Saskatchewan Community Pastures Program to End

My recent post called “Public Pastures belong to all of us” was lost in some technical difficulties. Here’s pertinent information you seek!

Pasture Posts

The Leader-Post covers the issue here.

The plan, announced in the provincial budget, is to phase the provincial pasture program out over three years, with 2017 being the last year it fully operates. The program includes 51 pastures operating on 780,000 acres of land.

PPPI Co-Chair Trevor Herriot was interviewed by the CBC on the potential impacts on prairie conservation.

When you privatize public conservation land, you’re severely weakening your ability to create and enforce laws, policies, regulations, if you want to meet prairie for sustainable grassland management. There’s a lot of public interest in these lands

There will be consultations made for the future management of the land with the public, stakeholders, First Nations and Metis communities. An online survey will be available online at www.saskatchewan.ca/pastures from March 27 to May 8.

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Unscheduled

Many years ago, a good friend often told me “stop shoulding all over yourself!” Though we have lost touch, her words echo in my mind often. When opportunities present themselves, I try to ask myself whether I want to or should say “yes.” If the latter, to be mindful and cautious before proceeding. In times of imbalance, I look back and realize I haven’t taken this step.

As a family we’ve found ourselves over-scheduled recently. We tend toward a relatively simple lifestyle in comparison to many folks. We value our quiet home life in our lovely small town, our time connecting with nature, and time together. Simple routines provide comfort and flow. Yet it is easy to find opportunities to say “yes” and obligations too, and soon find ourselves with a problem of time scarcity and relationship disconnect, in favour of errands, appointments, work.  Doing. Not being.

Today we took a pause. We had opportunities we should say yes to, like the wintershines festival in the city, because they involved beautiful things and wonderful people.  Yet we said no.  We opted to unschedule; to wake up and see where the day takes us.

The kids were creative, happy, cooperative and engaged.  We ate well, talked, played, listened. Connected.  Nature beckoned and welcomed us. Our son indulged his fascination with tracks.  Our daughter was in her element as the winter wood fairy.  They created games in the woods, including hide-and-seek, fetch, toss the snow into the track, sliding, singing songs.  We saw dead things, live things, and sometimes both together.   We owe our gratitude and respect to organizations like Nature Conservancy Canada and Ducks Unlimited Canada for providing access to places like this where we can roam.

Simplicity.  Affirmations of its power.

Growth from destruction — lessons from the beaver on life’s challenges

A friend and I were walking along the river last week when we noticed a fallen tree with all the bark stripped from it. She commented on how destructive beavers are. I replied “Yes, but they create a lot too.” She said “I guess so,” and we left it there. IMG_8881-2 I stopped myself from describing keystone species—a species whose ecologic function has the ability to affect their environment wholly and completely.  Beavers take moving water and make it still, they turn rivers and streams into wetlands and lakes.  What other species can do this? None, except humans.  Who are we to judge this as good or bad? I don’t want to envision our country, our natural habitat, without beavers in the picture. I don’t know if I possibly can.

To a passerby, the fallen tree looks like destruction, like the animal is wasting trees to eat the bark.  We can find ourselves judging and placing value on that act and that animal without appreciation for the bigger picture.

It reminds me how often we judge and place value on things we don’t fully comprehend.  IMG_8952_2Or how often things that look like destruction are actually creation. Nothing is static in life, yet when our flow, our routine, our “normal” is disrupted, we often begin to judge that as a problem. We resist change. We try to return things to normal instead of adapting to the disruption and opening our minds to see what the situation has to offer.

The rest of our conversation was about the challenges in our lives, past and present, and what we have learned and how we have grown.  Destruction creates growth. Sometimes the most difficult situations in our lives are the most rewarding. We talked about vulnerability, about compassion, about our shared humanity. And about judgment–how it limits our ability to see people and situations for their potential.

Every day I hear or see mothers of young children struggling because life has become so fast-paced and challenging.  Things are not easy, not perfect, and the emotions are overwhelming. I find myself validating that things are challenging but also encouraging them to see the opportunity for growth.  To know that the everyday hardships are opportunities to model emotional regulation, self-care, boundaries. This is the stuff kids learn from, more than what we tell them they should do. We aren’t meant to be happy all the time. I remind myself repeatedly of this.  The balance of light/dark, life/death, cycles, and interconnected in our natural word remind us of our place and role.


