Van­dal­iz­ing our spec­tac­u­lar land­scape

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com - Twit­ter: @ wanger­sky.

They are blos­som­ing only a few feet apart, one a beauty, the other just beastly.

The beauty is a pink lady’s slip­per, the orchid Cypri­pedium acaule, with the Greek ori­gin of Cypri­pedium mean­ing “Aphrodite’s san­dal.”

Just right now, they’re ev­ery­where, the com­bi­na­tion of tem­per­a­ture and wa­ter just right for their ar­rival — if you know where, or maybe how, to look.

You see them all of a sud­den, as if, even with their abrupt dif­fer­ence in colour, they blend into the back­ground un­til all at once your eyes be­come ac­cus­tomed to see­ing them. Then, you see not one or two or six but 20 or more, and they range though all states of their short blos­som­ing life, like a tax­o­nomic text­book come to life.

The bright full-blad­dered new blooms, the older ones, softer and bulging a lit­tle, the pale old­est flow­ers, the ridge­work of their white veins work­ing the sur­face so they look like the un­lit man­tle of an old Cole­man lantern.

A tiny woods choir, all ages, stand­ing straight up to­gether, open-mouthed.

The lady’s slip­per I took a pic­ture of was on a walk­ing trail along the wooded shoul­der of a huge St. John’s city park, a wire fence away from a com­muter road.

The beast I men­tioned at the be­gin­ning of the col­umn? A cou­ple of old fans, a greas­es­tained toaster oven, a bro­kenup de­hu­mid­i­fier.

Just dumped at a quick con­ve­nient spot by a park­ing area for the trail, clearly by some­one who had turned in, turned their car around, and just un­loaded their spe­cial gifts into the woods.

It never ceases to amaze me: the East Coast of Canada has some of the most beau­ti­ful scenery and nat­u­ral places that any­one could imag­ine, and at the same time, no short­age of res­i­dents who ob­vi­ously don’t care about their sur­round­ings.

I have a photo in my phone of a ripped green leatherette arm­chair, tipped side­ways, sim­ply left on the side of the road on Nova Sco­tia Route 311 head­ing north to Tata­m­agouche — an­other of cof­fee cup lids built into the sand like plas­tic seashells on a long beach above Al­ber­ton on Route 12 in P.E.I. A cliff­side dump of house­hold garbage run­ning 100 feet down­wards on an ocean­front rock face on the way to New­found­land’s Caplin Cove.

(Spe­cial bonus there — look down for trash from di­a­pers to car parts, look straight out to sea for the pris­tine white and bright blue of a coast-hug­ging ice­berg.)

I can be on a river so dis­tant from others that I can spend a whole day walk­ing into a wilder­ness area, not once see an­other soul, and come across a fire pit and a half-dozen empty beer cans on a sandy spit next to the wa­ter. I’ve hauled more trash out of the woods than I can re­mem­ber.

Some­times, it’s down­right un­be­liev­able the dis­tance some­one will take an old tele­vi­sion, only to dump it and en­joy the spe­cial plea­sure of putting a rock through the screen for good mea­sure.

Find­ing trash amongst our out­door trea­sure never fails to make me an­gry.

But, to add in­sult to in­jury, I came around the cor­ner from the orchid at ex­actly the same time as a pair of young hik­ing tourists, one with a back­pack with a small Ger­man flag sewn on, came from the other di­rec­tion.

I caught them in the act of look­ing down at the trash, and then look­ing at me as if they ex­pected me to of­fer a plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion be­fore they moved past me, shak­ing their heads.

I couldn’t even sum­mon anger just then.

Only shame.

We’re bet­ter than this. Aren’t we?

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