Recently, I took some time to bicycle for a few days while on vacation. It was refreshing and exciting to be back on a bike as I spent most of my day riding through trails and parks in the warm weather during the last few days of summer.
One afternoon after a long ride I lay on the grass to rest after several hours of peddling. It felt great to sit under a blue sky in the shade of an old maple tree with a light breeze to cool me off. Like most people, I seldom take the opportunity to just sit on the ground to rest. Most of the time, we all look for the nearest bench, rock, log or something to sit on. I was comforted as I lay down and stretched out my legs and felt the soft earth beneath me. It felt good to run my fingers through the green blades of grass and to smell the earthy fragrance of the soil. As I lay down on my back and closed my eyes I drifted back to my childhood days in Attawapiskat.
On warm, lazy summer days we children had to find things to do on our own. There were no organized activities, parks or recreational facilities where we could direct our vast amounts of energy. Instead, my younger brothers and I spent our days exploring the world around our home. As we were too young to wander too far off, most of the time we ran around the boundaries of our house. We had no lawn but there was a clay yard with random areas of tall grass, weeds of all shapes and sizes and small wild flowers. In front of our house were a gravel driveway and a well-tram-pled area of dark earth, saw dust and wood chips that led to two long lengths of clothesline, dad’s storage shed and our outhouse.
To me, the wild plant life on our front yard was a world to be explored. My brothers and I spent the first few years of our lives down our knees looking at the endless number of small creatures that crawled around the plants. We played all sorts of games to entertain ourselves as we wandered around the yard. At one point we took mom’s pair of good scissors to mow a large area of grass just to see how much cut grass we could accumulate and bundle together. We did not move far along into our game as mom noticed us playing with her only pair of scissors. She promptly took her prized possession back into the house and made a strong suggestion that we had better not touch them again. Alongside our home was one of the few community gravel streets with drainage ditches on both sides of the road. These ditches had been dug years before but were constructed poorly with little consideration to the proper drainage of water from the community. Instead they collected large pools of stagnant water and were only useful during the spring run off or after a heavy rain.
As curious children, my brothers and I were fascinated by what took place in these little shallow pools. At first glance there was a host of algae, weeds and water bugs skimming the water but on closer inspection there was a whole new world underneath the surface. Hard shelled snails secured themselves to any surface, mosquito larvae drifted near the bottom waiting to hatch, frogs’ eggs clumped together in cloudy masses, tadpoles at all stages swam in all directions and other fine organisms flowed through the water like lifeless particles. We had no idea at the time what these ditches were for and we never made the connection that they handled all the community’s waste water. It is amazing that we didn’t catch some terrible disease in these play trenches.
As we grew older we were able to explore other parts of the community. A lot of the time we enjoyed playing on the high bank of the river amongst the tall wild grass. No one ever tended grass in town so these plants grew three feet high. It was great fun to play in long grass and when we got tired we lay down and stared up into the sky, which, from our vantage point, was framed in tall blades of green. It was relaxing and comforting to smell the wild plants and to feel the cool breeze as it rustled through the field of grass. Isn’t it strange how thankfully some things don’t change, no matter where you are or how much time goes by?