Friday, June 16, 2006

Whither Maple Ridge or wither Maple Ridge?


' lose vigour from lack of animal moisture....or to fall into decay,' are two of the many offerings from The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as to the meaning of the word wither. With a reputation among foreigners for being cryptic, the English tongue in this case, does little to disappoint. Add a single 'h' to wither and produce its cousin, a somewhat different meaning to the same sounding word in the form of whither emerges. No doubt some sage from Oxford University could provide the history for both words and whether or not they are connected through some antiquity of the language. For its part the thus transformed whither is defined as meaning ' what place......or to what conclusion, result or end, action or cause?' The temptation to take to put these two words under the blogger’s lens, in the context of Maple Ridge, is simply too strong. Whether 'tis wiser to whither or to wither is, of course, the question.

Nature's text book demonstrates more than adequately so many instances of withering and regeneration in the planets forests, oceans, deserts and rivers. The natural compost on a forest floor and how it feeds life’s process is easy for all to understand. Then there is the decaying salmon in sacrifice to the next generation; an easy example for Canadians to relate to. Salmon, in their tireless journey, whither up river to wither in order that they may whither back to where they once whithered from, before whithering on to wither once more.

Man, a species itself familiar with the withering and regenerative cycle learns from time to time the lessons of nature; and given the near-natural circumstances of homo-sapiens it is not surprising that we find succour and inspiration from so many other examples in the natural world around us.

Again, it is the whithering of Man which seems to be the base threat to his own future. Salmon may wither in order to promulgate. We, us humans that is, seem to whither in order to annihilate. Those who colonized Africa, the Americas and Asia are good examples of destructive whithering – no wonder now so many wither as a consequence.

In a few weeks the District of Maple Ridge will conclude the painfully long process known to most as the Official Community Plan. It is official, we are a community and, though some still argue its merits, it is a plan. We need it to help us deal with those people who whither in our direction on daily basis and who, by so doing, increase our numbers and the pressures normally experienced by communities suffering growth. Odd, that some communities suffer losses in population while others suffer gains. Suffering appears to be the common denominator, no matter which direction the population is whithering in.

Perched as we are in these boom times on the edge of the great circle of the Greater Vancouver Regional District and with house prices, land prices and the cost of doing business going up and up it is not surprising that along with the excitement of growth there is also a parallel sense of foreboding. And even in this anxiety there exists two -as they say- sides to the story. Some fear that growth will end; others fear that it will not.

We do not have a very large canvass, 64,000 acres in all. The picture we choose to paint on it can be no bigger than the canvass; thus shall it ever be. On the palette sits the dreams of many. On the palette we have zones, bylaws, covenants, rules, regulations, permits and licenses, all carefully filed away in the provincial and federal acts that have evolved over our short time as a sovereign state. We smoosh (a word not found in the Oxford Dictionary) all these elements around to make sense of our various communities. And everyone gets a chance to do some smooshing; particularly when elections roll around and we all get to do the big smoosh.

We talk so much about sustainability during elections these days, particularly now that it has become trendy to do so. In the context here it may be said that sustainability is the very opposite of withering. Withering, however, in the light of what nature teaches us, is very much a part of sustainability. Neglect and dereliction may be said to be foundations of sustainability; death becomes life; the dreary and the mundane are the simple formulas for imaginative and insightful outcomes; the future, a bi-product of the past.

No matter what we believe today, or who we are, nature in likelihood will proves us all wrong. Driven though we are to do the best for this larger canvass, planet earth, this is one painting that will complete itself. We may choose to whither but, wither we must.