Into the great wide open

Peter Jackson
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Our pond opened up on Sunday, two weeks earlier than it was supposed to.
April 6 is early. My father says ponds on the Avalon open up during the third week of April, like clockwork.
"Must be global warming," I say.
Silence. He's skeptical, and I know that one anomaly does not global warming make. If it keeps happening, then we'll talk.
I call it "our" pond, although it is actually the pond across the road. It's not our pond. It's everyone's pond, and no one's pond. It's the pond we like to swim in and fish in and float on. In winter, we walk across it and back. It's the pond that offers an infinite variety of soul-soothing vistas throughout the year.
Our dogs love to swim in it, too. Our golden retriever took his first dip of the year Sunday, not counting a splash or two with indignant ducks in the open water where the creek comes out. Our golden is impervious to the iciest cold.
These first few spring-like days of the year are like a new awakening. Even the most urbanized among us can't escape the primal joy of spotting tiny crocuses and getting mud on our shoes. We may still face more snowfalls, but their days are numbered.
And speaking of things numbered, Quebec Innu have been exploiting the season's offerings with abandon. The dreams of elders supplant simple observation. Experts say there are only 100 caribou in the herd, but the elders' visions say otherwise. They are like the monks of old, who sat and cogitated how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or how many teeth are in the head of a cow. Go to the barn and count!
Back on the island, snowmobilers are angry they have to help pay to keep the snowy trails groomed. We have a God-given right to ride our machines without permits, argues one. And besides, he says in the next breath, the groomers are not doing a very good job.
As the snow disappears, the bog bikes are being hauled out of storage. Soon will come the cry of the bog-biker: we have a God-given right to tear across every nook and cranny of the wilderness. There's only one trail through that bog, one will say. What he won't say is that the trail is 15 lanes wide in places.
Newfoundlanders love the outdoors. I'm a Newfoundlander (see previous column) and I love the outdoors, too. I have a brother-in-law in Michigan, and I can assure you Michiganites love the outdoors with a passion. Their neighbours in Ontario can be pretty outdoorsy, as well. Come to think of it, Californians are big on surfing and hiking and other things you can't do indoors.
As living creatures on this planet, I guess we all have a God-given right to enjoy its bounty. But God-given doesn't mean unbridled. It doesn't mean hunting and fishing species to extinction. It doesn't mean defacing large swaths of wilderness with over-powered machines. It's challenging enough to rein in the impact of commercial operations without everyone saying they have a right to do what they please.
There aren't many fish left in our pond, but some people still like to toss out a line or two. In summer, you'll get a few Jet Skis buzzing across the waves. For the most part, though, people show reasonable restraint.
God may have given us a right to partake of outdoor pleasures, but with that right comes responsibilities. We abandon those responsibilities at our peril.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's editorial page editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Quebec, Michigan, Ontario

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