Elk River Falls — To get here you walk along the Campbell River on a grey November morning dim with drizzle. The trail is well groomed. It wends its way though stands of timber that have been sentinel to this lush territory for generations. Everywhere there is the sense of time having lost its equilibrium, reduced to a sensual rolling of moments of sight, sound, smell and the texture of things on the hands.
Bears forage the rapids for the last of the returning salmon. Eagles skim the treetops. Against the sound of rushing water is the laughter of children, the yap of dogs and the friendly chatter of joggers, hikers and those who come, like you, to wrap the land about them like a cloak. The ridge you climb to ascend to the top of the falls is daunting and you’re reminded of your age as breath and legs struggle against such perfect geometry. Still, the feeling of the land itself is elevating and from the ferns and bracken to the great canopy above there is an atmosphere of harmony.
That’s what you feel here. That’s why you come. At the lip of the falls, water cascades down in flumes and up in roils of mist. The gray is so sleek and seamless the sky vanishes and there is only one giant bowl resting on the serrated edges of the trees. Looking at it, this mystery, you remember again the teaching of your elders – all things are connected.
It’s a week after Hurricane Sandy swept along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S and upward to pummel eastern Canada. The water there was not channelled. It was pushed with brute force down from clouds and upward from seas churned by horrendous winds. People suffered. People prayed. People died. The devastation will take months, years to clear and repair. Some things are lost forever. Some things can never be replaced. Standing here in the midst of this green-grey perfection it’s hard to imagine that the same pastoral Earth rendered such damage. But it did.
These last decades have been marked by what are termed “natural disasters.” So much so that it might seem to some that we live in a post-event world. Post-Katrina, post-tsunami, post-quake, post-flood, post-drought and now, post-Sandy. Every year, in every corner of the world, there are grim times.
My elders say that the Earth is a living organism. She is. Trees are her lungs. Rivers and seas are her blood. The land is her skin, her backbone, her flesh. Those same elders teach that we are alive because of everything else is. A vital teaching. But one lost for the sake of convenience and entitlement.
That’s what will kill us in the end. The convenience of things we deem necessary coupled with the belief that we are entitled to keep on taking, to get our due, our share, our measure. And so it is that we are all to blame for the changes to the Earth that give rise to events like Sandy and other dramatic turns.
We’re meant to be stewards, all of us. Standing here in the midst of such harmony you’re moved to voice that, rekindle that flame for a new and changing Earth, direct eyes and ears and hearts to the truth of things – that we live because everything else does. It’s not fanaticism that drives you. It’s the will to survive. In the river the salmon fight with their last ebbing strength to fulfill their purpose – to nurture life. You wish as mightily, that we all did the same.