Place Where You Live:

Nanoose, British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia

On Vancouver Island, as in places even nearer home, there are areas that clearly show the truly negative impact of human beings. High on a hillside was a very large expanse of chewed-up landscape, seeded and taken over by an invasive species, broom. Scattered around were old burn piles of what had once been forest and meandering amidst all this were bulldozed roads scraped down to the hard underlying clay hardpan which defied even broom to make a start. On a wet February day the place spoke so eloquently of rape and abandonment that I decided to document the true nature of the place instead of lifting my camera lens to encompass only the more palatable distant mountains as I had done on my last visit.

To document something requires searching for a truth and to begin with my first impressions were all negative. I noticed the Scot’s broom of course, but also some stunted willows, brambles, the occasional alder, and in the midst of all was a bright yellow gorse bush. A couple of cottontail rabbits hopped out of sight in the dense broom thickets, and a flock of robins flew in and out of a young alder. The rain blew sideways in the gusting wind and the surrounding mountains were hidden in low clouds. An untidy, rough, useless sort of place waiting to be turned into building sites.

But then I began to see things differently. The gorse bush was in full bloom, the robins were chattering among themselves and I began to notice the persistence of nature in reclaiming this difficult landscape. The same willows that I had seen growing in the gravel bars of the Englishman River down in the valley below were staking a claim here too amid the clay and boulders, and the Himalayan blackberry vines reached out purposefully toward the mossy tracks. This place with it’s many invasive species co-existing with the hardiest of native ones was not simply a place to hate. While one could rightfully decry the logging companies and land developers who caused this slowly healing scare, the ability of nature to resettle even the toughest places was to be praised and appreciated.

In a little while Spring will be in full career, the broom will make this a sea of sweet smelling yellow, alive with bees. The robins and many other birds will be nesting, hawks will drift watchfully overhead and those rabbits, the bane of gardeners, will be happily raising more families deep in the broom. If I can see ‘invasive species’ but also see beauty in this landscape, the beauty of survival and new life, then perhaps I can also have some compassion for the destroyers of the original forest, for the families cruising for home-building sites in their SUV s, and ultimately for myself, yet another representative of an invasive species.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” from Pogo, by Walt Kelly