Guest Writer: Kate Porter
Five years ago we started walking in a park that is essentially a marsh. We started walking there because I had a new hip. I had discovered that walking on the ground rather than on concrete was very good for my hip and if I wanted to re-establish a normal gait, I needed to walk. The trail in this park is flat and was thus possible for me to master walking on it. When we began walking I used a cane and the arm of my partner in order to negotiate it. The park appeared just when I needed it.
Now, five years later we continue to walk there at least four times a week through sun, wind, rain and even occasionally, snow. And I doubt we will give it up until we can no longer walk. It has become a best friend to us. Eventually, we found a bench in a secluded corner overlooking the tidal river which surrounds the park. It is our favourite spot in the park and the gift of the park and that bench are beyond measure to us.
In summer, the trail is a glorious adventure. It is wide enough for four people and is made of packed fine gravel. In the areas that are not directly beside the river, it is bounded by trees, bushes and flowers. There are alders, maples, oaks, cottonwoods, douglas fir and many more. There are blackberry bushes, raspberry bushes, horsetails, thistles and rushes. There are daffodils, buttercups, wild roses and fireweed. The park is rich and beautiful but not pretty. Except for the trail it is not manicured. And because the centre is a marshland it is a haven for a huge variety of birds. One day, while sitting on the bench we counted seventeen different species from eagles to kingfishers to herons, ducks and redwing blackbirds. Oh yes, and listened to a woodpecker not twenty feet away from us.
Then there is the river. The bench is located in a secluded corner along the trail surrounded by trees and facing the tidal river. When I was learning to walk again it was a resting place. Now it is our favourite destination. Because I am originally from Ontario, I had never known a tidal river. As I was recovering I was entranced by it. The river is forever changing, breathing in and breathing out as the tide comes and goes. I love watching the tide. I have no idea why. It just seems to give so much to me: slows me down, helps me let go. Oddly, we rarely talk when we are sitting on the bench. We are entranced I think.
As our visits to the park had evolved into years we began to find ourselves engaged in observing the behaviour of birds and animals. We noticed how, as the seasons changed, their behaviours changed. We watched kingfishers fishing and eagles hunting and cormorants diving. We watched seals fishing, discovered diving ducks, enjoyed geese introducing their goslings to the river. And this year saw the arrival of a yellow-billed loon, an arctic bird that has not been sighted in BC for 40 years.
One day we watched as an adult eagle taught two young eagles how to fish for salmon. It was riveting and filled us with joy. We also watched ducks mate. At first, we did not know what the ducks were doing and then suddenly we understood. They have not yet returned with their young. We are looking forward to it. I would say that at this time the experience of walking in the park and sitting silently fills us with awe and wonder and great love for the beauty and complexity of the natural world. It has changed our behaviour.
When we lived in Ontario there was no thought about killing ants or flies or spiders. Now, if I am sitting in the garden and an ant travels across the patio towards the house, I find a way to divert it. If I have a spider in my house, I trap it in a jar and take it outside. It was my grandmother who taught me to trap in this way. The family was visiting her and a bee got in the kitchen. She trapped it and set it free outside. She told me they were valuable creatures and we must always take care of them. She knew. I am beginning to know.
About Kate Porter
She is the author of “Life in Beauty” and three children’s books.
She lives in White Rock, BC