SpruceRoots - Stories
Gerry Morigeau and I were driving down the muddy mainline one spring morning four years ago, drinking coffee and listening to Bruce Springsteen’s The River. We were on our way to Drill Creek to walk. We were looking for goshawk sign. High up above a spur road Gerry introduced me to ‘The King’, the largest hemlock I have ever seen. I remember how immediately upon that meeting, my assumptions about time and scale slipped away, down the slope, towards that rock-lined road. The miles of logged land harboured more than hope. It became one of my favorite places in the world.

Gerry, like so many people I had the opportunity to spend time with, to listen to, to talk with, while writing for SpruceRoots, lifted a veil for me on inspiration and life long learning. I learned many lessons, some I understood, others, I am still thinking about. What I did realize, right away, was that I needed to spend time on the ground. I learned that if I slowed down and returned often to a particular bend in a river, forest, or estuary I too could begin to see what was around me, or rather, what I was within. I could walk, scramble or paddle while wondering about the meanings held in the details of colour, texture, height, depth, sound, feeling and change.

Why do the epiphytes in the old growth stands along the ridgeline at Drill emit a colour? What clues to the secretive nestings of night flyers do these small lichen hold? What slice of the world is captured within these shimmerings of silver green? Why does windthrow smell like vanilla right after a fall? You’ve got to wonder.

Over four years, people shared their passionate curiosities for salmon, song birds, the Tlell River, the relations of black bears and lemons, stream keeping, yew trees, hand-made homes, community schooling, fiddle playing and even forest development planning. Each story seemed to take on a life of its own, breathed into being by the tellers and enriched by the time they had spent pursuing all the questions that stemmed from the initial one. These questions inevitably drew in family, neighbours, colleagues and strangers. They all shared much, the revelations of time spent and a caring for the place they call home.

I read that Aldo Leopold believed curiosity, not fear, would encourage people to care
for land. A sense of heart felt curiosity, not doom, would map the future of land
conservation. He was writing in the 1930’s and, I believe, his words are as a true
today as they ever were. •