The first impression. The first 24 hours. The first week.
I did it. I’m in Canada for a week now and currently in the woods typing this next to a beautiful little lake (Hubley Mill). I love it when a plan comes together (pun intended).
Thanks to the delay of shipping the truck to Canada I managed to take the time in the Netherlands. And thanks to the prefect hosting of my friend Mark, I had all the space to work on my truck and think about how I could give back during my journey. Also, it took just long enough to see all the trees get their leaves. What a blessing!
To prepare my journey in Canada I created my story, explaining what I was doing and how I could give back. It was a difficult question for me, because I didn’t want to disturb my experience with the trees with all kinds of projects, deadlines and budgets. At the same time, giving back and collaborate usually means these things. I ended up with these three levels of receiving and giving that would hopefully only deepen my experience with the trees:
• Personally: experience ancient ecology first hand and feel through it with ceremony and ritual.
• Locally: extend this experience to innovators in local groups and organizations and learn their ways.
• Globally: use and develop online telepathy to transpire the ceremonial quality of ancient ecology to a global audience.
Especially the last one is going to be fun. Experimenting with energy work, ceremony and guided meditations in one. At least, it gave me an excuse to buy a drone, to show people the surroundings of the old trees. It’s a lot of fun to learn to fly with it and the 5k-videos are amazing.
Although I got great help from a lot of friends, local organizations rarely replied to my invitation to connect. I did receive a lot of tips for beautiful nature from locals. Maybe, I just had to go there, and I’ll learn how to connect with organizations in Canada?
Arriving in a new world the first impression, the first 24 hours and the first week are important and I believe somewhat predictive of what will come my way.
So here they are.
The first impression
The first reaction I got from a glance from the plane over Nova Scotia was: snow! Still? (they were clouds) And the trees don’t have leaves yet! (true story) It looked like so much endless nature and forests and lakes and loved the interaction between the ocean, clouds and land. Pure excitement.
The first 24 hours
After landing I was very friendly handled by a customs officer who had to ‘clear’ Fynn. When we were finally outside, I immediately let Fynn out and was very grateful I could remove my face mask after 10 hours. We were directed to a little gated dog park, where Fynn could play and poop legally. The ridiculous obsession with rules had begun.
After an enormous sprint in the car park he was relaxed again and seems to have forgotten about the ten hours in a comfy cage. In the airport I looked for a sim card, who wasn’t there, but the lady in the shop treated me as if I was about to rob the place. I didn’t wear my face mask anymore after going outside.
The truck wasn’t discharged yet so I booked an Airbnb and went into the city to buy a sim card and other things I needed. We weren’t allowed on the bus, because Fynn wasn’t a service dog. After 40 minutes of walking we were kicked out of the shopping mall, because there were no dogs allowed also. In the end, on that first day we got refused at two buses, kicked out of two shops, a shopping mall, five random pedestrians told me to put a leash on him and got blocked at three restaurants. Clearly dogs where only allowed in your own car, in your own house and on a leash on the street but nowhere else.
I was surprised by how triggered I am from the extremely-loud overly-extroverted suppose-to-be-friendly Canadians. I should have known. Where every Canadian starts very friendly in conversations it often feels very fake. So unnecessary loud, saying words without saying anything, and without responding to what I was saying back. Completely dissociated. Also, when I crossed a rule just a little bit, without hurting or annoying anything in reality, they immediately treated me like an enemy of the state. I completely despise this conditional friendliness with all my heart. Angry bones.
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. For me it’s the live and let live mentality. Canadians are very intrusive in how they think you should behave, also when nothing bad is happening. The perfect settler mentality: we’re friendly, as long as you follow our rules. The best example of living from your imagined reality I’ve encountered so far.
From the $20 bill I learned they don’t shy away for some colonial symbolism either, picturing the queen of England. From the $5 bill I learned that Canada had its first prime minister 140 years ago. From Wikipedia I learned that it got full independence in 1981 and still today the queen of England is the ceremonial leader of the country, very similar to the King in the Netherlands. As it comes to being a country, Canada is a toddler.
One conversation went to an extreme as one well spoken and educated shop employee told me shouting in my face while standing two feet away: “oh you’re from the Netherlands, that’s so nice. The store manager an hour away is also from Denmark, maybe you should go visit him.” I’m pretty sure I didn’t manage to keep my smiling face this time.
The first morning I didn’t have breakfast yet, so I went to the nearest restaurant that served breakfast. It was a sort of McDonalds drive through restaurant and early morning it already had about 30 huge pick-ups waiting in line for a fast-food breakfast, but inside there was a recycle bin. Just like the other fast food chain next to it, with another thirty pick-up trucks in line. Add this to the widespread extreme obesity and alcoholism on the streets and the fake friendliness of people I wrote in my diary that evening it felt like I was in the least developed country I have ever been to.
But well, of course my triggers say more about me than about the world. Clearly I have come to the right country to learn more.
The first week
Picking up the truck had a lot of procedural steps but no extra delays. They lost my car keys, so they had to break in to get it off the boat. I found the keys in the door, so next time I will put a big tag on them. As far as I could tell there was no damage.
