Forest ecosystem (downloaded from May 20, 2023)

Spending time in these cedar forests on Salt Spring Island and amongst the marine life on Saturna Island this past week in BC, I’ve been struck about the interrelationship of all things. There’s nothing like observing an ecosystem close up that reminds you that every little thing is interconnected, that each element has its role to play and that no one thing is naturally more important than the others. Everything from the mosquito that becomes a meal for that beautifully soaring pair of swallows, to the lichen on the rocks by the ocean, to the kelp that feeds the sea otter, the salmon that nourishes the orca, the sea lion, the human–the little communities of creatures and their connectedness is evident everywhere when you sit still and watch.

How easy it is to run headlong into the future once we have set something in motion, becoming distracted by the next shiny thing, rather than sitting quietly and noticing the importance of the impact our actions have made, and where need be, stewarding that action. How seldom we reflect upon what we have done or taken the time to register the myriad counter-reactions, responses and relationships we affect!

I notice it is so in both singing (the wealth of connections and feedback through fascia, muscle, neuron, organ and tissue that create a singing sound) and in performances in groups. We become so focused on the product: the final, beautiful sung note or string of notes, or the ultimate performance moment, the star turn. We notice more readily the bright shining one in the spotlight, but neglect to attend to the entire ecosystem that supports that performance. The lighting designer, costume designer, stage director, music director, the stage manager, the wardrobe person who helped the person transform, the makeup artist, the scene partners who created the framework and put that character in a context so that they could more effectively tell their story–all of these and more go into that result. Without each of these elements, the performance is diminished: it is so wonderful and successful because of all the component parts. How seamlessly and effortlessly they are integrated into the final picture is what allows it to come to full flower.

I’ve been contemplating this while witnessing the power and beauty of the natural world: every little thing matters. The majesty of the Douglas fir or the ancient red cedar is in relation to the mountain it grows on, the ocean that flows from it, the moss on the forest floor, the birds and animals that inhabit them and animate their branches. My students are always so eager to be the one at the centre of the picture and denigrate the role of those who hold them up and give them context. We diminish the importance of the ones working at the “soil level” (or in the case of mycelium, even beneath the soil), because they are so minute, but they are actually the foundation of the structure. Often these roles are unsung and unheeded, but I hope, in my work, to shine light on them and help them reclaim their importance, their place.