Early, Ingenuous Days

There was a field beside the half house in Ottawa where we lived. I was the chief engineer and reigning monarch in this field. In the summer I trampled down all its paths, thoroughfares winding from our backyard to the neighbouring yards. Intimately acquainted with the long grasses, I could recognize them by their scent alone, the tallish one that looked like wheat and smelled like cereal, the bunchy one with wide, flat, wet blades that had a swampy stink. I could map the anthills. I knew the holes where creatures might live, mice or snakes. I never saw them, but I knew they were there. Occasionally someone dropped a candy wrapper or a waxy coffee cup, usually on the East and South sides which abutted busy roads. These instances of littering offended me.

In the winter I created whole edifices of ice in the field, sanctuaries where I reclined on a three-cushioned snow couch, or checked to see if there was anything tasty in the icebox. After a fresh snowfall – in Ottawa, there was a fresh snowfall every other day – I tamped down the pathways with my plastic-bottomed boots after school, road maintenance before homework and TV.

I knew exactly how the veins splayed out on the surface of a maple leaf. I understand dandelions with botanical precision, dandelions in all their vicissitudes, from the tight little button-buds of their yet-to-be-blossoms, through the bright yellow glory of their flowering into miniature suns, staining fingers and cheeks. I knew the hollowness of their green stalks, the milky substance secreted inside those long, tender shoots. And of course I knew their eminently enjoyable reproductive technique – thousands of tiny, fluffy white parasols, freed from their moorings with a puff of breath, floating so gently on the barest of breezes, defying gravity.

I was six, seven, eight years old, and I was part of nature. The stale air and cheap furniture inside our half house was the foreign country, the strange prison to where my parents said I had to return in the evenings. Outside, my body recognized all the other carbon-based life forms as family.

Retrospective Diary of a Writer’s Environmental Angst

I have written three novels. The first of these, Resurrection Tour, is an unedited manuscript on my hard drive. There are also ten photocopied, cerlox-bound copies extant, distributed to my most literature-loving friends.

I self-published my second novel, The Bears, through Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. The Bears was inspired by a politico-ecological crisis in my backyard, and I use the term ‘backyard’ in the Canadian sense, our vast and glorious provinces encompassing broad tracts of varied wilderness. The impetus I felt to write became an imperative in the face of an environmental threat, a pipeline proposal to transfer Alberta tar sands crude bitumen through pristine, precious coastal rainforest, then on to China via a preposterously dangerous tanker route.

I wanted to slap the greedy faces of everyone responsible for hatching this colossally stupid plan. I wanted to show them exactly how their plan would impoverish us – not just our species, but every living thing on Earth. The more I thought about it, the more presumptuous it seemed for a few corporations to risk the homes of so many living things, all for filthy lucre.

I’m working on my third novel. It’s about bees, and vanishing acts.

I write about nature suffering from the meddling hands of humans.