Saturday, 6 May 2017

A whole lot of moisture

It's still raining here. 

Actually if anything the rain is intensifying and it's starting to get to me. Our house will be fine, we're on the top of a rise .. but down the hill toward the main part of town the creek that flows into the big river is swollen right up to the bridge, not 'just' from the snow melt and incessant rain, but also because the river itself is spreading UP the creeks now. 

Normally a small, reedy marsh, it's now about 5 times its normal size.
On the other side of the houses is the Ottawa River proper, so
they're surrounded.
The hills of Calumet Island in the distance.

We keep hearing sirens. When you live in the city, there are so many sirens all day and all night long you don't hear them any more. But in a village of 800 when you hear sirens you think 'oh no, someone's got trouble' and send out a good thought or a prayer for them. 

Volunteer firemen are amazing. I don't know why they get such a bad rap in the popular imagination, these guys are willing to put their lives on the line for their neighbours. Ours - and those all over our province, I don't know about the other areas of Canada - are very highly trained. As the designated first responders for any emergency they can restart your heart, deliver your baby, put out nasty industrial, forest or house fires and they're the guys out on the ice if a snowmobile goes through or out on the water if a boat capsizes. 

Our Premier has called out the army to deal with the flooding in the major cities, but in the villages it's these guys and other 'ordinary' folks who are sandbagging, making berms, rescuing the elderly and their little dogs .. 

In hundreds of communities through a vast swath of central Canada, ie Ontario, Quebec and now into the Maritime provinces, this same slow moving disaster is playing out. Houses ruined. Farm fields that likely won't see planting this year and the concomitant issue of fertilizer and pesticide residues washing into the rivers. 

All of this misery, not just because of the record breaking amounts of snow melt, not just because of the record breaking rains, but because we modern humans haven't yet learned our lessons about water. Don't live too close to it. Don't plant crops on a flood plain. Easy, you'd think, to figure that out, right? But no, we're complacent, floods 'every 50 years' doesn't mean much to us .. and oh the irony that you'll pay so much more for waterfront property, and the luxury of losing everything when that river rises. Because rivers do. It's what they do. 

One thing I can say in the Quebec government's favour is that they are trying to do something to protect the waterways. Long ago rules were set in place that shorelines had to retain their natural vegetation. No lawns going down right to the lake on cottage properties. No soy fields, either. Building permits in flood zones are harder to get, although that's up to municipalities and they're cashed starved, so all in all, enforcement of any of these rules is difficult. Perhaps we'll learn something here, once the waters withdraw and we all have time for navel gazing.

IF the waters withdraw. Decades ago now, when my friend Anne was going through her Medicine Woman apprenticeship, the Elders were warning her (and she was warning me) of the Earth Changes to come. Not "global warming", not "climate change", "Earth Changes". The instruction from the Elders was not to live anywhere near a river, because part of the Earth Changes was the rivers changing their courses. (There was a particularly dramatic case of this in the Yukon recently.)  

Rivers are dynamic. Water moves, shaping the land. It isn't, as we've been led to believe, always a slow, geological-time type of process. Sometimes it speeds up and catches us unawares. 

Last year, when we were gifted access to the majestic forest on Killoran road, I became entranced by the way the land in there rolls and undulates and it was clear to me that the now-greened gullies snaking through it told the tale of an old waterway. Now the stream curves around the forest, in times past it must have gone through. Those gullies are deep, and as I clambered up and down their banks I couldn't help but wish I'd seen it in those days.

Yesterday we drove over there for a walk through the mosses and ferns and found that the old waterway is back.

That's easily 6 ft deep.
I know because I clambered through there in the autumn.
Can you spot the Chaga?

Click to enlarge that pic and you'll see that the fallen tree grew two 'new' trees from its trunk after it fell over. Cool, eh? The original root system was lifted right out of the ground (it's underwater right now), yet somehow it managed to survive for decades hence. 

Here's another of those fallen trees so you can see how big the roots are. Taller than me by a fair bit. The water in here, where it's able to spread out, isn't nearly as deep. The soil is pure clay; it will be a while til I can get in there to sit on that log again .. 

No words, just breathtaking silence.

It's early yet, so the leaves aren't yet out and the rain kept the blackflies at bay. In the end, I was drenched, but we all know I don't care about that. The rain is making the mosses happy.

And believe it or not, the plant pictured below next to the mossy stump was a mystery to me. Yes, it's true, there are wide gaps in my knowledge, especially in the forests. I'm more of a meadow person. Until this place came into our lives we just didn't have access to forests.

Hello, who are you?
Pretty as a jewel, ain't it?
It's Blue Cohosh.

Matthew Wood says of Blue Cohosh in his "Earthwise Herbal" (Vol 2) "Its presence is always an indication that the woods in which it appears has never been subjected to grazing and has never lost its basic integrity, although it may have been subject to heavy or light logging". That would describe our forest to a T. Yes, it has been logged, but not for a long, long time. And it definitely retains its basic integrity. 

I was delighted to find Blue Cohosh almost everywhere I stepped that day (carefully!),  along with trilliums (trillia?) in both white and red varieties, and of course trout lilies, all just pushing their leaves up through the soaked leafmould. In a week it will all burst into bloom; we'll go back. There might be more pictures but honestly, I can't promise. There are times and places where we just stand and stare and forget all about the cameras .. 

I'll leave you with more moss, in bloom.

Back yard stump moss.
And enterprising seedlings.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow! Your pictures tell a thousand stories. The water that has moved in is amazing! And the moss and cohosh, well, wow again!

    What a blessing you have access to such natural beauty!