Friday, February 5, 2016

Donkey Riding

My daughter's class is doing a BC history unit, and I am grateful to be involved with it. This week they've been looking into some of our local logging history, and have even had my mother, Lyn, in to sing some relevant BC songs with them, as she has been doing for many lucky children since before I was old enough even to go to school, myself.

And then we went out to explore our local logging heritage, too!

On the slope of the mountain we found remnants of a steam donkey and its rigging. We took the opportunity to sing Donkey Riding. As always, some were more enthusiastic than others, but those who had been singing it already with my mother helped greatly to carry the song.

And we found so many interesting things! Great cable lies in many pieces here and there along the creek above the donkey's boiler, and one of the blocks from the rigging is slowly decomposing between the tall cedar trees.

If it wasn't for the many giant stumps pocked with springboard notches and iron spikes, you might not realize this place was logged within the last century. But it was. And it's a piece of our shared history.

We were fortunate, this time, to have the great grandchildren of one of the local loggers in the class group, and they led us on a short hike to see their great grandfather's enormous water tank, which was used as a precautionary measure in case the logging machinery might start a forest fire. (And interestingly, was probably built not long after a great fire devastated the other half of our island - caused, unfortunately, by our long-ago neighbour's slash-pile.) All of this is history, now, having occurred many many decades ago, but to visit and touch and sing about our history brings it all to life again, connects us to it, and means that its lessons are not lost to us.

We live in a piece of second-growth west coast rain forest. It is our privilege and responsibility both to know it and to care for it. We look up into the forest and see such enormous beauty, but when we get to know it well we begin to see its fragility and its importance in every aspect of our lives, both as a carrier of our own natural and social history, and in its role as our own ecosystem. I think this understanding is one of the most important lessons life has to give us. I live in gratitude every day for living in the place I do, where the gift of the living land is still available to me, and where I can watch other people receive that gift as well.

(I've written previously about this particular steam donkey boiler here, so follow that link if you'd like to see a video of one in action.)

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