Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

August 29, 2016

Waves gently wash against the shoreline. Cattails stand at attention in thick protective clusters. Breezes wafting across the undulating water evoke long forgotten memories.

Welcome to the Edmonton Archdiocese's Camp Encounter. Given the water and peace, it is just like being at a cottage.

Cottage life, in my Ontario childhood, was the summertime norm. It was such a ritual most of us believed it was a given.

Legal arguments are now making the Ontario news pages when siblings fight over who gets the family cottage when their parents die.

It is the peace that I miss.

But it hard to ethically move into the forest. The forest belongs to furry and feathered folk, no matter what the land title says.

One's blood runs ice cold when yet another story makes the news of a wolf or bear being slaughtered because a human felt in danger. It is a choice people make when they go into land that is the wild creatures' habitat.

The excuse given is that the animal has become accustomed to people, maybe even aggressive. No wonder! Climate change, caused for the most part by humans, is wiping out the wild creatures' natural habitat.

Also, people leave their food scraps in the wild instead of cleaning up after themselves. Hungry animals encountering humans' garbage often leads to the destruction of the animal.

Encounters between humans and animals are not always violent.

Film clips recently showed a Canada goose approaching a parked police car and banging on the door with her bill. She then waddled away. When the constables did not follow her, she returned and banged on the car door again.

This time the humans followed her. On the bank of the pond they found a gosling with its feet tangled in fishing line. An officer unwound the little gosling's feet, the feathered family swam away, and everyone was happy.

In another clip, farmers happened on a deer that had its hind leg caught in barbed wire fencing. With great care the men used wire cutters to free the anguished beast's foot and watched as it dashed into the forest.

Some of the most evocative scenes involve whales. People on the water have been approached by these massive beings. As often as not, the mammals are entangled with fishing gear or plastic garbage and are facing death.

One cannot help but admire the courage and inventiveness of people who respond to the whales' needs, cutting away the strangling netting, fishing garbage out of the whales' mouths, thus saving their lives.

WILDLIFE REHABILITATION

While many of us will never know cottage or rural life, we can lend a helping hand to wildlife. The Edmonton Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (wildlife-edmon.ca or 780-433-0884) cares for 1,800 injured animals and birds each year. It operates through donations and inventive ways to raise funds.

Example: Is there a person for whom you can never find just the right gift? Well, through the society you can pay to foster an animal or bird in their name.

The ache for a cottage life came roaring back when I sat on the shore of Lac La Nonne. My soul yearns for those gentler times. But watching children take part in the Edmonton Archdiocese's Camp Encounter let me know youth of this generation are learning the relationship between nature and God.

PAPAL ADMONITION

Pope Francis would be proud of this program given his admonition, "A Christian who doesn't safeguard creation, who doesn't make it flourish, is a Christian who isn't concerned with God's work, that work born of God's love for us."

The word "work" is perhaps unexpected. But when one considers the intricate beauty involved in creating our environment, one cannot deny the Creator's handiwork.

As Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, "No writing on the solitary, meditative dimensions of life can say anything that has not already been said better by the wind in the pine trees."

ECOTHERAPY

I still love to sit among those pine trees. Time stands still and my weary heart stops fluttering and goes back to its regular thump, thump, thump. Medical folk are even prescribing strolling through the woods for their stressed patients.

They call it ecotherapy.

This is a therapy we can wisely prescribe for ourselves.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)