It was in 2006 that I circled the pond with Maxman, for the purpose of taking a single photograph of a bush. I walked very regularly at this location for several years before, and was a steward of the pond daily, creating a project called Changing the Landscape: One Bag at a Time.
For almost five years I filled a trash bag with litter and left it at the side of the bin for the city to pick up once a week. I believe that I changed the location through this stewardship, but I guess I’ll never really know. I’ve been back to visit and the land is covered, once again, with layers of plastic and fast food containers and plastic bags do blow, like flags, in some of the shrubs and trees that grow at the pond’s edge.
During those early days, I noticed that the light and weather and time of day seemed to really impact my experience of the pond on these walks. I began snapping photographs of natural forms as a way of archiving these experiences along journey of the revisited circle. In the end, I focused on a single bush, noting what amazing atmosphere was observable through its branches, particularly created by the water/ice/snow and sky. That’s when I began archiving the bush each day, a single Instagram photo to capture the light and the narrative of that particular ecosystem.
I called the place Frank’s Flats. In the days when I picked litter, a free spirit named Frank, used to sit on the slope and drink back six beer every time I worked. He would give me the empties and off I would go. At end of that summer, Frank moved out to Vancouver, where he said the weather would be better for sleeping outdoors.
The winter of the Instagram bushes, I discovered that there was another young man who tucked in to sleep under the tall evergreen trees each evening. His shopping cart, containing his few possessions was pushed in tight against the branches. In the daytime, I’d see the large sheets of cardboard and his sleeping bag, waiting for his return at the end of the day.
This is when I had the idea to light up and decorate the bush for Advent. Each day I added more ornaments/ribbons/led lights.
On Christmas eve, in dark of night, I filled the mystery person’s cart with treasures…warm socks, a winter hat, chocolate, Christmas cookies, a scarf, a thermal underwear shirt, some magazines (National Geographic). Nothing made me happier that Advent and Christmas than creating magic around that bush.
Why am I writing about this right now? What made me think to write about this? Well, this past couple of weeks have been pretty difficult weeks for me and my dog, Max. He’s been struggling with a back leg injury and I’ve been deliberating about his quality of life. I had to sneak out of the house to make my daily trip to the river last evening and I was pretty sad that I wasn’t able to take him with me.
Once at the river, I discovered this wee decorated tree, in close proximity to Lauren’s bench. I was sort of wondering if Lauren’s family might have done the very thing that I did so many years ago, at the edge of a pond.
If, in fact, this was Lauren’s family, I captured photographs of just two birds, among several Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches and Blue Jays that were making themselves known at that very spot. I think that it’s an interesting thing that they were sporting the same colours as the ornaments on the tree. Is it possible that angels were in my midst last evening? Certainly, I felt blessed.
My decorating will begin on December 1, the beginning of Advent. I don’t get the early jump start that most Calgarians do, and my ornaments will come down with Epiphany. I am praying that Advent is a blessing time for my readers. May you have good health and much strength for the difficult stuff.