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It can be something small: 
In the morning, my 2-year-old son likes to take his time on our walk home from taking his sister to school.  At times I have found myself resentful and ended up picking him up to come home quickly, so that I might sit and have some coffee before I begin daily chores, but we both end up irritable.  The good days are the ones where I pause each time he pauses, and notice what he notices. Sounds and sights are all new and exciting to him, and the ability to delight in the world through his eyes is refreshing, if I allow myself to pause.  It brings me out of my headful of to-do lists. A 5 minute walk became 25, and I started that day feeling more alive and grounded in my body and my space because of his enthusiasm for the simple things around us. I feel grateful for crisp autumn air, yellow leaves, ladybugs, and robins splashing in a puddle. The things he helped me see.  He also starts his day feeling heard, accepted, and valued.

Or it can be something big:

Last week my 4-year-old daughter had a dental appointment that was many months in the making. She has cavities and needs fillings. We were initially advised she should undergo anesthesia for fillings. I opted to follow my gut instinct and found a second opinion, and a third, and a fourth.  I learned of nutritional methods for healing cavities and we have begun that course too. We settled on a course of action that seemed best for us. The night before the appointment, I felt anxious. I recognized the grief from past experiences sweeping forward into this situation.  I let it wash over me and I thanked it for showing me I had some more healing to do.

I felt renewed and present the next day when I helped my daughter process her fear in preparation for the appointment. I never told her “don’t be scared” or “it will be okay” because that wouldn’t have helped her. However well-intentioned those statements might be, invalidating her emotions and her experience is a form of abuse.  As she talked, she showed me that she needed to feel she was choosing this situation, she had the right to leave, and that she had options.  IMG_7638So we discussed all of it, from what would happen if we didn’t get the fillings, to what would happen if she was too scared today to let the dentist do the work.  She understood what laughing gas was and she asked the dentist all about her choices. She released her tears about the past times she felt she didn’t have a choice, she didn’t feel respected, she didn’t feel her fears and feelings were validated.  She taught me how capable she is of making decisions, how intuitively she feels safe or not safe with people.  We walked together into that appointment, with our fears acknowledged, so that we might be carrying the weight of only the present into that moment.  She brought her tools to cope, including her weighted blanket and special gemstone, and she sat bravely for an hour.  She can carry forward lessons to help her in the future with challenges: her ability to acknowledge and express her feelings, and her ability to deliberate options and make choices. My personal favorite lesson is to question medical authority if something doesn’t feel right or you are told you have no choices. I never told her not to cry, because her tears helped release all the pain she has stored in her body and memory. I gave her a safe space to feel all that and know that she is okay, and perfect as she is. In doing so I remind myself that I am okay too, and all my emotions are valid and worthy of recognition and care.

Or it can be huge: a death, a relationship ending, a trauma, a health or emotional crisis. These all have seeds of potential for more personal awareness and growth, if we can sit with the situation and feel and evaluate before gathering resources and moving forward. Notice our emotions and be with them. Be aware of our own judgments, or how our past might filter our lens with which we see the present.  Don’t judge yourself for any of it, but notice it. Be open for guidance, for ways to facilitate change.


I’m grateful for difficult choices, kids with different schedules than our own, and for situations and people that appear to be destructive but might be opportunities for growth and awareness. I’m grateful for the beaver, whose destruction takes pieces of our world and creates new worlds we might not have imagined.  We need pesky rodents, and we need difficult situations with our children. Next time you see a child or person who is challenging you on your present path, pause. Think of the beaver, who is so much smaller than the tree and the lake, and reminds us to use the skills we have to make big changes.  Our children can effect big changes in the world, if we encourage them to embrace the gifts they have. Accept them wholly, equally on sad days and happy days. Let go of your judgment.  Great things can come from things that are getting in your way. You might have to get out of your own way first.

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beaver tracks in mud

Am I a hunter? What is a hunter?

This is what I pondered this gorgeous autumn week while I sat quietly amid aspen trees, thorny rose shrubs, and tall grasses. I was dressed in camouflage, gun in hand, watching for deer. It was archery and muzzle-loader hunting season and I had bought my licence.  I reflect on my reticence to self-identify as a hunter. Is it because I lack the experience of my husband who has hunted most of his life? Because much of my experience hunting has been to follow his lead and seemingly reap unjust rewards from his skills? Is it because I’m a woman in a non-traditional role? Or is it because the word itself lends itself to negative connotations in our society?

