The salmonberries open their
petals like the mouths of mythical monsters we have long-suspected inhabit our
neighbourhood forest here in Webster’s Corners BC.
We’ve never seen this carnivorous creature in the time we’ve lived across from this dripping wetcoast forest, all rushing water and wildflowers. We see salmonberries, though, marking each early spring.
Low hanging blossoms are snatched up quickly by another animal habituated to this place. Our children. By ours, I mean any adult on this dead-end street surrounded by forest and creek.
Our kids on their land. They stride confidently out of the forest and across fenceless yards. They are full of this place and it makes them taller than they should be. They follow their voices echoing off the cedars and back to days we remember only vaguely. We tell them to get out of high branches. They laugh and remind us we were once unafraid to fall.
They offer the names of each wild berry and when to eat them. First the salmonberries, then the elusive wild-strawberries, then the blackberries. They whisper like shaman. Listen. Watch out for the stinging nettles, look for burdock leaf to take the pain away.
But there’s a new sting waiting and after watching generations of wild children wander this place, I hear that hungry carnivore on the move.
Only this monster is not coming from the forest. No. We can handle the black and silent wild. Learning to ignore cougar warnings and instead read her paw prints and scat. Kids hurrying home from friends at night with headlamps and hearts racing, singing at the moon to keep the bears away.
No, our berry eating, tree-climbing children are brave and unyielding.
Good thing because the unnamed monster is coming over the mountain, sounding a lot like a bulldozer. Hungry. Looking like a well-dressed realtor. Smelling like a rat.
He’s not here yet, but we forest dwellers are good at looking for signs.
This year’s crop of berry blossoms is shared with other forest dwellers. The relentless hammering of human appetite is sending the animals to us. Skittish does bring their young. The bobcats, the birds and the bears and looking for space in this place. We are making room. Making plans to make our stand.
I’m not optimistic. I have watched these monsters devour forests from Vancouver to Hope like dominos.
But we will try to take a stand on this square kilometer of land. Make potions of our berries and our roots and invite those in hardhats and heels. The animals will howl and screech. Do their best to fake dominance.
The children will be our lookout. They will hang from trees that have made them fearless. Maybe they can remind the carnivores of their love of plants. No matter, these kids aren’t likely to play nice – they were never inside long enough to learn dominos. And anyway, they can see so much further into the future from up there.
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