Nature Tourism from a Different View

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In light of our discussion about nature tourism ads and the controversy they pose, I wanted to share this ad I came across recently, captioned “Humanity and nature are one”.

The ad caught my eye because of how different it is from many of the other nature ads we have studied in class. The picture is simple, yet holds such a strong message. It explicitly shows the direct correlation between human and nature, driving the idea that one needs the other in order for both to coexist.

In addition, most of the ads that we looked at picture a young/middle-aged Caucasian male, or a young Caucasian couple. This ad features and old, weathered hand of an individual with dark skin. The aged hand beautifully illustrates the timeless, strong relationship between humans and the environment.

I feel as though the ad perfectly depicts what it means to be one with nature, while encouraging people to get as close as possible. In all honesty, this makes me want to explore the world around me much more than an ad telling me that nature’s sole purpose is to entertain me, or that the province I live in is MINE to discover. This depicted balance gives a feeling of restoration and ultimate beauty, which the tourism industry could use quite badly.

Dusk vs. Dawn

As a university student who has to work day and night on assignments and homework that takes up most of my time, I realized that there are times of day that I never get to experience. Due to the nature of my school schedule, I often wake up late in the morning (around 10AM) to go to class and will usually return home to my East Village townhouse by 5:30PM. This means that the majority of my time spent outside of my bedroom is in the afternoon; I don’t see the Sun rise and I don’t see the Sun set. This gave me an idea to try getting out of my comfort zone and experience life on campus during times that most people are not outside – at dawn and dusk. I walked the same 1km route at dusk and dawn (from residence to War Memorial Hall), but at dusk I walked back to my residence and at dawn I walked toward WMEM.

The easier kilometer walk that I did first was at dusk because I was already awake and decided to take a later class. I watched the Sun set over Johnston Green and took a timelapse of the changing sky colour until it was dusk. On my way back home, I definitely felt different walking in the darkness by myself without many people around me. It was quiet, I felt really cold and tired, and the only light that could guide me back home came from the fluorescent street lights and the lights from inside the buildings. I definitely became more cautious and observant during my walk because it was a new experience for me and I had never really walked alone in the dark before.

My next kilometer walk was just after dawn. I woke up at around 6:50 AM and walked toward WMEM through the same route I walked for the dusk walk. This walk had a very different aura to it compared to my dusk walk. Although there weren’t many people outside at dusk, after dawn, there was almost nobody. Not a single person walked behind me, but I did pass by a few construction workers and one or two students. The campus was very peaceful and for me, it was a special experience being alone in such a huge space because I knew I was the only one outside doing something while everyone else was asleep.

Of course, 30 minutes after I finished the walk, people started flooding in and the campus was full of life and noise again. However, there was a sense of freedom and excitement that I felt while walking just after dawn because it was only the start of my busy day and without anyone watching me, I could have done anything I wanted, such as using my giant camera to record the campus without people wondering what I was doing. It was surprising to see that our campus seemed more full of life when it was dark than when it was light; the library wasn’t even open, all the lights in the buildings were off and I must emphasize how strange it was to see the busiest part of the campus being so empty. The morning frost over Johnston Green made it a bit eerie once I arrived at my destination and similar to my walk at dusk, Johnston Hall had a magnificent gradient sky behind it, which I took a picture of to conclude my Kilometer Project.

During my walks, I took a few video clips so that people similar to me who don’t usually wake up so early or are outside when it’s dark can get a glimpse of campus life at dusk and dawn.

 

A Walk Drawn by a Tree

When brainstorming ideas for my kilometre project, I was especially inspired by the work of Tim Knowles. Looking at his series “Tree Drawings” I found the work “Oak on Easel #1” reminded me of a map. This gave me the idea to appropriate Knowles idea of the tree drawing, but to let the tree draw on a map of my neighbourhood. I then followed the path drawn by a crab apple tree in my backyard (to the best of my ability, the tree had no regard for private property or the limitation of a kilometre). I dropped a variety of seeds on the ground as I walked, to hopefully foster the growth of new plants that will benefit the crabapple tree.

Here is the tree at work:

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The drawing the tree produced:

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Heres the route I actually walked:

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I had to cheat a bit with the tree drawing by putting the marker at the starting point of my house. As I walked I also dropped a variety of seeds on the ground along the tree’s path. My original idea was to drop apple seeds, but couldn’t find anywhere where I could buy crabapple seeds and figured it would be unlikely for any of the seeds to grow successfully in an urban environment anyways. I instead bought seed packets of sage, thyme and catnip. I originally intended to also use shasta daisies (as in included in the photo below) but after doing some research I found out they are potentially invasive to Ontario, and chose not to use them. Thyme, catnip and sage however, are not invasive. They are also supposedly beneficial to bees and butterflies so hopefully, if any end up growing, they’ll be beneficial to the pollination of the crabapple tree as well. I felt slightly criminal dropping seeds on property I don’t own, but I doubt many of them will take and the action was more symbolic than it was an actual gardening effort. Following the path drawn by the tree was interesting because it took me to areas of my neighbourhood I don’t usually make an effort to visit. It was also interesting to take such an abstract and fleeting action (the movement of a marker in the wind) and turn it into something so concrete and potentially long lasting (the planting of seeds along a path).

