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  • Listen to the trees

    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic

    A visit to Doumac Park in Saanich comforts—yet reminds of the über commodification of nature and BC’s farcical forest management strategy.


    WHENEVER I'VE FELT ANXIOUS AND DISCOURAGED by all the exceptional challenges of this past year, I’ve found myself walking to the trees. It feels odd to say that they speak to me, but when I start down the long set of stairs into the Cordova Bay ravine known as Doumac Park, the sounds of civilization fall quiet behind me and I can feel Nature beckoning. 

    A small rainforest thrives in this basin, in the filtered sunlight and almost prehistoric setting. Stately Douglas firs, grand firs, bigleaf maples and western hemlocks stand as stoic sentinels up and down the ravine’s steep sides. Their roots are prominent; the downhill ones look like giant toes, braced to avoid sliding down into the creek. Many generations are intermingled here, the elders among them reaching 40 metres high, the juveniles in their shade straining for sunlight, and underfoot, the hollowing trunks of ancestors busy giving themselves back to the earth. 

    Just two months ago this place was blanketed in snow, impossibly quiet and pristine, the conifers skirted in white from top to bottom, the bare maple branches heaped with white icing. The sun was brilliant, the sky azure, the woods full of secrets. I wanted the scene to last forever.    



    Doumac Park, January 2021. Photo by Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic


    These days moss carpets almost everything, and already the Western sword fern, an age-old creation in its own right, has burst forth for another season. Here and there are nurse stumps—ancient rotting stumps that nurture fallen seeds into seedlings, saplings and full-grown trees whose roots will eventually spill over them like octopus arms and engulf them entirely. 



    Doumac Park, near the ravine. Photo by Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic


    The air in the ravine is soft in my lungs, and I breathe in unison with the trees. They make me feel protected but I worry about how much longer they—and more specifically their non-urban brethren—will be safe, this being the era of über commodification of all natural resources and farcical forest management strategy. It’s both galling and appalling that while BC politicians keep jawing tirelessly on the same old cud of insincere management rhetoric, they meanwhile allow the industry to keep sawing away all the old forests. At this rate, there’ll soon be nothing left for them to discuss, except perhaps the unheeded lessons in Dr Seuss’ The Lorax and Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, (both prescient gems from 1971).

    The trail I’m on wends down to Revans Creek on the ravine floor. Currently it is burbling with ample spring water, funnelled from the capillaries of its watershed for delivery to the sea. It all fits together so exquisitely and interdependently, these puzzle pieces of Nature that collectively support a fragile balance and complex symbiosis that keeps so many life forms, we included, alive and thriving. There’s so much to learn in this small, four-hectare sanctuary—and in any small section of Nature—that one could spend a lifetime studying here and still not know everything.

    Walking in Nature has, for decades, been my own effective remedy for whatever has ailed me. It rouses happiness, gratitude, wonderment and awareness of my own ephemerality in the face of all the incredible beauty and complexity that has been loaned to us for our duration. If there is any bond to be had with a Creator, I feel it most acutely here, in a place of veneration that was created for us rather than by us. Here it is easy to commit to stewardship as our part of the bargain. But take the worship out of this place, to a human built edifice elsewhere, and it becomes much easier to re-interpret the call for stewardship as a permit for dominion over everything. The credo of dominion has destroyed so much.

    Climate change remains our biggest challenge, and I worry about the times to come. We’ve surely learned lessons from COVID-19, but will we remember them once the light at the end of that tunnel grows stronger? Already we are champing at the bit to gear everything up and start regaining lost time. We can’t wait to fly again—those enticing vacation ads!—and to buy again, because we deserve it, we’ve suffered so much. Never mind the centuries-long concomitant exploitation of Nature that’s now reached a critical point. We’ve never factored that into our cost and are not terribly keen to start doing the math now. 

    I start back up the hill and pass the centuries-old nurse log near the second landing. I feel reverence for it. I feel it wanting my humility. I feel it wanting to tell me, “If you’re going to be humble in the face of anything, let it be Nature and let it be now.”

    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic is a writer, grandmother and Master Gardener. Her books include People in Transition and Ernie Coombs: Mr Dressup (both from Fitzhenry & Whiteside).

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