Just like Lyanda Lynn Haupt, I believe Nature is not something that lives outside of the city, let alone a place to be reached by car, train or plane. It is all around us – and we are part of it.
Every time you go out to work, fetch a few groceries, or even when you put the garbage bag on the sidewalk, Nature is enveloping you, and calling you at the same time (because you are not truly "there" if you are dwelling in your thoughts instead). Hello? Little Human?
|Circle of old Cottonwoods keeping a gentle guard on the baseball players, in Parc Lafontaine.
Sunlight playing with the clouds, the moon in its growing and decreasing smiling shapes, the few stars whose brightness surpasses urban lighting, the busy sparrows and starlings – they are your family, your people.
Every time you connect with them, even for a few real minutes, they carry you further and deeper into your day. They ground you. You feel less overwhelmed, you breathe more deeply. (I need to remind this to myself so often!)
|Crabapple leaves: everyday gifts in September, when I come home.
However, the "signal" is definitely better when we find ourselves in a place where these natural influences are not too much counterbalanced by car noises and fumes, artificial light and so on.
In Montréal, my favourite place to reclaim my wild side is on the Mont-Royal. Hills bring us closer to the sky in a gentle and intimate way, and I am very grateful there is one (two, in fact) in the heart of our island.
|Chemin Olmsted on January 1st, 2013.
On the right: cross-country ski tracks. On the left: happy joggers. Temperature: - 20 F
On one side of this hill is a fine forested park where you can walk, ski or snowshoe around, or admire the city (and river) from a belvedere. This makes me invariably aware of the era when the Iroquoians lived there and stood on this very spot... They are somehow much more real to me that the current scenery.
|Montréal in 1902, seen from the Mont-Royal (Wiki Commons)
On the other side of the hill is a cemetery.
Here, each tree can shine individually to our human eyes; the steles tell you about past existences in an allusive, yet personal way, and maintain a kind of sacred atmosphere.
|My secret garden.
The cemetery is not, of course, a recreational area. It's a place to simply be. So I do spend a lot of time there in the summer, walking quietly, stopping often, listening both intuitively and intently, lying on the grass of my favourite spots.
In the winter, you come across a lot of interesting tracks - fox, raccoon, squirrel - spread on the white canvas. They tell you many stories, if you follow them (which is not easy in such a deep snow, without snowshoes).
|Here the prints from the hind feet of the Raccoon are more apparent.
I never walk directly on prints or even between them, so as not to invade the wild creature's space – once I have identified the animal or bird, I simply walk in the same general direction, weaving a loose, festooned pattern with the animal's path. (Just like other animals do.) And I look around for more tracks crossing this one.
|I could not help smiling at the sight of this.
Surprise! There are several. Another Raccoon (did they meet? Apparently). And Squirrels.
|There was even some frolicking going on.
I like to imagine their respective amblings between the trees and steles, quite similar to what I’ve witnessed on several occasions during my summer reveries in the late afternoon.
|Once I saw three young Raccoons and their mother getting out of this enormous, ancient Silver Maple.
(In the curve of which grows a young Ostrya Virginiana - American Hophornbeam.)
The kids had a lot of fun, and so did I.
After a while I return to my human perspective and path (my feet are getting cold), and simply enjoy the light and the sky playing their winter melodies on the snow, the sun warming my face and coat.
Hello, little Human. Glad to reconnect.
|Believe it or not, I am wearing three pairs of cotton/wool thighs here.
Skirt: made in Montreal from recycled sweaters.
Boots: Ecco (warm and waterproof, very light)
To be more in tune with Nature AND with yourself, I highly recommend these books by Paul Rezendes: The Wild Within / Tracking and the Art of Seeing.
The French version of this post features another nice selection of pictures, including Fox prints :o)
And you can expect more posts on this topic when summer comes. I hope none of you is put off by Raccoon droppings.