Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

The gift that keeps on giving

Denise Harris, Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary, AB (Photo by NCC)

Denise Harris, Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary, AB (Photo by NCC)

Denise Harris is a dedicated Conservation Volunteer who actively gives her time to assist with meaningful stewardship projects across Alberta.

Each spring, I look forward to the arrival of our backyard neighbours, the Canada geese, for I know that spring has once again arrived. For me, spring symbolizes new beginnings filled with hope as new life emerges from beneath the snow and ice, buds burst, and knowing that wildlife’s next generation will soon arrive. But when the lockdown for COVID-19 was announced, my yearning to head out and immerse myself in the wonders of volunteering in nature with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) was redirected. My focus and my priorities were quickly realigned.

For the first time in my lifetime, our species was being “inconvenienced” by a probable pandemic. It brought the truth of Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth” presentation to the forefront of my thoughts. Having been raised on a farm without the “convenience” of modern-day technology, I was taught to either entertain myself or do chores. It never bothered me to stay home during the pandemic because my childhood norm was based in social distancing. As time inched forward, however, thoughts of not being able to volunteer sowed the seeds of my malcontent. What do you mean, I can’t remove human-made structures, waste, barbed-wire fences and invasive species? I can’t plant native species, clear trails or do citizen science?  

Thankfully, from my observations of Canada geese behaviour, I had learned that they don’t dwell upon negative events. Why? Perhaps because they have their priorities in order or perhaps they know that distraction can result in loss of life or mate, an injury, loss of territory and/or their offspring. They express negative energy by twitching their tail and ruffling their feathers. They vent it out by screaming and/or thrashing their wings on the water, or by diving under the water to cool off — all non-violent ways of letting go. Geese that have experience parenting rarely challenge situations where they have no control; they simply, you might say, turn the other cheek and peacefully move off.

Canada geese (Photo by Denise Harris)

Canada geese (Photo by Denise Harris)

It is their adaptive behaviour that made me realize that with a slight modification, I too could continue to support nature. My daily walks support this concept. The threats posed to wildlife from human garbage in their wetland habitats could be safely removed with a mask and gloves. Two toads that appeared in our window well still required rescue and relocation to a safer, sustainable habitat. Injured waterfowl still needed assessing for possible rescue. Humans still wanted to learn about wildlife species and the way they behave.

In recognizing this, hopefully next time I will skip the malcontent and serenely move forward.

I miss volunteering, but now that NCC’s conservation sites are open to the public again* and I can get outdoors and experience nature, inspiration and empowerment continue to rise. You see, a few years back I got a slap in the face; a wakeup call you might say. I wondered, if I only had a couple of years to live, how did I want to be remembered? This triggered a great deal of inner reflection. So, with my priorities realigned, combined with my passion for all things wild and my faith in nature’s adaptability, tenacious and resilient behaviours, I believe that our collaboration can and is creating a positive influence on the health and well-being for all species, including our own.

Here’s to the hope of seeing you soon, in the wild spaces.

*Most NCC properties are now open to the public. Please respect physical distancing when visiting our natural areas, and consult our website for site-specific updates.  Learn more >

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