(The first couple of posts will constitute the inevitable throat-clearing while I get a few things out of the way, such as: who am I, what am I talking about, and why should you read me?)
When I was a child, I spent weeks at my grandparents’ cottage, near Apsley, Ontario. It was a shack. At night I fell asleep listening to mice scuttering through the ceiling; there was no insulation, no heat, no air-conditioning. The running water was not safe to drink (we brought bottles up from the city). No self-respecting city-dweller would consent to rent such a place for a weekend nowadays, but that’s where I learned to love place. The sandy floors of those pine forests are still a part of me. The daddy long legs and the pinecones going over the waterfall. The minnows swimming around my toes, the roar of trucks going by on the highway just over the creek.
Later on, I spent weeks away at camp in the Algonquin Park. I went camping with friends. I fished. I gardened (badly, most of the time). Never for more than a few weeks a year, most of my time spent in the same stultifying suburbs as everyone else–in the foodcourts of shopping malls, in bookstores, movie theatres, on field trips, in science classrooms, my bedroom, the bedrooms of friends, in cars, buses, on sidewalks–but it was enough, apparently, because if you told me I had to move to a place where I would never again see a trillium bloom, I don’t think I could do it.
When sad or lonely or angry, I’d go to a park. I’d walk through a greenspace along the banks of a creek hardly more than a drainage ditch, sometimes late at night, goldenrod growing as tall as my shoulder by late summer, Queen Anne’s Lace and snapdragons thick in the sunnier spots. Nothing exotic, nothing special. But that too must have been enough. Enough to convince me that Nature isn’t something you get into a car and drive out of the City to find.
When I graduated from highschool I went to a nearby university and studied Environment and Resource Studies, a real actual honest-to-god major, graduated with honours, and worked for ten years in the field in a variety of capacities. Environmental assessments, contaminated sites remediation, hazardous waste management, transportation of dangerous goods, recycling, office greening practices, tree plantings, environmental planning, carpool ridematching services, spills response, high-rise composting programmes. A bit of everything.
I also love words. I tried to write my first novel at the age of seven and it’s been a non-stop compulsive stream of dead trees covered with ink ever since.
I love nature. Humans, being animals, are just another part of nature, and I love people too, if that doesn’t sound too corny. After ten years of slogging away on the front lines of the environmental movement, I still haven’t lost faith that most people are genuinely doing the best that they know how. I think our problems are inertia, ignorance and fear, not malevolence or pathological selfishness.
I intend to make this blog an uncomfortable place for misanthropes.