Chinook students are asked to write a short photo essay, using photographs from their journey that resonate with them. Mary-Claire (AVC 2016) travelled to Natuashish in 2015.
It came as a surprise that one of my favourite places in Natuashish was the garbage dump. It didn’t compare to the epic beauty of the mountains or the warm friendliness of Elsie’s kitchen. It was a dump of the usual sort, filled with the inevitable and everlasting detritus that collects from a modern human settlement. Yet flickering within those mounds of plastic and metal was something unexpectedly alive that drew us back time and time again.
At first glance, the dump was just that. The fences had been painted by the wind with plastic bags and meekly contained the debris that was creeping into the surrounding woods. My eye was drawn from the treeline to the landscape that encircled the dump, which was nicely visible on a clear day from the dump’s high hill. Snow-capped peaks and sprawling lakes were in sharp contrast to the mountains of rubbish around me.
On second glance, the dump is alive. Songbirds sing as they flit between the spruce trees. A murder of ravens burble to each other as they pick over the smorgasbord of human leftovers. Feral dogs take shelter in the city of abandoned cars. A lone black bear savours the sticky sweet delight that is found in an icing container. A young dog approaches us curiously to sniff our hands and ask playfully for food or attention, maybe both.
We returned there many times. We sought entertainment by getting up close and personal with the local bears; a pleasant diversion when we were fog-stayed in Natuashish for a few days. We drove up early on our clinic days in search of stray dogs to spay and neuter. We even used it for the very purpose it was intended and contributed our own waste at the end of each day.
The dump was a part of that place. It was where Natuashish ended and the wilderness began, a strange common room shared by humans and wildlife. It may not have been aesthetically beautiful and I will not venture to say whether it was right or wrong. Humans created it, and other creatures made it their home.