Monday, 12 March 2007

And some not so good things....

You know that saying, you can't go home again. That really hit home for me this past weekend when we went to Vancouver. I grew up in a very small community about an hour east of Vancouver. It was a beautiful spot to grow up, surrounded by friends, families that we knew, open spaces and massive cedar trees. There was such strong sense of community. I remember having the freedom to explore the woods, to play games with my friends, to ride our bikes wherever, there was a feeling of safety and confidence. I loved it and I love my childhood memories. There were blackberries, huckleberries and salmonberries everywhere, there were wild flowers to pick. There were huge ferns which we pretended were arrows, great spots to make forts, creeks full of rainwater to play in, and just a feeling of always being connected to the seasons, to the weather, to nature.

When my parents sold my childhood home a few years ago I was very sad, but I felt quite pleased to know that they had sold it to a group of Buddhist nuns to use as their home and as a Buddhist centre. For some reason I thought that this would mean the property would stay much as it was - for a number of years "city folk" had been moving into the area and chopping down all the old trees, clearing out the properties, planting lawns and building massive houses and I was hopeful that this would not be the fate of "our" property. On our way home from Vancouver yesterday, we drove past my old home. Many tears later we drove on and I think it will be some time before we drive by again. It was barely recognizable, not only had they chopped down almost all the trees (all the huge old ones were gone for sure) they had painted our old cedar house colors that are...let's just say not found in nature. Of course I know it is not my place to say anything but good grief...what were they thinking? It had always been stained a natural color that blended nicely with its treed surroundings. You couldn't even see it from the street, now (with no trees left surrounding it and it's garish paint job) you can't help but see it. What a sickening feeling when somewhere you loved so dearly seems destroyed. Do you know what I mean?

S and I talked about why people would choose to move out to this wooded area and then proceed to chop everything down and try to make it into a typical city suburb. He thinks that people are afraid of nature, afraid that maybe one of the huge old trees will come down on their house, afraid that the deer will come and eat their ornamental shrubs they have planted to replace all the trees, afraid of power outages caused by big trees limbs coming down, afraid that bears will come and get into their garbage. It is true that all these things could happen but if you are completely opposed to that, why not stay in the city. Yes, these things do sometimes happen but I don't believe that I would consider these things all negative. Power outages were a regular part of my childhood and they were also a fantastic opportunity for a special family time. We gathered around the fireplace, lit the coal oil lamps and played games. We cooked on the fire and these memories make a up a special part of my childhood. The outages made me appreciate the power all the more when it was on and it also made me realize that one could get by with out it. We were on well water out there, and often it would go dry in the summer, this could be a pain when we had to drive to fill our tanks with water but it also gave me a life-long appreciation for running water.

When we started up the hill towards my old house I started having a sinking feeling as I saw massive houses looming over the side of a hill that used to be all trees. Closer to my old home, I saw that another person had decided to cut down all the trees on their 5 acre property, and another, and another. I could see from the street all the way down the Fraser river - when I was little we could not even tell that the Fraser was down there because we couldn't see it through the woods. Every time someone else cuts all their trees it makes the trees left standing more vulnerable to winds. It is getting so that there aren't a lot left. It is getting so that the people who choose to leave their trees standing are suffering the consequences of other people cutting them down; when the winds blow, their trees are not protected by lots of other trees and so are more likely to blow down. I wonder where people think all the rain water will go when they cut down all the plants and trees that used to absorb it. I wonder where they think all the rain water will go when they plow over the moss and fern covered soil and put in pavement. This weekend we could see evidence of this problem everywhere we went, there were roads flooded here and there, all the ditches along the sides of the roads were filled, fields were filled with water.

The whole feel of the area is changing and that makes me very sad. I like to think that children now could enjoy the same simple pleasures as I did, but I worry that there will not be any of these things left. I wonder how we can expect to teach children to respect nature when some of them don't really understand what nature is, how can they when they are never immersed in it. I don't think that you can get the same feeling for, or love of, nature when it is not an intimate part of your life....can you? I don't know. I'm just a person from the "sticks" , raised with an inherent respect for and love of nature, who consistently, naively, and most often, wrongly believes that people will put nature first, that we will do what is best for the Earth. My husband can't believe that I don't "get" it, he can't believe that I am surprised each time I see something like this, that I keep believing that people will slow down and appreciate nature; in this instance I am happy to remain naive. It is strange because when it comes to other things I can really be quite cynical. However, I want to be the kind of person who is surprised when people treat the Earth this way, I choose to remain hopeful.


This is what my neighborhood looked like a few years ago(and yes, that is me with very red eyes from blubbering while I was helping my folks move), now imagine this street with most of the trees gone. I'd rather not.

And here is a tree down across the road just after leaving my old house. This will continue to happen because of so many people cutting down surrounding trees but most people won't stop to think that maybe they should stop cutting the trees, instead they will just think that they had better cut more. Hmmm, so it seems maybe I am becoming cynical, S will be so proud. ;-(

5 comments:

Andrea said...

My husband grew up on North Van in Lynn Valley and he feels much like you do. When he took me back there to show me the incredible places he played as a child, they were mostly all gone...

Hornblower said...

You know what's funny - I find the areas closer to the city are more likely to preserve the trees. I am literally within walking distance to that Sally Ann store but I live in a neighbourhood with lots of huge old trees and there are a bunch of them on our property & in the neighbouring yards. Coquitlam is trying to develop some bylaws to preserve the trees.

BUT, there's no denying that the city is sprawling & the truly wild areas are disappearing.

Heather said...

Hmmm Andre, I haven't been back to Lynn Valley for about 18 years - what a shame for your husband. This bothers me the most, I think, that the kids there now won't have places to play - they won't have those memories that your husband has - which begs the question -where are they playing? Are they getting to play? Not in the same way we did as kids, I don't think. I am glad that my older son will remember the place that I grew up more like the way it was, he loved it there precisely because of all the games in the "woods" that he could play.

Heather said...

Hi Hornblower
I am glad to hear that Coquitlam is trying to do something before it is too late. I guess the cities where there are fewer trees maybe realize how important they are? Out in Thornhill it doesn't seem like people are really placing that much importance on preservation yet because I imagine to most people they would think - hey, there are plenty of trees out here, won't make much difference if we chop down these ones.

I really noticed the flooding out in your area on our way to Ikea this past weekend. Schoolhouse street and King Edward were flooded and all along the lougheed there was tons of water. I wondered if this was in part due to all the development in the area.

Katherine said...

I'm not at all familiar with the lower mainland and can't reference the changes in the personal way you can, Heather. It does bother me to no end though that nature seems to go by the wayside as our cities expand. My husband has experiences with his childhood Kelowna changing like Maple Ridge has for you. Interestingly, while out mtn. biking on the weekend, he met a young boy who was intent on protesting further development in our area of Kelowna. The boy was taking photos of various wild animals tracks to use in his plea to the city to rethink the expansion into raw land. The irony my husband noted was that this same boy lived in the newest housing development of the area - an area that was the "wilds" and full of woodland creatures and trees, not even 5 years ago...and was a far cry from being developed in my husband's childhood.