Sitting alone with my tea Saturday morning is something I enjoy. This morning as I sipped with both hands I looked at the moon-shaped scars on my left hand, then an arrow shaped scar on my right thumb. I don't have many scars, but the ones I do have are connected to my encounters with wildlife. As a kid I spent a lot of time trying to enter the world of small rodents. Any free time consisted of walking around the family's 160 acre land with my head pointed toward the microcosm on the ground. I remember digging into tunnels the width of a golf ball trying to see how small creatures decorated their homes. I meant no harm and reasoned that the owner would instinctively understand so I was surprised one day when I received the injury to my thumb from a set of tiny, sharp teeth. It happened so quickly that I didn't get to see the resident owner with much clarity. I marched over to my Dad to declare my disappointment but his face clouded with worry and he began to pelt me with questions, "how big was it?" and "Was it frothing at the mouth?". The whole entire event was confusing and I quickly categorized it as an exception to my rule. Many years later I received the scars on my left hand through much the same kind of denial. On this day the dog was barking furiously at a brown furry lump half his size so my brother and I went to investigate. The lump had one good eye and as he turned to look at us I could see the terror and desperation in it. I decided to act. I ran to the house, put on several layers of work gloves, had my brother hold the dog back and approached the lump. He was a muskrat and I knew he belonged at the pond behind our house. I reasoned that with my gloved protection I could pick him up and relocate him to the pond before he even knew what had happened. Well, his teeth were larger and sharper that the mouse. He bit through all 3 sets of gloves and deeply into the flesh of my hand. I tossed him down and he took off with the dog in pursuit. Amazement turned to worry as the wound wouldn't stop bleeding. We were alone that day, so we did what we had seen in some movie somewhere and tied a tourniquet around my bicep. The bleeding stopped quickly after along with the feeling to my arm. It's colour drained and it began to feel cold. Apparently the 'sock' was effective, but a little too tight. It was removed an hour later by an amused Doctor and two unamused parents. I no longer approach wild things in an attempt to understand them, instead I try to incorporate their natural world into my art. I share the same world with them, yet their ability to integrate with their surroundings in a way that works within the ecosystem is something I still cannot do. I want to know what they know so that I can live and die an integrated part of the world, as they do. I am deeply embarrassed for humans that we have let hedonistic desire pervert our existence in this world. I see what a mess people have made and wonder if it will ever change.
We have changed our lives a lot over the last couple of years, reducing the amount of trips to town and combining activities to reduce our gas consumption. We live about 40kms from the city and it takes about 35 to 40 minutes to drive to the heart of town. The whole family used to attend sports activities in town 2-3 times a week, as well as trips to work, grocery shop, etc. Over the last year especially, we have dropped our town activities completely, we go in maybe twice a week during the summer for essentials. In the fall, we will have to carpool to save on gas where we used to take separate vehicles to accommodate for different schedules . Everyone in our family either works or goes to school in the city. This will mean more hours of hanging around in the car, waiting for each other. The car is like our second living room. I am considering stocking it with a bar fridge, hotplate, and fold out tables for kids to do homework. (Hey, maybe I am on to something!) I really don't think we can cut back any more than we have. We are people who have chosen a lifestyle that takes us away from the violence, crime and stress of the city, back into nature, gardens, peace and quiet, but we are taking a beating financially for our choice. Others must feel the same. Will this force people to move to the cities, ending a way of life? It seems less and less financially feasible to live and work in the country. These are interesting times, full of change. It is tough to make decisions that will reflect well on both the environment, and the mental and physical well being of my family.
It was December, the power was out and I had work to do. Candles seemed to be the logical solution. We are so used to losing our power for hours at a time in the winter that we have adapted and carry on. But the dark days are almost over. The spring to summer season brings dramatic changes to our natural light and our need for artificial light reduces. By the time June comes it will be light out until 11 pm. This is a natural cycle, a closed cycle. For now it remains the same, season to season, year to year. Indigenous people have adapted, lived and worked within these seasons since time unmeasured. I was recently on a site that talked about using natural cycles in nature as a metaphor for design. For example, what if buildings could be designed to behave like trees? Would they then become more integrated into the earth's cycle rather than an interruption to it. This is important if we want to guarantee the renewal of the seasons now, as they always have been. There is a lot of talk about carbon footprint and other effects of our lives of consumption on the eco-system. When I think about what I can do, I think about my role as a design educator. I can plant the seed of creative thought in those I teach. If I plant enough, some of them are bound to bloom.