When your feet touch the bare earth…
After toying with numbers concerning the age of the universe, galaxy and solar system, looking at periods of millions and billions of years, I have to admit that it has less meaning than it did when I began this little exercise. Despite all these greater concerns, and of placing our singular moment in the context of infinite cycles, the importance in this paradigm shift is the focus on the here and now. We won’t be around in any recognizeable form in a few thousand years, so designing a calendar to persist so long is an exercise in moot. Nevertheless, the final step in looking at all this, is to associate the calendar with one’s proper seasons. We share the waxing and waning of the moon with everyone on earth, but the day and the seasons depend entirely on where you are.
What does the year look like where you are?
What are the annual fluctuations in the life around you? Do you have a hot and a rainy season? Do you have four seasons? One? What annual migrations are you witness to? What flowers bloom, and when? Living in Vancouver and Japan, I was witness to the cherry blossoms in early spring, and in Ottawa, the tulips, although much later. In Ottawa, the Canada geese fly south in the autumn, in Vancouver, every day around dusk, the crows gather to roost somewhere east of the city. These are the natural pulses to which we attune ourselves, if we bother to pay attention, and these are far more important to our well being than the new fall lineup of television, the new year, or Canada Day. They are far older, and outside the dictates of our distracted timekeepers.
What plants are native to your region? Which evolved there, and which are imports? Which can you eat, which are medicine? When do they push out of the earth, bloom, fruit, seed, die? Annuals, biannuals or perennials? Check your plant hardiness zone with this colourful, interactive map.
Which animals are your neighbours? Crows, cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, pigeons, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs, rats, mice, rabbits, fox, coyotes? We have them all here. Some migrate, some hibernate, some move to the subnivean space, and some endure the long, cold winter, in better spirits than the most comforted bureaucrat. However you may feel about them, these critters are our neighbours as much as that noisy couple who live overhead.
And we’d do well to name our weeks, months and years after them. Customizing the names on the calendar, and using numbers to communicate dates, makes this a multicultural tool, the likes of which we don’t have. What better way to get a sense of a place than to learn the seasons. The Cold Moon, the Blackberry Moon. It’s not hard to figure out the rhythm of the seasons where the Algonquin live around the border of Ontario and Quebec. And yet, a simple number will tell you what that equivalent time is in your own calendar. Month of the Albatross. Week of the Purslane. Season of the Marten. It’s up to you. Why leave this in the hands of officials, who would more than likely name the months after officials, to lend weight to their position. Like July and August. Or worse…
Rethinking Where We Are
Taking our current national political boundaries as given (that’s a whole other argument, which I won’t get into here), how can we reorganize where we live to make more sense of it? It’s not like the borders of Saskatchewan follow any natural boundaries. No river or mountain was ever created using a ruler (in this case, a very appropriately named instrument). Let’s take a look at our broader environs.
There’s a start. It’s not like these regions are practical for political divisions, but for cultural divisions, it makes much more sense to base it on the landscape. Watersheds are also key, (at least until we use it all in unsustainable agriculture and concrete).
Since about 2005, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lives in urban centres. Part of the consequence of urban living is the detachment from natural cycles, and dependence on human ones. From biology to technology. The largest challenge is adapting our millions of years of evolution to an environment that fights to counter it. Artificial light, polluted air, traffic congestion, and living by the clock, and the Gregorian Calendar.
We can make our cities sustainable. We can reform the way we live together. It will require a lot of energy and imagination. The energy comes from the living, not the dead. One of the most dire epidemics this country, and the world face, is a failure of imagination.
So let’s get on that, shall we?
306 Days to Dec 21st 2012