I saw this cartoon the other day. A group of people were cautiously opening a door by pushing it with a long-handle broom. The door had 2022 written on it and the caption read ‘2022 – We’re all gonna walk in real slow…’.
It’s funny in that way that we have learned to laugh at since the first wave of the pandemic. We have now entered the fifth wave and I remember the initial predictions of the health officials about the light at the end of the tunnel becoming more visible as we were riding that first wave. The light, we have since found out, keeps going out and tunnel’s end keeps getting farther and then closer again.
There has never been a stronger case for why having a robust local economy is what will ensure our better collective future. The part of British Columbia that was affected by wildfires and incessant, killer heat this past summer is suffering from severe flooding right now.
Once again, entire communities are being evacuated and people are losing their homes and many of them, their livelihoods, as we speak. The rainstorm that ravaged the Southern Interior and the communities around Lower Mainland over the weekend, ripped apart highways and caused mudslides. Hundreds were stranded, and sadly, some lost their lives.
Have you been following the COP26 climate summit at all? It’s hard not to, and truth be told, it’d be a bit irresponsible to not peek at least a little bit in that direction. It’s about us and our survival after all, no?
You may have read this, I know I did, that it’s not the planet we should be concerned about but us humans. We are the proverbial frog in the pot of water that’s going from warm to boiling. The planet will survive just fine with us on it or not. We’re closer to boiling than we care to admit, but perhaps the COP26 big talks can get things rolling in the right direction, no?
We woke up today to the pitter patter of rain and the beauty of fog-wrapped world. Early morning work, a cup of perfectly tasting coffee, a snoozing dog… Then, her and I head to the woods.
We descend to the bottom of our favourite nature park then up again to the very top where the low hanging clouds make everything look magical and the trees whisper in a language of their own. The colours are more vibrant when it rains and the smells more potent – according to the sharp nose that accompanies me on the morning hike.
I used to get an eyeful of the daily news in the morning a while ago but not anymore. Nowadays, the big outdoors under the blue or overcast sky, is where I get the ‘news’ I need.
We both do actually. Poppy follows invisible to me leads and then lifts her head sniffing the damp air before plunging her nose back down to sniff more tracks of deer, coyotes, and bears.
We’ve been seeing all of them lately, but mostly bears, some displaced by the massive fires we had and some resident ones too. All beautiful and healthy looking, but I admit being partial to the cinnamon mama with her two black cubs, no bigger than my dog, just rounder.
I’ve exchanged more gazes with bears this year than ever before (from a safe distance, and yes, I do carry a bear spray) and the one persistent feeling is one of awe and gratefulness. For the chance to be part of their world, which I have so much more to learn about.
The world of bears is one that most people fear, and the occasional news of bear attacks (not as many as you’d think) or the ‘happy’ ending of relocating a ‘problem’ bear (it’s usually not that happy, or even fatal, for the bear) is what you’ll find in the news, which does not help much in building the accurate picture of these animals.
Should you choose to ignore the news stories (about bears in this case), and instead follow on the curiosity incited by being immersed in places where they live, you’ll find yourself like I did, leaving the library with a considerable stack of books* about these fascinating and misunderstood, yet feared animals. (*I will provide the list at the end of the post).
It’s not just about bears. As a rule, while there’s the occasional positive story to keep hope afloat, the news is mostly rife with a lot of troublesome bits and scary headlines. Or, every now and then, obvious ones such as ‘kids who spent time in nature adjust better to life’. Well, duh.
I know that back when I was still writing a weekly column, I was often scouring the news to find the most appropriate topic to write about. End result: increased stress and finding myself trying to digest a rather heavy diet of news. With a big side of helplessness, which only sped and reinforced an anxiety-ridden vicious circle.
On the flipside, I loved writing the column and I did so for many (many) years, fully embracing the ups and downs of putting it together and seeing the reaction it caused (spoiler alert: you can’t please everyone and that’s never the point anyway; on the contrary). But once I decided to take a break, I also took a break from checking the news daily. And it felt good!
Coupled with my recent deactivation of Facebook, I find myself distanced from flitting headlines and stories that would have not long ago caused me to dwell over and even lose sleep. I miss nothing. Our daily lives are inundated with too much information as it is, so plucking out most of it left room for wonder, curiosity and…well, silence.
Even with the best intentions, it’s easy to get swept away by the massive deluge of information, clicking on this and that and digging deeper into a medium that is by design bottomless. If anything, digging deeper brings desperation and a feeling of dread.
Worse yet, getting one’s ‘news’ from social media platforms such as Facebook, or as of yesterday, Meta, is downright scary. This name change does nothing, by the way, in the way of fixing the many (meta) wrongs that Facebook fosters and has been for too long. Meta-despicable is where it’s at.
