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)