Yesterday’s service, In Memoria, offered a quiet moment to mourn the many species of animals who have been exiled from the Halifax peninsula since the arrival of the first European settlers, and to consider our incompatibility with wildlife. The service was comprised of readings and a eulogy, as well as music provided by the Sacred Heart Audeamus Choir to whom I wish to extend my sincere thanks.
Before the arrival of settlers, Halifax was a thick hinterland forming part of the Acadian forest region— a diverse ecosystem that began to form 10, 000 years ago, blanketing Nova Scotia. It is home to many species of animals including black bears, moose, foxes, flying squirrels, porcupines, fishers, otters, beavers, lynx, bobcats, and more. Did these same animals once nestle in woodland where our city is now?
I’ve learned that wolves used to live in this forest- did any of them make a home here? Woodland caribou were abundant throughout the province, but they are now extinct in this area and so are the wolves.
I am organizing a memorial service to honor the lost wildlife of the Halifax Peninsula and Point Pleasant Park. I have asked the Audeamus Choir at the Sacred Heart School of Halifax to provide music for the service, which will take place this Saturday at 3:15pm, at Point Pleasant, where the first trees were felled in Halifax in 1749. I have prepared readings and a eulogy, and a reception will immediately follow the service with sweets in the summerhouse.
In a recent project called Protect Your Love, I left the city to seek encounters with wild animals in Nova Scotia’s protected wilderness areas. Sadly, after many days backcountry, I was not able to make contact with a single animal. I wanted to feel connected to those wild places, but in the end, I did not. http://www.protectyourlove.wordpress.com
But the city of Halifax— the very place I left behind in search of wildlife— was once part of this vast network of ancient ecosystems.
And so it begins: pouring over old maps, scouring the provincial archives… I am looking for signs of human and wildlife encounters in the city of Halifax since the arrival of the first European settlers. I am tracking the removal of a lush hinterland from the peninsula, beginning in 1749. What was it like to start a city in virgin forest? When did the forest disappear? What happened to the animals? What records are there of this transformation?
My findings and reflections will be posted here, as well as other projects emerging from this research…