Friday, September 17, 2010

Autumn 2 - The Pond History

Figure 1. Nose Hill pond in September 2010. photo by TP.
September 17. Autumn 2.

            Once, in my province, small towns were defined by their library and their post office.  The library symbolized the desire of all towns everywhere to bind to culture and pass to the next generation that which may be embraced by the idea of heritage.  Reading was a source of pride, and libraries spoke of reading.
            A post office establishes the reality of a town’s existence as part of a larger whole and gave folk connection to a greater world.  A post office binds people together in daily meeting; ties one person to another in news and gossip.  A letter from a distance aunt or a long absent brother is a reminder that someone remembers.  Loss of the post office was death to a town.
            Water is the post office of grassland.  Water binds life together and water in grasslands is a centre of meeting.  Those who thirst must come to water, and those who hunger find relief at the edge of water where thirsty become sustenance.  Birds coursing through autumn and spring sky search for water and rest where there is water before winging another day.  Where there is water, there is life.
            My park has water in the spring of the year when snow melt fills depressions and life bursts forth to live and breed and die.  With summer, in most years, the water seeps away through the soil or wafts away in the air, and the ponds shrink, eventually leaving only mud, and soon, plants which lay dormant as seeds beneath the water.
            Some homesteader knew water would not last his horses, and threw up an earthen dam to corral water in the spring, and a permanent pond now graces the lowest ground.  Here gathered Whitetail Deer and Wolf, Mallard Duck and Red Winged Blackbird.  With the visitors came the settlers, and Boreal Chorus Frog shared pond with Tiger salamander.  Mayfly and Damselfly took hold and uncountable invisible beings shared the pond with Deer and Wolf.  In winter, pond froze.  Those who could, left for warmer easier climes.  Those who could, burrowed into mud to wait out the cold.  Others rest in egg or cocoon to wait for spring warmth.  Some struggle through the cold hoping to see spring bring fresh growth and the sun’s touch.  City grew, and displaced Wolf and bison.  Deer survive, and Coyote and all the invisible creatures share the pond still.
My city has raised the levy and diverted storm runoff from hilltop subdivisions to reduce flooding in lowland neighbourhoods.  Pond is bigger now, but pond is different too. With spring run off, and thunderstorms, water fills this pond.  With water come all the bits of humanity left in road gutters and on lawns.  Now, with rain, come fertilizer and pesticide, oil and transmission fluid, and all the things pets leave behind.  With spring melt comes road salt and remains of cigarettes.  Yes, pond is different now.
My pond will continue to change as my city changes and as my neighbours seek peace in my park.  How my pond changes is up to me and those to whom I am tied by my city.  May we live with wisdom.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Autumn 1 by Dr. P

September 10: Autumn 1.
Figure 2. Bison rubbing boulder on Nose Hill. Photo by TP.
            Today, I would be sitting in my favourite park to contemplate truth, but for the rain, which precludes writing, and my work.  My truth includes a city of just over one million souls.  This city, Calgary, provides a rewarding career, food, shelter, and all the other necessities of life, and for these provisions I am thankful.  Yet, truthfully, I am a country boy at heart and this city sits awkwardly on my shoulders, like a poorly fitting suit.  My truth includes this favourite park which serves my need for solitude and wilderness, albeit in impure means, when my truth confines me to this city.  Hence, my truth is bound to the truth of the park as the truth of the park is bound to the truth of the city.
            Where I would be sitting, my truth binds me to the Rough Fescue and Silver Lupine that surrounds me and stone I sit upon.  The fescue’s truth speaks of the soil, the plants that share the soil, and the animals that share the truth of Fescue.  Fescue remembers the last meadowlark to sing in the park, as do I.  Singing to greet the dawn, the sweet melody of Meadowlark once marked the beginning of my day, but some 15 years have passed since the last meadowlark greeted the last dawn in my park.  Fescue and Lupine share my loss.
            Long before, as a boy enamoured with nature generally and butterflies particularly, before my interests turned to include those of adolescence, I remember a wonderful warbling pouring down from the heavens, and searching for the source of the song.  Lying on my back, watching patiently, searching the sky, if fortune smiled upon me, I might spot a tiny speck circling overhead pouring its heart into the blue prairie sky in song.  This indescribable trilling speaks of Sprague’s Pipit calling his presence to the world.  Perhaps he was calling his presence to alert other male Pipits that this spot of prairie belonged to him.  Perhaps he was singing to female Sprague’s Pipits in hope of convincing one that his bit of grass was best for her.  I would prefer to thing he sank because it is the nature of Pipits to sing joyously and no choice was his to make.  Fescue would not recall Pipit song, for Pipit has not sung in my park for some 30 years.  Aspen trees might know Pipit, and stone would remember the sky singer.  I lament the silent sky as must Aspen and stone.  Where will my grandchild go to hear the sky serenade the prairie?
            Not far from where I would be sitting I know of a boulder, ancient and polished, much out of place with the prairie.  The truth of this boulder intersected the truth of this park some eighteen thousand years past when unimaginable sheets of ice gouged boulder from cliff 600 km to the northwest and inexorably coerced the boulder to the plains which became my park.  As the great blanket of ice melted, boulder was left sitting on bare ground, and became part of prairie truth.  As prairie truth grew, Bison found boulder.  Bison truth speaks of a need to shed long winter fur in spring, and Bison, leaning on boulder, rubbing haunch and shoulder, wore off winter fur.  Countless Bison wearing away countless winters polished uncounted boulders to a smoothness and shine made only by the truth of bison shoulder.   My Bison stone bears such a shine.  Bison truth parted from park truth nearly 150 years before my truth joined park truth, yet the shine persists, attesting to the power of Bison shoulder and back.  Boulder remembers Bison, and I would have Bison back. 
            This park’s truth changes with each setting of the sun.  Some truths are forever lost, like Bison, Pipet, and Meadowlark; like Sharp-tailed Grouse and Alberta Arctic butterfly.  Other truths intertwine with park truth, like Nodding thistle, and Mountain bike, and Dog; like European skipper and Forest Skipper butterfly.  The park changes.  I would tell of the change, wishing that my grandchildren would know of Pipet and Meadowlark as boulder knows Bison.

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