Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A Chain LInk Fence

I'm sitting here looking out at the wind whipped green veil of birch and cottonwood trees, our hotel separated from the forest by only a thin line of cleared ground and a chain link fence. I wonder if the fence is to keep us in, or to keep them out, whoever "them" is. Certainly the forests hold a host of wildlife. Certainly the fence keeps the verdant covering of the forest floor from creeping ever closer to the hotel. Yet that fence is as powerful a statement of our separation from the land as I can think of. Keep the people in; keep the forest out.

There were people in this land before we came here, people who themselves were wanderers, seeking new lands, new places to make a home. We are all wanderers, our species having started in the savannas of Africa then making its way round the world, wandering, crawling over the planet like weeds in an unkempt summer lawn. We, like those weeds, seem to sprout up and grow everywhere, despite a harsh world around us. Yet here we are today, needing protection from that world, in a hotel separated from it by a chain link fence.

I wonder how many people know the recency of the first peoples in this place? The native peoples who call themselves First Nations may have been the first to arrive. They may not. Perhaps there were other forms of humanity here before them. We don't really know. For example, we know that the Innu of the north are not the first people; before them there were the Thule. Less than a thousand years ago, the Innu displaced the Thule with better tools, better technology, better methods of war.

This planet is old, life on it long and varied. We wander in the forests and think of virgin trees, old growth. Yet these trees were once not here, having grown up in only the last thousand years. Before them there were other older trees, struck down by fire or disease, or other men. Old does not mean original. It just means we don't know what came before, and we are not patient enough to wait for what will come next.

That's why we need the chain link fence, to protect us from what we don't know, to protect us from what might come next. Just as my life is short, all our lives are short. We are all looking through that fence, through the gaps in the chain, into the unknown forest beyond. I have taken down my fence. I have decided to embrace that unknown, to wander once again, into the places where others may, or may not, have gone before, where something new awaits me. That is my version of humanity in action.

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