The obsession with rules that became clear the first day is more often visible. Stopping to a complete full stop for a stop sign for example, even when it is evidently clear there is nobody around. So, it’s not clear why there is a stop sign and it’s kind of ridiculous (and bad for the environment) to go to a full stop. Also, I found out that flying my drone without a Canadian license has a fine of $3000. Maybe I should have gotten the smaller one.
Getting a new propane tank, fill the water tank, get food and drive off to a beautiful place at a lake took me less than five hours. When it comes to following procedures Canadians excel by all measures.
After a few days I got the courage to get dressed up and do my own opening ceremony despite the onlookers. It felt really good to say hello to all the cardinal directions and express my gratitude for the safe transition to this new world for me. It helped a lot in feeling the place and it showed me the mother tree of the location the day after. It reinforced my motivation to make an online program for learning to do ceremonies and reconnect with reality.
The weather is very different from home. Although the temperature is above 12 degrees, it feels like winter to the skin. Even without wind. Also, it changes completely a couple of times a day and the forecast has been wrong every day so far. Locals explained they don’t have a spring, it’s just winter and then summer. Clearly the workings of the cold side of the Gulf stream. Fun fact, New York is on the same distance to the North Pole as Madrid.
All the food is labelled with the amount of calories, even ‘light-beer’ is as common as our 0.0, but then it’s about the calories. Also, the labels on food is not standardized by 100 grams. So you need to calculate yourself what it really means and it’s very confusing. So far, the amount of salt in the food is completely crazy. Another chapter of you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Thank you European Union for our labels on food.
At the beautiful lake in the forest its fascinating to hear new bird songs, smell new forest smells, see new animals (porcupines) and see amazing sunsets. Nature in Canada is truly amazing.
In the weekend more people showed up at the campsite. All asked me very politely if I was ok with them being there. Of course, I was. They invited me for a beer, dinner and we had a conversation longer then 30sec that actually made sense. Canadians in the woods were very pleasant, beside still being unnecessary loud and the garbage they leave behind. Halifax was very clean, nature so far is full of plastic and old logging materials. Priorities!
I found the first campsite by looking for the oldest tree (532 years) of Nova Scotia, the most eastern state where I am. Clearly it was too crooked for a sailing mast, because it survived the Europeans. The only thing missing was the exact location of the tree. After contacting the researcher who was mentioned in the article, he confirmed that I was not allowed near the tree for its protection. And was redirected to location with an amusement-park kind of old-growth viewing. Where the separation of nature and people is exemplified instead of diminished.
While looking for old growth in Canada I found a lot of articles and Facebook groups about protecting old forests against logging. Clearly that was still a big challenge. And in Nova Scotia the damage was done a long time ago, almost every tree was used for ship building by the European invaders so very few old growth is left here. “Nova Scotia adapts definition of old-growth to meet own target for conservation.” Our imaginary reality over reality is so visible here. It’s astonishing.
Just like the clearly present guilt and shame around their own history. What the pious Christian Europeans did to the natives in North-America is absolutely horrifying to read. So a lot of projects are about rewilding ánd reconciliation, like this initiative on healing forests. For what I have heard so far from locals, they haven’t really started yet. But I can write this without fearing for my life and with the Canadians in the forests I could have meaningful conversations about it. So the fertile ground for it is already present.
It seems to be the Canadian myth that trees are either cut for logging or a fence and isolation is needed to protect them. Opening it up to the public so a new paradigm can be created from them is clearly not a thing yet. Maybe this explains why so few organizations replied to my messages. A new connection with ancient trees is not what they are after, it’s still survival mode against cutting them down.
Very curious how my view on this will change when I travel the country and learn more about it. Maybe it makes more sense to look for the indigenous approach and not try to support the conservationists. Of course, I’m the guest, so I didn’t go and look for the location of the isolated oldest tree of Nova Scotia in the end.
What surprised me most during my time in the Netherlands is that I really enjoyed translating my book to English. It felt weird to share my book with Canadian organizations without it being available in English. So way ahead of planning I started to translate it. Once I was back in the story it felt very good to search for my words and descriptions in English. Magic of life or Miracle of life? Dropping out of your story, or falling in reality? Trusting systems or systems we trust? We organize our world upside-down, or inside-out? So much fun!
Also, I discovered that the definition of a myth in Dutch is only a story about mythical creatures from ancient times. While the definition of a myth in English has three versions. Where the first one is the same as in Dutch and the other two are more like the one I use in my book. Maybe this explains why English feels more appropriate for the story than the Dutch version. I thought it was just because I read mostly in English, but there seems to be a more etymological reason to it. Can’t wait for you all to read it again. Of course, I can’t help myself and add a few chapters here and there, so it’s also an upgrade and not just a translation.
So, the adventure continues. Trucking, hiking, biking and kayaking, while feeling through ancient nature and transpire the experience online. And learning to deal with the excessive extroverted (sometimes fake) friendliness of the settlers on Turtle Island.
Here I am.