Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Riches

A couple of years back I worked here. I gave walking tours to grade 4 and 5 schoolchildren primarily from Calgary. High River has 3 elementary schools, and the year I did the tours there, only one class from High River came out. The lakebed was dry enough for a few years at the end of WW2 that it was used as a landing strip for pilots in training to practice take offs and landings. Now it's a carefully husbanded series of basins that serve as a natural water filtration system. (isn't it amazing what nature will do if we just let her?)

Over the years it's had a varied and sometimes tragic history. It was fun taking the kids along the shore, pointing out various birds and talking about their habits and how all the animals, birds, reptiles and insects lived together in a food chain. My favourite part though, was at the end of the walk, within site of the buses waiting to take them back to school. We'd stop at a rock, like many of the rocks surrounding the lake. We'd talk about the way the glaciers had left behind the rocks like discarded running shoes and socks as it melted back to the mountains. I'd ask them to sit quietly (not that huge a hardship, we'd just hiked 1.5 km) and close their eyes to listen to the symphony of sound. Often enough that it seemed prearranged the various birds would oblige me with a background sound of the Franklin Gulls, the occasional lone cry of the Arctic Tern and for effect, the screendoor creaking cry of the Yellow Headed Blackbird, all birds we'd spoken of on our hike. I'd ask them to listen for the sound of the wind through the grass and it was amazing to watch their faces as they picked out sound after sound.

I'd ask them to imagine the lake 50 years ago, 100 years, 300 years ago. We'd talk about the buffalo and how the last one seen in the area was seen in the mist of an early morning some time in 1952. I'm not a treehugger in the sense of living without to save the planet but I do think it's important for children (and some adults to be honest) to learn about what we're giving up for all our mod cons.