Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area…Getting a Taste

Last evening, before my pond walk with Max, I headed west and south to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.  We will be taking our grade threes on a field trip to the location and in order to be fully prepared, a session is required for all instructors.  I attended with friends and colleagues, Jenn and Emily.  Lots of laughs and beautiful sunshine were shared.  Having a brand new camera meant that my head was sometimes out of range once we were outdoors.  But certainly I learned a lot about the conservation area from Maureen, the presenting educator, while we were inside.  (I have to say that the three yellow finches at the feeder located right outside the classroom were a little bit of a distraction.) From their website, this.

“Sandy Cross is the son of A.E. Cross (one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four”) and Helen Rothney Macleod.  Sandy started purchasing land south of Calgary in 1945 for what would become Rothney Farm and eventually the Cross Conservation Area. In 1987, Sandy and his wife Ann donated nearly 2,000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time, it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history and was operated by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.”

The land is spectacular and the approach that is taken in regards the sustaining the ecosystems is, by my standard, fabulous.  What a beautiful start to Thursday evening!

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From the Conservation Area, I swung home and picked up Max.  The sun was beginning to set and the birds seemed to be very active at Frank’s Flats.  I played a little with my camera and while they certainly aren’t perfectly focused, I will never forget my encounter with the male Black-crowned Night Heron and his mate.  Beautiful call…huge wing span…and a circle on the blue sky before alighting onto the brush below.  I also had a visit with the osprey…trying to capture the front of the male, but shooting into sunshine.

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This far away.  Mrs. Kept low in the nest at the neighbouring platform....but, as I drove passed on 22X coming home, I saw her tending her eggs and sorting things out.

This far away. Mrs. kept low in the nest at the neighbouring platform….but, as I drove past on 22X, I saw her tending her eggs and sorting things out.

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Mrs. eye-balling me.

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Max-man, my forever-friend…smelling like a post-winter pond….but, very very happy.

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Coming to Know a Single Place

I visit the same place, Frank’s Flats, daily…it doesn’t matter the weather.  It’s been five years now and I like the intimacy that comes with knowing this single place well.  For some, traveling the world is satisfying.  I feel as though I ride on the seasons as others might ride on an airplane and I gain such perspective and understanding because I look closely.  If one tends a small piece of the land, with gratitude, it is possible that one becomes more keenly aware through all of the senses.  This is just what I’m thinking.

Along with my written archive, I’ve posted a collection of images over the years that partners with the words, however, with no room in the budget for a camera these last two years, I’ve been using my phone.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get up close enough to some of my subjects because they (the coyotes, magpies, red winged black birds, osprey, muskrats and all types of water fowl) have been doing the most amazing things and doing them quickly and everywhere.

So…today, I got myself a camera.  And this was my first photo.

Kath's Canon May 20 2015 001Within minutes of picking up my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, I sorted out some of the technical aspects of the camera.  While doing my research I knew that I wanted something with greater zoom than my former Lumix point-and-shoot.  While I’d had two Panasonics, in time, the same component had failed on both.  In both instances I was told that replacement value would be equal to a new product.  This was disheartening and I really didn’t intend on buying another camera.  Once I had decided that a good camera would make my experiences more enjoyable, I decided I still wished to have the convenience of Auto settings and that I didn’t wish to invest very much time learning the science of photography, given that I have pledged to get back to the easel consistently over this decade. (Praying for continued good health.)

This afternoon, the female osprey was surrounded by a wall of nesting material, her head peeking again and again over the edge.

The male was enjoying the sunshine on his back…hanging with his buddy, the magpie.  This was taken from quite a distance away and I know that the image is fuzzy edged, but I so enjoyed capturing these two buds hanging in the thick brush.  It wasn’t long after this shot that he lifted off, delivered another large branch to the nest and then settled in to watch over Mama.

Kath's Canon May 20 2015 005Kath's Canon May 20 2015 018I really enjoyed the fact that the sky was seamless. The waves on the water were actually pounding, it was so windy.  There was a smell on the air of life.

