Little has changed in the place where the Grand River runs through the forest where I learned to love nature. The welcoming paths beckon just like always, inviting me to enter and venture through the cool, shady woods. And the goal remains the same. Go to the river.
As a child at the water’s edge, the river taught me to babble and to go with the flow. The birds taught me to sing and weave songs. And the trees taught me to listen. Each lesson remains true today. Rustling leaves aren’t always the wind.
The chickadee warns about a ground squirrel rustling as the hawk swoops while the heron is hunting for a fish jumping at bugs scurrying across the slow-moving water that cleans and is cleaned by the rocks under which the crayfish hide. And after the Kingfisher leaves the scene with the last word, the fleeting silence is broken by a splashy plop as I toss a farewell stone into the river. Until next time.
To this day I can’t wait to skitter over the bouncy plywood bridge that crosses the swampy creek behind the house, and to search the pinecone-covered ground for just the right stick to whisk away the spiderwebs that will surely be strewn across the quickest path down to the river.
While time moves slowly on my family’s country property in southcentral Ontario, the nearby towns have quickly built suburbs with neighbouring wind turbines that cast long and moving shadows across unfarmed farmland. These days, traffic is more than just one car.
But the cows still lie down when a big rain is looming, and the owls still hoot up a storm in the evening, and there’s still a familiar and comforting place to be found where low waters create bridges of stones that go all the way to the other side.
Nestled between farmers’ fields, in the middle of a thriving forest, the tree canopies open fast and reveal water and sky at a place where the mossy paths turn to follow alongside the Grand River. At the river’s edge, little has changed.