My Gym

It’s spring and some days I have to chain myself to my desk.  The broom is calling you see, and not a witches’ broom either – though witches’ brooms must have been made with the stuff I routinely slaughter.  It’s stiff and green and tough as steel wire and this month, the bright ghastly yellow flowers surround the house – 150 meters away, but nonetheless, it will go to seed in a month, and then all the earth – scraped bare by the construction crew –  will be colonized.

So I got out with my loppers, rubber boots, and long sleeves and start work.  It is the best exercise ever.  Better than downhill skiing – ok not quite. Galloping a horse across a field – that’s more fun I admit, but I no longer risk death.  But most things – the gym, hiking, swimming – cutting broom trump broom.  Within fifteen minutes I’m breathing hard and sweating and here’s the thing – I don’t want to stop.  It’s too satisfying, it’s fun, it’s time travel back to when our ancestors cleared farmland – I used to think how miserable that must have been.  Now I know they were all high as kites the whole damn time.

I’ve been clearing broom for 12 years now on and off.  It is the most aggressive invasive species out here and it flourishes wherever land has been disturbed and then allowed to go fallow – the best argument ever against our metastatic conservation urge.  All local shrubs and flowers are crowded out – the nootka rose, the camas lily, the chocolate orchid – gone.

Here’s the thing: I arrived in the country, hollowed out from 20 years in big big cities, frail, exhausted, often bedridden with flu or a persistent cold. Broom gave me back my health.  Working outside cured me.  I can hike straight up a mountain now, or run five miles (with breaks) and I never get sick for more than a day.  Destroying that shrub on my 28, then after the (green) subdivision, 16.5 acres has given me another 40 years of brutal health.  Now, I must go because if I do four hours of phone interviews,  I can have two in my broom patch.

SINS OF COMMISSION director Richard Oshen

Finally, a film about how the California Coastal Commission created the great fires of the last few years in California.

“We are suffering a crisis of authority.  The California Coastal Commission has subordinated public safety creating a hazardous fuel preservation program, amending state fire code without the approval of the State fire Commission as is required by law.”  Ann Hoffman, President of Land Use Preservation Defense Fund, Governor’s Blue Ribbon Fire Commission.  7 January 2004

People are fined $1000 a day for clearing 20 foot brush-free zones around their houses.

This kind of coercion is happening in British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, anywhere the big environmental NGO’s like Sierra, Greenpeace, The Wilderness Society, NRDC, &etc. ad infinitum go to court to prevent any mitigation in any forest.  200 million acres of U.S. National Forest are at risk of catastrophic, once in an millennium fire.  The death of species, old growth forest, the pain suffered by those who live in and around the forest – all incalculable.

Let’s start with indicting Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission for crimes against humanity.

Meadow of the Long Peace

Instead of speaking of an “balanced eco-system” as the cynosure of heath, more correct to say healthy for. Then ask, healthy for what?

The meadow around the house belongs to the Man of Reason – the name in tribute to Elizabeth Von Arnin’s Man of Wrath.  He will, like his mother and the rest of his Arterazi clan, who are more than a little competitive in the garden arena, create Shangri-la, a jaw-dropping, mouth-watering array of perfection.  And I will spend a few minutes each day thinking up praise-filled sentences to bestow on its creator.

But twenty feet below the field on which the house sits, lies my meadow.  It is smaller, only  two acres; two creeks cut through it on a diagonal.  The creeks run wild and frothy in the winter months.  At the back of this meadow stands the alder arch into the forest.  This meadow, in contrast to the sheered flat garden meadow ready for the art of the creator, is jumping with life.  Twenty years ago it was a gravel pit, but when the pit was abandoned, nature roared back.

Nature thrives on disturbance. I bet you didn’t know that.  In contrast to the leaden zeitgeisty belief that land is fragile and the web of life in peril, in fact, put nature in peril and she will surprise you with a mighty push-back.  Life is indestructible, it is culture which is not.

When I’d lie on my couch in New York or London or Toronto my stressed brain and body screaming bloody murder, I’d try that meditation of dreaming yourself into a peaceful place, a far away place where cares dissolve and your true self emerges.  While the palliative nature of the exercise seemed minimal at the time, years later, here is the dreamed meadow, narrow and deep, sunk into the land, water and trees, tall grass and song birds.

In true ecology, not the politicized mess by which we now live, you “take care” of nature by deciding what you want it to do.  Do you want a refuge for bears?  Do you want butterflies and songbirds?  Do you want it to go to rack and ruin?  This last is a trick by the way – the best way for land to go to rack and ruin is to try to preserve it in amber.

Instead of speaking of an “balanced eco-system” as the cynosure of heath, more correct to say healthy for.  Then ask, healthy for what?

In my small meadow, I want nature to be healthy for wildlife and plant life, especially indigenous shrubs like Nootka Rose and Salmonberry.  I want camas and chocolate orchids.  And I want the salmon to over-summer in the deep holes of my salmon pond.  I want it to be the meadow of the Long Peace.

This is my world

Today, in torrential rain, Siouxie, the younger Jack Russell followed me down into the lower meadow, across the fallen tree bridge, around the teepee platform into the forest.  We haven’t been down here for two years, and today, in the dark of December, –  both of us already wet to the skin – it is at its most beautiful.  The leaves from the big maples are as big as platters and coloured Hermes orange. the green is psychedelic, and the wet brown as vivid, crawling with life.

We climb the hill, the avenue wide, bordered by cedar and fir, all huge and old, draped in moss, the ground carpeted in orange, and the creek is wild – raging – white water –  a dozen waterfalls follow one upon the other.  We reach the top of the hill.  Siouxie looks at me, and uncharacteristically hesitates on the incline, 80 degrees, thirty feet down.  I’m not sure either.  But, it’s too beautiful not to, so we slide down, inching, me clinging to branch after branch.

Then we are in a lost world.  No human has been here in decades, but me and that only once or twice – this is crazy land.  Untended, sound deafening, and we wade across the creek, clamber up the other side and in about a half hour of bushwhacking through the enchanted forest, we’re back at the Pink House, drenched, filthy, exhilarated, happier than either of us has been in weeks.