appear identical—a fitting attribute for the day.
The visitor, when she arrived, alighted 20 feet away from us. A comfortable distance. Non-threatening. We appreciated the special gift of her presence and enjoyed witnessing it from afar, like she was a gift intended for someone else.
Then she lifted lightly into the air, flew closer and set down on the peaked roof right in front of us. A nervous distance. Mildly alarming. Verging on creepy. We marveled at the proximity, and fought the desire to shrink away to a safer distance.
We enjoyed the extraordinary presence. We didn’t want to run away from the awesomeness. But a little corner of our souls experienced discomfort at the closeness of a being that shouldn’t be so close.
Just hours before we had kayaked in the mangroves swamps of Caladesi Island, Florida, and we had paddled silently by an egret in his wild habitat He had looked at us from a nervous distance like we were mildly alarming. Verging on creepy.
This visiting egret turned the situation on its head.
I guessed that this bird visited us because someone somewhere had broken the invisible rule of not feeding wildlife. The two worlds—the wild and the domestic—are meant to brush up against each other but remain separate. Respected as “other.” We can appreciate. We can witness. But we should maintain the separation as much as possible. Wildlife must stay wild.
But the separation had been breached, so there was the visitor right in front of me. Staring me right in the eye.
The visitor lingered, so we had plenty of time to marvel at the purpose-built beak, the graceful neck, the delicate white feathers waving in the breeze. The setting sun created the silhouette of an angel, lent a divine aspect to this earthly creature.
A car roared into the parking lot below, obnoxious music blaring out of its speakers. Traffic whooshed on the highway nearby. Unwelcome and mundane sounds barging into the extraordinary moment.
The world of the unwelcome and mundane brushing up against the world of the divine.
Inevitably, the sun set, the air cooled and we shivered in the cool evening. We moved on, because such moments are not meant to last forever. Come the time, we move on, savouring the memory and living with the unwelcome and mundane.
I’m not a “bucket list” person, but I would say that it would make me happy to see this someday:
Organ pipes carved into stone steps on the shore of the Adriatic Sea that respond to the air pushed in by waves that lap against the steps. Shades of South American wood pipes and flute.
A little good news about nature and humanity on this Friday the 13th.
A few years ago I ordered my first pair of progressive lenses. Before progressives I wore contact lenses and used reading glasses for closer work.
I drove my family crazy the first week with those progressive lenses. “I don’t know about my new glasses,” I muttered, over and over. It seemed I had to move my head too much. It seemed the reading portion of the lenses was too narrow. I fretted and worried that I had wasted a lot of money on glasses that weren’t going to work for me.
And then one day, my brain clicked. My brain figured out how to work with those glasses, and it seemed to do it instantly. One minute everything felt all wrong, and the next I was saying, “These glasses are GREAT! No matter where I look, I can see!”
I remembered that experience when I watched this video. It’s a reminder to me that sometimes we have to keep working at something that feels wrong or difficult so that we can give our brains time to figure it out.
“One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much. Physical shedding to begin with, which then mysteriously spreads into other fields.”
— from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I enjoyed a head-start on fallow time this past long weekend at our cottage. I noticed something. When there, I adopted a mind-set that I cannot seem to adopt at my city home.
When I’m at my cottage, I shed things.
I shed make-up, the blow dryer, and all clothing but comfortable T-shirts, shorts and bathing suits. I shed the internet and a daily newspaper. I shed air-conditioning and a dishwasher. I shed matching plates. I shed the need to “get things done.” I shed vanity, anxiety and pretense.
With my toes in the sand, a book in my hands and the sound of the lake lapping against the dock, I don’t need any of those “things.” At a cottage, choosing simplicity is easy.
I wonder why it’s so difficult the rest of the time?
“. . . today more of us in America than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication in life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication.”
— from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
“You have to understand that it is your attempt to get special experiences from life that makes you miss the actual experiences of life. Life is not something you get; it’s something you experience. Life exists with or without you.”
—Michael A. Singer in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Those with an astrological bent would say it’s a full moon in Aquarius, opposed by a Leo Sun, with Venus in retrograde. Those without astrological interest would say hogwash to all that.
I’m not sure about astrology, but I give the moon its due. It moves our massive oceans, so it’s not difficult to believe that a force that mighty at work all around me could have an effect on me too. It find it easy to believe that the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun creates some ebb and flow in me too.
At the very least, a second full moon in a single month makes me turn aside—take a break from my usual busy-ness and preoccupations—and pay attention. It makes me take a break from trying to make special experiences happen so I can appreciate life’s actual experiences.
The blue moon is not something I create. It exists with or without me. I get to experience it—the beauty of it, the gravitational pull of it, the brief and rare glory of it.
I don’t intend to miss it.