I grew up in a teeny-weeny mid Ontario town. At one point the population was 700 and that sign stayed that way for years and years until it finally got changed to 1300. This town is nothing less than a gem amidst a cornucopia of forests and small fresh-water lakes, and that population quadruples every summer as tourists come from all over.
Growing up, it was known there were people who lived in those forests. My Daddy grew up on the mountain and he knew one family in particular who literally lived in the bush and looked it too. Showers were not a priority. Survival was. And happiness ~ though different from the norm ~ was just around the corner with a trap full of dinner to boot. They didn't believe in washing their plates after meals. A quick lick clean and a flip-over was all that was needed. And the tea was always strong and hot on the stove.
These men, and many more came into town periodically to stock up on supplies. Their presence was easily noted since at times and with some, the billow of dust following was a reminder of the Peanuts' "Pigpen". The supplies they'd seek were mainly fuel for their trucks and equipment like generators or tractors. To be honest, I only saw these men from afar or from the other side of the counter at the gas station where I worked. They were usually friendly, their skin rough and dark, worn down like leather from the great Canadian wilderness and it's sometimes harsh conditions. The regulars at this gas station generally used these individuals to stay in touch with their surrounding nature.
"How the traps lately Fred?" they'd ask, "See many deer these days?".
These men were more accurate, and some undoubtedly hairier, than the groundhog at predicting the coming of Spring. They saw the signs in the tassles on the trees, the chirping of the birds, and in the wind as it blew. Other tidbits of knowledge would be collected by "the coffee crew" ... the group of working men who would be waiting for me at 5:25a.m. to make the coffee and open the store. These 'woodsmen' were akin to a virtual Farmer's Almanac for the coffee crew and they'd share the knowledge around our town.
These men were different. And every rural town has a few, or maybe had a few at one time. They don't follow fashion or health trends, they don't watch or own a television. They live to be in the bush; to be one with nature. I couldn't help but think of those local men from my hometown as I watched the sister of Peter de Groot, the Canadian man, brother, son, who was recently shot by police in British Columbia. You can watch the gut-wrenching 30 minute statement HERE.
Different. What is that? Is it something that we can easily accept? Or does DIFFERENT make you feel anxious? Suspicious? Unsure?
Is DIFFERENT a reason to shoot?
Peter de Groot was different. His sister attests to that fact in the video above, as she describes all of the ways in which her big brother was an enigma to so many others in his life. Different is misunderstood every single day on this planet. And that's a scary predicament for us to be in.
I love the verse by Cat Stephens: "There's a million ways to be." But do the cops know that? I mean, in a world where so many of us are carbon copies of one another, can we expect our Law Enforcement Officers to be mindful of those enigmas? I don't see why not, they're still human after all. I am no expert, but from the information given by his loving sister Danna, a quick look at Peter's history could have cast some light on the situation. Chronic pain and debilitating illness changes people. Many of whom retreat and become reclusive as a means to cope. Some simply feel healthier when they are away from all things modern. I believe this was how Peter de Groot was. I feel like I knew him, though we never met.
To Police, the "Woodsman" is different, dangerous, unknown. Bile bubbles in my stomach at that thought. I mean, how can someone with a complete and total aversion to wifi be a terrorist threat? Does "public safety" really trump LIFE to such an extent that we'll kill those different people just to be safe? Why was no research done on this man? Why was one neighbor's tip, enough to tip the scales? So many unanswered questions. I pray the family will find justice in this case, and in doing so, protect those others who wish to live alone in the bush the way Peter did.
RIP Peter de Groot ... I know with all of the certainty I can muster that you are at peace now and undoubtedly in a better place. I hope his family can feel that in the near future as well.
"We are outraged. My brother suffered unspeakable tragedy and pain. He spent years rehabilitating himself from a debilitating condition. Each and every person who hears this should be humbled to their knees with the honesty and integrity with which he lived his life. Working so hard each and every day to overcome so many obstacles with the simple goal of being independent, free, and happy. He was killed for being HIMSELF!!".~Danna de Groot, Peter's sister.