Land and stair


Yesterday I went for a walk on the shrinking shores of Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, Washington. With my friends Ann, Christina and dog Gracie, we descended rickety stairs to a  dodgy bulkhead to explore the ocean shore near their home, on Puget Sound.

As we walked we noticed the sandy bluffs above us, and their constant sloughing. We noticed homes on the edge. We noticed grey water drainage pipes that drain onto the bluff, accelerating erosion, accelerating the risk to their homes.

Perhaps they have a great view of the ocean and do not have a relationship with the ocean.

Perhaps they have not noticed this:

Land and the stair

Nature erodes the shores of land. This is unavoidable and undeniable. Where we choose to settle and how we choose to settle is best done when in relationship with Nature.

Moreover, when we realize that we have a structure that is no longer useful, we have to figure out how to ensure that structure causes no harm. If this stair falls toward land, it will accelerate erosion. It will accelerate the shrinking shore, hastening peril to the homes above.

Ann and Christina’s community has to figure out how to build new stairs – I know what they won’t do.

Any structures like this in your life? 




Go where the geese are going


Geese crossing


When you step out into traffic on a busy road in my neighbourhood with your hand up telling them to stop, you know you are making drivers mad – until they see why.  We are escorting a family of geese across the road.

I was folding laundry upstairs this morning when my 13 year old son called to me to come and see the ducks on the sidewalk, walking to school. I thought he meant the kids walking to the school across the street. He called again with more vigour. I couldn’t believe my eyes: two adults and five yellow goslings were making their way down the sidewalk, crossed the road, and started to head down another street.

Now this is usually the time when I head out for a walk to the ravine and the North Saskatchewan river that runs through my city, before I sit down to work. Today, I followed the geese – they seemed to know where they were going.

Their route was taking them directly through a construction area, where city contractors are fixing pipes, sidewalks and roads in our neighbourhood. They stopped between a couple of houses, perhaps because of the noise and bustle of the construction site and heavy machinery. I zipped ahead to tip off one of the workers and instantly, this young man wanted to know where they were, spotted them, then went to talk to his boss. Before I knew it, the contractors stopped their work.

The geese walked right through the construction area.

Geese in constrution area

Being geese, they don’t know that the road is closed, or that the next two roads they need to cross are each four lanes of busy traffic. The young construction worker, an older construction worker and I took it upon ourselves to stop the traffic, allowing a safe crossing.

We did not direct the geese; they knew where they were going. We just stepped out into traffic.

And the drivers of those cars loved it.


Nature is right smack in the middle of our city. And when we least expect it, even when it gets in the way of our schedules and slows us down, we love it.

Maybe in slowing us down, Nature is giving us an opportunity to notice what we love.

Nature is tapping us on the shoulder today, reminding us that we choose what to breathe live into – in others and ourselves.

Those geese knew where they were going. Do you?


And the older construction worker, say 50 years old, walked with them to the ravine to make sure they got there.  That was the right thing to do.







The wild reaches in, the city reaches out


A few weeks ago, as I was walking through my city, right in the middle of it, I came across a bold and wild coyote.  We stopped and looked at each other for a bit, but as I looked away for a moment to put my hand on my phone for a picture, it vanished. It was a wonderful reminder of how the city is in relationship with its region ecologically as well as socially and economically.

The coyote is an example of how the wild reaches into the city.  Wild animal life reaches into the city, either straight in across the land or through the tentacles of rivers and the natural landscape.  The wild also flies overhead, or burrows underground. We are surrounded by the wild.

The city itself reaches out beyond its boundaries into the wild.  The development of the oil sands in northern Alberta’s boreal forest is an example of the city reaching out into the wild. This development is taking place because of our energy demands around the world, which in so many ways are related to city life.

Our vast network of settlements, large and small are in relationship with each other and the wild. As settlements began, the relationship with the wild was very explicit: food supply, resource extraction for trade, transportation routes, etc. Over time, what our cities offer other cities and citizens evolves. An article in today’s Edmonton Journal on the new Kaye Edmonton Clinic is a prime example:

The influence of the clinic is far beyond Edmonton. People who come from a significant distance will have the potential to do many things with one trip ~ Dr. Dylan Taylor.  

Each city is in relationship with far more than the citizens within its boundaries.  The Kaye Edmonton Clinic will serve citizens in the Edmonton area as well as northern Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories. This facility’s reach is far beyond its host city; in fact, it reaches into the wild.

The wild reaches in and the city reaches out.

Where is the wild in your city?

How does your city reach out into the wild?

_____ _____ _____

Interested in urban coyotes?  Check out the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project, a study out of the University of Alberta about coyote habitat, coyote diet and the knowledge and perceptions of residents about coyotes.  It seems that coyotes have been inhabiting cities across North America at increasing rates over the last 20 years.  They are in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Toronto, Chicago, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.