I don’t remember how old I was when the land first spoke to me. I was an apartment-dwelling city child, attracted as a toddler to bugs or kitties walking along the sidewalk, dogs on leashes across the street or in the park and cheeky squirrels called down from Stanley Park trees.
As a little girl, I was interested in people and other breathing, moving creatures. The water, land and rocks were slow to gain my interest. I think it was rocks that caught me first- something of the earth that a single person, even a small person, could carry away. And I remember sniffing a sprig of a velvety little weed that smelled like camomile, plucked from a crack in the sidewalk.
It may have been my grandmother’s husband Ron who first drew my attention to the trees. I remember feeling elated as a child by the breeze and the sun on a lovely day, but only because those elements touched my skin and made me feel energized, jubilant.
Gradually, I became more aware of the background that living things moved against and within, but I don’t recall feeling any particular sense of awe, respect or affection. I don’t recall the first time the sky and the wind captured my eye and touched me, or when I began to appreciate the elegance and intricacy with which the world is interconnected.
That appreciation seems to have come in my teen years. It crept up on me slowly as I searched for lonely places in which to allow a high-energy dog to run free.
In the city we’d walk for hours in the quest. There was a sense of a secret victory in discovering places others had seemingly passed by. One day, walking along railway tracks in the midst of a neglected, litter-strewn industrial area next to the Fraser River, I discovered a lush green pasture containing a herd of gleaming, contented dairy cattle. Back then, the garbage didn’t bother me so much. Back then, so close to traffic, pavement and scrap metal, I was delighted to find this hidden pastoral scene. Whenever I entered a quiet area of long-forgotten gardens near crumbled home sites, or a trail among the trees, I felt an undefined gladness.
When I was sixteen, my family moved away from the city and into the suburbs. There were undeveloped areas and forest nearby, and explorations resumed when I bought a small horse.
It may have been during the next two years I was seriously done in. One sunny day, I rode on the little white horse up the power line cut to a bench above the Lougheed Highway near what was then a modestly populated section of Coquitlam. On that ridge, surrounded by delicate young trees and hundreds of wildflowers, with a host of blue-tinged mountains on the horizon, my dog, horse and I were a blissful trio, each of us unusually calm.
From that day, there has been a series of magical hours that steeped my soul in both wonder and appreciation for the skies, waters and natural lands that remain.
We who enjoy the company of horses and dogs are often united in a deep passion for the natural lands. There are others, without animal companions but with similar spirits: paddlers, fly-fishers, photographers, hikers, scuba divers, some hunters. Most of us find that when we stop and stay awhile, the natural world seeps gently into our beings.
When we move quietly through the water, and examine the beaches and banks of lakes, streams and sea, we are affected. When we stand beneath the night sky, or out in the light on a wind-swept ridge, we are affected. When we walk among the trees along a trail through the forest, or among wildflowers in a natural meadow, our souls take a quiet drink.
I am a fortunate woman. I’ve lived in and at the edge of Vancouver, on Vancouver Island, in the Okanagan Valley and now in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. I’ve been to the Arctic in early spring, and enjoyed natural areas in several other regions. Though chunks of it regularly vanish, I feel privileged to have been close to plenty of ‘super- natural’.