Kath's Canon May 20 2015 060Kath's Canon May 20 2015 057Kath's Canon May 20 2015 068I will have to pour through the photos to find ones that have the better compositions, but these few demonstrate the difference between using my phone…

Can you see her?

Can you see her?

…and using this beautiful gift to myself.  What joy! This one legged stand was my surprising capture.  It makes me smile.  I am blessed by this beautiful location and discover something new every day.

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Leah Came to My Door

Early this morning…over my first cup of coffee, I posted this.  I think this. I live this. I shared this.  I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary…but now I do.

AncestorsI had a preparation period very first thing, after a long weekend and after walking my Grade threes down to the gymnasium.  WHOOT!  What a way to begin the week.

The work and busyness of marking, planning and hanging up last week’s giants began.  I was hard at it, with head down when I looked up at the door.  There stood Leah.

I met Leah on my birthday, 2015.  I had turned 60.  My mother was missed.  I hadn’t had a chance to speak with my sister.  I was, on that day, filled with thoughts of mothering, sistering, womaning and just feeling connected to sister-friends, in general.  Meeting Leah, such a spectacular creative, was really important.  She was such a gentle and soulful presenter of the process of needle felting, with my students and I listened intently to her engaging presentation because I know, for fact, that I want to try this.  Once we had even a few moments to chat, I learned that one of her favourite places to visit and to collect supplies is north on the highway to Carstair’s Custom Woolen Mills.

I had the shear joy of sharing with her that much of the equipment in the mill was equipment that my grandfather, John Moors, used and maintained over his career in Magrath, Alberta.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

As an aside, I told her that I’ve been on the look out for almost twenty years for a blanket from that mill.  Once, a dear friend, living in Grand Prairie at the time, gave a special gift to me and that was the corner of her wool blanket.  She realized that it was from the Magrath mill…but I guess, was unwilling to part with the cozy blanket and wrapped up the label in a Christmas card just for me.

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Now…don’t get me wrong…I DO appreciate that gesture, but as I explained to Leah…I would dearly treasure a Golden Fleece wool blanket.  She said, “Kath…leave that with me…I’ll keep my eye out for one.”  I took pause, thinking to myself, “Hmmm…this lady doesn’t know how hard I’ve looked.  I don’t think she’ll ever have any luck.”  But…as we do, we believe in the kind gestures of others and Leah DID seem sincere.

Well…you know what’s next.

Leah left the doorway and stepped up to me with a reusable bag in hand…saying as she stepped before me, “You remember that I told you I would keep my eyes open…”

I looked into the bag…and this treasure…this object of my dearest affection, was there.  I saw a green wool blanket…the most beautiful colour with its Golden Fleece, Magrath, Alberta label.  I pulled myself into the embrace of this beautiful woman and fell to tears.  Unbelieving…filled with joy…remembering my grandfather, amazing John Moors.  I knew that, for fact, my grandfather had remembered me.  Our ancestors and their love is unstoppable and endless.  It is important to keep eyes wide.

We chatted for a while.  I remembered the smell of the mill.  Leah said that she knew that moist wool smell from Carstairs.  Wool connected us.  She just kept nodding.

The paraphrased story from Leah…”The night before your classes to be taught on May 8, I was cutting up my woolen blankets in preparation.  These would be used for the students’ needle felting.  I came up to this blanket (having not met you) and decided that it was just a beautiful woolen blanket.  It even has a tiny piece of red wool woven into it.  I asked my son if he might like a nice blanket for his car and he accepted.  And then I met you.

I went home from the workshop and thought that I had recently seen the Magrath label somewhere.  Sure enough, when I checked the green blanket, there it was.  It was meant for you.”

I took a contract at this school…

I ended up with this amazing collection of grade threes…

The workshops for MOTHER’S DAY had been set and dated during the month of September…

The workshop would be needle felting and the instructor, Leah C. Donald…

I had been asked because of booking error, would I be willing to take Friday morning…

Without hesitation and regardless of missing a prep, and focus time in Math and Language Arts, I said…YES!

I met Leah who loves wool…almost as much as I do.

