Updated: Apr 25
Twenty years ago, when I started graduate school in environmental studies, one of my supervisors asked me where my connection to the natural world came from. I didn't have a very good answer back then. I probably said something about going to summer camp and our annual family hiking trip in Vermont. The truth was, I didn’t really have much of a relationship with the natural world, certainly not an intimate one. I was in grad school because I wanted to protect the Earth from people, to learn how to develop environmental policies and laws. I hadn’t given much thought to what a beneficial relationship between humans and the Earth might look like and it wasn’t until many years later when I became a parent that I finally started developing that intimacy.
You see, I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, surrounded by manicured lawns, swimming pools, shopping malls and a large polluted river. The crowded subways and buses, noisy streets and steady stream of airplanes flying overhead were overwhelming to me. I learned to tune it all out at a young age and unfortunately, all the birds, trees and seasons got tuned out too. It's been a long process of remembering how to pay attention and be present to the world around me.
These days, I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with the Earth. I try to live and create in harmony with the seasons. I know the aspens, poplars, wolf willow and spruce intimately. I've encountered bears, cougars, deer and beavers. I can recognize chickadees, nuthatches and northern flickers in the forest and when I sit at the base of Mount Rundle in Banff National Park, I feel like I'm sitting with an old friend. Our family even transformed our yard into a giant garden, gifting us apples, raspberries, black currants, strawberries, garlic, carrots, peas and squash every summer.
When I started reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer over the holidays I had no idea how impactful it would be. I found myself asking "What about all the other mountains, plants and rivers"? What are their names? How come I don't know the names of the plants that I pass on my walks? I have this deep yearning to know them too. I want to feel as close to them as I do to spruce and aspen. I would also love to learn more about the people who are Indigenous to this place.
So I've decided to spend this year widening my circle of care and getting to know a new plant, animal, mountain, lake or river each week. Through nature based arts, I'll create a visual journal of my journey and share bits and pieces in blog posts, art invitations, Instagram posts and essays. If you'd like to join me on this year long journey in your part of the world, please reach out.
Wishing you a beautiful year ahead.