Nature

Earth Day Every Day 5: Dark

apple-tree-wassail

Originally published Dec 16, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

At the community choir concert this past stormy weekend, every choir member carried a flash light. If the power had gone out (which, unfortunately, it didn’t), they would have continued by flash light, as they did briefly at one of their rehearsals, last month. So in one of our quirky Bowen moments, the choir left the stage with headlamps and flash lights in hand, and three headlamps still dangling from the rungs of a stool, on stage. And during intermission we hung around in the foyer of the Chapel, and some of us out in the windy dark night.

This is the time of darkness, when life and community brings us out to walk around caroling or shopping or visiting with friends, and an increasing amount of that time is spent in the dark. There’s something about the lack of light that makes us appreciate the gift of it, and everything else we often take for granted. As the sun drops off our horizon, we begin to see in different ways.

Dusk is confusing to me; my mind still believes I can see, but my eyes struggle to resolve the vast array of patterned greys. It’s like being lost in the half-tones of a rich intaglio print, and eventually I lose visual focus, reverting to other senses, as recourse. Have you ever noticed the sound of bats’ wings as they turn in flight, or the buzz of a night hawk’s dive? It’s a sound that strikes me at the top of my spine, as the world falls into dark.

I like to walk through the woods without a flash light. During my many walks throughout the year I have come to know these woods, so that darkness brings new experiences, but not often new footing. Still I have to feel my way along, and go much more slowly than I would during the day. The moon is a welcome lamp, but on moonless nights, like the one last week between the storms, even the stars give light. It takes a certain amount of darkness to be able to notice the stars’ light falling between the boughs of hemlock and cedar. I enjoy the softness of soggy needles underfoot, and the cool refreshing damp of the air on my cheeks. This is the joy of living in a rural place where we choose wilderness over concrete; sensual exploration over street lights and expediency. Especially at this time of year.

This is the time of darkness – not just because of the number of daylight hours, but because of the power outages, throwing our families into impromptu candlelight dinners and wood-stove-cooked meals, necessitating neighbourly helping-out, caretaking and community. We chose this island; we chose this lifestyle, and many of us delight in the inconvenience. This is the time we celebrate the darkness by lighting our cove and our homes, and by singing to our trees. Yes, my family sings to our trees.

On Midwinter morning we go out to get a Christmas tree. It’s always a tree that is slated or fated to come down anyway, and we bring it inside to decorate. As we hang up the cherished ornaments, some of them generations old, we sing, and share memories of years past. As the longest night of the year falls around us, we hit the main breaker for the house, light lanterns from the fire in the wood stove, and parade out into the dark, weaving a stream of firelight through the yard. We sing the Tree Wassail to all the fruit trees and to many other cherished trees, as well. As we walk around singing, tripping, laughing, holding hands and trekking through swampy areas, we feel the world around us. In rainy years, the rain slips in around our necks and soaks our heads as we go. When it’s frosty the grass crunches under our feet and sometimes the sky opens up to reflect our fire with starlight.

When we’ve sung to the trees, we return inside, where we take the fire from our lanterns and light the candles on the Christmas tree, symbolically bringing the light we originally took from the wood stove back in to light our home. And then of course we sit around singing together all evening. That’s how we spend our Midwinter, singing to the trees.

May winter’s cold to you be kind

May you blossom in the spring sunshine

May gentle rain in its season fall

May you be loved by one and all

~ From the Tree Wassail, by Starhawk

– Emily van Lidth de Jeude

 

Crippen Park and Development of Lot 3

bowen-island-tours

Originally published November 22, 2015 written by Denis Lynn

On 4th November 2015, Edna Thomson (Vol. 17, Num. 21) expressed concern that development of Lot 3 “would really mean the eventual loss of possibly the entire Crippen Park” as a consequence of  “weakening (the trees) via the loss of their root systems and complimentary structural support systems”. We are beginning to understand that the trees in our forests are indeed intimately connected, not by roots but by a complex network of fungal mycelia, which provide nutrients and water and transmit chemical signals between trees. Damage to these mycelia could indeed impact the health of the trees. Nevertheless, we should remember that much of the present forests on Bowen has regrown following significant logging in the early 20th Century. This regrowth is possible because ecological systems have evolved over millions of years to respond to changes, often catastrophic. An ecologically significant catastrophe in recent times in the Pacific Northwest was the eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18th May 1980. Its steamy blast blew down and scorched forest over more than 500 km2, leaving a seemingly lifeless landscape. And yet, these ecosystems are recovering. What is it about the behaviour of ecosystems that enables this recovery?

