Category Archives: South March Highlands

hearts in the snow

this is the hearts in the snow video, the song that sprang from the poem about our experience of stopping the cutting Machine at Beaver Pond Forest on 8 February.  it is dedicated to the beautiful, brave, wonderful people who made that circle around the Machine possible.  the first time it was sung in public was at the rally after the closing ceremony for the Sacred Fire.  the Fire burned day and night from 9 to 13 February at Queen’s Park, Toronto, for the Forest.   mid-song, two redtailed hawks soared overhead.  i’m honoured and glad they chose to join us.

today Urbandale will finish cutting down the Forest we fought so hard to protect.  this song is sad, but don’t despair, there are more songs to come, more battles to win, and our resistance is beautiful.

stop the Machine (Beaver Pond Forest 8 Feb 2011)

walk together through living forest

beautiful in pre-dawn

then into the cleared land

the giant machine terrible leggo-like

cutting blades huge yet strangely dull

like monstrous lobster claws

our human circle around

the human made Machine

a thin line of flesh and spirit

to contain a monster made of

metal wrenched out of the Earth

seizing ancient sun’s power

for fossil-fueled destruction.

we sing, try to keep joy & warmth

amid piles of tree corpses

in neatly stacked rows

trees we love

words can’t quite capture

blood memory,

voices of the land

why the heart beat knows

we must be there to protect

the Beaver Pond Forest

i stumble over words for media

just words, only words

 

as i leave, i go to the five-trunked tree

each trunk severed

no more fingers reaching for sky

i draw hearts

on the snow

on the severed trunks.

hearts on the five-trunked tree. photo credit: Chris Bisson, 8 Feb 2011

Hitching a Ride to the Rally with Grandfather Commanda

The snow fell steadily as we assembled, Ogui duct-taping posts to the beautiful signs Stefan had created for our rally. As I tried (unsuccessfully) to figure out how to use the megaphone, a SUV pulled up and I spotted Grandfather William Commanda and his assistant, Romola. I raced over to greet them. We had not known if 97 year old Grandfather Commanda would be up for the journey over to join us.

Once people had their signs, we formed a circle, with Grandfather able to stay seated in the vehicle. Elder Albert Dumont gave a beautiful opening Blessing for our rally and march, reminding us to be mindful with every step we took that it was a step to help save the Forest. Paul Renaud then gave an impassioned speech, challenging the City of Ottawa to do the right thing and demand a new Archeological Assessment, which would halt destruction of the Forest until spring.

Then Grandfather Commanda prayed for the land (in three languages) and offered tobacco. Those of us who have worked together to save the Beaver Pond Forest over these months (and for some, these decades), were moved and grateful. In a letter to City Council, the Premiere, and others, Grandfather wrote that the Beaver Pond Forest is “[a] living temple, a place of Manitou, a special place of nature, and that precious reality also demands immediate protection and reverence.”

As the protesters marched off, all the more eager due to the cold, I went to thank Grandfather. I reached out to shake his hand. He took my hand… and didn’t let go! He held my hand and spoke to me mostly in French, looking deep in to my eyes with warmth and kindness. At first it was difficult to hear his words due to the good-natured clamour of those marching to the Urbandale Sales office. As it became quiet, only a few of us with Grandfather, I could hear and understand his words. But his message went beyond words. It went straight to my heart. It was about living a good life. More than anything, I felt his words validated my efforts. And this inspires me to continue to put my energy into helping nurture a sense of interconnectedness with each other, the land, and other species.

After Romola gently reminded him a few times that I was the Rally’s emcee, he finally released my hand, and they gave me a lift to join the rest of the group. But I would have happily listened to him for the rest of the day.

Many more powerful words, drumbeats, and songs were shared at the Urbandale Sales Office.  The crowd was eager to keep fighting, to keep our candle of hope burning bright for this Land. We each know Beaver Pond Forest has a powerful and beautiful energy that fuels and inspires our efforts to save it.

Elder Albert Dumont at 8 Jan 2011 rally. Stefan Thompson’s artwork in background.

Green Heron Rescue at South March Highlands

Pressed gently to my heart, swaddled in my sweater with only her head visible, the young Green Heron’s startling yellow eyes seem to hold ancient understanding of this land. She must be in pain, with two broken legs, but those eyes betray nothing. No hope, no fear, only an intense interest.

injured green heron just before capture. photo credit: Bertie Xavier

I brought my Guyanese friend, Bertie, to the Beaver Pond Forest part of the South March Highlands in Ottawa the morning of our Panel Discussion on Research, Transformation, and Indigenous Societies. Bertie, from rural Guyana, S.A.,  is his village’s leader (amongst many other roles!). It was important to bring him to this beautiful and vibrant old growth forest which is slated to be cut down by Urbandale and Richcraft to build yet more houses.   Bertie has faced similar struggles. I hope his visit will make more connections between North and South to help find ways to protect vital, irreplaceable land like the South March Highlands.

We only have time for the loop around the Beaver Pond (sadly for Bertie, no beaver to be seen). We reach the road and head back towards the parking lot when we notice a small commotion in the forest just off our path. We investigate: it is an injured bird. Bertie identifies it as a kind of heron. At first it seems like a wing injury, then it becomes clear it is the legs.

What to do?  Should we intervene?  Or let Nature take her course?  I struggle with this question. If we don’t help, is it really because “we shouldn’t intervene”, or just because we have a lunch appointment and are looking for an excuse to walk away from a fellow creature in pain?

“She’ll be fine,” offers Bertie. But I don’t think so.

“I think we should catch her.  I’m pretty sure there’s a wild bird rescue place.”

“You have things like that here?!”

So Bertie wades further into the bush and grabs the heron, which I wrap into my sweater.  It goes so smoothly, you could ALMOST be fooled into thinking we know what we are doing.

The sun shines but the breeze is cool as we walk to the car. I don’t dare take a hand off my charge, so Bertie mans the cell as I try to figure out where to take the heron.

who’s afraid of a little “incredible recoil action”? photo credit: Bertie Xavier

“Hi, we’ve just rescued an injured bird, some kind of heron…”

“OK, where are you?”

“Well, actually, I’m calling for directions so we can bring her…”

“You mean you caught the heron?!”

“Um, yah…”

“Watch the beak, they’ve got incredible recoil action!!!”

I’m not exactly sure what the volunteer means, but it sounds worrisome that only my sweater is between my heart and this “incredible recoil action”.   However, her beak is actually facing Bertie, on my left holding the cell to my ear.  I warn him, but he’s pretty confident the heron is too injured to “fight up”.

The heron is calm for the 10 minute drive to the Wild Bird Care Centre.  Once brought inside, it turns out she is a Green Heron, only the third to be brought into the Centre over the past 5 years.  I find out about the policies there: they only rehabilitate if it looks likely the bird can be released back to the Wild. Two broken legs is not good. But the volunteer tells me to call back in a few days. At the very least, our intervention means the heron will get a gentle death.

************

I call the Centre on 14 Sept, anxious to find out the green heron’s fate.

Good News!  The heron is doing well!!!   The volunteer thinks the heron will recover in time to be released for the fall migration.

But will she have a home to return to?

It’s up to you.   Ottawa City Council votes on 6 October 2010 on whether to save this land.  Please tell your City Councillor to vote FOR buying/expropriating the Beaver Pond Forest.

Beaver Pond in the South March Highlands, Kanata, ON. Photo credit Rob Hambly, HamblyPhotography

Thank you.