Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 10: Their small corners...

Tree House - Wilson Falls Road.

Do you remember how the last line of that old Sunday School song goes... "You in your small corner and I in mine..."?  Oddly this Susan B. Warner hymn surfaced in my mind tonight as I saw a young chipmunk scurry away. He has built tunnels everywhere in the back garden which this summer I have given over to the wild for the butterflies, birds, bees - and chipmunks, of course.  And so there he went disappearing into one of his several and immediate escape routes, cheeks stuffed to the limit with a peanut supply brought specially for him and his family by my nature-loving pal, Wray.

I have been looking out to see where exactly 'Chippie' lives this year - if he is still, after two summers, occupying the large dry protected space underneath the back shed. Reflecting on the connection between seeing him scamper away and recalling the childhood hymn, more vivid memory links flashed by - these ones from walks over the past week.  In just 5 or 6 days, I had glimpsed 3 white-tailed deer, a couple of raccoons, a dozen hens, a beaver, [heard] a symphony of frogs, [smelled] a skunk, spotted two mallard duck couples and a mother duck with her 6 goslings following in a wavering ribbon behind her. And, I saw my gimpy seagull friend again - now hopping about solely on one limb and carrying his other, now entirely withered leg, high up under his wing.  As you can see it has been quite the "Wild Kingdom" sort of week here for me in Bracebridge.  And with true maternal instinct all this made me wonder where these furred or feathered creatures live.  Where do they sleep?  How safe are they?  Do they live somewhere different in the winter?  Do they migrate, hibernate? How do they keep warm? What do they take into consideration when they go 'house hunting'?  And the real mother-worry: are they getting enough to eat?!

“You in your small corner…”.  Where ARE their small corners?  I have let my imagination run with it this week, wondering what it is like to be a raccoon or a deer in the wild, living in the woods, eating food made available by nature. In most cases, I don't know the answer to any of these questions.  I do occasionally look up related topics on the internet: 'bear habitat' or 'the lives of songbirds' or listen in on Dr. David Suzuki or at ‘Ducks Unlimited’ but for the most part it is all a mystery to me.  Walking day after day, meeting these fun, graceful animals and birds, catching them lying about in trees, paddling in rivers and disappearing into hollowed out holes along the shore of the Muskoka river, I have developed a curiosity about them as individuals, wondering more about the lives they live. 

I have been facing my own housing issues, unsure if the building where I live will be sold and whether I will need to move this year. So I guess I am a little more tuned in than usual to the whole housing question - location, safety, comfort, transportation routes, quick accessibility to the countryside and grocery shops. Part of me envies the animals and birds to no end; living by the river, free to choose the site of their lodgings for the season and with open access to an ‘organically’ grown food supply. But, I know they don't have 'central air' or heat, or dry beds to sleep in and their food is a little harder to get than a trip to the local 'Metro'! In many cases they work relentlessly to build their homes; faced frequently with the reconstruction of partially completed shelters destroyed by storms or wind - again and again - until they are fully complete and secure. Some homes display weavers’ skills that would make any fine artist proud, featuring strands of wool, grass and bits of paper intertwined with twigs.  Some animals are crafty and wary in choosing safe, secret, well-hidden burrows. Some, using the river for transportation, find hollowed tree trunks, abandoned summer docks or huge tree roots for their homes. Still others make food their first consideration, living close by to their next meal.

One of the obvious implications of this heightened sensitivity to the creatures living in the wild is simply that when we get out and walk in 'their' world, we begin to appreciate the importance of our role in preserving it all, respecting the space they require to live and renew their populations, protecting the water that many of them use not only to drink and bathe, but for transportation and housing, not usurping their wild berry reserves because while we can wander off to ‘Vegeez’ or the Farmers' Markets to buy plump, locally-grown strawberries or blueberries, these little creatures depend on what nature provides for them seasonally.  And of course it made me remember how important it is not to leave behind refuse in their habitat or frighten them unduly in the course of their daily routines.  We really do need to empathize a little; recognize that these sentient creatures have lives to live - and families - just as we do. They need our help - not our interference.  And it's not hard to find the desire to do so - they are all so very delightful to observe and provide such great entertainment.  It's an honour to get even small glimpses into their daily lives.

There are many little 'corners' out there, but only one planet earth and we all, creatures great or small, have the right to live out our lives in our respective spaces - in health, safety and happiness, raising our families, enjoying the seasons and living our lives fully. Forgive me if I have gotten carried away this week.  No soap box lectures intended. Just a note to myself about ‘balance’ and 'sharing'.  Simply a connection to an old Sunday School hymn, "You in your small corner, and I in mine..."    

Thanks for travelling with me on my footpath this week ...

BBPP Weekly Health Check:
Mind:  As the weeks go on and the walking trail miles add up, I experience more and more connections - almost a flood - between what I see in the wild, the total of my life experiences and whatever direction I may be headed in the future. It's as if the mind has been none too patiently waiting for the opportunity to simply think and reflect.  Our minds, it seems, need to walk as much as our legs at times!
Body:  Bypassing the usual 'measurements' this week.  No scales, no bp monitors, no pulse rate checks.  As one friend said, 'it's only important how you feel; how your clothes fit'.  Will resume the readings next week.  
The Artist Soul:  One of the most beautiful sites I continue to see is the reflection of sky, tree and rock upon the surface of the Muskoka River.  Almost more beautiful than that which it reflects.  It can be mirror clear, rippled or hazed and muted by fog.  Then again the reflection can be dissolved into a hundred separate circles by raindrops.

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