In 1973 Prof. C. S. Holling, University of British Columbia, proposed two kinds of ecosystem behaviour. One he called stability – “the ability of a system to return to an equilibrium state after a temporary disturbance”; ecosystems that rapidly return to the equilibrium state are more stable. The other he called resilience – “a measure of the persistence of systems and their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations”.  Prof. Holling discusses the spruce budworm community in eastern North America, which is a highly resilient, but unstable, community, characterized by periodic outbreaks and a sequence of recovery steps that leads to the next outbreak.  Another example he mentions is the response of Wisconsin forest communities to fires – over time since the fire they “reconstruct” themselves until the next fire starts the process all over. To these, we might add the response of forest communities in the Northwest to fire and volcanoes.

The long-term study of the forest and other ecosystems after the Mount St. Helens volcano has lead to some important and unexpected findings. The timing of the eruption was significant – an early spring morning meant that nocturnal animals, like mice, were in their burrows while spots covered by spring snow and ice were protected from extreme heat, permitting seeds to survive and colonize the more impacted habitats. The number of ponds and lakes increased as lava flows and mudslides blocked rivers and streams, creating new aquatic habitats. Surprisingly, amphibians and other organisms rapidly colonized these, so that lakes and streams are again showing communities typical of this forested region. Terrestrial habitats have been slower to recover, although there is greenery covering most of the blast area. This vegetation has provided habitat, even in the significantly disturbed areas, to support the colonization by almost all small mammal species of undisturbed forests. On the other hand, the return of bird species has lagged correlated with the slower recovery in structural complexity of forest habitat.

As Bowenians, we can appreciate this slow recovery as the forests that we value today have taken years to recover from earlier deforestations. Mount St. Helens has provided another lesson here, for the quantity of living and dead trees remaining in areas has significantly influenced the rate of recovery of the forested areas. These “biological legacies” now provide a management tool for some foresters who, rather than clear-cutting for logging, will leave a certain portion of standing trees – a biological legacy – to enhance the recovery. The biological legacies left by Mount St. Helens and by typical forest logging practices are probably much less than 20% of the original forest. This impact of biological legacies has been modeled and shown to increase the resilience of forest ecosystems to the impact of fire, even when about 20% of the forest is left in remnant patches.

Lot 3 runs along the east side of Miller Road and behind the RCMP Detachment, north and east from the Trunk Road, for about 300 m. If all trees were logged from this lot, it would represent, I believe, about 20% of the area of Crippen Park between Miller Road and Cardena Road, leaving 80% of the forested area untouched. While this would be a significant “empty space”, it hardly approaches the 20% or less of the forest left standing by logging operations or volcanic eruptions. I would guess that Edna Thomson is correct that the trees and shrubs bordering Lot 3 would be impacted. However, as a biologist, I am confident that the 80% of forest remaining would be very resilient to this disturbance, and that the future of Crippen Park is not in danger.

Further Reading: Dale, Crisafulli, Swanson. 2005. Science 308:961; Holling. 1973. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4:1; Seidl, Rammer, Spies. 2014. Ecol. Appl. 24:2063.