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Walking With

I invited both my children, separately, to take me on a one kilometre walk beginning at our home. I followed their lead, allowing them to set the pace and route (including stops and diversions) and gave myself the task of simply being with them and experiencing the terrain as they might. When the kilometre ended, I took the lead again.

Walking With Kilometre #1
Juniper Khagram, 3 years old. 2 hours and 24 minutes.

Walking With Juniper

Notes: We walked down to the river, meandering and stopping often in driveways, at houses, balancing on logs and investigating holes in the ground, leaves, plants and faerie dwellings. At 128 metres, we walked back home to get Juniper’s balance bicycle, which she rode (walking) for the rest of the walk. We sang songs to the leaves and trees, knocked on neighbors doors, and swung on a tire swing in a neighbor’s yard we did not know.

Juniper’s one kilometre route

 

Walking With Kilometre #2
Anand Khagram, 6 years old. 1 hour 31 minutes.

Anand

Notes: We spent the first 10 minutes of the walk lying in the grass on our neighbor’s boulevard resting and watching clouds. Anand had a piece of chalk in his pocket. He broke it and gave half to me. Along the walk, we drew shapes on telephone poles, tree trunks and fallen logs and on the pavement and ground. We spent much of the walk in the trees, climbing a connected network of leaning and fallen Manitoba Maple trees that criss-crossed over the path and extended into the river. We fell in the river and got soakers, looked for mushrooms, found minnows, fish, old glass and slag and made silly sounds.

Anand's one kilometre route
Anand’s one kilometre route

Avoiding the Cracks

Step

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on a crack,

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and you’ll break

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your mother’s

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back.

This saying echoed endlessly in my head as a child anytime I walked on a road that had cracks in it. For a young girl with severe separation anxiety, each break in the path held detrimental possibilities. Now, I’m not calling myself senseless; I was an intelligent kid (or I like to think so). I knew very well that the integrity of my mother’s back was in no way connected to where my feet fell as I walked/skipped/jumped down the road. It was the tabboo behind it; if there was even the slightest possibility that my mother’s well-being could be jeopardized, I had to do everything in my power to keep it from happening.

My mom is my best friend, and always has been. Having separation anxiety when I was young only drew us closer, and although I outgrew it with time, our bond never faltered. Coming to university and leaving her behind was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. This is why I decided to channel my inner child and walk a kilometer without stepping on a single crack-just like I use to. The purity and innocence that I felt as I hopped down the sidewalk like an idiot, brought me a joy like no other. The best part of it all…the photographer was no other than my mom herself.

So, thank you mom. Thank you for teaching me how to laugh at myself. Thank you for teaching me how to be independent, and how to trust myself like I’ve always trusted you. Most of all, thank you for standing behind that camera in the chilly evening air, with the same smile on your face that I see every time I look in the mirror.

Your back is safe with me.

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~Dedicated with love to Maria Zak

Bird Banding with Chris Earley

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I think I can speak for the class when I say that this was such a great experience for all of us. Actually getting to hold the birds and physically being with nature is a whole different experience then just visualizing it. I never realized how light and delicate the birds were. I have noticed now every time I see a small bird I end up looking at their feet to see if it has been tagged. I realized I have so much more to learn about birds, all their sizes, colours, and different species interest me. How you can tell the age from the feathers shape and so much more. Thank you for this experience!

Yellow Walk – A One Kilometer Search for the Colour of the Sun on a Cloudy Day

Yellow Walk is a project I completed on October 29, 2016. The sky was cloudy and it was late in the day when I set out on my one kilometer walk. It was measured to be exactly one kilometer using a pedometer. My walk had no destination, simply a goal – to find, collect, and document objects the colour of the sun on a day when the sun was hiding. My sister Elise accompanied me and together we walked for one kilometer, simply continuing to move in the direction of the next yellow object.  I documented the findings of my walk in the form of a photo collage (for those objects that could not be moved) and a collection (for those objects that could be collected).

Yellow Collage
Yellow Collage – Nicole VanderWindt 2016

The inspiration for this project came from my desire to find brightness on a cloudy day and from my love for searching and finding (it reminds me of playing eye spy as a child). By combining these two ideas my project was formed.

Yellow Collection: Arrangement 1
Yellow Collection: Arrangement 1 – Nicole VanderWindt 2016

For me, my walk was a physical way to experience the process of searching for bright spots when the obvious light, like the sun, is missing. It was also a way for me to be in my home neighbourhood in a new way. Instead of my usual walking from one place to the next, this walk directed my attention to the smaller details of my neighbourhood that I had not previously taken the time to notice. 

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Yellow Collection: Arrangement 2 – Nicole VanderWindt 2016

Overall, I enjoyed the process of creating and performing Yellow Walk, and I think that one would be surprised by how much joy can come from finding bright coloured things on a grey day.

  • Nicole VanderWindt