It was a proud, bittersweet moment when our firstborn decided to fly away to the city of her father’s birth. Saying goodbye when she left for ‘the UK’ was awful, even though we expected she’d return in three years. It was worrying when the fourth year came and went, and sad that she showed no sign of coming home when Year Five came along.
Living in this coastal town, I am often amazed. The sea reveals very little, to the humans gazing at it, of the universe within its depths.
Quite a number of people feel that every dog should be regularly allowed off leash, to be ‘natural’ and to ‘run free.’
Bonnie had a special friend from Northern BC who boarded in Coquitlam to go to school. Her name was Rae. She was in several of Bonnie’s classes and was literally a person who could have been called an Indian Princess. She was a pretty, soft-spoken First Nations girl whose father was a Chief.
Rae had told Bonnie she was used to riding horses back home, and had even helped bring in cattle. Bonnie, through her reading and from what Leah had told her, knew enough about so-called ‘cutting horses’ and cattle herding to realize something important. Out on the rangelands of Northern BC, Rae had probably been riding well-trained, no-nonsense cow ponies.
Not crazy-running, impetuous steeds like Hogan.
Bonnie was fond of Rae, though, and wasn’t sure if she’d be seeing much of her when school ended. So, despite her mother’s ban on outside riders, it was agreed that Rae should have a ride on Hogan.
Despite the fact it hadn’t been much of an advantage for the luckless Wanda, they agreed this ride would also take place within the relative safety of the pasture behind the house. In the afternoon, while Bonnie’s parents were both at work.
It was a lovely day, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. Several close friends showed up for the occasion, including Leah, who’d driven from Vancouver.
Hogan by this time was not being saddled, as unsafe deficiencies had been spotted in the underpinnings of the saddle that had been included with the purchase of the horse. Rae had said earlier that she was fine with riding bareback.
Bonnie gave the same warning as always to the new rider: no loose reins.
Hogan was brought to the fence, bridled, and given some treats. Bonnie gave Rae a boost, and she slid easily onto the little horse’s pale back.
With her relaxed legs and shiny dark hair, Rae looked good on Hogan, and the horse seemed to feel comfortable with her. There was a soft dirt path leading away from the fence, and horse and rider began walking down the gentle slope toward the middle of the field.
Rae didn’t seem nervous, but she completely forgot Bonnie’s cautions. The reins were long and slack.
Hogan, feeling no resistance on his bit and always happy to step up the pace, started into a brisk walk. Everyone was beaming.
Bonnie had just spotted the long reins when a series of small, very fast events unfolded with the speed of a sudden gust of wind.
Hogan stumbled. The horse lurched on his right front foot, and Rae slipped from position. In response to the rider sliding across his shoulder, the horse kicked up his heels- a small, playful buck. In a flash, Rae tumbled off his back, landing with a seemingly soft thump in the golden grass.
To the shock of all, Rae was half unconscious, thrashing in the grass like a creature that had been shot. They gathered around her and Bonnie fell to her knees to clasp her thrashing friend. Someone yelled ‘Call the doctor!’ and the athletic Leah raced to the house.
Rae came to, trembling violently. Bonnie was stunned that Rae had tumbled off the horse when the horse’s moves were so small. Rae sat up and asked for a cigarette, her hands shaking.
They were just teenagers, all of them fortunate enough until now to be inexperienced with disasters. Leah was taking forever in the house because she’d had to look up the clinic, was interrogated by a clerk, and nobody had the sense yet to realize what was needed was an ambulance.
The kids all understood that need when they suddenly noticed a new horror – the crotch of Rae’s jeans had a giant, dark stain spreading across the entire width of her pelvis.
Incredibly, though no one had seen it, Rae had somehow been clipped by one of the horse’s hooves.
Time stopped. Rae was clearly in great pain. Blood seeped rapidly through the denim of her jeans. The horse was trotting distractedly around the pasture, his bridle on and the reins dangerously trailing through the grass, but no one left Rae’s side.
