Posted by: Dave Neads | December 30, 2011

Misty Caress

So far, this winter has been warm and wet. Maybe it is because of La Nina, the little cold one, holding the continental high at bay, or maybe it is just the normal irregularity in the scheme of things, but no matter why, this winter has been wet, wet, wet.

Yes, we usually get a January thaw or two, a little rain that changes to snow as winter gets on with the business of burying the land with its normal hoary cloak. However, this year the rains have been early and frequent. Several times this December we have had extensive overnight drizzles, freezing rain and outright downpours.

Yesterday was yet another one of those drizzly afternoons, but under my new fitness regimen I walk every day, no exceptions. So about three thirty I put on a heavy coat, a big leather hat, good snow boots and trudged off into the gathering gloom.

As I entered the forest on the ridge behind us, the absolute silence that descended was enthralling. Suspended in the melting snowflake cathedral the branches on the pines were outlined in white, just as a pantomime performer under a white spot has his fingers and hands highlighted in tight white gloves against the monochrome black behind.

This was a two-toned world, black and white, the philosopher’s dream. Large drops of gray white slush were dropping through the trees, silent missiles from the heavens. Into this magic realm I strode, climbing up the ridge to the seat at Satori viewpoint. From here all I could see was the immediate world of black green with white shimmering veins shot through the fabric of space-time.

I felt I was sitting on a ledge jutting from the wall of a great vaulted cave, its silvery gray ceiling several hundred feet above my head, with the far side of the cavern miles distant. Stalactite fingers of mist were falling earthward, melting and fading in a slow, sinuous dance of rain and fog.

There was not a breath of wind, not even a zephyr, just a silent current gently moving across the landscape, caressing the tree tops with the misty butterfly kiss of a post-coital lover on lightly closed eyelashes, ripples of pleasure flowing into eternity.

Posted by: Dave Neads | November 20, 2011

Snow and Jellyfish

Have you ever seen green snow? Or red snow? How about yellow and orange snow? I’m not talking about algae, pollution, or some weird chemical spill, I’m talking about pristine, clear patches of frosty white snow draped on the ridge behind our home changing colour.

 
Just before sunset yesterday afternoon , I went for a short hike up the ridge to witness the transition from day to night. This is my favourite time to visit my perch where I can watch the clouds as they tumble across the Coast mountains over the Precipice and onto the plateau. I am never disappointed by the infinite variety of the things I see produced by the elements of light, cloud, wind and mountains.

 
But yesterday was far beyond the usual ; it set new limits on what the universe can do. When I first arrived, the sun was beginning to sink into a large bank of very black cloud suspended from one angular mountain peak to another. The contrast between the sun’s brilliant yellow ball and the cloud bridge’s absolute black was sharp as a razor. As the sun slowly sank toward the horizon, the thickness of the cloud formation was just enough to hide the sun completely, shielding it from view.

 
The moment the shining disc was completely behind the cloud, the mist filling the space under the black band began to pulse within gold, yellow and brilliant white flashes. It reminded me of one of those urban nightclubs where strobes flash off and on, but this was far more inventive, with the pulses moving quickly in waves, bouncing off the mountainsides and the bottom of the vee below; shimmering in intensity and duration as they reflected back to the blackness above.

 
It was like an alien jellyfish suspended in space, throbbing with life.

 
Then the bottom of the sun started to fall below the sharp black line on the underside of the bridge, sending rays down and out, just like a child’s cartoon drawing. I could feel the faint warmth as they hit my face and I had to avert my eyes as the ancient beacon became too bright to look at.

 
It was then that time slipped sideways. As my eyes wandered to the sheet of snow at my feet, I realized it had started to glitter. This was not the sparkling we have all seen when frost crystals on snow flash like diamonds when the sun or, even more beautifully, when the moonlight, strikes them on a frigid clear night. No, this time the scintillations were in colour, some twinkling green, others snapping on and off in deep red, still others winking in yellow and orange.

 
I was seeing the vibrations of life’s core. The pulsing jellyfish was reaching out to me and the snow around me, entering my consciousness as part of the energy ocean we live in. Surrounded by snow so alive that it danced with colour, I experienced a crack in time when clouds, mist, sun and snow became one in performance art so sublime, so ethereal I was transported to the heart of the cosmos.