And….the rest is magic.  And the rest…is history.

Thank you, Leah, for being a channel of ancestral love.  Thank you for the red thread and for the woolen blanket.  It will be wrapped around me on my red sofa tonight.

I have found a tremendous friend in you.

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Leah Donald…contact her via ArtFelt Studio.  Book now, teacher friends, for next year!

Sharing Reading

Recently, I read a book for a very informal book club (let’s face it, ladies, that’s what it was!) and I realized that I haven’t been sharing my reading.  Life gets busy and I haven’t been keeping up with my blogging…my poetry through a year…my painting…all of that.  I’m just going along.

This weekend, I’ve been grateful for time just to process some things.  I turned 60 this past week and I’ve done much celebrating and reflecting on that one.  I’m grateful to friends and family for their recognition of such a tremendous time as celebrating yet another decade.  I’m so blessed.

My beautiful friend has also endured her second open heart surgery.  This has been a great concern for those of us who love her, but healing is taking place and she is strong and I am grateful for science, for the beautiful hands of surgeons and for the dedicated care of nurses.

Hmmm…so, I remember a few titles.  Let’s begin with “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins.  I liked the device used by the writer in terms of allowing us inside of the heads of the key characters.  Their voices are present through dated diary entries.  Don’t bother about those.  You can analyze all you want as the author moves from one female character to the next, but there is no clear relevance in connecting those dates in the end.  Just let the three narratives flow.  Finally, the threads pull together, in what I feel is a bit of a cliche for an ending.  My favourite aspect of this novel is the experience of getting inside the girl’s head as she observes this particular section of London from the seat of a train on both her morning and evening commutes.  I was tugged back to a chapter of Le Petit Prince and the fact that when grown ups ride a train, they stare straight ahead, while children have their noses stuck to the windows, making observations of what is outside of the train.  The Girl on the Train is a book I’d recommend for mystery readers, I suppose.  I note on Paula Hawkin’s site, that the genre is listed as a thriller…hmmm…I didn’t feel it.

the girl on the trainI read a collaborative piece…a mother-daughter story titled Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor.  I like memoirs and so this one made perfect sense for me.  While one considers penning their own book or story, this is the sort of piece that can inspire.  I had really enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees and this story gives a bit of a backdrop for that writing. I enjoyed the idea of traveling, relationship and writing combining to create this particular discourse between a mother and her daughter.  I treasure my own daughters and so, for me, the book became a channel for my own conversations with my adult children.

Traveling with pomegranates

The Secret Life of Bees is one I’d recommend!  Don’t see the movie first! The shared travel memoir doesn’t pick up on this same sensibility or style of writing.

A couple I may have written about…but here they are again.  Floating in My Mother’s Palm by Ursula Hegi.  I seem to love everything she writes.  It is that dark little serious soul of mine.  I just melt with her way of writing things.  Inside the front cover, I’ve written, “The characters were intimately created; how beautiful and complicated.  I was left with a deep sadness – I ended up missing my mother very much while reading this book.  I, too, am floating in my mother’s palm.”  Yes, I know, grief is still impacting me…and today while I drove Val over to visit our friend at the hospital during the one small chunk of ‘no visiting’ time, I shared with her this truth.  After this amount of time, I am still grieving and it was like a huge relief to make this admission to someone.

“When my mother entered her tenth month of carrying me, I stopped moving inside her womb. She awoke that morning to a sense of absolute silence that startled her out of dreams filled with flute music and colorful birds, dreams she’d never had until she became pregnant with me, dreams she would have again when, two years later, she carried my brother.

…On the window is a smudge where, just yesterday, she rested her forehead against the glass while gazing at the white lilac bush that grows behind the house. Nearly fourteen years later I will tear lilacs from that bush, wrap the stems in tissue paper, and carry them to the cemetery where I will drop them into my mother’s open grave.”

