Forest Bathing, or shinrin-yoku

6 02 2022

The Japanese figured out, long ago, that simply walking through a forest, with all its sounds, scents, textures and shades of green had a very tangible calming effect on the human spirit. It’s even prescribed by doctors and termed “forest bathing”, or immersing oneself in the totality of nature.

Living in glorious BC, we have countless opportunities of experiencing the forest – typically in its many damp guises of rainforest – especially mossy, quiet and oh so very green!

Yesterday, Mrs E and I took the chance to wander around Derby Reach, near Langley. In the late 1850s it was proposed as the new capital of BC, and a squad of Royal Engineers was dispatched from Britain, via the colony in Victoria, to survey and begin laying out the new capital. Very quickly it was apparent that though the local Fort Langley was prosperous and well placed on the Fraser River for trade – particularly with Hawai’i – Derby Reach was not really suited for anything beyond the low key farmland it has remained ever since. A better location was surveyed in what is now New Westminster (colonists – particularly those of a military mind – are seldom imaginative when it comes to naming places). It is on an easily defensible hill and has many other advantages over the somewhat damp terrain of Derby Reach. Only later did the provincial capital revert to Victoria, on the island.

The woodland at Derby Reach is still bounded by a mixture of boggy land and farms, and is one of many regional parks in Super, Natural, British Columbia.





Naturally Destructive

13 05 2020

By and large, I’m a great fan of nature. There are exceptions of course. Not a big supporter of one or two viruses of recent fame and could happily survive in a universe where domestic cats had never evolved. But otherwise – fully paid-up member of the compost bin owners’ society and trying to do my bit for the green revolution.

I have reasonably firm views on GMOs. (Though as a rational person I like to think I’m always open to persuasion). I accept that humans have artificially guided evolution for thousands of years with the selective breeding of dogs, horses, pretty much all domesticated food animals and crops… and garden flowers. Not to mention ourselves through cultural preferences and transient arbitrary ideas of “beauty”.

The key for me though is that each intermediate state from “found in nature” to “final product” was deemed by Mother Nature to be viable and fit to breed the next generation. It might have been a human-guided process, but Mother Nature implicitly gave it her rubber stamp of approval: “fit to breed”.

Technically speaking any human-bred plant or animal is a GMO as it’s genetics were artificially chosen not by the influence of its natural environment but by human hand (though arguably this is increasingly “the environment” in which most things now exist). Selected for better muscle tone, brighter colours, headier scent, etc.

The modern idea of a GMO though includes the much more insidious toolset of directly adjusting genes within an organism – no breeding required. Just a test tube and a lot of PhDs. Though this might be presented as “short-cutting” the process of having to breed and select from all the intermediate stages, it also removed Mother Nature (who unfortunately isn’t a real scientific agency setting the rules) and her veto from the entire process. No longer do we have even the limited checks and balances of “nature” testing whether an intermediate result is “fit to breed”.

Mules are a great example. They were useful beasts of burden, but nature’s given a big thumbs-down to their ability to breed, effectively causing an evolutionary cul-de-sac (or “bag’s bottom” as we say in English). Any dodgy unforeseen side-effects of creating a mule are prevented from being passed to any future generation.

Modern GMOs can go even further though and take genes from a completely different part of the “tree of life” and insert them in an organism that has had no shared relation for the last billion years or so!

Image Source: Wikipedia

I was horrified a few weeks ago to discover that glow-in-the-dark fish are now commonplace in Canadian pet shops. A 2003 article in NATURE was already ringing alarm bells about the risks of “transgenic” release into the wild.

The GloFish® web site states:

“The fluorescent color in GloFish is produced by an inherited fluorescent protein gene that is passed from generation to generation and creates the beautiful fluorescence that can be seen when looking at the fish. The fluorescent protein genes are derived from naturally occurring genes found in marine organisms.”

Image source: GloFish®

Now please don’t me wrong – I have nothing against GloFish®. They found a marketing niche and exploited a loophole in US regulations to sell a legal product. What bothers me philosophically is that there is no “natural” way this fluorescent protein could get from the unidentified marine organisms (which I assume are not fish, otherwise why not say so?) into the tropical fish. Even with the kinkiest fish sex you can imagine. (No – please don’t.)

Once there though, having side-stepped nature’s checks and balances, the gene now gets a free ride and is passed on with the “legitimate” genes to future generations, and potentially into the wild if accidentally released. These other genes were tested as a package at each and every step for viability by nature/evolution for millennia. This direct gene modification is NOT the same as breeding bigger cows or coloured carrots (actually the orange ones are not the natural colour. The others are – blame William of Orange for that). Nature is not configured to stop the unforeseen consequences of genes artificially introduced this way, in the same way as it is to stop mules breeding. It can’t make an intermediate step sterile (or in this case downright non-viable) if it was never even invoked.

