Inspirational Zoom Presentation by Kate Davis

Steve posted an event on his Facebook page.  I attended high school with Steve from 1970 until 1973, when we graduated and I moved north, back to Canada, while most of my peers from Great Falls, Montana, ended up moving to Montana Universities.  This guest speaker event sponsored by Swan Valley Connections, appealed to me from the moment I saw it, probably because I’ve watched a Bald Eagle family nesting in a very special spot on the edge of the Bow River for going on eight years.  I have learned so much from these beautiful raptors over the years, but realize after last evening, that I have so much more to learn.

Kate Davis lives in the Bitterroot Valleyin Western Montana and is an acclaimed photographer, steward, educator, writer and presenter who has studied and educated the public about Raptors for years.   Kate’s biographical notes can be found here.

Steve lives in Condon, Montana in the Swan Valley, a wonderfully rich ecosystem and landscape teaming with multiple species of mammals, fish, birds, plants and trees and raptors.  I am really grateful to Steve for posting and hope to be included in future Swan Valley Connections events.

Kate has written several valuable books/resources and is truly, an expert in this field of study.  As a result of this presentation, I will be picking up some of the books as they will be helpful in my identification of a variety of raptors and to further my knowledge in the behaviours and abilities of these.  When I capture photos of hawks, while circling my place at the river, I always have to share them to the group, Alberta Birds, because I am unable to make a proper identification without the help of others.

The evening’s talk was riddled with rich narratives coming from Kate’s memories and research, but interspersed were the introductions to three raptors that live with Kate

First, we met the Sonora, an Apolomado Falcon.

From the Raptors of the Rockies website…

We are thrilled to have an Aplomado Falcon thanks to The Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. We picked her up on July 2nd in 2013 at 17 days of age and fresh out of their breeding project. She rode home in a laundry basket and hung out in a baby play pen (and on the window sill in the office) as a growing girl. This Northern subspecies disappeared from the U.S. in the 1950’s and was listed as endangered in 1986. Habitat destruction and later on pesticides caused their demise, and a breeding and re-introduction program was started by the Santa Cruz Predatory Research Group, and continued by The Peregrine Fund. A small population has been established in Texas, and breeding project came to a close, this just about the last one.

I am always one to be concerned with the shrinking habitats of species along the Bow River and the horrendous impact the development of the Southwest Ring Road has had for our local populations of birds, mammals and other species.

Next, we met Sibley.  Sibley is one of 18 non-releasable and falconry birds that live in enclosures next to Davis’s house, and this evening, was present IN Kate’s house.  What a profoundly beautiful creature!  

And finally, we met Owen, the Sawet Owl.  Most entertaining was Kate’s ability to make the various calls of owls.  This was such an entertaining and informative presentation.  While Covid-19 keeps us from an authentic connection, we are blessed that technology brings us into space with one another in a different way.  I am so thankful to the Swan Valley Connections for making this happen.  Ramona, and some of my birder-friends from the Bow River would enjoy such as this and I’ll make certain that I invite them in enough time to connect for future presentations.

65% of Raptors do not live their first year.  They are hit by cars.  They go hungry, finding it difficult to locate and kill prey that ‘doesn’t want to get caught’.  Their struggle to breed and raise young in primarily hostile environments is extraordinary.  The fact that I am blessed enough to watch our Bald Eagle family so regularly is a true gift.  If eagles are not stressed, they will live for forty years.  That is just so absolutely amazing.

Kate’s primary message to the public is not necessarily to get the big work done in terms of the protection of these species (although that would be nice)….but, her message is to GO OUTSIDE and when you do, leave your cell phones behind.

Diamond T and Pick Up the Park!

It was a busy day.  It began with flowers in my own garden…

Oriental Poppy

Columbine

Orchid Frost Lamium

Peony

…and expanded to include a whole number of beautiful wild flowers.  As I type, I am thinking about the special friends who also shared this day with me.  I am so grateful!

We had a meet up at Station Flats to do the Diamond T hike, a good early conditioning hike.  Val, Cathy, Oliver and I were an eager little group.  The link provided is a 2016 map, but will be helpful if you want to know where to pull off for the trail head.

Cathy retires this year, so a little Naked Grape Blue was served at our picnic spot.

Mountain Shooting Star

 

Red Paintbrush, Orobanchacea.