Posted by: Dave Neads | July 22, 2011

Adaptability

Across the ARK this so-called summer has been the coldest, wettest, cloudiest in living memory.  The tomatoes and squashes huddle in our greenhouses, waiting for just a bit of sun that will allow the fruits to ripen.  Guide outfitters have had to cancel trips, resorts have lost bookings, roads have flooded, loggers have been “mudded out”,  most rancher’s hay fields are under water and the mosquitoes are in heaven.

In one sense it does not matter why this is happening.  It could be variation in weather pattern; it could be global climate change but whatever the cause, the effects are real and immediate.  The ARK is large enough that usually weather shifts across its length, with sun at one end and rain at the other but this year, the whole ARK has been subject to the torrential rains and unseemly cold days.

The snow line is still down to the tree line, with twice as much snow as usual covering the landscape.  One wonders how the delicate flowers will survive this perpetual snow, the year of the non-summer.  But then I’m sure this is not the first time this has happened in ARK’s long history.  Resilience is in the genes of the plants and animals who live in the ARK; over the millennia all manner of strategies have evolved to cope with a huge range of conditions.

This is one of the real values of the ARK: It is a proving ground for testing existing and emerging adaptations in a more and more rapidly changing climate.

Next year, the snow will melt back into more usual patterns and the flowers buried now will bloom again.  And who knows, there may even be a new configuration of exquisite beauty to greet the senses.

 

Posted by: Dave Neads | June 24, 2011

Water Towers

  

The ice fields found in the mountains of the central Ark are part of the largest mid latitude glacier field in the world.  This in itself is impressive, but the full implications of the location and size of these interlocking systems of glaciers, snowfields, and mountain peaks is not so obvious.

As global climate change proceeds apace, warmer average temperatures are generally moving northward.  Foresters and habitat ecologists are using the latest computer models to predict upcoming changes in climate and species composition in their attempt to plan for new conditions.  In some cases different tree types are being planted; in other areas land use planning advocates are trying to map suitable habitat for animals such as Polar bears or Mountain caribou.

These predictive models show that as early as mid century, temperature regimes coupled with rainfall changes will result in the Rocky mountains losing most of their  snow and ice, with the Columbia ice fields a mere remnant of their present size and the high peaks of the Canadian Rockies no longer snow capped, dressed in their postcard finery.

High mountain ice fields are often referred to as “water towers”.  Just like the water towers in many rural communities are the local source for water,  alpine snowfields are the source of water for the streams and rivers flowing out onto the plains and down to the ocean.  If these water towers run dry, the source for that life-giving water is gone.  This affects drinking water, irrigation, river volumes and flows that affect salmon and a host of other water dependant species.

The high mountain snowfields also allow a slow release of water throughout the year, avoiding the flash flood effect during times of high rainfall.

The Himalayas already are experiencing a dramatic reduction in their glacier/snowfield volumes, so much so that there is mounting concern how the great rivers such as the Yellow and the Ganges will be able to continue to support the millions of people who live in their watersheds.

In this context the Mt. Waddington centered group of ice fields in the central Ark become extremely important.   Rising directly from the ocean shore to a height of over 4,000 meters, these high peaks receive huge amounts of snow from the Pacific ocean.  The rivers that flow from them support major salmon runs in the along the B.C coast as well as the Bella Coola system. The importance of these fisheries to North American salmon markets cannot be over stated.

But the issue goes far beyond salmon.  Water for the Chilcotin/Chilko watershed, water for irrigation in the dry interior, water for drinking–all this moisture  comes from the high mountains of the Ark.

Beyond that mid-century prediction for the Canadian Rockies,  by the end of this century it may well be that the Waddington  water tower located in the central ARK will be the world’s largest remaining source of fresh water in the temperate latitudes.

Posted by: Dave Neads | June 16, 2011

Raven’s Spring Dance

Spiraling across the spring sky in perfect unison, laughing at gravity, signaling their pleasure with a resonant  “Pwok, Pwok” , Raven and his mate leisurely glided in huge circles over the valley.   Suddenly, with their slick black feathers gleaming in the morning sun,  they snapped instantly into a series of parallel barrel rolls that  would make any top gun fighter pilot envious.

