Wonderful Weekend of Walks In The Woods and Meeting New Neighbours As Nuts As Me

With odd and inordinately high temperatures here in Southern Ontario for mid March, my family and I spent most of the past weekend outdoors.    It was delightful to be tromping through trees in our shirt-sleeves, but I could not shake the creepy feelings that tingled my beard as I reflected upon how topsy-turvy our world’s environment must be, when July humidity and highs of 25 Celsius descend upon a region four months earlier than expected.

My sister (who lives near farm-land only a short drive from me) spent the last two weeks helping her neighbours harvest Maple tree sap ~ boiling it down into deep, dark syrup ~ wading to their knees in mud while collecting buckets from each tapped tree ~ a task which is usually carried out with the help of horse drawn cutters through snow.

May God forbid July droughts from destroying summer crops ~ dampening people’s spirits and springy steps while devastating the fragile businesses of small family farms!

This weekend brought people out of their houses like well rested bears and it was a pleasure for me to meet some of my own neighbours who had been in hibernation these past few months.   Directly to the left of my family and I are Jason and Sarah ~ delightful young folks studying at the local university.

We met as I was out on my back-deck with my daughters when Jason suddenly emerged from the tress beyond the trail that passes behind our houses.  Shirtless and bearded, he came from the pines like a poetic pioneer, carrying a strange collection of wood scraps and discarded planters.

Just a day earlier, my daughter Maryam, my dear friend Imran and I had been hiking among the same trees and were saddened to come upon several clearings where people had discarded rubbish of all sorts ~ sofas, mattress springs, water bottles, tires etc.   The effort needed to haul such large and random items to the middle of a forest surely could not have been less than simply hauling them to a local dump or putting them in a rubbish bin ~ but alas, sometimes humans do the strangest things.

“Perhaps we should spend a weekend cleaning up these woods.” I suggested to my fellow hikers, making a mental note to myself of the idea so I would not forget to schedule a weekend for the activity and take it beyond the realm of being just another ghostly “good intention”.

The next morning, there was Jason, back from his hunt, laden with loot ~ treasures to him and trash to others.    Immediately he explained, through a sheepish smile, that he had found “some items to help him with a terrace garden” he was planning.   “Wonderful!” I exclaimed, partially in an attempt to ease what I felt was a slight embarrassment on his part ~ but mostly to ease my own feeling of sadness that I had not been inspired with the same sense of creative initiative as my new neighbour!

Within seconds of shaking hands Jason inquired about my odd deck contraption and we launched into a brief discussion on composting.   Seems, while I was constructing my terrace air-stack device these past few weeks, he was monitoring his own indoor compost using worms to break down table scraps.

Later during the weekend Jason and his buddies climbed a dead tree near the trail and knocked down a limb ~ which was soon being dragged back to his deck, sawed and fashioned into a table.

How exciting it is to realize I am not alone in my quest for some degree of suburban self-subsitance!

Here is a cute little story my mother-in-law sent me.  Some of you may have already seen it floating around on the world-wide web, but perhaps a second read would still be useful.   Enjoy!


Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.  The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right.
We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right.
We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right.
We didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.
But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Categories: Community, Family, Garden, House, Reduce Reuse Recycle, Simple Living, To Hike and The Like

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8 thoughts on “Wonderful Weekend of Walks In The Woods and Meeting New Neighbours As Nuts As Me

  1. This is such a well written post. If you wrote a book, I bet everyone would be running to get a copy.

  2. Great story,
    I don’t know if I ever told you, but you inspired me to get a push-mower. I bought it at a neighbor’s garege sale for $5.

  3. Grace


    It seems that this website exists to document incidents of trash dumping like what you described and get people organized to clean them up, if anyone’s interested.

    Also, I sang “The People of the Boxes” this weekend for my classmates in a permaculture class I was taking, and they all loved it. I think it’s safe to assume that you’re awesome. 😛

  4. Sarah

    I love your writing almost as much as your lyrics!
    I was looking for resources on the importance of taking care of our world as Muslims for a talk at my school, and here I find your wonderful blog!

    Please continue to document your experiences 🙂 Your lyrics nurtured me as a child and your writing is helping me think more responsibly as an adult! jazakAllahukhairan!

  5. Nice allusion to the over arching theme of ‘progress’ here. Reminds me of the time when I reminded my Dad to save the changes to his long email to his insurance company about a health claim. He shook his head and said something like. “In my day, you just went to the doctor, and if you couldn’t pay him, you sent him a bowl of biryani…”.

    Good to have you back in the Americas. I know the kids and wife are looking forward to your performance here in Chicago this Friday, wish I could be there too, but I’ve got another commitment.

  6. V.B

    I love the photo; it is so beautiful. Mashaallah.
    What is funny is that I’m painting something that looks amlost exactly like it 🙂
    Only it has more green and hills in the background. Its getting difficult to capture the reflections on the water. It keeps looking too — unreal…

    Anyway thank you so much for the beautiful pictures and words.

  7. amane

    So glad you are back to blogging. Now if only I could figure out how to compost!

  8. sarah

    Yesterday, I listened to your mix of music, poetry, and comedy at American Islamic College and was in awe. You know Brother Dawud, I have never heard you sing “Dear God” before, and while I was listening to it that night, it brought tears to my eyes, I’m twenty something years old and its as if you took those words right out of my mouth because its exactly how I feel. The perfect ending to my day.
    JazakAllah 🙂

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