Moving Outhouses…

Near my tent, there are three outhouses. Being a single individual, I decided early on that I would only worry about keeping one stocked with necessities (bucket, toilet paper, sawdust, farmer’s almanac). I chose the one the faced East in order to catch the early morning rays.

Last week was my last week of class for the semester. As a celebration, I invited the students and faculty of the program out for a bonfire and potluck. It was a beautiful evening by the way. Since I was hosting so many people (at least compared to the camps’s usual population of one), I decided to open up another outhouse and stock it with a bucket, toilet paper and sawdust (I decided against purchasing another farmer’s almanac). This outhouse faces South. It doesn’t get the early morning rays, but it does get light throughout the day. It is nice to change views every now and again.

A few days ago, I needed to use the facilities later on in the evening. When I opened the door of the first outhouse and entered, there was sudden frenetic activity above me. I fled the outhouse followed closely by a robin. Apparently few beings, whether humans or birds, enjoy sharing an outhouse, at least a single seater outhouse.

The following day. I decided to check out the outhouse in the day and sure enough, in the rafters, there was a small robin’s nest. A robin’s nest? In an outhouse? This is no place for a nest I thought. After all, I am a human being. I certainly should receive preference over a bird for my use of the outhouse. So I picked the nest up, ensuring that there were no eggs in it, and flung it out the doorway.

I used the outhouse then. I was convinced that I, in my human righteousness, had been right in my indignation. As I sat there however, I began to think. Thinking is usually a side effect of using an outhouse.

I have three outhouses. I don’t really need three. I don’t really need two. One would certainly suffice.

A robin doesn’t use their nest for long either. Though I don’t know how long a robin sits on her nest, I know that certainly, it will not be long before she and her fledglings have left it.

I do enjoy the robins. They are a very welcome sight in the springtime, especially after this long winter.

By the end of the session, I realized how unfairly I had treated the robin.

I reached down, gently handled the nest, and returned it to it’s perch, hoping that Sister Robin would forgive me for my insolence and not mind it being somewhat more tussled than she had left it…

Last night, I peeked in the building and looked up at the nest. Sure enough, there was Mother sitting vigilantly in her home. I decided to start using the South facing outhouse only.

It’s nice to have neighbours.


WB: To Know the Dark

Frequently, I find myself returning to the tent at dark. This will likely change as we gain more daylight, but for now, I am usually traveling the last kilometre or so by foot with only the moon to guide me. I came across this poem recently which encouraged me to continue to refrain from using a headlamp on my evening walks.

To Know the Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

– Wendell Berry, New Collected Poems

Views on Deer

This evening, as I was working away at my computer, I looked up and saw two deer outside of my window, grazing on the grass in my backyard. I’ve seen these deer almost every day since moving here. Or rather, I have seen deer, almost every day since moving here. Whether or not they are the same deer, I am, as of yet, unable to determine. Perhaps, as my familiarity with this neighbourhood, and its more-than-human residents grows, I will one day begin to identify specific deer. That would be nice.

As I watched them, I began to think of the current deer hunting by-laws that have recently been passed. Using the fewest possible words, the city of Thunder Bay has recently allowed for the bow hunting  of deer within city limits, a move designed to help limit their numbers, and the resulting injuries to both humans and deer that, sadly, happen all too often on our roads and highways. If you would like more words, I would direct you here: Deer Bow Hunt Season.

I thought of how I would be personally interested in hunting a deer, as a single animal could easily supply me with more than enough meat for a year, and, as the hunter, I could ensure that the creature was killed with as little pain as possible. I thought of how eating an animal that came from this place (a 1/8 mile diet?) could allow me to better connect with this place, and of how the process of stalking, hunting, cleaning, butchering, preserving, cooking and eating it would allow me to cultivate my sense of the importance of food.

I thought of all these things and then smiled.

I do not have my hunting license, nor do I own (or have ever really used) a bow. Furthermore, I would have no idea what to aim for on the deer to ensure a quick kill, and I do not understand even the most fundamental parts of cleaning and butchering the carcass. As such, the hunting of these two creatures in my backyard was entirely beyond my abilities.

And as I thought of these things, I realized that, do to my inability as a hunter, I am forced and thus allowed to appreciate these deer on a different level, one which allows me to appreciate their health and strength and beauty, not as potential prey, but as neighbours in this place.

One of these views of deer, as prey, or as neighbour is not inherently better than the other, and certainly, these two views are much closer related than I have presented here. Still, I am glad that, for now, I am enjoying this view, from my window.