Then came the imperceptibly smooth transition into a power dive ending with  a  side by side flare across the brilliant green of fresh spring grass mixed with last year’s straw coloured hay.  To regain altitude, Raven led his mate in a  parade of  loop the loops climbing skyward until they were just black specks against the white puffy clouds.

Now for the grand finale.  Slipping down through the air in a slow shallow curve, one partner would slide over onto their back, legs and claws stretched upwards so the upper one could clasp hands, pulling skyward. Then the  clench would break, followed by a short smooth approach where the joining would again take place.  It looked just like a  1960’s jive, where the partners would join hands, move in close, then fall back unclasping fingers, each loosened for a moment but still paired in the rhythm.  Three, four, five or more times the intricate handshake was performed in an undulating  verticality: clasp, drop, clasp, drop, clasp drop, switch top and bottom partner, clasp drop, clasp drop, clasp drop, slowly losing altitude, performing  aerial magic..

Raven and his partner were having a wonderous  time.  There is no other way to describe it.  Across the gulf of species, the feelings of energy and joy to be alive were unmistakably communicated by the lighthearted aura of this elegant couple, dancing the Spring Dance of the Raven

Posted by: Dave Neads | June 2, 2011

Spring Run

 

SPRING RUN

The logistics of living in the Chilcotin ARK change from year to year, season to season.  This spring is no different.  So, two weeks ago when I decided to make a ” Run” to Anahim Lake and points beyond,  I had an unexpected spring adventure .

As part of the trip, I planned to attend a meeting in Tatla Lake then visit some friends, stay over a couple of nights and come home later in the week.  It was that time of the spring  when the snow in the valley was gone, so the skidoo had been put away until next winter.  But the road was still too soft to drive a vehicle over it because of frost boils, snow patches at higher elevations, and soft spots caused by high water tables.  So I chose the ATV for travelling the ten miles from our home to the logging road where our  vehicle had been parked all winter.

The meeting at Tatla Lake was scheduled for 8 am, so working backwards, I had to leave home at 5 am.  It takes about an hour to get to the vehicle, another half an hour to Anahim Lake and them roughly one and a half hours to reach the library at Tatla Lake.   This schedule meant I could travel at a moderate pace, and if all went well, I would have fifteen to twenty minutes to spare.

When I got up at 4, it was raining heavily.  Decision time.  Well, I figured it wasn’t minus 20, with blowing snow, so even though I might get a little wet, sitting on the ATV for an hour wouldn’t be a problem.  Fortified with a couple of mugs of hot tea, slices of homemade bread slathered with peanut butter and honey complete with hugs from Rosemary,  I ventured out into the morning gloom.

I was cheerily dressed in yellow rain pants, light green felt packs, dark green rain jacket, black gauntlet mitts and a huge brown leather cowboy hat sporting a patch of rattlesnake skin  sewn onto the front.  I was ready.

At first all was well, with the windshield deflecting most of the rain, but the back eddy caused some to swirl toward my face.  The brim of the hat, when tilted just so, caught most of that, leaving just a little bit left to hit me in the face, splattering over my glasses.  But I could still see well enough to stay on the road, steering a steady course into the wilderness.

After about fifteen minutes and a gain in elevation of about three hundred feet, the rain changed abruptly to snow.  Slushy and wet mixed with little hailstones, but no doubt about it, late winter had returned.

ATVs don’t have windshield wipers.  Nor do my glasses.  For a little while I could see enough through the gray white mist to steer, but I had to take off my glasses.  My vision is good enough to keep things on the road, but the edges were a little fuzzy.  The real problem was that the windshield started to collect snow to the point where it became an opaque white screen, blocking my view entirely.  Leaning over to the side so I could see didn’t work as the full force of the snow hit me squarely in the face, causing things to come to a halt.

Eventually,  I developed a strategy where I used my right hand on the right   handlebar which allowed me to steer albeit rather awkwardly as I had work the throttle with the same hand.  I was then able to use my left hand  as a wiper to clear the snow from the  top of the windshield, giving me  a small window to see where the road was.  It must have been a strange sight to see me crabbing along, half crouched over the seat with my arm swinging  back and forth like some demented dog wagging his tail.

