August 31, 2011


Nature at our doorstep

Over the years my partner and I have made major life changes, sacrifices some may say. These were done for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is so we could be surrounded by nature on a daily basis.

Our rural community of 10,000 people shares the land with one of the highest concentrations of black bears and cougars in the world. Nature still rules here - we are wedged between the wilderness of the hills and forest on one side, and the wilderness of the ocean on the other. It is rugged and less civilized, just the way we like it.

It is so wild in fact, that last week I had to go no further than the living room window to see a black bear. I grabbed the binoculars and settled in. The large bear was across the river from us, and on the beach. I watched it eating, sitting on its haunches pulling berry-laden branches down to its big pink mouth.

When it finished eating it began to amble along the beach, without worry and exuding confidence and calm. All of a sudden it began to run, and it was scary fast. I was glad I was viewing it from a distance, and not doing the 50 yard dash to the closest tree.

Vancouver Island Black Bear
The bear looked like it was running out of pure joy. It was in a relatively undeveloped natural area, and there appeared to be no threats. When it was done running in and out of the forest it slowed to ambling speed again, and headed toward the river.

Still watching the bear through the binoculars, I then got to see it go for a swim. It went right into the deep water of the river, and completely immersed itself except for its nose, eyes, and two round ears. How could such a large predator vanish like that? Bear stealth mode.

It lolled about in the water, and since it was a hot day I could hardly blame it. After a few minutes it exited the water, shook off like a big, plush doggy, and disappeared into the shadow of the forest.

I thought about my bear experience this week when I heard of a Vancouver Island man in Campbell River who, while walking down the street, encountered a large black bear. Stunned, he dropped to the sidewalk and played dead. The man said that the bear sniffed at him for a few minutes before walking away.

The traumatized dude, completely unhurt, said that the unbelievably pungent odor of the magnificent creature is what he will remember most. If that were me lying there on the sidewalk pretending I'm dead, the bear wouldn't be the only smelly thing around.

But that is what we like about Vancouver Island - it is wild. It keeps us on our toes and reminds us of our connection to, and dependence on, natural systems. It hones our survival instincts and skills - we aren't as soft and unprepared as we used to be.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful living environment! My wife and I live just about 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. But we're blessed to have a 77 acre park across the street from us, which includes a couple of ponds. There is an amazing variety of wildlife, including American Osprey, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Red Fox, Great Horned Owls, etc. What a joy it is to have our animal friends nearby.

  2. S.S.,

    That is an amazing list of wildlife existing just 10 minutes from downtown. You are fortunate to have such as large park close by. That is the kind of thing that is needed to restore balance and maintain sanity in this crazy world.

  3. I'm tracking with you.

    I'm also getting involved with urban gardening with young people, with hopes that it will help give them roots to the environment. I'm hoping gardening my sync them up with the natural rhythms of life, which have been drowned out by the loud, rapid and seductive sirens of our modern times.

  4. Savoring Servant,

    Gardening with kids? Fantastic! When I was a grade 4 science teacher I had the pleasure of establishing a school garden in the playground. For most of my students it was the first time they had ever planted seeds themselves.

    At the end of the year they were excited about returning in September to see how the garden made out over summer holidays. Imagine - kids excited about returning to school in the fall.

    When we all assembled the following September, we were blown away by our prolific garden plot. Volunteer parents had done a stellar job of watering and weeding over the holidays, and all we needed to do was harvest and clean up.

    Harvest was a joy as we uncovered, "the mother of all potatoes", as one student exclaimed, amongst all the other veggies. The sunflowers were twice as tall as the kids.

    Going forward, the work you are doing with young people may be the most important lessons they are currently learning. Lessons that will bring joy, and fresh, clean food to their lives. Congratulations.

    May they (and you) find happiness away from the video games, computer, and internet. The soil is where it is at. It is life.


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