Clean ditches

The Cove Journal by JoDee Samuelson

It’s roadside clean-up month. It warms my cockles to see those yellow bags along the highways and byways: thank you, fellow Island beautifiers. If there was no litter and thus no need for yellow bags I’d feel even more benevolent. 

Our Cove walking group started early on the relentless task of climbing into ditches to retrieve paper cups, plastic water bottles, beer cans, and an alarming number of magnums formerly full of Captain Morgan white rum. We’ve filled ten bags to the bursting on a one-kilometre stretch of road that includes two bridges. What is there about a bridge that attracts garbage? Is it the soothing sound of burbling water (flip!) or the sight of ducks paddling contentedly among the reeds (toss!) or merely no houses in sight (pitch!)? In bygone days rivers became the depositories of old fridges, stoves, vehicles, tires, even mattresses.  As my mother would say, “Oy yoy yoy.” 

So as we head into the most beautiful month of the year the Island is once again clean and lush and green. Standing outside the door this morning admiring my kingdom, I am overwhelmed by the ability of nature to explode when the conditions are right. Our tulips quiver with excitement as they prepare to display their showy wares. Every leaf on every bush is waiting breathlessly for the rain to wash off the last of winter’s protective sap. The elderflowers aren’t waiting for anything; they’re open. 

We do need rain—not as much as they got in Québec, Florida or California, please and thank you—but some amount of gentle moisture for germination and growth. Also, as we nervously eye fallen trees, we’re acutely aware of the risk of forest fire. 

Speaking of which: The news is full of disasters and sometimes I’m able tune them out. But I can’t tune out the forest fire and evacuation of Drayton Valley, Alberta, because this is the town where I spent my teenage years. 

Few Canadians, until last week, had heard of Drayton Valley, southwest of Edmonton, population 7,000, perched on a boggy hilltop (not in a valley at all), overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. When oil was discovered nearby in 1953, Drayton instantly became a tent & trailerpark town complete with saloons and picturesque street names like “Cowboy Trail” and “Industrial Road.” In the 1960s, my dad, being a minister, was tasked with the job of founding a church in Drayton and saving the souls of rowdy oilfield workers. He was not particularly successful.

Meanwhile, Mom was trying in vain to cultivate tulips in the town’s heavy clay soil. The only flowers that grew well for her were calendulas. If our house survived this fire, and I imagine it did, I’ll bet Mom’s calendulas are still growing beside the walkway. And who knows, maybe someone has figured out how to grow tulips there too.

I think of this now as I admire the morning dew beading on the tulips beside our door. Absolute perfection. Tulips love our soft fertile soil and I love taking care of them. I don’t even mind taking care of our ditches. I never want to take the beauty of this Island for granted.

Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, filmmaker and artist JoDee Samuelson has lived on the beautiful south shore of Prince Edward Island for the past thirty years.JoDee always loved drawing and was encouraged in all her creative pursuits by her mother, who was a commercial artist before marrying a Swedish minister. JoDee’s interest in filmmaking began when she took part in an animation workshop at the Island Media Arts Co-op in 1989. Her animated films have been shown at festivals around the world, winning numerous awards for the Island filmmaker.