Arnica, Arnica cordifolia

Purple Virgin’s Bower, Clematis verticellis

Raising the glass in celebration of Cathy’s amazing career as a teacher.  She has impacted so many people along the way.  She has a stunningly huge heart and I am blessed to call her ‘friend’.

Oliver is waving at the bottom of a very very long hill.

Canada Violets  (I LOVE THESE!)

Wild Geranium or ‘Sticky Geranium’

Canada Anemone, Anemone canadensis

I had a two p.m. meet up with the ladies at Bankside in Fish Creek Park for their annual litter pick up.  I knew I was going to be late by a bit, so sent a message to one of my sister-friends and ended up connecting without very much hassle.  I had fun sharing conversation, weather, but not much litter at all along this particular walk.  My friends are the very best for being open to fun and good times.

While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.

Ox Eye Daisy

While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars.  It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.

Happy Summer Solstice to all of my readers.

Uh Oh: Bird Tales From the Vent

Just recently, I’ve been publicly shamed on social media for asking for photo credit and explaining my distaste for the blast of photographs being published on line of members of the public, hoarding or standing in long lines in store environments. Just my opinion, but these photographs fall into the same category as Wal-Mart shopper photos, babies having temper tantrum photos and Fat Lady photos. I just don’t get what the purpose is? Oh…I received the explanation that publishing the photo of a profiteer who was bragging about the resale potential of a cart load of thermometers had shifted the behaviour of the big box stores and convinced them to limit sales. (all myth and absolutely no idea WHO the person was and what the product was and what the motivation was) Bull Winkle Twinkle Fairy Dust! Are you kidding? Social media photographs do not convince companies such as Home Depot to change their policies? And as a follow-up, it’s interesting that Reddit has deleted the photograph, while the legacy of hateful comments remain spouting off about Capitalism and such. Haters need to hate.

I digress. Because I spoke out about the negativity of such content being shared over and over again in formats such as Reddit and Facebook, I was labeled a lunatic who takes pictures of baby deer and eagles and was reminded that I am dumber than door nails. Too bad. I look at the fact that this person didn’t read or take in my concerns or my views on this subject. He only saw his own perspective and then BLACK OUT….the thread disappeared and the big BLOCK happened. Wow! UH OH!!! I’m telling my readers, we are living in very troubled times. Kindness is required.

And…back to the ‘baby deer and eagle photos’. It is my choice to try to retain a positive expression of social media. If I get so rattled, in real time, about something political or what I view to be a social injustice, I might post, but you will notice those discussions/threads disappear off of my social media within days. I think that what the world needs at the best and the worst of times is positivity, enlightenment and gratitude. If readers/posters want to be miserable all of the time, it’s their prerogative. There is room in the world for all of us. Just don’t block me, shut me down, silence me when I wish to share an opinion along the way.

Check out ethical practice when it comes to posting photos, specifically to shame others.

On the subject of this post…another big UH OH! Some of you have followed Tales from the Vent over the past seven years. At my kitchen sink and window, I find myself in close proximity to my neighbour’s vent. Over the years, this has typically provided a nesting site for House Sparrows, but the past few years, there have been nest wars between Northern Flickers and House Sparrows. Well, look here, what was spotted this morning at the vent. OH NO! Pigeon poop potential! It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this season. I’ll keep you up to date!

Wonder and Awe

Yesterday morning, at the edge of the Bow River, I met the new female Bald Eagle. I’ve been observing for the same nest for six years. I’m uncertain, still, about what happened to Mrs., the older female that had raised several young successfully over the years. She was a powerful bird, but last year, was looking a little haggard. From what I’ve read, she would have been either killed or pushed out of the territory by a younger female eagle. It is the way of youth and age.

This photo archives the last evening that I observed Mr. and Mrs. together at the Bow. The female is always slightly larger in breadth than the male. She is sitting on the left.

The photo, below, is from one of the last series I took of our Mrs., this after a series that showed that likely she had an injury to the talons on her left leg.

A young four/five year old appeared out of nowhere soon after, replacing Mom, in her amazing efforts to raise and feed the newly fledged juveniles. I took to calling her ‘the huntress’ because she had such a remarkable speed and was so generous in providing food for the two juveniles. I never captured a clear photograph of her with my Canon Powershot, but will see if I can’t get permission to post a friend’s photograph later.

