Monday, January 31, 2005

Appreciating nature involves savouring the present moment. When you take a minute to feel the wind on your face, or listen to the sounds of the wind, you begin to see the world for what it really is.

But there is another faculty which perhaps equally important if not more so. It is the ability to connect the present moment to other moments both past and future. These skills are important for example if you are a hunter and you can read the present signs around you and tell both what has passed by and when and where it will emerge again.

I discovered on the weekend that the Laichwiltach people, whose territory is up the coast around Campbell River, have words to describe the present moment in terms of the thing that has just passed. For example just around the subject of thunder that have a word that means "the sound of thunder right after the initial clap" and "The sound of the sky after thunder."

As I was walking to the Cove this morning I noticed these moments. Here, this morning, there was trickling all around, the sound of the island on a morning after a night of rain as the water is draining away. Or the sound of the forest in which the rain continues to fall long after the storm has passed. Or, on a bigger time scale, the sound of the first redwinged-blackbird after the cold snap of January, when he calls in Deep Bay with a hoarse and unformed territorial song.

There are sights too. By laying eyes on the soft grey clouds filling the sound from the northwest, I can tell what the weather was like last night - windy and wet. If I arrive back on the island from being away and the sky looks like that, I can recreate the previous day or two of weather in my mind's eye. There is also the clean white of a mew gull's head, a new adult emerging in the post-winter, ready for the spring.

Certainly all of these harbingers of spring are the early signs, and we'll see more rain and winter storms over the next six weeks. But this time of year around Groundhog Day seems about noticing what the present is saying about what has finished and what is about to come.