Wildness is a necessity

I am loosing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.   

– JOHN MUIR

I took a screen shot of this quote from Instagram awhile ago. I do that. My camera roll is half full of these things. Sometimes words like this, stop me dead in my tracks and I don’t always know why. I tuck them away for future reference. Everything falls into place, eventually.

The quest for a piece of “wildness”, is not a journey I was consciously aware I was on. I didn’t know I was missing it in my life. I’ve always fancied myself a city girl. My parents have tried to show me the benefits of living further afield, where life is a bit less tamed by the constraints of civic rules and regulations. I’ve been curious, but never enough to commit. 

Recently, on a trip to Cortes Island, something in me shifted. Luckily something similar tugged at my husbands heartstrings. Timing is everything. We didn’t seriously speak of it until almost the end of our stay. We toured a piecce of waterfront land and all the pieces clicked into place. We both knew, this is it. Of course, this is not a movie, we don’t pan from that moment to a view of us happily sipping coffee, enjoying the view. Real life has many more hoops to jump through to get from “A” to “Z”. I’m not sure which letter we are on just now, but we are getting towards the end.

Eventually, we will join the cast of characters which have commited to steward a piece of wildness. The memories of those who have come before remains strong on Cortes. There are remnants of the past everywhere you look and it is a rich legacy. But you have to really look, in order to see. For many people from the city, a shell midden or an old orchard, the wild mint and oregano, these things blend into the rest. For me they are symbols of the industry those who came before had. The fortitude to carve out a life in a place so beautiful, it takes your breath away. But a place of wildness. Not for the faint of heart. 

Of course, we are not pioneers trying to clear the land with hand tools. We are not up against the hard deadline of the approaching winter. We don’t worry about the fruitfullness of the crop and the extremely hard work of preserving sustanence for the dormant season. We have the luxury of time, resources and distance. It could take us years to create permanent living quarters. We will only be able to enjoy weeks at a time, rather than months. We can purchase what we need from as far away as we like. This is a different era.

But our quest for wildness knows no time. It is more primal. It is something all humans crave. Even if you don’t realize it. There are riches to be discovered, which are priceless. That is what we have found.

  

Nature

North of Calgary - July 2013

North of Calgary – July 2013

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”   ~Albert Einstein

“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.”   ~Mahatma Gandhi

I came of age in the 1980’s, the decade of conspicuous consumption, a time when the movie “Wall Street” and everything it embodied was highly revered. The philosophy that “Greed is Good” was king.

Those were heady times. The allure of money and everything it can buy seemed a sure-fire route to eternal happiness.

However, a storm was gathering. Super high interest rates and a confidence in the ever-increasing stock market left many a family in ruin. It became a new reality to owe more money on your mortgage than your house was worth….a lot more, in fact.

While the decade started out so promising, it went out leaving behind a terrible wake of destruction. But for those not directly affected, the party went on, (or so it seemed).

What many people started to realize by the mid 1990’s was – money could not buy happiness. That fact became a house of cards. What was left after all those dreams came crashing down? It was time to get back to basics.

Some of the simplest things are free AND make us happy. For example, numerous studies show that connecting with nature is very beneficial to health and well-being.

Here are some of the facts:

  • Taking a walk in a shopping mall is not the same as being outside in nature.
  • Getting on a treadmill in a gym will not replace having the wind blowing through your hair, outside.
  • Seaside, forests or mountains – the exact type of nature doesn’t matter.
  • Your age does not affect how great the benefit will be.
  • The intensity of activity, does not matter, you can sit still and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Fast forward to present day and my journey to finding a greater level of peace and happiness. If my 20-year-old self was sitting beside me now, watching me write these words, she wouldn’t believe it. She would probably think I had become my Mother. Luckily, I am now wise enough to realize that is a compliment in many ways. If love of nature and being outside were her greatest accomplishment with me, I think she did a great job.

Becoming me

In recent months, I have endeavoured to occupy my mind during the rather irritating stop and go commute to and from work everyday. To that end, I have listened to some very entertaining fiction and this week a rather heavy “In Defense Of Food”, by Michael Pollan.

From his website:

Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach — what he calls nutritionism — and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.

This is not light material, and is a subject that cannot be taken lightly either. In listening to this, I have come home from work at night feeling a little depressed and very tired. I just want to curl up in bed, rather than make dinner. Probably the opposite of what the intention was in writing this book. (But I’m just getting to the good part, near the end, hopefully no-one is killed).