Finally I was up into the clearcuts nearing the end of journey feeling rather smug as I chugged along with thoughts of a warm car followed by  a hot coffee in town warming my brain.

Then the ATV died.  It sounded like a balloon whose neck had been let go, sputtering noisily for a second before the silence descended.  I tried the starter a couple of times, but I could tell this was not going to work.  No life at all.

So here I am at six fifteen in the morning, eight miles from home,  sitting on a dead ATV with a tree-bending wind blowing hard and two inches of new snow covering six inches of old snow on the road and more coming down.  The only thing to do was to start walking out to the vehicle.  Not too far really, on a good day.  But at this time in the early morning, carrying a wide cooler with my clothes, out-going mail and kit, breaking through the crust with each step,  trudging into a blizzard, the snow and sleet stinging my face as it was driven horizontally into my line of travel,  I began to wonder just what I was doing here anyway.

I finally reached the car, wet and chilled, but overall things were fine.  The sweetest sound you will ever hear at a time like this is not the soft cooing of a voluptuous lover or the emotional  notes of a delicate aria.  No, the greatest sound in the whole world is the grinding of the starter followed by an explosion of noise as the vehicle’s engine jumps to life.

Thank you Lord for a good battery.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, the meeting went well and I had a good visit with friends.  In the end I was able to fix the problem with the ATV and it now runs smoothly, at least until the next time something else breaks.

It is part of the karma when you live in the wilderness that machines will always break down when you need them the most.  I suppose this is part of the soul experience I chose in this manifestation.

 

 

Posted by: Dave Neads | May 2, 2011

Our Killer Door a.k.a. Cat T.V.

We have a killer door. Not in the fashion sense as in “Its a killer”, stunningly beautiful”. No, our door kills things.

Well, maybe that’s too harsh. After all, this is the door that provides endless hours of genuine pleasure for us, especially in the mornings, as we watch the birds tussle and jostle for position on the feeder hanging in space over the woodshed driveway.

This is also the same door that has enthralled our many cats over the years. Right now we only have one, Obi, who sits in front of (behind) the glass portal for endless moments, his tail lashing as he too, watches these birds, albeit with a much different view of the world. He sometimes becomes so excited watching cat TV that he starts to do a stutter meow, sounding like a teenager whose voice is cracking.

The neighbour dog, a Kommondor, comes visiting on a regular basis. He stands at the door, his nose pushed into the glass, trying to peer inside. If he sees no one, he knocks at the door with his big paw, making a scratching noise, alerting all who are at computer screens that he is here and wants his buddy, our equally large dog, to come out to play. The early morning sun backlights the squishy gray marks his nose leaves quite brightly, to show just how many times he has been here this week.

Our dog Chilko is no different. Although he doesn’t press his nose into the glass as much, he does the scratching thing, letting us know that he needs attention. If we don’t hear him, Obi does and then he comes and gets us giving his special meow to let us know his canine buddy is at the door.

Not to be outdone, Obi will sit at the back (front) of the door for long periods, waiting for someone to come along and let him back into the house. This is especially needed when there is snow on the ground an he is loath to tread through it, down the hill and into the woodshed to his cat door.

While simply a passive cedar door, whose full length and width is fitted with a single double paned window, this door has a dark side. Every so often, especially in the morning, we will hear a dull ‘whump’, the kind of sound you hear when a snowball bounces off a cardboard box. If we hear this sickening sound, both of us plus Obi (who has learned what this sound means) rush to the door where we look out onto the deck to survey the damage.

Sometimes it is a junco, sometimes a Redwing blackbird or, like last week a Varied thrush. This was a shame because this was the first year we have had them, and we only had three. Two of them now have met the fate of the Door.

Sometimes, after flying into the glass at full speed, these birds lay stunned, still breathing, on the brown deck boards. These we put up on the top of the planters, to let them revive. Sometimes they lie there for up to an hour, but then recover and fly away. Other times, as with the two Varied thrushes, things did not work out. They both broke their necks and died instantly.

This is very sad, we have tried many things, putting up plastic cobwebs and so on, but unless we block the glass completely, this occasional accident will happen.