The thin and distant wail of a siren became louder, and was finally cut short as the Emergency Responders marched briskly into the field. The second she was laid on the stretcher, Rae started screaming . She continued to emit, long, nightmare screams all the way to the hospital, fifteen miles away.
Bonnie, crouched at the back of the ambulance, felt Rae’s every scream as though a knife was being drawn through her, searing her own body with hot, terrible fear. This was her fault!
She followed the stretcher to the Emergency Room and was stopped at the doors as Rae was carried inside.
Sitting in a miserable heap in the waiting room, with Rae’s screams burning through her again and again, Bonnie caught glimpses: Rae laying on a bed, several people around her, a pair of scissors, the jeans peeled away, the team looking down at the damage.
Someone must have called Bonnie’s parents to let them know where she was. Someone must have come to meet Bonnie and take her home. Someone must have told her parents what had happened. The events of that awful afternoon quickly slipped into an obscuring fog of shock, fear and shame.
Rae did not leave the hospital that night. She would remain in the hospital for days, and there was talk of permanent injuries.
The horse ran in the field dragging his reins for hours after the accident, but didn’t break a leg. Nevertheless, the animal-loving brothers who owned the land were furious with Bonnie for that seemingly inexplicable negligence.
Their reprimand, well deserved and the least of the day’s shocks, was one thing clearly remembered.
In the name of business, progress, and rational thought
it turns out we feel as though we can’t talk
about or cry about the heavy price we people exact from the world.
You’ve heard it all before, you’ll go insane if you don’t ignore
At least half of the trouble we cause this planet – and one another.
This world was designed, engineered, created
to function well without mining, logging, dredging,
To work efficiently without humans and their complications.
The earth didn’t need human agriculture.
Earth worked well without irrigation and irritation.
She did not need wetlands drained or rivers siphoned into oblivion.
There’s no reward to our beautiful Earth for clear-cut forests,
and natural grasslands ploughed into history.
There are scars on her slopes, her meadows, riverbanks and marshes,
and more scars in the unfortunate places that attract a certain
breed of human beings – savages riding wheeled vehicles!
Human beings over recent centuries want to do everything mega –
To raise and graze too many animals caged and fenced.
To net and drag for too many fish and too many creature neighbours.
Even to sew and dye more garments, build more vehicles make more stuff
than all the people of the world can ever buy or dispose of.
We want as a species to overbuild, over think, over-excavate.
We want to convince other humans To Go Big or Go Home,
even though this one lovely planet is our home.
We commit crimes against the waters, land and air,
And Oh! The awful treatment of animals both close and wild –
Furbearers and ‘vermin’ trapped, snared, poisoned, shot and skinned.
Domestics confined, experimented on, flown on aircraft to slaughter.
There are the mega, mega projects like the Site C dam – not needed Site C.
And fracking! Sending chemical soup into the ground – do we need LNG?
What will the beings of the future say to us?
If we live long enough to see the results of all we’ve said Yes to?
I am exhausted now from years of restrained conversation,
From years of messages that preach ‘economic activity’
as uttmost importance to all civilization,
from repeated witnessing of chronic devastation.
I’m tied from years of knowing that beneath misleading words
like ‘Greenfield’ lies the actuality, the brutality
of draining marshes and building over natural lands,
again and as obliterating trees, mosses and cattails,
all the places the wild things would’ve used to build nests, dens and survival.
We in this small town, tucked so safely away from the massive sprawl,
the traffic and hectic complexity of big settlements across the Sound,
here we’re not protected from social difficulties, the inequities,
but we are more closely linked than some to both the harms of the past
and the quiet benefits of being here, by the forest and the clearwater sea.
Here in this safe and lovely place, we watch the electronic news and marvel
at how others suffer – beaten by winds, waters, fires and quakes,
as well as soldiers sent by their own governments to burn up their lives.
