Contributed by Anne Ehret
For the Observer
Pussy Willows, Cattails, Soft Wind, and Roses is one of my favourite songs by singer/song writer Gordon Lightfoot and it never fails to fill me with nostalgia for my childhood in Ontario. The memories that come rushing back are always filled with the sounds, sights and tastes of all my days I spent outdoors: the smell of lilacs in spring, the touch of a furry caterpillar, the sound of cicadas on a hot summer day, watching the fascinating praying mantis, the taste of freshly picked rhubarb dipped in sugar, and the sensation of snow melting on my tongue.
I remember the excitement I felt when following a dragon-fly in my backyard, finding a broken robin’s egg under a tree, or finding my first dandelion of the spring! I remember lying on the grass watching the clouds by day and the milky- way by night. And I remember bringing pussy willows and cattails home to my mother. I was a part of the natural world without ever thinking about it. I just was.
I suppose I’ve grown up now and I admit that I am not an active outdoors type of person and to be honest, there is more “city” than “country” in me.
I guess that over the years, nature became part of the outer layer of my world, something I take for granted, and I have let it become separate from me, instead of keeping it a part of me. But I do often still feel the same sense of discovery I had as a child. I still love the change of the season and a good thunder and lightning storm. I still get a thrill when I lift up a rock in a tidal pool and see the life beneath. The intricate design on a sand dollar totally amazes me and I am absolutely stunned when I remember to look up at the stars.
When I hear the call of geese flying overhead, I always stop what I am doing, watch and listen. And it is in those brief moments, when I actually stop, and tune in, that I get a glimpse of what I am missing. When I think about this, I know that I don’t have to go further than my backyard to discover this awareness again and again. Something happens when I watch a bee or a butterfly at work, when I watch the birds at my bird feeder and listen to the conversations they have sitting in the trees, or go outside at night and look up at the stars. It is as if time stands still, and I feel a sense of something very magical going on. I become aware that there is a continual interaction and interdependency between everything that lives. Knowing this makes me feel part of something very big, and I begin to understand the real meaning behind taking time to smell the roses.
It has been said that many of today’s children suffer from “nature-deficit disorder”, a name for the human cost of alienating ourselves from nature. There is something so very sad about this. Perhaps the antidote to our hectic lives and our race to save our environment is quite literally in our back yards. Perhaps it is as simple as recapturing our awe and love of the natural world, and knowing we cannot live without it. Don’t we protect what we love?
As the late biologist Stephen Jay Gould said, “We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”
Earth Day this year is on Monday, Ap. 22. Please join us on this day at 7 p.m., at Agassiz United Church, for the film Nature’s Invitation. This film is about a program that Parks Canada has created in an attempt to help new Canadians feel at home and both understand and respect their new country. By being exposed to the natural world at their doorstep, they are discovering the beauty of this new place they now call home. They begin to feel much less alienated and feel a sense of both respect for, and belonging to, their new environment.
Before the film we will be serenaded by the local singing group, “aVeva”!
Admission is by donation only.