~ by Sn Paramjyoti Howe
Today was the first major snow for Ishtadev Niwas and it officially feels like winter has arrived. With colder weather and snow the farm enters a period of quiet, so our focus turns to other areas of the land. We begin to look at how we manage this small piece of nature that we “own”, but more importantly, are responsible for, that we caretake, as it takes care of us. We wish to and strive for living in reciprocity with her and ask, Is this land healthy?; being interacted with in a way that is most beneficial for ALL who need it? This includes wildlife, native plants, birds etc. Is there anything we can do to help bring it into balance faster than it will do by itself?
A fresh blanket of snow brings a fresh perspective to how this land is being lived within. A short walk through the woods and we find tracks of Deer and Elk; of Squirrel, and Birds, to name a few. Niwas is also home to a diverse host of plants and trees, all of which are trying to find a balance with what they are given. We, the humans who say we own this land, have a responsibility to support bringing that balance for all.
The idea of ownership, or attachment, to something like land, or anything for that matter, is a human invention. The land was here before humans invented ownership, or existed, and it will be here after the human race goes extinct. Can something that has been here for millions of years be owned by something that is only here for eighty years? Seems silly.
This region of British Columbia is an arid grassland that was once home to giant herds of grazers like bison, elk, and cariboo. The suppression of fire by humans has changed the landscape, allowing forests to cover most of the valley. In our little corner of this area we love the trees, and want them to be healthy. The winter is a great time to thin the forest where Douglas Fir has sprouted hundreds of saplings in a very small area. Saplings that would usually be balanced by fire. We do this in the winter when there are no nests to be disturbed and we are not as busy. So each winter we begin to selectively thin our little forest and help it find balance, prioritizing well established mother trees, Larch and the pine family, especially Ponderosa.
In years past we simply listened to the land and did very little. As we have come to know and understand this area we have begun to make decisions on how to best manage it. This listening is crucial. For it changes our orientation from telling the land what we want it to be, to letting the land tell us what it will naturally support. Each time we go out into the forest we connect with it and follow its guidance regarding its care. The land becomes the teacher and we the student. It is a wonderful act of humility and a step closer to being part of and not separate from the ecosystem, the land, our home.
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