The juveniles, now a year old, if they have managed through the winter, are now called Immature Eagles. They show slight mottling of the brown feathers and a little bit of yellow coming into their steely blue-grey beaks. I think that only one remains, but not really certain because after six weeks with the adults, they are pushed out of the hunting territory and forced to hunt on their own. I’ve made several sightings this winter of an Immature Eagle and also a two year old that is likely the one surviving fledge from the 2018 nest. Only 2% of Bald Eagles make it through their first winter.

A huge cold snap locked Calgary into -40 temperatures (with wind chill) for over a week and during that time, the huntress disappeared, although I made several sightings of Mr.

Then, something curious happened. Several of the Bow River birders and photographers were posting photographs of a new raptor, easily identifiable by her beautiful streamlined head and beak. My first observation of her was at a great distance above the river, looking down at her feeding on a deer carcass with an Immature eagle.

And now…I arrive at the ‘wonder and awe’ theme. Yesterday morning, I arrived at the river’s edge while the weather was still a melt. The wind blew ferociously the night before and melting snow puddled the banks and the pathways. I spotted her immediately and archived several amazing moments as this beautiful new female brought two large branches to build up railings at the nest. Shortly after, she and Mr. began to hunt together, soaring in circles, flying south, then returning to me until finally, she landed in a branch on my side of the river and with a good view of hundreds of Common Goldeneyes that were gathered too close for their own good.

My mouth dropped and I quickly started snapping photos. Three times, she left and returned, each time swooping low above the alarmed birds and then returning. This new female Bald Eagle is incredible and it will be a fantastic year, watching any nesting outcomes. Clearly younger, she is sleek looking and is very powerful.

December 16, 2019 Insufficient Space on Memory Card

Nothing like clicking the camera and having this message come up.  I suppose, in some ways, a person should walk through life without space on their memory card, in order to be fully present.  So, I walked the rest of the crispy morning, without snapping and clicking and containing the magic of the landscape.  Instead, I considered the beauty of the Pileated Woodpecker and the bright flash of red through the hoarfrost to be a gift to me.  The morning was heavenly, on my side of the river.

I saw our adult Bald Eagle pretty quickly and snapped some shots as the fog off the river was quickly making its way toward me.  The sound of geese and ducks rose up out of the icy Bow River.  All else was silent.  These are the photos that I grabbed before my lens withdrew into my camera and my camera shut down.

The White Breasted Nuthatch was the best that I could get yesterday, when I left Max at home and did my walk by myself.

Weather and nature contribute to struggles…constantly, I’m reminded that life contains brutality as well as beauty.

Always trying for a good shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch, but never quite getting it.

In all of that blue, above, one can see a Juvenile flying over.  It’s wonderful that recently another birder-friend, Julie has sighted one of the Juveniles close, on our side of the river.  At least one of them has thrived thus far, through the wintry weather.

As I poured over my archives last evening, On December 15, 2018 I observed an adult Bald Eagle on the nest.  At the end of my walk this morning, I noticed that an adult had landed on the nest and was doing some shifting of the snow on its surface.  So many beautiful miracles at this nest the past six years!  It’s all so intuitive and spectacular to watch unfold.  Already, I’ve been given a promise of spring.

Mosaic Portraits by Allan Rosales

Emerging Artist, Art Therapist, University Instructor and Yoga Teacher, Allan Rosales announced this evening that he took the step to ‘BE’ an artist in 2015. This evening, on the fourth floor of the new Central Branch of the Calgary Public Library, a lovely group of supportive friends and family members gathered to enjoy the second Solo Exhibit of Allan’s Mosaic Portraits, four mothers.

Allan B. Rosales is a Calgarian born and raised. He completed his Bachelors in Psychology with a minor in Fine Art from the University of Calgary in 2000. Subsequently, Allan went on to complete a Masters in Art Therapy from Concordia University in 2005. In 2015 Allan began showing his artwork in group shows in and around Calgary. His most recent work is an unexpected departure from his paintings and drawings of the past.

For those of you who work in the core, this is an exhibit that you might wish to take in before it’s Friday close.  The four portraits are large in scale and their palette brings in a sense of connection with nurturing, growth and birth.  Using an interesting process of layering multiple images, Allan creates a sense of continuity and evolution. In my mind, the work elevates the mother figure to a place of importance, if not celebrity, and while each mother is rooted in Allan’s own narrative, we can all relate.