– Denis Lynn

To Mayor and Councilors,

bowen-island-tours

Originally published November 4, 2015 written by Edna Thomson

Our recent past council focused their attention on Lot 2 of the community lands.  They succeeded, just immediately before a new election in November 2014, in gaining bylaw approval for Land Use rezoning to change from  “village/residential/institutional” to “village/commercial/institutional” for the area.
Their purpose for doing this was to accommodate sale of Lot 2 for subsequent development for an extremely extensive and density-ambitious proposal.
Lot 2 provides many important ecological functions:  it is a wooded area that the wildlife, the birds, and the children benefit from.   Lot 2 is land that lies next to the school campus, and as well, it has a very steep slope at its eastern border.  The many trees provide a root system that acts to absorb water, and hold the bank, while their branches provide the carbon sink that keeps the air fresh. That steep slope is also directly behind about 12 properties that benefit from the sound buffer provided by the trees.  Similar, and some, ecological benefits apply to Lot 3.
Recently, November 2014, islanders elected a new council with the expectation of full and transparent planning and inclusion of public input in accordance with democratic principles of government for and by the people.
Our current council took immediate steps in addressing many previously expressed concerns of the good citizens of Bowen; and good things began to happen.  As for example, Council declaring, “The right of local residents to a healthy environment.”  Part of that decision states, “…the rights of every resident to participate in decision making that affects the environment.”
That sense of security, resulting from those commendable steps taken, seemingly announcing  ‘participatory democracy’ in action on Bowen, has been disappointingly damaged though, by the summer ‘charge ahead’ approach.  Unexpectedly, this was evident in the proposal for, first, a new fire hall complex, AND then, ALSO a parking lot; all on Lot 3.  Disturbing evidence of that approach has been the immediate “site suitability testing” for the Fire Hall complex, (mid July).
Equally astonishing, and while discussion was still taking place regarding a parking proposal on Cardena Dr., work was seemingly started at the proposed entrance site for the proposed parking lot in Lot 3.  Entrance and exit in-roads that are in the design, (as posted recently by council) to go on either side of the mailboxes off Miller Rd. would require moving the mailboxes.  This actually WAS DONE on September 17th. . No signage was provided at Lot 3, as was done at Cardena.  Why?
A “BIM Plan Park Update,” recently introduced, when eventually effective, would of course, be too late to have Lot 3 of Crippen Park given the consideration it deserves, if it isn’t left standing!
Here is my belief: First, it is that the principles of democratic governance must take precedence over any development proposals, and thus council needs to provide adequately for fair and complete opportunities for public input.   Second, it is for acknowledgement of the concerns already expressed in two letters put to council regarding development on Lot 3. And, 3rd, it is for signs that show the plan!
In those letters, the concerns expressed are regarding the two proposals under consideration. Should either or both be adopted, it would really mean the eventual loss of possibly the entire Crippen Park park.  The number of trees that would have to go down for construction, promises that, by extension, others would follow simply through a weakening via the loss of their root systems and complimentary structural support systems, and through probable damage to the root systems of trees left standing during the construction period. And, there would be subsequent predictable loss through the advent of windstorms, and heavy snow falls on those left-standing, weakened trees.  All of those forces, and simply ‘over use’ of a damaging potential, would complete the rest of the destructive process that will have been set in motion.
I request the application of fundamental equality in the observance of citizen’s rights. And, it is for serious, open discussions as to how the benefits versus impediments to Bowen’s future would be affected by the developments proposed for Lot 3.
I ask that Council please open up to the community of Bowen, adequate discussion opportunities as to the the worth of Lot 3, as a carbon sink and an important service-providing intact natural environment of enormous eco-value, a wildlife sanctuary, and a thing of beauty and enjoyment at the entrance to what many describe as a living, breathing island paradise.
What we need now is less pandering to outdated concepts of how to ‘develop’ in the Cove. Now it is important to get educated and more able and ready to meet the new challenges of a changing climate. Equally important is embracing input from the larger community into ALL development planning that would so dramatically affect the island entrance area.  In the interests of a healthy environment that supports the rights of citizens to that environment I’m asking that, now, more than ever, the concept of the Islands Trust mandate to protect and preserve be our banner.

– Edna Thomson

Earth Day Every Day III

img_2455

Originally published Oct 21, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Here we are, waking up to a new red dawn. Apparently our prime minister designate is a rockstar. Now let me tell you about crawling through the mud in the woods. Priorities.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the kids I work with climbed up onto a leaning tree. It was a soft green moss- and licorice fern-covered maple, reaching out between great black crystal-like crags of old burnt cedars. He climbed up and back down three times, and when he satisfied his skill-building needs, he just sat up there for a while. That seat in itself was pretty amazing, but from where he sat, there was something far better. “Hey guys! I see a swamp!” He shouted. Some of the other kids looked up from their boat racing and bridge building, and one declared “no more swamps”. She was the one wearing running shoes. But I followed his gaze, and within a minute or so, he was down from the tree, and everyone had joined the quest for the swamp.