The real world, on the other hand, and the natural world in particular, one could argue, they are equally bottomless, but in completely different ways. Digging deeper to learn more adds to the purpose and the understanding of your place in it. It adds a dose of gratefulness and humility at the same time. Learning brings you to a place from where you can’t go back to living without a conscience.
And that’s what’s lost in the world of news. The rapid succession of news stories, the attention-grabbing headlines that hold you still for just a bit until they deliver you to the next, they stand in stark contrast to the slow and deep beauty dialogue that you develop with the natural world, which always invites you to go farther yet, to where you search for more knowledge and begin to understand more of yourself and the place you’re in.
That is, truly so, the beginning of something wonderful which will fill you up in formidable ways. Every single time.
P.S. As promised, the bear books list (in no particular order):
1. Charlie Russell and Maureen Enns, Grizzly seasons: Life with the brown bears of Kamchatka (Random House Canada, 2003)
2. G.A. Brandshaw, Talking with bears: Conversations with Charlie Russell (Rocky Mountain Books, 2020)
3. Benjamin Kilham, Out on a limb: What black bears taught me about intelligence and intuition (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013)
4. Kevin Van Tighem, Bears: without fear (Rocky Mountain Books, 2013)
5. Charlie Russell and Maureen Enns with Fred Stenson, Grizzly heart : living without fear among the brown bears of Kamchatka (Random House Canada, 2012)
Did you know there is a shortage of toys this year? Retailers’ advice: get your shopping done early so you can buy aplenty. OK, so they are going on the premise that coveted toys must be had at all costs. A fallacy as far as common sense is concerned. Clichés aside, the best gift we can give our children (and ourselves) is time spent together: read, play, explore, and listen. Be present and things will go well.
It’s been a while since I wrote here and it’s not for lack of interest or topics. On the contrary. However, I admit to shifting things around a bit as of late. As you may have noticed, I put the regular column writing on hold. It’s been almost a decade since I started showing up with a new column each week – rain or shine. I felt it was the right thing to do given the sorry state of our public discourse.
You may rightfully ask, ‘hasn’t always been that way though?’. Yes and no. I know we are all falling into the trap of assuming the times we live in are the worst and I know they are not, but personally I felt that way for a while so I figured a break would be just the thing.
And speaking of ill-construed public discourse, I left Facebook. Before it was down, that is, which happened yesterday for a few hours. It’s been a beautiful kind of quiet in my thoughts now knowing that I closed the door to a world where I would occasionally go for a visit but never felt comfortable enough to stay longer than I had to post things for a few businesses I write for. The pervasiveness of this platform into our everyday lives is a phenomenon to be mindful of, and one I do not want to be a part of.
The outlandishness of so many posts, the pushing of hatred and counter-common sense in so many areas of life, the ‘loud’ writing of intimate and beautiful things in life that should be whispered only to those that would know what to do with them, the overpriced illusions…there you go, a mere sample.
Plus, my forever complaint with this platform: the wrongs we cannot see, their impact on people and life in society, the noise of what you know to be wrong which you cannot fix in any way of course, and which keeps lingering until it becomes the hum that takes over the quiet you need to keep sane and joyful. None of that will be missed.
Yes, there are many good people who bring valuable ideas and concepts to be discussed on Facebook, and that I will miss, but even these good happenings are festooned with the same ugly and tireless monsters hiding in countless closets. If these good things are the babbling brook you stop by in hope of breathing in beauty, the platform presents itself like flood waters bringing in everything you did not existed plus the kitchen sink. The algorithms make visiting just the brook impossible, hence my decision.
My second pursuit is one I will communicate soon, and it has to do with purpose, health, and more writing. It will be interesting, I promise.
Meanwhile, you will still see posts on life as it happens, opinions on current events at times and the reoccurring invitation to gratefulness.
Also, the occasional informal book recommendation because I believe books are essential to life. Some I get from publishers to review, and countless others I discover as I follow through with my professional and personal interests. I am probably not the only one with ever-growing piles of book by my bed, or in various places around the living room. Well, why not? They have the power to take us to where our minds get a good scrub and a powerful incentive to think and change towards a more worthwhile rhythm in our step.
Books I delight in presently: Out on a Limb – What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition by Benjamin Kilham, When by Daniel H. Pink, and The Secret Life of Your Microbiome by Susan L. Prescott, MD, PhD, and Alan C. Logan, ND. I will let you know my impressions on each once I am done.
As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions.
I will start by saying I did not know there were anti-vaccine protests scheduled all over British Columbia for September 1. An update from a trusted news source revealed a reality that baffled me.
There were photos of an anti-vaccine protest taking place here in Kamloops, right in front of the hospital. There were more in other cities too, including Vancouver.
What better place than a hospital, the protesters thought. Never mind that for a long time now, the hospital has been the scene of some terrible battles with the COVID-19 virus (spoiler alert: it still is). Many people were intubated, some died, and many others recovered but not everyone is symptom-free. Some are what now we know to be long-haulers.