I awake from a nightmare in which all my human relationships have been threatened by my own actions. Everything else seems threatened, too. The news on the radio says there are forest fires all over B.C. and the prairie provinces. The weather forecaster says it will be 35o C. today, and shallow wells are running dry in our area.
I make the coffee, get bowled over by Rufus, the Enthusiastic Dog. Betsey goes to release her chickens from their nightly gulag, and gets ready to take her walk with Rufus. I ask if I may go along and am welcomed. With my walking stick I begin my shuffle. She goes ahead with the dog. I cut across our “pretty” lawn, mowed at setting #3 on the mower. I get to the driveway and head up the lane. Although we talk a lot about native trees and shrubs, I first encounter a whip of a green ash tree. An immigrant I sponsored. My father’s voice – “those seeds will be all over the place” – does not diminish my pleasure. Then a forsythia which never blooms but makes a lovely mound (could forsythia be used as a hedge?) and an American elm, a sponsored immigrant that arrived from a disease-free nursery.
The lane itself goes straight as a home-made arrow to the hay barn and on up the hill. She and Dog are way ahead of me by now. Tree swallows are almost all fledged and are swooping overhead. I look left at a night-flowering catchfly. This plant is supposed to be noxious, but this one hasn’t moved in 24 years. And grass – mostly timothy, some of which is in furry bloom. Wild asters, arnica, Canada thistles. A Lincoln’s sparrow stays ahead of me, making one fence-post progress.
I notice cottonwood and aspen trees with leaf-miner-riddled foliage. Beneath them is northern bedstraw in bright-white corsages, peavine, vetch and hedge nettle. A purple finch (which Mel Coulson calls the “Pavarotti of songbirds”) sings from behind. Burnet in full fuzzy bloom shows off in a wet spot. Wild aster buds are ready to pop, and yellow arnica is just passing its peak bloom.
Feast your eyes
As I get nearer the pond, there are fewer shade clumps of wild roses trying to strangle the barbed wire fence with help from some bearberry bushes. Large umbrels of cow parsnip provide more brightness among the green.
I get to Old Pond and there, in the open – exposed to sun, farm traffic and some good soil – I see alfalfa in bloom, oxeye daisies (curse them!) and fronds of fireweed just entering full bloom. I have a soft spot for fireweed ever since my daughter used the flowerless stalks and leaves to accompany a summer-time song about Palm Sunday. A ripple in the pond gives away a female shoveler duck, which either has a late clutch of eggs, or some ducklings hiding in the cattails.
Enough walking. I turn to head home and look at the other side of the lane. Orchard grass, timothy, meadow foxtail, thick-headed sedge (really!), wild brome and some sort of couch- or gooch- or quack- grass, interspersed with horsetail, geum, yarrow and one clump of wild raspberries line the space between lane and field.
The trees on this side of the lane are native willows, what I call “Nadeau willows” because I got the cuttings from Kris Nadeau’s tree in Smithers, a couple of Prairie Cascade semi-weeping willows that the moose have mauled but not killed. The new additions are two tiny twig-lings of American elm named for grandchildren: Luke-Tree and Rose-Elm.
The news on the radio says there are forest fires all over B.C. and the prairie provinces. The weather forecaster says it will be 35o C. today, and shallow wells are running dry in our area. And I didn’t even tell you about the dog shit on the lane.
Nevertheless, after that walk, I feel that simply “beholding” may be an antidote to dream-fear and news-doom.