Just around a cedar shell we found what looked like the beginnings of a house – raw posts sunk deep into a grassy clearing just beside the creek, a shovel, some roofing, and a creeping carpet of moss. Our leader ducked under some salmonberry bushes, crossed the creek, and crawled through the mud to a group of trees and logs, beyond. “Holy!” He shouted! “It’s a cave! I found a cave with a river in it, and a waterfall, too!” I struggled through under the salmonberries while some of the older teens picked their way around to the other side, where we found the small creek streaming into a loamy under-tree cavern, and winding its way between small sand bars, about two meters below our feet.

I checked the time, and felt pressured to hurry them back to the school for lunch. But I squatted down and checked out the soft sand under the tree, instead. As time marched on, I became worried about their parents’ reactions if we arrived late, and encouraged them to leave. But they were busy. Some kids climbed into the cave; some harvested licorice fern, and one sang a song before accidentally slipping between some roots and nearly into the deepest part of the ‘cavern’. As his friends helped him out of the tight space, I worried about the kids injuring themselves. But I waited quietly. These kids helped me to discover new delights in an area I’ve visited far more often than they have, and I was grateful for their perspective.

It’s so easy to become wrapped up in our adult lives, and to feel the urgent present moment more important than the building of our future. It’s so easy to find ourselves more important than the discoveries of children crawling through the mud. Obviously we understand so much more than they do. But then again, somehow we don’t.

Here we are, waking up to a new red dawn, and on Monday I watched a few of my teenaged friends posting “voting in the only way I can” updates to social media, and witnessed the infectious joy as the mock school polls managed to overthrow the conservatives. The IPS outcome was apparently (in this order) Liberal, Green, Marijuana, Conservative, NDP, and Marxist-Leninist. What would happen if we placed more value in the thoughts and intentions of our youth? What would happen if we listened to their hopes and fears with the same sincerity they afford to ours, as they’re listening to our grave adult conversations from neighbouring rooms, and wondering if their world will fall apart?

The stream that flows so perfectly into the waterfall of an amazing under-tree cavern does not care which party won the election. The great community of plants and fungi and animals that depend upon the stream do not know that over at the community school we put X’s on bits of converted tree pulp to determine their future. But our children know. They know that we are their voices and that our every move will determine their future. The freedom to explore and to build a deep connection with and understanding of our environment is part of the way we keep our future viable. Our children know this.

Our children are not just our future, but the future of humanity, and when we value their contributions we give them the agency to form brave opinions. We give them the wherewithal to act on those opinions, instead of being swallowed up in the present moment fears that occupy us in our busy adult lives. Here we are, waking up to a new red dawn, and our work has just begun. Let’s climb through the mud and swamps to find hidden treasures. I challenge all of us to reach into the unknown and to hold our new government to task for the things that matter to our children.

– Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Earth Day Every Day: August

asset_picture_asset_wideimage

Originally posted August 26, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

The aphids, having sensed the weakening plants on a cool evening, have arrived. You might not notice them at first, as you pick a few beautifully green leaves of kale out of the garden, but turn the leaves over or peek between the deep green folds and you may find little pockets of grey and white: aphids gathering en masse. They will stretch their hair-thin legs and stand tall before becoming motionless on the spot, to live or die with the group, according to your whim. It’s gathering time.

Brush the aphids off or cast the leaf aside and choose another. Bring in that beautiful verdant bouquet to chop up with freshly-dug potatoes, toss with lemon and chives, or blend into your smoothie. It’s gathering time for all of us.

Now that the nights are cooler I find myself more often sitting with friends enjoying a hot cup of tea and a sweater in the evening. My husband’s warm embrace is comforting instead of stifling, and I feel like making stew, collecting up my friends for a chat, and my children for evening snuggles.