This year we have had three deaths, we hope that will be all. Once here for a while, the birds seem to figure it out, and for some strange reason, we have never had a Grey jay make that mistake.

So, every spring, we live through a period when our killer door takes its toll. In the end, the benefits of cat TV far outweigh the occasional fatality. At the same time, we continue to search for ways to watch wild TV on door channel one and make it safe at the same time.

Posted by: Dave Neads | April 25, 2011

April Ridge Walk

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. This is the sound of a morning walk on the snow in mid April. It was minus 10 last night, but now the grouse are booming in the background; the knife sharp morning light cuts through the yellow green needles of the firs and pines. Crunch, Crunch, crunch, it is easy to imagine wearing crampons, clawing my way up a steep slope on some mountain ridge in the high Blanca of Peru. But no, this reality is manifest right here in Precipice Valley, our valley paradise on the edge of the Ark. As I climb the ridge behind our home, I start to get a wider and wider scope of the mountains piercing the blue spring sky, phalanx after phalanx disappearing into the hazy horizon

Soon the river is three hundred feet below, swirling and dodging over, under and around the chunks of ice still clogging the channel. It sounds like someone scrunching up a newspaper before they shove it into the firebox, which I had to do at six this morning. It was one of the colder nights since “spring” arrived. But I am lucky, I can light a fire, have a hot cup of tea, put on a warm outer skin and move outside for a crisp walk.

On the other hand, the poor geese down in the meadow far below, have no such luxury. Arriving only yesterday, this morning the flock is huddled in small groups wondering where the water is, honking and flapping huge wings. Their presence seems out of place in this late winter landscape, yet there they are, trying to make the best of an unusual situation.

Maybe by two or three this afternoon, when the heat of the sun melts a few puddles, the geese may get some new sprouts, a drink of water, a foretaste of the lush feast that will be theirs alone in a few weeks as the fields explode with tender tasty new grass, slugs, worms, grubs and all manner of delicious morsels. But for now these big birds hunker down, tough it out, focused on keeping warm and scrounging what little food there is.

Sex is rampant even on this cold morning. The grouse is booming out his “Here I am” message. The squirrels are just finishing their frantic noisy mating rituals. The Redwing blackbirds are huskily throating their calls for territory and mates.

The most sensuous of these mating songs is the ubiquitous chickadee. Its three note descending call, “Oh poor me” it lends itself to all kinds of bawdy phrasing in the mind’s eye. Then there is the telephone bird, the one whose second long trill sounds uncannily like the phone ringing. Many a time I have rushed over to the workshop phone to answer a dial tone only to realize that bird, which we haven’t been able to identify, has caught me again.

He is not to be confused with ladder bird, who usually starts his drumming on the aluminum ladder pitched against the back roof at first light. This woodpecker loves the punk sound he smashes out on the rungs of that battered old ladder. It works much better than the nearby fir snag that all the other guys use. I wonder if he gets better or worse mates? I guess it depends on their taste, whether it is trashy, edgy or traditional.

But back to the ridge. The exercise warms the soul and the body. As I climb higher, more and more of the Coast mountains thrust into view. Such scale and perspective is difficult to fathom. It is much easier to settle the eye on the white blue berries of the juniper, clustered on the branch ends, their promise of new life displayed for all to see.

The whole universe is enfolded in each detail. The pools of frozen mud that will be released by mid-afternoon to flow for a couple of hours before freezing again are part of the same process that raises mountains in liquid form from the planetary deeps, only to freeze into the rocks and cones we climb upon. They too will be melted into flowing viscous liquid in the next afternoon of geologic time.

The ridge itself is a relic sandbar, formed in the belly of a glacier when a river orders of magnitude larger than the present little steam flowed through the ice, bursting its way to the sea in times of furious melt. This sandbar is thousands of feet long, it climbs hundreds of feet into the sky, and the river and the ice that surrounded it worked on a scale beyond imagination.

Now all is calm, the big ice gone, the river shrunken in the middle of a cycle that will repeat again and again in the endelss dance of shape, energy, form, heat, and light.

