Watching the small waves on the cold deep blue water made me think of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico because of that criminal oil spill disaster brought to us from British Petroleum (BP). It led to a day of pondering our relationship with Mother Earth as I sailed on a small boat that, in fact, floats along at her mercy.
What would life on this planet be like if there were no humans? How would Mother Nature survive without us? It is amazing how fast the planet could recover from our onslaught and how soon the Earth could remove most traces of human habitation. The History Channel has a series called Life After People, which demonstrates just how fast Mother Nature can remove us from the picture. It’s both a horrible thought and an interestingly comforting one.
Life as a human is truly a miracle, and it would be an unbelievable tragedy for us to kill ourselves off. We seem to be trying really hard to do it, and we may yet be successful. While the planet would certainly get a bit of a breather, surely we are intelligent enough that it doesn’t have to come to that. Does it? Will it?
It was odd thing to be thinking about on a sunny day as I stood leaning again the stern railing, facing the sun, attempting a bit of a sail through one of the most beautiful cruising locations in the world. But I didn’t see this as a depressing subject; I was just fascinated by the power of nature. (This fascination probably comes from the storm we had a couple of weeks ago, which dropped a ton of tree and bush debris on my lawn, roof and driveway. It seemed to be a statement that no matter how much we try to keep out The Wild, it has its own ideas and says, “we’ll drop crap on you every chance we get.”)
After a couple of hours of bobbing around in the White Dragon, waiting for some wind off Swartz Bay, we decided to head over and anchor off Russel Island, just at the mouth of Fulford Harbour. A group of us then took the dingy ashore for a stroll around this long-abandoned homestead.
Russel Island, now a protected park, was once settled by Hawaiians in the late 1800s. Some of them also settled on Salt Spring Island and in Saanich on Vancouver Island. Apparently, we once had a thriving Hawaiian culture on our Gulf Islands — I grew up on Pender Island yet had never heard about it. How soon history fades.
The Hawaiians had been brought to BC’s Coast by the Hudson’s Bay Company to work as labourers. After their tours of duty were over they decided it was better to stay here than to go back home to Hawaii, which was then invaded by the Americans.
Russel Island must have seemed like such a paradise back then, with its sandy beaches, Douglas fir, wild twisting arbutus and majestic Garry oaks. But of course, given the march of time, the people are all gone now.
The intense forest has long since reclaimed land that was once cleared for farming by the Mahoi/Fraser family, whose names dominate the historical placards on the island. Open meadows of native grasses host yearly bursts of Camas Lilies and a variety of other wildflowers according to Parks Canada signs, but I didn’t see any meadows left, just a tangle of bush.
The original house shown here dates back over a century. Peering inside the windows, I could see a stove rusting away. The roof looked like it had leaked and the back porch sagged under its own weight. What I found both wonderful and haunting about this place was how nature could so quickly overcome the human presence on the island.
Until recently the island had a caretaker, but given the Harper government’s budget cuts, there is no more upkeep being done at this heritage site so it is being left to be reabsorbed into the earth. Political entropy meets natural entropy.
This photo of the bike and tree truly encapsulates the feeling I had on Russel island: the very slow degradation of our cold metallic technology. The bike leaning against the living tree is a testament to the power of Mother Earth as she reclaims the elements. The tree is growing, thriving and filled with life energy, but the bike has had its last ride — its tires are flat, its seat rotten and spokes rusty. The bicycle is crumbling into its finer elements and being reabsorbed by the mother who is erasing all signs of humanity.
I ponder this photo as a warning about our mistreatment of the Earth, but also as a thought that even though we do so much destruction, Mother Earth has time on her side to continue to create the beauty of life. She is far more patient than we are, and will outlast us.
We will spin our wheels and dance our frenetic lives into oblivion if we don’t smarten up as a species, but I am comforted to understand that somehow the great spirit will clean and renew the life force, with or without life as a human.
Here’s another video of how life can acclimatize without us even though we have poisoned the environment in such extreme ways it isn’t fit for humans.
All photos by Chrisholtphotos.com © 2010 All Rights Reserved.
Did you enjoy this article?
Please let the author know by leaving them a comment below!
And, subscribe to our free weekly digest!
Simply add your email below. A confirmation email will be sent to you.