Monday, November 23, 2015

The courage of ducks

Under the steep northern side of the mountain the hoar frost is just starting to melt around the edges of the fields, but here at the head of the bay the foreshore is still crisp and white and the ducks prefer the ocean to the beach. The water smokes in the chilly air.

Sometimes we can feel our way into the lives of others. With human lives even this can be a stretch, but these migrating waterfowl are so wild, so engaged in their journey south and so busy fueling up for the next flight, that a leap into their way of being is difficult. Only when I recall our sailing life on the ocean, those long perilous passages, the intensity of dawn arrivals, can I imaginatively step into their ducky lives.

Syrian refugees are in our minds these days and it is sad that there are so many fearful people in Canada. Those thousands of strangers are made up of individuals who are on an unimaginably fearful journey themselves, leaving behind all they hold dear, afraid to stay home but also afraid of loosing themselves in the customs of another, very foreign, culture. Like those ducks pausing on a frosty shore they gather their strength and will soon leap into the air and chance the voyage. Hope for safe shores and welcoming arms.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Origin of Species: happening before my eyes.

The broadleaf maple as we identify it has a history of adaptation to the conditions on the BC coast and is still adapting and adjusting to a whole host of influences. Those late leaving leaves that make this tree an individual may only be a marker that goes along with many unseen changes. If things change around it it may be better adapted than its surrounding companions, in which case its seed will be the common broadleaf maple for a while.


Outside our bedroom window is a broadleaf maple tree that differs from it's neighbours. It keeps its leaves two weeks longer than the one beside it and others on our property. Every year it does this, and if it were not the first thing I see in the morning I'm sure I would never notice or care. However I have been reading 'The Beak of the Finch' by Jonathan Weiner, a detailed and interesting exploration of evolution as a ongoing process that happens right before our eyes and not something solely involving fossils and long periods of time. Now I look at my land and feel the complexity and sense the flux of diversity leading to rapid changes. That maple tree is different from its tribe and if I looked more deeply I would also see the changes brought by invasive rabbits and plants, by longer dryer summers and milder winters.

 Of course the biggest driver of adaptation on my property that is leading to evolution is human kind with our clearings in the forest, gardens, houses and roads. I create change through my own actions but still struggle to notice the results. To see my world as a blur of adaptation, of change, rather than as a static backdrop to my human activities requires a major shift in perception.

The trees are bowing outside my window to the gales of Autumn at this moment but are also adapting as they adjust to a whole range of changing conditions. That maple with its last remaining leaves is a red flag once I know what I am looking at.