Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March's Great and Terrible Beauty.

Spring is approaching.
The last few months have graced us with some of the most beautiful, startling weather I've ever experienced, and if I hadn't fallen in love with rural Quebec before, I certainly have now. There is a perfect, sacred stillness to be found when it's -30C and all is still in the woods. Snow glitters like diamond dust where it clings to cedar and spruce, and even the most hardy animals nestle into their burrows to keep warm on nights so cold, the stars themselves threaten to crack. We saw the green tendrils of Aurora borealis thread and dance across the sky, watched deer pick their way across the frozen lake, and befriended the little red squirrel that lives in the tree behind our house. Now that the snow has begun to melt and days are growing warmer, we're seeing another face of this wild and fierce land.

Photo by John B.

There is no denying that nature is beautiful beyond words, but all that imagery of a gentle, loving, kind Mother Nature/Gaia figure is seriously lacking in honesty. Yes, there is extraordinary beauty in the feathers of a bird's wing; in spring flowers, and baby rabbits, and the way that sunlight dapples lake water... but there is also so much suffering and violence. As I remarked to a friend earlier, " I have heard rabbits scream as hawks tore them from their burrows, and seen fish go through their death throes while being pecked apart by herons." If ever there was awareness of the brutality that exists in nature, it's at this time of year. Winter's stores have been depleted, and spring's new life has yet to burst forth from either earth or womb. A dead deer was found in my mother-in-law's yard up the hill, and within a day, the carcass had disappeared; drawn into the woods and picked clean by every hungry being in the area. Coyotes have been venturing closer and closer, their yips echoing through the woods as they search for food, and though the little red squirrel that lives in our cedar is plump from all the peanut butter sandwiches we made for it this winter, its cousins are looking significantly more haggard and bony.

Lac Simon's ice is receding, and there's a weasel sifting through the debris on the shore. I think I saw him pick up a mussel shell, so hopefully he's found some nourishment on this grey, rainy day. The official first day of spring is in 9 days, and though the landscape is unlikely to explode into verdant fields overnight, I like to hope that this season of rebirth, growth, and renewal will be kind to the many beings with whom we share this land.

Photo by Jim Nix