“I’ve heard people talk about the future seven generations for years now. But how can we really know our impact unless we’ve seen how the last seven generations have affected our lives today? This is not a pretty road to travel, but I think we owe it to the old ones, to the ones yet to come, the ones here now, and the ones gone forever like the passenger pigeon to make sure they don’t go forgotten, to remember them.”
Broken Thunder is a short zine that eloquently revives the lost stories of the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. Click on the picture of the cover to download it.
This zine reminds us that, at their peak, it’s estimated that passenger pigeons composed 40% of all birds of Turtle Island. The forests they roosted in were nourished each year by several inches of pigeon poop. These included the vast forests of American Chestnut trees, also once of these lands. But now, both the Pigeons and the Chestnuts that characterized these forests are gone. It’s impossible to even imagine what these forests would have been like.
We often hear people talk about the value of pristine wilderness, or about restoring wild spaces, but the forests we now see to be pristine or natural are very different and much impoverished from the Passenger Pigeon’s forests of just 200 years ago. We recall the experiences of other colonized lands, like England, where the ancient forests came to be completely forgotten. The moors, pastures, and hedgerows of the countryside became the image of what nature was, and unfamiliar lands of dark forests were feared. This meant that when English settlers arrived in north america, they didn’t even have stories that could prepare them for the wonders and intricacy of the forests they found. This zine reminds us of the baggage we carry with us from our settler heritage, resulting in the broken culture and unhealthy world we live in now.
Colonial power attempts to destroy the stories of what once was while normalizing the limited and unimaginitve possibilities of the dominant culture. The process of learning where we have been in order to come to understand where we are today is one of decolonizing and unlearning — as the authour validates, this can be a sad and difficult place to go.
This zine encourages this journey with a combination of origninal poetry, historical quotes, and story telling, giving lots of space for the reader to engage their own imagination, feelings and curiosity. It helps us to remember is the importance of telling stories— even hard stories— and the even deeper tragedy that is forgetting.
Broken Thunder was written by a member of the Guelph Nature Connection and Folklore club as part of their work in retelling old stories and re-forging our damaged connection to nature. Their website is www.guelphnaturefolklore.wordpress.com, and a short description of their work is below.
Folklore is a word which is often misunderstood today. 1000 years ago it meant something much different. Folk (at the time spelled folc) meant ‘common people’. Lore (at the time spelled lor) meant ‘amassed learning’. So, the word really means ‘the amassed learning of the common people’. It is a sad thing and very telling of the dominant culture that today it has been relegated to the realm of little children’s stories meant purely for entertainment when at one time it was the glue that held a culture together.
Guelph Nature Folklore seeks to redeem the power of the word and keep it alive in the world today. We have free, monthly facilitated nature fun and games for all ages. Knowing is easy, being curious takes work. We value and encourage curiosity over accumulation of knowledge.
In order to really see the resurgence of a true folklore, we believe that traditional nature connection is not enough. There are systemic forces of oppression at work that are for the most part intentionally ignored by most so-called naturalist, environmental and earth skills organizations. Why are these things ignored? Because they are difficult to talk about and do not have simple answers. When we put down our insistence on knowing, and seek to become genuinely curious, these stories naturally emerge from the land underneath our feet and with the right questions and a willingness to be heartbroken, we can grapple with these stories as they show up in the land and our own lives.
If you’re interested in a deep learning and relationship with this land, your loved ones or yourself please contact us. We are based in Guelph and run free monthly facilitated nature fun and games for all ages. We are also running a series of workshops in August for adults titled “Nature Connection in the City” and will focus on re-mystifying the way we perceive the world and invigorating our ability to read the stories of the land. These workshops are about learning how to learn and will teach you to approach your own backyard and traditionalist naturalist knowledge in a whole new way.
Please check out our website at www.guelphnaturefolklore.wordpress.com or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.