Aspen overhead

Many people haven’t had a positive role model of a hunter, and may equate a hunter with painful emotions evoked by Disney’s representation of “man” in Bambi, instilled in our psyche at a vulnerable young age. Perhaps they relate it to a media story of poachers who act illegally and without moral compass, but are named hunters rather than poachers. Perhaps you don’t know what to think but you envision people (mostly men) chasing animals in their trucks, carelessly yielding dangerous weapons. None of these sit well with my experience of hunting, but I won’t say these types don’t exist.

Merriam-webster defines hunt as a verb meaning to chase and kill (wild animals) for food or pleasure. This seems simple and yet it doesn’t feel like it fits me. I’m not chasing. As for the pleasure component, that is complicated. Do I enjoy taking a life? No. I feel much remorse, awe, humility, and I mourn the loss of the animal’s life. I do what I can to honour its life. Do I enjoy the act of connecting with the natural world in order to harvest meat? Yes. I acknowledge that I am a consumer, whether I buy food at the grocery store, whether I am vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous. Hunting feels ethical to me, from many standpoints. Even though it is not easy, I want to see the blood on my hands to remind myself for the gratitude with each meal I eat, whether I am eating something I killed, or a plant or animal someone else harvested. I recognize there is an environmental impact of every food we eat, and I weigh my choices with care and intention, backed by years of experience in conservation biology. I consider the health and well-being of the animal’s life before it dies, and how humanely it dies.

Yes I guess I am a hunter. What doesn’t sit well with me is the action component of the word hunt. Synonyms are chasing, stalking. When I hunt, I feel like I’m BEING, not DOING.

I’m seeing, hearing, feeling, and breathing. I am connecting with the sights and sounds of the natural world. Some might call it a meditation. The earth beneath my body, its temperature and energy ground me. Trembling aspen leaves whisper and echo with a familiarity that tells me I am home. Stillness surrounds me and life abounds simultaneously. Insects work diligently, birds call and soar. Chickadees and juncos feed and call near me, the leaves crunching loudly beneath them. I sit so still that a junco’s wings brush my nose as he flies by. I wonder if the chatter of a squirrel or magpie might teach me who is approaching.   I wonder if I will first see or hear a deer when it finally arrives in my field of vision. I find if I stop concentrating intensely, I sense when and where to glance to find a deer approach. I don’t see or hear it, I somehow feel and know it.

panoramic of field

When I let go of all my pretences and worries about whether or not I am a hunter, I find I’m a person outdoors, excited and enlivened by nature and wild things, and my natural instinct guides me. This past week I stopped following my husband and challenged myself to start thinking like a hunter:  about wind directions, food sources, seasonality of social behaviours. One night before I fell asleep, I saw a vision of the location I should visit next and followed that intuition.  On another afternoon I approached a field and keenly sensed I was being watched and I was intruding. I paused and acknowledged I am a guest and I asked permission to enter. I didn’t know who I was asking, like I don’t know where these messages come from. But I stopped judging myself and started to pay attention. Later that evening as I departed the further depths of the field, I found three moose where I earlier sensed this. On another evening I had the privilege of watching two fawns frolicking in a field, running and bounding after a long day at rest, their doe carefully keeping watch nearby. They passed by me more than once at close range and I did not think to lift my weapon. I had no impulse to separate any of this family unit. My freezer is not empty enough and my time is still abundant.

I am grateful for the opportunity to observe while unobserved. There will come a moment I will feel the RIGHTNESS  of opportunity and instinct. Something runs deep in my veins that leads me to the hunt, and yes I do enjoy it, but I do not chase. I take much care and focused intention with every moment and I am grateful for the opportunity to witness all the life around me. I recall moments of childhood: trying to trap a cottontail rabbit, building a chickadee feeder, collecting beaver bones, catching wood and leopard frogs.   I have become, or more likely that I always was a hunter. I am connected with the source of life. It sustains and empowers me.  The challenge has been to push aside my ego and remain true to my instincts.

Yours truly