FloatingThe Bird Artist by Howard Norman is a breathtakingly beautiful read.  If I can nail down a book to love, it is this one.

the-bird-artist-howard-norman-picador-en-ingles-19931-MLA20181482918_102014-FDescribed in reviews as ‘quirky’, I treasure both the character development, the narrative and the remote setting, Witless Bay in Newfoundland.    From my front cover notes, “A poignant, sometimes dark, exploration of a Newfoundland family.

And finally, for tonight, I’ve one reflection left in the book titled, The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning.  My friend Cathy shared this one with me.  We’ve both experienced loss and we are supporting one another.  This is a collection of experiences that are very candid and written with author’s hearts.  It’s been a good book for me.  All this aside, I adore George Bowering.

The Heart does breakAt the 40 minute mark…in this CBC interview…you find a bit on the collection.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Radio/The+Next+Chapter/Full+Episodes/2010/ID/1628240010/

My list is never for everyone…nothing very light-hearted makes it there…nothing with a great deal of mystery.  I would say that I relish my reading and pour over it.  If you don’t pour over your book pages, then you want to skip my recommendations more than likely.

May 8, 2015

…my 60th birthday!

Whoot!  It was a wonderful day!  And, yes, I taught the full day.  But then I had the pleasure of sharing a late afternoon walk with my daughter, Erin and pooch, Max. We did our bird, coyote and muskrat watching and enjoyed the warmth.  The afternoon with my students, was spent needle felting with Leah C. Donald, visionary for Art Felt Studio.  With our previous experience painting spring flowers, this was an amazing extension and a great opportunity to create a more-than-special Mother’s Day gift.  I enjoyed connecting with Leah and learning that one of her favourite spots is the Custom Woolen Mill near Carstairs, Alberta.  I told her that I had grown up with the smell of raw wool and we gave each other a big hug.  Thanks to my gang of grade three friends who made the arrangement for this magical activity!

Some people might be fearful of age, aging and the changes that passing years bring.  For me, being 60 means a freedom to be and I stand firm in my gratitude for that.

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Birds Carrying Sticks

It was so cold and windy this morning, that I didn’t capture photos so much as I observed and sat with and enjoyed nature and her glory.

Spotted carrying sticks…osprey, heron, crow and hawk.

Birds are nesting and it is wondrous.  Nothing gives me more peace then seeing their instinctual determination.  I’m going to post a couple of my phone photos (YUCK!  I take them just to maintain an archive) and a few that I snapple from the web.  I saw a new couple today.

My photo of a Canvasback couple…lol.

Cell May 1, 2015 Birds Osprey Franks 009Here’s the real deal…Photo Credit: Craig Turner through the Chesapeake Conservancy.

CanvasbackI watched the osprey nesting for a good hour early this morning.  I remained in the car as it seems this is a very important time in the nesting schedule.  Max sat quietly the whole time.  The male kept leaving and coming back with more small twigs and tucking them in around the female.  It was so beautiful.  This was the period of time when I saw the heron gathering, as well as the hawk and crow.  It was so beautiful.

My sad little photo archive.

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As I rolled away very slowly, five vehicles pulled up some distance away…the tripods and cameras came out and Calgary’s finest, the bird watchers and photographers were lined up and at it.  They seemed to be focusing on the huge gaggle of gulls that had arrived, as well as the variety of water ducks and geese.  I will watch the Birds Calgary blog site closely over the next while and hope to see some wonderful photographs.

The Enmax Osprey cam is on the nest located near the zoo…you can view activity here.

In the meantime, my grade threes continue to watch, daily, the activities at Duke Farm’s Live Eagle cam, recently noticing that the dark feathers are coming into replace the white baby fuzz on our two eaglets.  The student drawings are scientific observations and so darned sweet!

Cell April 26 and 27 Osprey Elm Tree 010Today, the pond and Frank’s Flats were overwhelmed with bird sounds and activities.  Max was on leash for much of the time because things are ‘happening’ and I don’t want him to create havoc.  The red winged blackbirds are busy courting; the crows are hanging closely around the nests and feeding areas of other like-minded hunters.  I saw one crow incessantly pick away at the osprey, perched on a telephone pole, tearing apart a ground squirrel.  What an amazing world we live in!