September 24, 2006

Dad and Caterpillars

This is one of my favourite kinds of articles. From the Star's Peter Gorrie, it talks about physical signs in nature that a harsh winter is looming. Too many wasps, how thick the onion skins are, what the squirrels are doing, changes in the trees.

My father was born on a farm in Saskatchewan. He left that rural setting as a teenager to make his way to Ontario to work in the steel mills, but the farm never left my dad. Until the day he died ten years ago, he was a farmboy. Reading pieces like these is like having a conversation with Dad.

He always knew what kind of winter was coming by watching what the squirrels were doing. Of course he killed those same squirrels with a gleeful abandon that, in retrospect, probably should have disturbed me more. But they dug up his garden, and nothing was going to come between my Dad and his garden.

He knew why tent caterpillars were worse some years more than others, he knew what to grow where and when to change locations in the garden (doing his own version of crop rotations), and at the cottage he knew when to close up early.

He was never much of a social creature, to put it rather kindly. But reading how nature responds to what is going on around it, I see he was responsive at a level that most of us have insulated ourselves from. It was in his bones and his blood.

On that Survivor show, he would never have been voted off the island. They may have wanted to kill him, but they would never have voted him off.


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