An art­ful med­i­ta­tion on our land­scape

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE -

writes. “Colour of old wood. Colour of dry grass, of tree bark. Of win­tered cab­bage stalks. Of paving stones. Hunt­ing for a place to hide a baby, come the new green leaves.”

The re­sult is po­ems that are rich in im­agery and pop with colour, turn­ing Bit­ney’s lines into stun­ning vis­ual land­scapes for the mind’s eye.

Each chap­ter con­tin­ues with a se­ries of jour­nal en­tries from Bit­ney’s time with the Bo­re­al­ity Pro­ject. We fol­low her as she jour­neys to Hol­low Wa­ter, Fisher River, Wal­lace Lake, Pi­nawa and Fal­con Lake and we read largely about the ef­fort she makes to spir­i­tu­ally con­nect (or re­con­nect) to the land of the bo­real.

“When you go to har­vest, it is your in­tent that is para­mount. The plants need to know why you are har­vest­ing them. Tell them it is to heal,” she writes in one sec­tion.

“We leave our blood here in the for­est, thank you, and our DNA goes into it. Ticks, skeeters, what­ever bites and takes blood. We be­come part of it,” she writes in an­other.

The writ­ing is chock full of punchy, raw and un­fil­tered lines and the poet’s nat­u­ral phras­ing seeps into her en­tries, mak­ing them more ab­stract than con­crete at times.

Un­for­tu­nately, it is parts like th­ese that can some­times weaken the work. It makes it dif­fi­cult to fol­low along with the path the author’s thoughts have trav­elled and some­times makes th­ese par­tic­u­lar pieces feel un­con­nected and con­fus­ing to the reader.

Fi­nally, each chap­ter ends with one of Bit­ney’s es­says, and it’s th­ese that are the pil­lars of the col­lec­tion. From Does Na­ture Have Rights?’ to Ques­tions To­wards an Ethics of Vi­o­lence, Bit­ney wants us to view ev­ery­thing in na­ture (i.e. plants and fungi, life cy­cles and even the weather) with all of the same rights and con­sid­er­a­tions given to other species — mainly our­selves as hu­man be­ings — and to see na­ture as a liv­ing en­tity and not “me­chanic.”

More im­por­tant, it seems Bit­ney chal­lenges us to strongly re­think the lan­guage we use when it comes to how we look at our en­vi­ron­ment. She poses the idea that lit­tle changes in per­spec­tive (and lan­guage) can rip­ple into big­ger (and bet­ter) changes for us as a whole; that only when we re­spect­fully re­con­nect our­selves back to the spirit and the land of the bo­real that only then will we be able to con­sider a greener fu­ture.

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