Photo: My Magical Swamp

A young David Suzuki explores a wetland.

By David Suzuki, Scientist.

When I was a boy after the war, I was extremely shy because I was a Japanese-Canadian and Canada had just fought a war with Japan. My family moved to Leamington in southern Ontario and in my loneliness, I always found comfort fishing for perch on the public dock in Lake Erie, biking to Point Pelee (which was yet to become a national park) and using a dipnet to search for treasures in roadside ditches.

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We moved to London in 1949 where I enrolled in grade ten. As a teenager coming to a new school where there was a handful of "ethnics" like me and where cliques and friendships were already formed, my sense of isolation only increased. My salvation was a swamp or bog just a fifteen minute bike ride away from our house. What a magical place it was, full of new experiences and things to discover. I would wade right into the water, net held at the ready and jar in my other hand. Of course catching a frog was always a delight as much because they were such a challenge to see and then scoop, but frog and salamander eggs sent me over the moon. I caught a newly hatched snapping turtle which I kept as a pet for years, feeding it worms. There were skunks and raccoons, snakes and leeches. Once I spotted a bittern with its beak pointing straight up and camouflaged in the reeds. I saw a boy shoot a crow with a pellet gun and felt so sad as other crows cried and circled round their downed comrade. I scooped numerous insects for my collection, especially beetles which fascinated me.

That swamp was magical for me, a place where all my cares fell away and there was always anticipation of something new and totally unexpected. I cannot imagine any video game or electronic gadget ever matching that swamp in wonder or joy. Today, the city limits have long swallowed the swamp which was drained then entombed beneath the tarmac and concrete of the parking lot and a huge shopping mall. I wonder where today's young Davids and Marys will find companionship with other species and experience the wonder and awe that we need to love the world that gives us life.

February 1, 2013

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Feb 14, 2013
12:16 PM

I had places like those when I was young in Michigan. I'd spend most days out exploring the wild places around my home. Making fishing gear out of hair pins and string to catch the bluegill in the pond. Having a magnifying glass in my pocket, to inspect a new insect or flower. Each year more of my wild places would disappear. My heart would break whenever the bulldozers would appear. It was like loosing an old friend or family member. The same is still true for me today, when I see my favorite wild haunts around London, Ont. get bulldozed for new subdivisions, big box stores and parking lots. I bought a place out in Byron in the mid 70's, when it was a gas station a corner grocery, a fire station turned library and a few blocks of houses. A block and a half away was Springbank Park. My preferred spaces were three blocks over in the other direction, were Warbler and Cains woodlots were, where you could easily get lost for several hours and not tread on the same path. Now those places are just a token ribbon of trees with a park sign promising an ECA but delivering the crumbs of what used to be there, or a golf course in the middle of giant housing developments and strip malls. I crave wild spaces, like I crave food and water. I feel like I'm in a famine. The saddest thing of all, my kids never experienced these things as I did. They were wired into video games and organized sports. I did take them away from the city in the summer where we spend much of our time exploring the tip of the Bruce. That's not what it used to be either.

Feb 02, 2013
3:41 PM

Thanks for the nature memories, I have a daughter that explores

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