In the grocery store lineup I see people pile small mountains of vegetables on the counter, and I realize how lucky I am. For most of the summer, I eat from my garden. Having space and time and desire to grow our own food is not just a great gift, but a privilege. The ability to wander into the woods, pick salal, oregon grape or mushrooms, and sit silently listening only to the rustle of wind in the leaves is almost unheard of for many people.

This week I’ll begin teaching in the city. The program I run happens mostly in the open wilderness here at home, but city bylaws and necessity for urban convenience mean that it will happen in a small forested park, there. Most of the forest floor in this park is bare, and littered with dog and horse poop, along with human refuse. We can’t go into the creek because of course in such a small but densely populated location, our impact would cause damage to the bit of remaining natural creek. This is perhaps the downside of gathering: There are just too many of us, and when we get together we overwhelm the earth’s ability to renew.

This year we reached Earth Overshoot Day on August 13th. Overshootday.org states that “Global overshoot occurs when humanity’s annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas can provide—fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption—exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year. Overshoot means we are drawing down the planet’s principal rather than living off its annual interest. This overshoot leads to a depletion of Earth’s life-supporting natural capital and a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” So we’ve been going further into resource debt each year for the past forty, and where are we going to turn when the well runs dry?

Our well ran dry this year – in the way wells do on these rainforest hillsides: it’s a shallow well dug into a small underground stream and the water level dropped below what we need to sustain our household’s daily usage. So when I say it ran dry, that means one day the pump hit air, and our family panicked a little. At the end of the day the well fills up again, but to a lower-than-average level. We can still use water, but one load of laundry means no more toilet-flushing for 8 hours; we haul water around to fill the small pots we’ve planted beside some shrubs and veggies and a new pump was bought and put into the pond to water the vegetable gardens; we save laundry and bathing for later, and save even the hand-washing water to feed to our garden. This extreme attention to water usage has meant an adjustment in our thinking, and although it was certainly easier when the water flowed carelessly, I’m glad for having to learn this lesson.

I think the solution to our global over-consumption lies in awareness. Not the kind of arms-length awareness we get from reading the news or signing petitions, but the kind of awareness we get from having our own little wells run dry; from having to shake the aphids off of our own home-grown kale, and feeling remorse at seeing the ravens take our prized blueberries. It’s those small, but sometimes desperately important details that we become aware of when we trade some city conveniences for the great privilege of connecting with the land. This recognition may enable us to enjoy consuming less; to live for what we do have instead of what we can have, and to gather in our hearts and community, for everything that we hold is dear.

– Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Earth Day Every Day II

2250201

Originally posted June 17, 2015 written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

A couple of sixteen-year-old sweethearts out for a late-evening walk around the lake. They had all the summer ahead of them, and no time to keep. They stopped for a long kiss on the boardwalk. Maybe it was a very long kiss, because somehow night fell, just then, and as they carried on along the trail, the forest closed around them and they were enveloped in darkness. He reached for her hand and she felt responsible – after all, this island was her home, and she should know the way back even with her eyes closed. Which they may as well have been, for all that she could see. She slowed the pace. She felt her boyfriend’s arm on one side, the springy root trail beneath her, and to her left, a small log.
Oh! Wait! The trail builders had recently put these logs here, and she was sure they were all on the uphill side of the trail! She must have led him to the wrong side of the log! Thankful for the night concealing her blush of embarrassment, she said, “Just step over this little log, here…” and she did – into mid-air. Well, the mid-air part was a fraction of a second long, before she crumpled down past roots and stones and salal, came to rest on the ground and clambered quickly to stand again – this time aware of his knee in front of her face, as he stood there on the path, confused.
“Um. Actually not that way.” He helped her back up, never laughing at her, and thankfully never noticing the scrapes on her legs that she felt swelling up as they walked, this time much more slowly, along the trail. She closed her eyes. Given the fresh opportunity to be lost in her own environment, she used her free hand to navigate, feeling about at the warm summer air, the leaves, branches, and trunks as they went by. She discovered that she recognized some of the trees. She discovered that she knew by the change in slope that they were closer to the road, and by the smell of water that they were nearing the gravel spit. She became attuned to her senses in a way to which she wasn’t accustomed, and delighted in the sound of her boyfriend’s feet on the ground, the feeling of the breeze passing between their arms, and the glimpses of light as they neared the open alder forest. She loved the smell of the forest floor.
That was me, twenty-three years ago. I remember this often, and now try to make a habit of falling – at least metaphorically – off the beaten path. After all, falling lacks purpose, so the places I find myself are so much more surprising.
Last week, walking on the south side of the island, I picked my way carefully between thigh-deep snarls of blackberries toward the parched and crumbling moss deserts of the dry hillside. Even the blackberries were drying up, their vines like desperate brittle arms, reaching out to grab my clothing. I was so focused on the area immediately around my ankles, that I came unexpectedly upon a stand of cattails – a little marsh tucked into the rocks. What? I looked around: Pines, Douglas Fir, yellowing grass, moss and bracken, some cedars approaching death as their roots sought water in the dusty ground; insects resting on the brown-stemmed flowers. And the little stand of cattail. Their roots found some hidden source of water in the fold of the bedrock.
I looked up and discovered I was so far off the trail as to have to follow my senses back through the blazing white sun. So I stood and listened. Crowned sparrows called from various perches and the wind whipped the foxgloves so that they flopped against each other now and then. The grass whispered and my feet crunched the dried plants on my way home. I felt the stinging heat of the sun. Each of these experiences was a gift, like falling off a trail on a dark night. It is a gift just to give ourselves opportunities to discover.

