The 65-year-old was set to stop by as the last act of the latest Horizon Stage season Friday.
NOTE: This show, along with much of the 2019/2020 Horizon Stage season was cancelled due to COVID-19. We opted to still highlight the acts that may return in the future and Keating was the last on the docket and set to make his appearance in Spruce Grove in the evening Friday.
Brian Keating is a man of the modern world who has not forgotten the joy one can get from being in and among wild environments.
The 65-year-old was set to stop by as the last act of the latest Horizon Stage season before the spread of the virus forced a number of cancellations across the arts and other industries in March. The Calgary-based naturalist may return in the future and sat down recently to discuss his adventures, what people can expect from his “Going Wild” show and what he wants to do in the years coming up ahead.
Keating was born in Medicine Hat. He started his love of the outdoors through a gift of binoculars from his mother and father and spent his formative years using them to study animals that most people do not give a second thought to as they go about their daily lives. Through a couple of glass lenses, he saw the splendour of a robin on his front lawn and the majesty of a woodpecker as it worked its way around a tree.
“They basically allowed me to see like a falcon,” he said. “To a young boy that was pretty exciting. My friend and I tried to make a nature museum and charge money for it. We never did make it, but it allowed me to discover something was interesting everywhere in nature.”
After a time living in New York City, Keating and family returned to Alberta when he was 17. He added that once back in Canada, the beauty of the mountains in the southern part of the province led to him exploring them more and he was able to parlay his experience into a job.
“When I started with the Calgary Zoo after all I had done that gave me the opportunity to think globally,” Keating said. “A few years into my time there, I was offered a trip to Africa. Going there was like walking into a child’s imagination. I started leading trips to feed my desire to go over there every year and I have been doing that ever since. The continent has an amazing array of different animals and ecosystems.”
Keating has been to countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia and has collected hours worth of footage from his voyages abroad. A large portion is the basis of his cancelled presentation and he said the core goal of the evening, apart from offering what Shell Canada Limited referred to as a “smash hit”, is getting those who end up attending in the future to care more about the outdoors.
“We have become such an industrialized society and shifted away from the very stuff that makes us human,” he said. “We are in cities and other unnatural environments and it does not do us any good. We need to be in green environments away from built-up landscapes more.”
Keating plans to keep going for as long as he can physically travel. In his view, it has made him the ideal version of himself.
“My wife and I are at our best with each other when we are out there,” Keating said. “Nature puts you in a good place for thought, process and creative thought and physically it feels good to get out. It increases the blood flow and ultimately makes you feel a lot younger.”
More information about Keating can be found on his website, goingwild.org.