At home with nature
November 21st, 2022
Ecologist and writer, Don Gayton meanders (in a seemingly effortless way) from animals and scenery to etymology, poetry, wine, recipes, history, memoir, geography, and back to animals in one story. Yet it all holds together as evidenced in his latest collection of essays, The Sky and the Patio: An Ecology of Home (New Star $18). The following is an excerpt from the essay that gives the book its title, which tells of a Spring dinner hosted on the family balcony and feeling close to nature. –Ed.
“Evening clouds move like an immense, quiet army, all dressed in purple and gold. They march steadily northward over the top of nearby Conkle Mountain. It is April, and I am consummating my first outdoor patio supper of the year, under this referential sky. It is a full auditory evening: hungry coyote pups yip from somewhere on Conkle, as they anxiously await mother’s return from her hunt. Neighbourhood dogs respond in kind. Then cheers go up for a home run at our small town’s softball field. Pacific tree frogs in a slough nearby add their separate chorus. Earlier in the day I heard the season’s first sandhill cranes: harbingers of oncoming spring. These great birds are heard long before they are seen, on their migratory journey from Texas to Alaska. Yard work comes to a halt while you (literally) crane your neck to look for them. Sandhills are always far higher in the sky than first assumed. Sometimes you don’t see them at all because they are flying above the clouds. But they do return, every April, and I am humbled by that.
I am confident the natural forces that govern the lives of sandhill cranes, coyotes and tree frogs also compelled me onto our patio this first spring night.
“… The word patio is nominally from the Spanish language, but the word’s linguistic roots go far back into Old Provençal and Latin, signifying variously ‘a communal pasture,’ ‘a covenant,’ or ‘to lie open.’ The Arabic equivalent is the enclosed courtyard or fana’, and the patio concept appears in many other building styles and cultures. Our patio functions as a human communal pasture when we gather there with friends to enjoy food, wine and conversation. The long Covid shutdown reminded us just how life-sustaining that companionship is.
A patio is a refuge, but one that is exposed and slightly daring. Perhaps it is a tacit acknowledgment that we humans have spent more evolutionary time outside than inside. To my mind, the Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) captured the patio’s fundamental essence when he wrote:
El patio es el declive
por el cual se derrama el cielo en la casa
The patio is the channel
down which the sky flows into the house.”
THE SKY AND THE PATIO BOOK LAUNCH
The Sky and the Patio will be launched in Penticton.
WHEN: Friday December 9 – 7PM PST
WHERE: The Leir House
220 Manor Park Avenue, Penticton
Event Page Here
Hosted by former CBC broadcaster Bob Nicholson, there will be books, wine, and plenty of wisdom to be shared.