– Emily VanLidth de Jeude

Behold the Green Man

pagan-green-man-greeting-card-2077-p
Artwork by UK Fantasy artist Lisa Parker

Originally posted May 6, 2015 written by Shelagh MacKinnon

Around noon on Saturday May 16th, Snug Cove will be transformed!  Flowers will decorate even the telephone poles!  Music will be heard, with a medieval sound to it, and a juggler will walk by.  The beautiful Maypole will be erected outside the Library with its wonderful spray of multi-coloured ribbons dancing in the sun.  The squeals of happy children will fill the air.  And the clothing!! Costumes carefully worn with some even being winged!
And then, the Green Man himself will appear….Where is he coming from? He is coming to us from the mists of time, coming from ancient England where he has been a part of their world for many, many hundreds of years.  If you travel to Great Britain you will see his likeness, a man with oak leaves on his face, in Christian cathedrals and in ancient garden walls.  He is older than the Christian story in Britain.  And he comes to reassure the people that winter is over and spring has arrived.  He is so covered with leaves and branches that you will not be able to see his face at all! He is Green! The colour of new life, new growth and the buds of this season.  HIs job is to defeat winter and send it packing….
Who represents winter? Why the Ice Queen, of course.  She is sometimes called the Frost Queen and she is beautiful in her icy outfit.  She wants to hang on to the weather for a while longer and make winter last. She carries a wand complete with icicles! She needs to be defeated so that we can enjoy summer!
There is a huge “battle” in front of us as you can clearly see!  So, we need young people, and other people of all ages to cheer these two on.  There is face painting for the two sides: bugs of green on the Green Man’s supporters; and ice crystals on those cheering on the Frost Queen!  The beautiful May Queen will be crowned at the end of the “battle of words.”
Come on down for the experience of hearing the Towne Crier inviting us to participate.  Plan now to wear a medieval type of costume!  We will see you at 11:30 at the Library and the patch of Union Steamship Land where the Summer market opens later in the summer.  There will be wand making  and singing and wonderful feasting.  We are grateful to our sponsors and supporters, and the musicians and jugglers and the committee of organizers
We would love it if you would pass along the word about this Green Man Festival to your friends!  We are a child centred, gentle (inspite of all our “battle” language) festival bringing an ancient practice to our little island.  By the time the first ferry of the afternoon arrives, we are all done!
What do the pictures of last year’s festival show?  They reveal people delighted to be part of this celebration of Spring handed down to us by ancient ancestors.  We hold this festival in order to share our own pleasure at this ancient festival.  Hope to see you there!

– Shelagh MacKinnon, Organizer

© Copyright 2016