To live in the Ark, especially in spring, is to be connected to all scales of life energy from the galactic core of a billion trillion suns to the tiny bit of light that warms a late afternoon meal for the Canada geese.

Posted by: Dave Neads | April 14, 2011

CHILCOTIN ARK — PLANETARY REFUGE

The Chilcotin Ark is the largest intact wilderness area in the temperate latitudes of North America. It is a wild landscape so huge that the wind’s breath still blows clean and the water is diamond clear, sweetly drinkable, flowing down the mountainsides from the source.

In this place ecosystems still function as they have for millions of years. Untouched, remote, little known, the Ark is a planetary Refuge for temperate species where they can continue to prosper and evolve. Wilderness on this scale has all but vanished, making the Ark a global hot spot for diversity.

James Lovelock brought forward the “Gaia Principle” which proposes that large scale ecosystems are self-regulating, using a complex web of interactions to stabilize the environment around them. The Ark is an example of this principle at work. While most other areas of Earth are being degraded, the Ark still thrives as a fully intact organism, allowing us to study the blueprint that has made life on this planet successful for billions of years.

Much more than a glimpse into the dynamics of how life survives, the Ark provides vital sustenance for the spirit. Imagine being able to hike endlessly across a land where you may never see evidence of human activity, let alone another person other than your hiking companions. Imagine being immersed in a landscape where pristine beauty engulfs your mind and being. It is in these primordial conditions that we evolved and they are necessary food for the health of our soul.

We live in times of rapid change which threaten human civilization. Shifting climate regimes, pollution and declining resources are forcing us to rethink how we live here on Earth. No longer does the paradigm of uncontrolled expansion of population and resource extraction serve us well. We need to rethink our concepts of long term survival very quickly if we are to avoid massive collapse of our civilization.

The principles that compose Gaian interactions within the Ark are subtle yet successful, hammered out on the evolutionary anvil through vast time frames. Ark’s living fabric is built on co-operation amongst species. Always living within natural limits, plants and animals waste nothing; everything is recycled. All nooks and crannies are filled with life of every description, diligently exploring the possibilities for survival. Nothing is static, constant adaptation is the order of the day.

The Ark is unique in Earth’s north temperate zone, a planetary Refuge where an immense range of diversity can thrive, contributing to the global reservoir of species which is part of the ongoing evolutionary path. More importantly, an exploration of the Ark will allow us to rediscover ancient principles and feel fundamental emotions lost to our everyday experience. Only then will we be able to spark our dynamic creativity, forging new relationships for a vigorous future.

Posted by: Dave Neads | November 9, 2010

Winter Wisdom

The Hindu tradition describes four seasons to a person’s life. In youth basic character is molded into a fully developed individual. Then comes the phase of building a home, gathering food and shelter for family, raising children, fully participating in society. In the third quarter of life comes a withdrawal from the material world, a time of “going into the forest” where the emotional frailties of life, death, and the spirit of self are explored and come to terms with.

Finally, we reach old age and become leaders, demonstrating our readiness to pass through the great whorls of energy into another realm. The understanding that endings create beginnings by moving through cycles is the wisdom passed on by elders.

So it is with that great sweep of land we call  ARK. Youth is but a distant millions year-old memory. ARK has raised its mountains, has carved its glacial valleys, has nourished countless broods of all manner of living creatures from the tiny voles to majestic caribou. Yet each year, as the earth spins through space and time, ARK experiences anew the “petite mal”, the little death of winter.

Covering the heads and shoulders of the peaks and ridges sprawled across ARK’s massive frame, the mantle of snow is settling. This is not the mottled, brown-black snow of the city, nor even the dust-laden snow of the country field. This is the pure, blue-white snow of the high country.

There is no snow like it. It is sometimes crusty, sometimes sugary, sometimes creamy like newly churned butter, and now this snow of ARK’s upper reaches is beginning to descend from its lofty lair to the forests below.

We have been watching it coming for weeks, inexorable, implacable, slowly marching down the mountainsides, finally to came at rest on our doorstep.

The wisdom of snow is the wisdom of old age. Transforming all into a white universe, displaying the ancient truth of endings, ARK becomes a Hindu priest dispensing wisdom and truth with the placement of winter’s shroud on the land.

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