Do a 180 at Sunset

Sunsets — especially those on the desert — can be spectacular. Eyes glued to the west. Camera shutter clicking. Breath-stopping wonder.

Yet all the while, behind us, we may be missing the other half of the show.

Next time you’re hooked on the going down of that fireball, turn around. Check out Act II. It might surprise you. 🙂

 

Cows & Conifers

Puts cows and spruce trees together for any length of time and this is what you get — trunks pruned of branches and bark rubbed smooth.

In pastures with few trees the damage is even greater for it’s here the cattle gather when sun beats down, when rain and hail pelt them, when snow falls thick and fast.

The earth also suffers as their hooves churn the soil to dust or mud holes or frozen lumps, depending on the season. Little can grow under such a pounding.

All part of the price of hamburger and steaks.

Mother Nature’s MBSR

MBSR — Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. A program designed to help you cope with pain, illness and the stresses of everyday life. Mindfulness focusses on living in the moment.

I slip between two strands of barbwire and into the pasture. Snow patches still linger from the weekend’s storm. I’m gloved-up, wearing balaclava, winter coat and boots.

It’s mid-afternoon and although the sun is shining it’s only a few degrees above freezing.

My ramble brings me to a sunny south-facing slope that slides down to a little creek. I pull out a plastic bag I carry for such occasions (thank you, Walmart) and plunk my butt down on the damp grassy earth.

It takes several moments before the angst and anxiety begin to fade. Shallow water, rippling over pebbles, is balm for the soul. The sun, on hands and face, slows the heart.

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Water Music

Up the slope and out of sight behind me, the distant sound of cows in conversation.

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Sitting with the willows on a sunny slope

My eyes leave the water and rest on the ground nearby. A dandelion has popped out from beneath melting snow. A wood ant scurries past, followed by a harvestman. Then between my boots I see a flash of red. To my surprise and delight, a half-ripe strawberry. In October.

Sitting, mindful in this moment, I am at peace.


October 11, 2016

Owed to Winter

Rosy cheeks
Runny nose
Chilly fingers
Frost-nipped toes.

Yup. Winter has launched a shot across autumn’s bow. The faint drizzle yesterday turned into several centimetres of the white stuff by morning.

But the temps will rise later this week and the panic to install snow tires, replace the weather stripping and buy new gloves will wane. After all, winter is months way.

Right?


Wild rose hip   Rosa acicularis

 

Trade-offs

This is the story of a road. A short stretch of gravel that goes nowhere and comes back again.

The story unfolded yesterday, with the throaty rumble of a John Deere tractor. Attached to the tractor is a large mower. The man in the cab works for the County. It’s his job to mow the shoulders of the road.

The County is responsible for maintaining its road network. A matter of safety. And liability. Drivers need a clear line of sight. There are regulations.

This is a road used by few. A couple of pickups a day constitute high volume. But regs are regs and must be enforced.

I hear the tractor drawing close but I stay in the woods. I know this road well, its shoulders, the ditches. I don’t need to watch.

After he has come and gone, the flourishing shoulders are flat. Clear cut. A faint trace of diesel mixes with the sweet smell of fresh-cut grass.

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A County staffer will mark this stretch of road completed, a box may be checked and no further thought will be given to what happened here.

Except it wasn’t just grass that fell. Much was lost. Among the missing …

The  sixspotted orbweaver and the green lilies  
The shooting stars and their ripening seed pods   
The yellow rattle and wee harlequin bugs   

Gone, too, the largest patch of blue-eyed grass I’ve seen for a long while. These dainty lilies stretched a couple of hundred metres along the shoulder. I checked every few days, waiting for the blooms.

I’m not naive. Safe roads are important. But when human concerns trump all else we lose. It’s not just unsafe roads we need to worry about — it’s an unsafe planet.

We face massive challenges. Tar sands. Fracking. Flooding. Rising sea levels. Massive trash piles swirling in the Pacific Ocean. Climate change.

None of these problems appeared full-blown. They grew, little by little, because of our decisions.

When we negotiate, plan, buy, sell, dig, dam, expand — we usually do it without the most important player at the table: the natural world.

Not long out of the caves, our fight-or-flight reaction is geared to immediate response, not long-term thinking. It brings us trouble. A lot of trouble.

We forget that our actions have consequences. Repercussions. Our line of sight is anything but clear.

That is also the story of a road …