Have these people never read Atwood’s Oryx and Crake?!

Now, I realise that this rather gaudy example is just an edge case and more mundane things like the invention of glasses to allow myopics such as myself to function – and live long enough to breed without walking off a cliff – are just as valid an example of humans meddling in what genes get passed on, but at least for the moment we’re not allowing direct gene manipulation for “better” humans. Come the apocalypse (and the end of opticians) nature will undoubtedly have the last laugh. Nature, I’m sure, was the scientific advisor to the awesome film Gattaca.

I sense I’m treading close to eugenics here, so choose to stop with the thought that ALL humans are bad for the Earth, but I’m confident that she’ll figure out how to get rid of us in the end. Even if it’s only to palm us off on her estranged brother Mars.

astrid_kalt

Image Source: @astrid_kalt

Believe it or not, before I put finger to keyboard this post was supposed to be about “natural weed killer”. Such is the random nature of human thought. I enjoy gardening, but sometimes the tap roots on more persistent weeds make them harder to get rid of reliably.

I discovered a recipe for home-made weedkiller made from common household substances, so am giving it a try. The added bonus was that one ingredient is vinegar, which Mrs E hates with a vengence. This was a convenient way of removing relatively large quantities of rice vinegar from ancient experiments in sushi-making from the cupboard in one go.

I’ll try and remember to post pictures of this particular human’s hypocritical negative impact on nature as represented by the weeds in my back garden.





Business Reopens Its Doors After 53 Days To Find All The Leather Products Molded ‹ Bored Panda

12 05 2020

Got to love nature! It doesn’t care about us, which I suppose shows it’s sentient.

This article from Bored Panda shows what can happen inside a luxury goods shop (admittedly in Malaysia with the A/C turned off) when we’re not getting in the way of the natural way of things.

Within only a few weeks of us forceably cutting back on traffic the air clears, life returns to the previously contaminated waterways of Venice and London and… fungal growths begin to break down luxury goods into compost.

There are theories that evolution really got into top gear once fungus appeared and began the breaking down of useless dead things and returning previously locked in nutrients back into the food chain. Perhaps this in Nature’s way of giving us a message about how high fashion is just so much useless dead material, better served as food for the simple creatures of the world…

Source: Business Reopens Its Doors After 53 Days Of Closure Due To Quarantine Only To Find All Of The Leather Products Molded ‹ Bored Panda ‹ Reader — WordPress.com





Cascade Falls, Mission

5 03 2017

Due to reasons beyond my control, I was persuaded to succumb to a Facebook account. One of the feeds I subscribe to is “Destination British Columbia” which often have some lovely photos of my home province and occasionally introduce me to places I haven’t heard of.

They ran a little puzzle asking people to identify where a photo was taken, and the answer – as the more quick witted amongst you will already surmise – was Cascade Falls near Mission, BC. I’d never heard of it, so off we went to explore a little corner of our province we’d never visited. It’s about an hour’s trip from White Rock, but the petrol is so cheap in the valley, I think we still came out ahead!

We stopped off for an almost Yorkshire lunch at Clayburn on the way, complete with gallons of Taylor’s tea, and easily found the provincial park just beyond Mission. The waterfall is certainly spectacular, and it’s only a 5 minute walk from the car-park. Disappointingly though – that’s it. No longer walking options; no trails through the forests. There’s a picnic area to be fair, but nothing more strenuous than the wooden stairs up to the viewing platform. If you’re passing though – a lovely stop-off, but don’t make a day trip of it on its own.





Autumn’s here folks!

27 10 2016

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That time of year again

12 10 2015

I love autumn. Especially here in BC. The damp seems to refresh the land and me along with it. Walking through the trails is suddenly full of things to see, smell and hear. But less people. Sunday, me and the devil-dog went on a bit of a traipse through the woods to build up an appetite for the half-pig that was to help us celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, and were rewarded with lots of mushroom sightings and the real high-point: a Barred Owl swooping right in front of us to traverse the narrow ravine we were walking in. Huge and magnificent in its majesty. Naturally I snapped a few shots with my trusty phone, though was too slow to capture the owl’s image…

 





Reflecting on the colours of Autumn

3 10 2015

Autumn Colours

Autumn Colours





Photos from today’s dog walk

20 09 2015

At the weekend I like to try and give the dog a bit more of a long walk. It’s good for the pair of us.

