The land the Northeast Swale can be found on is a library, with at least a 10,000 year history. It has soil made of sand, clay and silt, spread throughout by rhizomes, occupied by seeds, spores, bacteria and fungi. Some of those seeds will only germinate in a dry spring, some only in a wet spring. Some will wait for as long as necessary. Some will only germinate after a long cold winter, and some need a series of long cold winters.
The Swale is one small piece of the Great Plains of North America, of which, in Canada, less than 15% remains. Once, the bison were here, people lived, loved, hunted, raised their families, and cared for this land. But we have forgotten how to do this; we have occupied it, with no concern for what the prairies provided. We have given in to greed.
I ask you to remember the first morning in spring when you have left your window open all night because it was a warm and refreshing evening. You wake to the song of the meadow lark. You feel warm in your bed, and snuggle down deeper, because of the cool clear air that has come in with the meadow lark’s song.
Consider a late evening in summer. It has been a splendid day; you can smell the sunshine on your skin. From your porch, you hear the frogs chirruping, the crickets chirping.
Consider a sunny day in autumn, a brittle wind blows coldly. The leaves, brown and crunchy, have mostly fallen from the wolf willow, and the beads of their berries glow whitely. When you duck into a pothole, a remainder from glacial times, the sunshine warms you.
Consider a windy day in winter. The sun light ricochets off the hard snow, the wind sucks your breath away. You hear the squeak of your skis on the trail, the cold grabbing at the base of your skis, making you work to move. Your thriving cells are jiggly with life’s metabolic activities.
This library is about to be burned, as well as our grandchildren’s ability to have these visceral experiences with the world. Our grandchildren will grow up with urban grey, paved streets, polluted waters, smoggy air. And the memory that is in the land will be gone, covered by asphalt, concrete, crusher gravel.