Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fisherman's Fall

Roderick Haig-Brown

Living and writing here in the Haig-Brown House in Campbell River has been an immersion into the life and spirit of one of the Twentieth Century's great writer-naturalists. At an open house on the weekend for local people in the writing and conservation communities to meet the new Writer-in-Residence, I was welcomed by many who knew the Haig-Brown family well. All spoke of Roderick and Ann with great reverence and admiration.

Here he is in 1950, explaining what it means to be a conservationist:
I have been, all my life, what is known as a conservationist. It seems clear beyond possibility of argument that any given generation of men can have only a lease, not ownership, of the earth; and one essential term of the lease is that the earth be handed down on to the next generation with unimpaired potentialities. This is the conservationist's concern.
(Roderick Haig-Brown. Measure of the Year. p. 26).

And last night, visiting the home of a man who has the definitive collection of Haig-Brown's life and works, I had the privilege of reading a limited edition of one of his diaries. Here is the entry from July 29, 1928:

A real day’s fishing on the Nimpkish at last . . . God, but it’s wonderful to stand in the middle of a wild river with the stream tugging at your knees, joy singing in your heart & the line shooting out into the boiling water . . . .

Finally, here is a film called "Fisherman's Fall" made by the National Film Board in the inimitable style of the old NFB I grew up with. You have to view it in two parts:

And here is part two:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Photo album: Birds of the Haig-Brown House

One of the delights of being writer in residence here at the Haig-Brown House in Campbell River is the birdlife. Hate to admit it, but the birds here are just more colourful than the common farm and urban birds you see in Saskatchewan. The Golden-crowned Kinglet (shown above) is probably the most common bird on the property. They rove in mixed flocks through the trees, moving rapidly all morning. Mixed in with them are their cousins the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet.

(Apologies for the blurry images--my camera and I, more accustomed to birds of the open prairie, are having trouble catching fast-moving birds in a shadowy forest landscape.)
Here is a series of the second most common species--the Chestnut-backed Chickadee. They come to food outside my windows every morning.

I see groups of Varied Thrushes every day.
With them there are often Stellar's Jays--but this one was coming to food outside the window.
Flickers here, the Red-Shafted have a slightly different tone to their calls. I love the crimson flash you get when one flies by.
Another shot of the Golden-Crowned Kinglet--blurry but at least it shows the fiery gold colour.
The last shot is of the first bird I saw on waking this morning. A young Bald Eagle hanging its wings out to dry for several minutes in the first sun we have seen after two very wet days.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Campbell River photo album

Salmon die like leaves falling from the trees. This one was on the edge of the Campbell River on the Haig-Brown grounds.

Here are some salmon still alive. I took this from a bridge on the river, where I could see hundreds coming through the inter-tidal zone upstream. I think these were Chum or Dog Salmon--perhaps still numerous because they are not as marketable as other types. These fish will likely be dead within two weeks.

Here are a few more salmon shots.

The gulls, mostly glaucous-winged, come to the river in great numbers to feast on dying salmon.

A couple of fishermen were plying the river as well.

Common mergansers and bufflehead were further downriver in the estuary.

I'll show some shots of the Haig-Brown property and birds soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Measure of a Day

I took a break from writing here while I made the transition to Campbell River for the winter. From now until mid-April I will be the Writer-in-Residence at the Roderick Haig-Brown House on the northwest edge of Vancouver Island's Campbell River.

The lead photo in today's entry shows a view of the house from the 17 acre property, with its trees in fall colours.

Roderick Haig-Brown (1908-1976) was one of Canada's best naturalist-writers, a fly-fisherman, and a strong voice for conservation in the twentieth century.

In my first day here in the house where he lived for fifty years, raising gardens, farm animals and a family of four with his wife Anne, I feel at ease in his presence, the unmistakable genius of a place long-tended with love and humility.

One of his most popular books covers a year on the land, observing his stretch of the Campbell River a mile or so above the estuary where it empties into the sea.

Measure of a Year is a rich and wonderful book, published in 1950, an early back to the land narrative about subsistence gardening and a life well lived in nature.

This is the spine of the copy I found in the room where I have begun writing my next book.

. . . And here is the title page.

The first day is ending and I am feeling a mix of excitement over the prospects of experiencing the river Haig-Brown fished and the ecology of the Pacific Northwest while I immerse myself in a new manuscript.

In the next few days I'll try to post a photo album showing some of the landscapes and birds I'm finding here, but I'll end this entry with one more shot--a picture I took of the large photo portrait I found in a hallway of this house, showing the man who loved this piece of the earth best, fishing in the river that right now is bringing Chum salmon upstream one hundred feet from where I sit.

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