Only Birds and Deer Need Apply

I’m visiting my friends Cam and Ann in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto.  Although most of the town seems to be dominated by huge, tall homes that fill nearly all of the lot, I’m sitting in an oasis of peace.  Cam and Ann live in a small house that’s 150 years old.  It’s part of a huge property that her uncle used to own.  He’s donated a small lake, with its surrounding wooded slopes, to the Province of Ontario, with one stipulation: no people will be allowed in this newly created conservation area.  Uncle holds the vision of a sanctuary for wildlife, untroubled by the purposeful activities of mankind.  Ann and other family members will be allowed to walk on the land until they move away from the property.  When they’re gone, no human beings will touch this earth … forever.

Yesterday afternoon, we went walking into another world.  On the shoreline, we watched an owl fly silently across the lake, and a few minutes later heard its mournful hooting.  Otherwise … silence.  The lake was frozen and was decorated with tiny animal tracks going across.  The trees were the tallest of guardians.  Some of them were the most exquisite pines – tall trunks of vibrant red topped by small clumps of needles.  Jody was there with me.

We walked to an old boathouse – a berth on the water topped by a large room with windows viewing the lake, topped by a rooftop patio.  Ann told us about the parties she had enjoyed there as a young person.  Looking down from the roof, I saw a dock extending into the lake, with two railings jutting out of the ice, and I was torn.  I imagined happy swimmers hauling themselves out of the water, lots of laughing, and peaceful moments of companionship as twilight settled over the land.

All the history of humans will end soon.  The birds will fly joyfully.  The deer will bound up and down the slopes unhindered.  A sanctuary for them, and not for us.  I was happy.  I was sad.  Life showing me all its colours once more.  Let both sides embrace you, Bruce.

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