This Earth is precious, but there isn’t enough respect.
Planet Earth has taken whatever we’ve dished out,
Whatever we have blasted, mined, drilled, cut, and harvested out of it,
Whatever we wanted to change – to drain, to torment, to pave over or kill.
It’s time to scream.
Yell support for inventors who make the things that can make amends,
like water cleansers, plastic reducers and ocean cleaners,
like waterwheels and wind turbines, the cisterns and solar panels – support
for the people who try to save crops, trees, animals and oppressed humans!
The Blue Green Planet rocks and shudders with perpetual change,
with its inner tumult, surface conflicts, and a renegade species.
She is my hero, this planet.
I’ve cried for her, prayed for her.
Now that six decades have gone by and I remain so lucky and alive,
I want to more than dream for her. I want to scream for her.
She is my hero, this planet. She suffers, yet remains beautiful.
She suffers, because the Renegade Species wants everything mega.
There are two activities that I believe every Canadian should be encouraged to experience, if only once.
I fervently believe that every Canadian, young or old, should have the opportunity to go snowshoeing, and to paddle a kayak or canoe on the water.
Like nasty, disease-carrying germs, many of the world’s most terrifying things are tiny.
People who have never lived near grasslands do not always see their beauty. Driving on a fast highway does very little to enhance human appreciation for scenery of any kind, really.
My husband retired.
Don’t ask me how THAT came about, because he’s so YOUNG. But I too am pretty young and, except for some holes in my retinas and lumps here and there, I’m still full of beans.
What seemed like A FEW MINUTES after my husband’s retirement party, we sold our home in Calgary and moved to a seaside town next to the forest. We love our house in the village.
One day, a friend said we should join the Newcomers Club.
We’d been away from the Wet Coast for twenty years, but we remembered the winter. It would be VERY dark after the rains began, so we thought new friends might be a good idea.
When I arrived at a luncheon meeting of the Newcomers Club a week later, I was shocked. Everywhere I looked, there were people talking and smiling, but most of them HAD GREY HAIR. Where were all the people MY age?
Odd things have happened lately.
Most people are friendly in this tiny town, but cashiers in the stores keep offering DISCOUNTS for no reason.
Even the Mainland bus drivers have asked me if I would like ‘The Seniors Rate’. Why the heck would they ask me that? I’m ONLY SIXTY-TWO !
One day I hopped on a bus with my suitcase. I was fully prepared to ride standing up, but an ENTIRE FOURSOME leapt to their feet , each offering their seat. I turned to look behind me for the elderly or disabled person they were trying to help — and there was no one there.
One of the Good Samaritans looked straight into my eyes and asked if I wanted his seat. I was wearing my Mary Jane shoes, capris and what I thought was a youthful expression, but there was no doubt these people THOUGHT I WAS OLD. Weird !
My hair was very dark for years. Streaks of grey appeared when my first daughter entered puberty. The hairdresser mixed in some blonde streaks, and after a few years with three teenagers I had NO IDEA what colour my hair was.
Now my hair is a new shade I can’t identify. I do enjoy champagne, so THAT must be the colour on my head.
I made the startling discovery after a couple more Newcomers Club events that MANY of the members were the SAME AGE AS ME.
One day, I noticed a reflection in a restaurant window and saw a pair of GREY HAIRED WOMEN, seemingly sitting at our table !
I now realize… that pale-haired reflection is here to stay.
I’m getting used to it, though, and I know I’m lucky to be able to go out paddling, to snowshoe in the winter, and take our dog for walks.
After all, except for some holes in my retinas and lumps here and there, I’m a fortunate woman, and still full of beans.
Many of you have heard of “runner’s high”, but you don’t often hear about “hikers’ bliss,” or “snowshoers’ content.” The cross-country skiers I’ve met haven’t mentioned some kind of altered state while they’re skiing, either.