Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fields of Clover

Voles like to eat. They're also skittish and scamper away from people, so quickly that we rarely see them. Lately I have been seeing a lot more of these small furry creatures (look like mice but with a shorter tail) in a park along the St. Lawrence River.

Today I see the granddaddy of all voles - he's HUGE. Probably because of his size, he does not fear humans. He sits on the strip of lawn next to the walking path, munching on the vegetation. Three people stop and take pictures. He keeps eating. Then the young boy flaps his arms in a threatening gesture and shouts, to see if he can make the creature budge. The disgruntled vole finally heads for the bushes, doubtlessly to return later for his meal.

Montreal, like other cities in North America, has adopted a "green" policy and banned the use of pesticides in its lawns and parks. To curb the spread of weeds, the city now seeds with clover. This plant has overtaken the parks, filling the air with its sweet scent and giving us fields of white and mauve.

I am sure this is why I'm seeing all these fat voles! What I also noticed the other day were two rock snakes with vivid black markings, curled up on the grass next to the river. Wild snakes? I've lived here more than twenty years and this is the first time I see them. I feel like cheering.

Residents are also seeding their lawns with clover and the yellow heads of dandelions have all but disappeared. Others have removed their grass and planted bunches of wildflowers instead. A real visual feast.

I pay more attention these days to chemicals and additives in the products I use or eat. Whatever we put in our environment - or in us - will affect us in ways we cannot fathom. It's time to get back to nature. Let's start with clover.