The Healing Bog: "Bog Restoration", redefined, by Garth Thomson
Garth Thomson, from Kelowna sends greetings and thoughts of just what kind of restoration is going on when we stand ankle deep in peat, pulling deer fern and salal. Read on...
Hello fellow Crazy Boggers,
I've been watching from a distance via email updates for the last 7 years (yikes time flies!) and visited the bog briefly on my only visit since 2003 to Vancouver last year. I was active in the bog from 2000-2003 and spent almost all my weekends during that time weeding, digging, and planting along with you. My frog still watches me from behind my desk and my wooden badge is still in my box of "special things". The bog attracted me because it was such an interesting and beautiful place so close to where I lived at the time. I had spent many many years doing work related to the natural environment and had trained in forestry at UBC in 1985. In 2000 I had just finished the course work related to a diploma in Restoration of Natural Systems at UVic. I had also recently been diagnosed with Crohn's disease and was going through a major struggle to keep myself functioning at all. On the surface, it just looked like a quiet place to get away from the struggles but I think at a deeper level there was much more going on that wasn't said. I've really only been able to adequately put words on it very recently. I've long been intrigued with the connections between environmental restoration and the social factors that drive and support it. I worked as a group worker for about five years in the field of wife abuse prevention and often wanted to integrate an environmental restoration piece. In a deeper way, I've been convinced of the connection between personal healing and healthy social functioning too. When I finished my degree at UBC, I immediately avoided the normal 9-5 routine and pursued exploring and understanding the message of my source of spiritual inspiration from India and his associated meditative communes full time for 4 years. In my travels back into the everyday work world after that period, the connections were never totally lost to me. With the arrival of the diagnosis of Crohn's disease in 2000 and after having spent five months in a wheel chair and losing my ability to work, the bog was a place where I could taste it, even though I never spoke of it nor did anyone else. I didn't have the words. I imagine none of us did.
There is something about severe physical illness that has been profoundly humbling to me and served as a very clear reminder to focus on what's important while there is still time. I'm still around, much to my surprise, and have learned some lessons that I think are important to us all. I hope I'll be able to share something of them with you.
The bog is a beautiful place on many levels. It's physically and biologically enchanting. The group of volunteers that come there, like I used to, seem to get along in a very informal yet profoundly cooperative and satisfying way. I guess we all knew and still know that we are contributing to something far greater than ourselves. I always used to feel at peace and took pride in the small but positive contributions I was able to make to this place.
I had lost my ability to work. I had lost most of the confidence I used to have in my body. I was very doubtful that I could ever find an intimate relationship with a woman that would be even remotely constructive. The dream of ever finding again the beautiful meditative communities I had known in the past was also taking major hits. But I could still love a small patch of bog with some moss growing in it and felt at ease with the people who shared their love of that place with me.
Now I know that the capacity to love is the core of true wealth to me. To uncover the barriers to love within myself is more important than anything else I do now. To love my body as best I can, my heart, my mind, my neighbour and this earth we all share is what I do, come what may. I got a good taste of it at many levels in the bog. We never spoke of it. Perhaps we should have. At the time, I didn't have the words. I do now.
In July I did an informal healing mural on the wall of the warehouse where I now work part-time here. It's a delivery service dedicated to agricultural sustainability. A key piece in that mural is a wave-like shape of sayings stretching from "Love is the Answer" through "The core of sustainability, in my understanding, is Love. It is Self-Love. Men tend to understand the "self" piece and women, the "love". What great things we can do together!" to "Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find the barriers you have built against it within yourself" at the end. I think that the bog is a place where the barriers to Love are easy for us to drop. Perhaps that's what gives it it's beauty and it's magic. I do know that it helped me keep the spark of Love alive in me when I needed it most. Thanks to you all for your part in that. It's a very precious gift.