Dark Mountain

We have planned our first camping trip in early May, up near Powell River. We’ll be tent-camping along the creek, where it intersects with the ocean, and I’m really excited about it.

The winter is long and full of ice, snow, and cold/flu season. For these reasons it has been hard to get out and enjoy nature. Yet, it is there and I have been out as often as possible, but it seems like an impermeable freeze, along with the paralyzing feeling resulting from Trump’s undoing of environmental regulations and policies. The submergence is maybe my own way of hibernating, but I’m slowly starting to come out of it. My coworker and I both caught terrible bronchitis-like colds that are lasting for weeks, and we joke that each day is only 5% better than the last. I ran two blocks to the bus stop yesterday, despite barely being able to breathe, and felt OK.

I feel like Bilbo Baggins going stir crazy in a hobbit hole. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains, and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet…

In this period of sneezing, coughing, and dreaming of spring, I’ve been reading a lot. Yesterday I found a website called The Dark Mountain Project. It drew my attention because they weave mythology and fiction/poetry together.  From their site:

The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unravelling, and we want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it.

The Project grew out of a feeling that contemporary literature and art were failing to respond honestly or adequately to the scale of our entwined ecological, economic and social crises. We believe that writing and art have a crucial role to play in coming to terms with this reality, and in questioning the foundations of the world in which we find ourselves.

I like the idea of facing collapse with honesty rather than denial. Denial lives on a spectrum and ranges from “I don’t believe climate change is real,” to believing it yet thinking we can continue to live our high consumer lifestyles to infinity. At some point we have to realize that things need to change, and we need to be active to do our part. To me, this activity ranges from personal health and well-being to being active politically to making choices about personal lifestyles that reduce greenhouse gases and other causes of climate change–anything related to deforestation as well as lowering or emitting beef from the diet.

But also, when doing these things, I think it really helps to occupy ourselves with a sense of community and still have fun in life. We can’t be all serious all the time. The Dark Mountain Project is based in the UK, which is too bad because their community sounds pretty awesome. Sitting around a bonfire, sharing stories. Taking courses in old English cottages, workshops, etc. Lantern-lit walks. Singing in the dark and listening to night animals. Paying attention to seasons and the natural cycle. All these things sound like fun, though I am kind of an isolated person in some ways–I don’t like getting caught up in group thinks. I just like to observe and celebrate nature.

The Dark Mountain project’s poetry and stories are very good; they publish an anthology of their writers’ works every so often. I was not disappointed in things I’ve read. Having that experience in Ireland last year, and then reading up on Irish legends, as well as listening to the Lore podcast when running, really makes me feel that there is room in modern literature to refocus on mythologies wherein nature was central and core, compared to modern day ideologies and myths where nature is separate from us somehow.

So in this world of reading about the wild and its history and myths, I just can’t wait to get back out in it more often. It is becoming harder and harder. I noticed a couple weeks ago that a new gas pipeline is going in over by the park I run in. Still, once you are in the park, it is very possible to distance yourself from civilization as the rainforest is large enough to run in for miles and forget that traffic is gnarling at its perimeters. I remember last year I paid no attention to signs and got lost on purpose several times. The discovery of gnat-filled murky green ponds or trailside grunt-roars (bears, frogs?) was fascinating, and oh the delicate blue dragonfly wings above the lake or the sweat running down my face. Oh how I dream of going back when all is green and losing myself in the forest!

We’ve already figured out a year of camping and vacations this year. I’ve been to Powell River before, where we’ll camp in a couple months, and it’s absolutely breathtaking rainforest along the Sunshine Coast, with dark mountains in the background, standing mysterious and strong.

The featured image is a photo I took of an old dryad print at the original Romano’s in Burnaby.

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