Alberta, Land of the Wild Horse
There is something about a wild horse that speaks to a hidden part of us. The suppressed part that responds to an unfettered life, dominated by none and without rules. The part that does not want to live by schedules and appointments and dislikes smog and pollution almost as much. After all, don’t we all want more free will from the shackles imposed by ourselves and others? Free in the open fields and aromatic woods of our dreams. Running with mane tangled from the elements after days spent in the mountain air of an untamed land. Just like in the movies, a life of the strong and free.
But strength and romanticism do not always keep company in the same body. The same can be said for nostalgia and freedom. The wild horses that roam the foothills of Alberta in the Canadian Rocky Mountains are not truly wild. Although they are descendants of domesticated Spanish horses released during colonization they have roamed free for many years. They have been here long enough to resist being rounded up back into captivity. As far as day to day living is concerned these horses lead a life of chaos. The wild horse has to survive a hostile environment without any hope of human help for basic needs provided to its domestic relatives. A constant search for the necessities of life, food and shelter, leaves little time or energy for loafing around enjoying the natural environs of the Alberta foothills. In the depths of winter after fresh snowfall there is no overwintered dry hay to be found.
People have been nurturing the horse human partnership since wolves started hanging around the campfire. We domesticated them and now we romanticize their wildness. Tamed their instincts and admire the release of them. The next time you see a wild horse or any wild creature, admire them for their struggle as much as for the freedom they instill. The wild deserve it.
For more on wild and free, see also:
Street Performer Life Is A Juggle
The Power of One
The life of a street performer is a juggling act, both on and off the stage.
A sole practitioner with the acute business sense of a dark-suited CEO without the MBA polish. Graduated honourable mention from the school of hard knocks, without the flashy papers. Replaced the teenager’s magic deck with eye catching balls. It takes a strong draw to get the job done.
Tony, tawny and tired. Always tired and always practising.
Childhood gymnastics. Teenage magician school dropout. Adult rejection from magic school. Now a street performer. Aged but still has the passion.
A job where lunch depends on the ability to stand out in a crowd of actors; dinner means pleasing fickle onlookers. Ready to turn their attention at the speed of the next snapchat. Pan the crowd, is there acceptance here?
A career fading or faded? Let the audience decide. It is an era of short attention pan. The crowd demands entertainment at the twirl of a hat or the toss of a ball. The odds are against the street performer but when the applause registers
For more on street performance and the number one, see also:
The Power of One
A tree hangs by threads. Your flaky fibres grip lifeless.
A celebration of life is pending. Ode to a tree in midlife crisis.
Moss wraps, sticking to dead cells. Lichens grapple with skin that has rejected their fungal crust. Where to obtain their water and nutrients from the atmosphere now? Weakened digits lose strength and fall in the slightest breeze. A premature death at forty is barely passing rebellious teens. Loss of potential, smitten before peaking. Your hopes and dreams dashed by human interference. And so goes the fragile ecosystem nurtured by your loving shadows and flickering light for decades. Lichens and moss. Seek out another home on limbs offering vitality!
A wise sage reflects on the cycle of life. It was once a lively hub of activity. A young couple nurtured you as a wedding gift. The main lateral made a perfect swing for a seven year old, the trunk hide and go seek for the neighbourhood kids. Squirrels and other four legged tree creatures chased their mates around your trunk. Flickers and nuthatches flitted to and from safety under your boughs.
You could have been a dignified elder like the others on the coast. On your way to standing out in the crowd. A prominent sentinel. When they all fell away to the developers cut. Standing alone now. Only the wasted limbs remain on the ground. And a stub. Maybe a buddha will perch there. Isn’t that what humans do when they want peace?
Arms and fingers and legs and toes. Nothing left but the moss covered remnants. Woodpeckers still poke around the crevices but now that the lifeline has been felled, they only visit intermittently. Moved on, just like the humans. The grubs will move their parasitism on to another host, one that is not in a coma.
For more specifically on Garry Oaks and, generally, on the subject of one, see also:
Canadian National Animal
Canada’s national mammal, the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is prepared for the job.
Dressed up in a slick fur coat, this furry creature is amply armed for a night out after a day of damming up the local slough or felling wetland poplars. Anywhere in Canada that has water from sea to sea to sea and all of the wetlands in between are beaver chomping grounds. With a lot of territory to cover under diverse conditions it needs more than a thick skin to represent nationally.
You may not know our soft coated mascot beyond the destructive nature of the North American Beaver:
They have Eurasian relatives and introduced South American ones.
Their kids, called “kits” hang around for two years picking up survival tips from their sage parents. They mate for life. Everyone likes a steady soul.
They can be destructive with tree kills but they supplement with cattails and other water vegetation necessary for wetlands.
Dams are predator protection. Who are they trying to keep away from? Wolves, bears and coyotes primarily.
What self respecting national mammal doesn’t like the publicity of world fame. The world’s largest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park. It is twice the width of Hoover Dam.
They were nearly extirpated during the fur trade era. It seems it was not just the beaver who liked their cozy fur to cuddle up in. Before that they lived form the arctic to Mexico.
They are smart architects. Dam building requires planning and unique adaptations such as paddles.
Beaver trade is intricately woven into the history and colonization of North America. So as this Canada 150 anniversary rolls along, be sure to salute our national mammal, busying itself in the wetlands and streams and the occasionally park, steadfast and progressive, forging into the future together. We are a better nation because of it.
Occasionally beaver flex their power (see wedding article below).
For more on Canadian wildlife and the North American Beaver, see also: