In this short post I hope to reflect on the question "How can we nurture our wildest dreams for this city?" Well, I think wild dreams come from inside us and they become real through chance meetings, unexpected conversations, and unique partnerships and I believe they are sprouting around us all the time. So what does it mean to encourage and support these serendipities? I think it requires us to use skills that we, as nature-lovers, have already started to train. We have our eyes, ears, mouths, hands, and noses and we put them to good use outdoors. We watch birds, taste wild plants, smell flowers, and we listen to the world around us, but how can our senses help us support chance meetings? By broadening our perspective and by helping us notice what is nearby. I think it is too easy to let sight become the only sense we use. But I think we, as people with an interest in nature, have an advantage here. So many of our outdoor hobbies help us practice seeing the world with our other senses. A good birdwatcher knows birds by their calls, a wanderer might know a good walk by the feeling in their feet. But could you recognize your garden's scent in early October? How about in August? By exercising our other senses we pay more attention to what is around us.
I think that if our wildest dreams are to come true we need to keep this learning process going and open it up to the environment where we spend most of our time: the city. I am going to paraphrase a conversation I had with a biologist I know who despaired about the state of migratory bird conservation: I asked "how can we retrofit our cities to welcome more birds in?" He responded by saying that I was asking the wrong question. Instead I should ask "how can we get rid of cities?" That is a wild dream, but with respect, I don't think it is the right one to have. Instead, I dream about a city that doesn't kill songbirds and I know many other people who are thinking this too. But how do we make it a reality? We use our senses: our ears to listen to each other; our eyes to gather evidence and to watch what is happening around us; our mouths to communicate what we learned; our hands and feet to ground us in the texture of the world around us; and our noses to enjoy the world we are advocating for.
At its best, I think, the NatureCity Festival acts as a bridge between two ways of seeing the world that might seem further apart than they really are. "Nature" and "City" so often seem impossibly different. But how can our concrete jungle change if we do not see it with all of our senses? There are people you know well with thoughts you have never imagined and insights that you might take years to arrive at or never think of at all. This is a city of ideas as much as a city of pavement and prairie and Saskatoon is fortunate: we have incredible spaces to practice using our senses. The more alert we are to the possibilities around us the more I hope we can find people to walk with us toward our wildest dreams. So, What is your dream?
NatureCity Festival Volunteer