The weather has changed distinctly autumnal recently and though the temperatures are still on the balmy side, it’s a lot wetter and today – windier. I absolutely adore this time of year. The winds make everything fresh and somehow renewed. The dead leaves and twigs are stripped from the trees. Sometimes a whole tree at a time! And I love walking in the rain. When I’m suitably attired of course!

Anyway, I had my phone camera with me so I snapped a few impressions as we walked around.

Bark Detail

Bark Detail

No idea what kind of trees these were, but the layered effect of the bark made them almost look like relief models of some strange planet. Note the small growths of lichen.

The way we came

The way we came

I really enjoy the way Surrey’s parks use natural materials so they become part of the landscape.

Footstep Fungus

Footstep Fungus

The long dry summer and now wet autumn has really boosted the various fruiting bodies of the local fungi. This one was evident in the cracks of three or four steps.

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega

I thought it poignant that here in one place were the very beginnings of a tree – a seed, and also the very end – machined planks made into a handrail.

Ermy-germy

Ermy-germy

On the way back out of the forest I suddenly became aware that every couple of metres there was one or more of these metallic copper beetles. They were quite large. I can only think the dry summer had squeezed their activity into the short period remaining until winter hits.





Vancouver Maple Leaves

19 09 2015

No, this isn’t some great upset in the NHL franchise. Nor is it a sudden realisation by Toronto that their Ice Hockey team has been spelling its name incorrectly for decades. It’s simply a posting about maple leaves. From Vancouver.

About four years ago I suddenly had my eyes opened. I started to notice little things that had previously just passed me by un-remarked. Beautiful things. Interesting things. Remarkable things. Amongst this long list was maple leaves. Around this time of year, or actually a little later, the local trees start shedding their leaves. The maples – up until now pretty anonymous and blending in with the rest of the biosphere – suddenly decide to get all showy, turn bright vermilion and yell “look at me, peasants!” The glory of the red in the trees (and shortly thereafter – the pavement) can literally be breathtaking.

This year our BC summer was particularly long and hot. So much so that many trees went into shock and started behaving like autumn was already here. It was apparently more prudent to shut up shop early for the winter rather than try to continue actively growing in the face of a complete absence of the usually plentiful wet coast airborne moisture. So – we started to get beautiful red maple leaves falling in ever growing numbers even in what should really still be late summer. Without the accompaniment of the autumn wetness though, many of these leaves remained pristine after falling to the ground. Every year I take note of the fallen leaves and occasionally am moved to pause and pick one up. I couldn’t really explain why to you. Something about a specific leaf simply moves me to stoop and save it from a fate worse than compost. With the dry ground, there have been more occasions than usual this year.

I began to consider these leaves as a metaphor for people. We each have the potential to be wonderful, eye-catching. Either individually or as part of a broader group. We can still create an impact in the world even after we’ve ceased to live. We can continue to contribute to our world by leaving a legacy of beauty. Of positive psychological impact on others around us. Then again, even the most beautiful amongst us – if we care to look more closely – is imperfect. A slight asymmetry perhaps. A little rougher on the edges than we’d first perceived. Sometimes completely broken on the inside despite the appearance of complete wholesomeness to the casual glance. We can be downtrodden, utterly destroyed by the casual or indeed intimate passing interaction of another. We can be ignored and slowly disappear into the noise of the world, never to be recognised for our individual contribution – great though it may well have been.

So now I take notice. I LOOK at the fallen leaves. Notice them. Especially the maples. They have come to represent for me the unknown people of the world. Those I’ll never meet but have a contribution to make to the space I inhabit. Occasionally I am so moved that I pause and pick one up. I press it in the pages of the book I am inevitably carrying at such thoughtful moments. I save it. For what, I am not sure. To share? To offer as a cryptic gift to someone else on this weird journey we call life? Perhaps. Or perhaps just to say in some small way “you mattered”. You were noticed. Your contribution did not go without reaction.

Vancouver Maple Leaves

Vancouver Maple Leaves





Quite the display

12 09 2015

Had an excruciating meeting at the bank this morning, so went of to Timmie’s for a coffee afterwards and walked back home through the Semiahmoo Shopping Centre. I had quite  a pleasant surprise because of all the beautiful flowers on display at the old Zeller’s Court in there. Turns out today was the annual White Rock Garden Fall Floral Show.

The White Rock Garden Club holds a judged show where members present their best assortment of flowers and 26 different dahlias. Some of them were stunning. It was a shame to see the flower stems cut and in water. They’re already dead… they just don’t realise it yet.

Golden star

Golden star

Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Stink Eye

Stink Eye

Gorgeous peach hue

Gorgeous peach hue

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

Study in Green

Study in Green