Last night, I had to do something different to break the cycle of my reaction to the audio book. I am most certainly not going to stop listening. I went to the library and took out a movie called “Becoming Jane”.

I have long been inspired by the story of Jane Austen. I even tried to start my own Jane Austen book club with my most “read” family members. The lack of success with the club will be placed on my doorstep because I was so busy that I ended up listening to the works rather than reading them. But after watching this movie, I am again taken by this unique author. (Don’t worry, family, no more reading required at the cabin this summer!)

What I learned, in a work of fiction itself, was how the circumstances of Jane Austen’s own life had probably shaped how and what she wrote about. This is a time where women, even with wealth of their own, were expected to conform to very strict social structures. Men had a little easier time, but society had very strong social rules that even men could not break without dire consequences. For example, if you loved someone whom your family did not, you would be forced to choose between your love in a penniless future, or relative prosperity with an arranged and approved partner.

There was a passage in the movie by Jane that expressed the futures of the characters in her books. She said that they would struggle for a time and then have happy endings. This was said at a time when Jane realized that no such happiness was going to be her fate.

To think that such difficult choices had to be made. There was no such thing as working it out, or seeing what will happen. The future was determined and as a proper English person, you were expected to act in kind.

Listening to Michael Pollan, I feel overwhelmed by the unhealthy choices we are making here in North America. It seems we have not cared enough about what we had. We have let healthy whole food be taken away from us and replaced with food-like versions of highly processed high fructose corn syrup.

But I live in a time and place where that can all change again. And I can help to make that change starting in my own home and helping whomever will listen to do the same. Nothing is being forced on any of us, we are free.

That was not the case for Jane Austen and so many other women of her time. For the trail she blazed, and the long line of women who secured every freedom I enjoy today – thank-you.

Contrasts of a big city

As my husband and I awake on the North Shore with a view to skyline of buildings and Stanley Park across Burrard Inlet, we take a moment of pause.

The news today is that a 20-year-old woman has died at the “Occupy Vancouver Protest”. The mayor is calling for the population camped at the foot of the Art Gallery to move out. There was nothing special going on last night. The woman was alone in a tent and evidently taking heroin. No-one was with her to know she needed help.

But I suppose when a young life steers to a point where a lethal drug takes over your daily existence, getting help is not so simple.

Contrast some of the ghostly lives we saw yesterday walking around the city on the far end of W Cordova Street with the opulence of The Pan Pacific Hotel area. We were ensconced in the lounge with a panoramic view of the North Shore and Stanley Park. It was easy to track the ascent of a float plane with my camera lens. Exotic cars and expensive real estate surrounded us. The water bustles with the activity that services the port. The majestic Stanley Park sits right in the middle offering her natural beauty for anyone to enjoy. And it all coexists in a relatively small space.

As we photographed a plaque below the statue of “Gassy Jack”, it was interesting to ponder what the founding fathers of the city would think if they could arrive today and take in what it has become. Would they be proud of the progress, the industry and the architecture? Or would they notice those lost souls wandering the alleys?

Living in the suburbs takes away most of the stark contrast of a place. Maybe the high points are not as great, but we also don’t suffer from the low points as much.

Welcome

I am a normal person. I work a fulltime job, married for almost 2 decades and have 2 great kids. We are working at paying off our house that is ideally located close to an ocean and abundant forests. We have enough disposable income to enjoy the extras in life.

Yet, as I read the newspaper, watch TV or listen to the radio on the drive into work – the daily coverage of the world would have me think that there is no one like me out there.  The majority of the stories are about all that is wrong, bad and unhappy in the world. Of course that can’t be the only version of reality.

My blog will be a collection of ideas, resources and photographs that can be used as a source book of sorts to acknowledge and remember all “The Good Stuff” that is constantly happening all around us. Sometimes I wonder if a negative view of the world is part of the problem; the glass half empty instead of half full. Yet at other times, I am astonished to discover a new technology or idea that is truly some of the good stuff, yet still has not been able to get any decent amount of news coverage.

Good thing for me that this type of interactive journal has become possible. It is an amazing time to be alive and be relatively young enough to experience technology in this way.

Welcome to The Good Life List!

Enjoy!

-CW