Tonight, Allan provided a time of reflection and exchange.  He reminded me very much of our friend and mentor, Mark Vazquez-Mackay in his generous manner.  Through his talk he evoked, in us, warm remembrances of our own mothers,  I enjoyed Allan’s recollections of his own mother’s lemon meringue pie-making and the description of every feast table enjoyed in the traditions of his home.

Thank you, CPL and thank you to Allan Rosales for a lovely reception…sharing food, based on Canadian/Filipino culture.

Thanks to James, my son, for staying with Max.  Thanks to Linda and Wendy for sharing the event.

 

If I look exhausted, it is because I am!!  But this hug made me feel a lot better!  Allan Rosales is one of the kindest people you could ever meet.

Below, my friend, Wendy Lees took the Central Branch’s first year anniversary by storm and created the transparent and delightful window segments you see displayed below, with some where around 200 Calgarians.

Nothing Could Have Prepared Me For This Day

Today’s Facebook ‘wall’ is plastered with various news blips on the topic of the cuts happening here in Alberta. I’ve made those posts.  But, rather than deleting them, I’m going to take a moment to consider what this day has actually been and been about.  Only moments ago, I brushed my teeth.  I stepped out onto the back deck and looked up at the moon.  I am taking pause and thinking about my day…my actual day…not about that veneer, that public explosion that happens for us if we dig too deep into the chaos that is today in the news.

My morning began like this.

I sat down, with coffee, and pin pointed the Barrow in Furness address where Mary Eleanor Haddow, my great grandmother, was born in the early 1800s.  I then scrolled Instagram, up on the red couch, while stroking Max’s head redundantly for almost a half hour.  I dreamed about making one more trip to England so that I might visit such places and walk Blackfriar’s road and travel, again, to France to stand at my Great Grandfather’s resting place in Etaples and maybe even get myself to Ortona, Italy.

I went to my computer station, in order to print out this map and while cropping it, my sister and I exchanged a few messages with one another.  She sent me a photograph of her and her three pup companions and I sent her a photograph of me and Max.  I love yous were shared.

I decided that Max’s injury had been quiet enough for a few days that I would take him to the river.  The air was so mild and the light, so beautiful.  We took our time; it was more a stroll than a walk, but it was so incredible.I really felt huge gratitude as the day opened up to me.

I dropped Max back to the car and then went for a last look to see if I could sight any of the coyotes.  I spotted several deer across the river, but no coyotes.  And then, the magic of friendship was enjoyed, as I saw Jeff making his observations along the pathway.  As is pretty usual, we ended up talking about cameras and such.  Today I learned about the Polaroid Cube and the Zoom Audio Recorder.

Lunch consisted of a lovely little Greek Salad at home.

After doing just a few things around the house and checking in on all things political (lol), I made a quick stop at the Dollarama Store to pick up some small canvas boards.  I felt a need to paint some poppies with my grandson before Remembrance Day.  There was a bit of a wait for him to wake up from his nap, so over two cups of hot tea, I had a nice visit with Linda and Erin.

Then, this.

I decided to stop at the river, again, on my way home, just to see if I could make any eagle sightings.  At the edge of the Bow, everything  was wildly alive, although the colour was muted which contributed to the magic of everything.  A loud cacophony of sound filled the air as hundreds of Canada Geese found their way to the river.  I was overcome.  And there, in the midst of the geese, one eagle flew assertively in and out of their crowds.  It was amazing.  I managed to capture a brief moment.  But, let’s face it,  no images were going to be focused because the light just wasn’t there.  I didn’t know what to do with my feelings about the scope and beauty in that moment, so as has become habit, I snapped photographs.

I spotted brilliant white southeast on the river, and so, took a quick peek through my camera’s viewfinder to identify the white birds and happily discovered the presence of Swans or Snow Geese, interspersed with the Canada Geese.  A quick and fuzzy snap and I was off and rushing to the location where I enjoyed watching them making their disappearance around the point and onto the river.  Darkness was settling over everything, apart from soft pink directly west.  I headed back.

 

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw Doug and Shirley Anne’s car, stopped, opened my window and together, we marveled at the wonder we had just seen.  The three of us felt very blessed and it was just so nice to know that I had shared the magic with friends.

Upon my return home, my son and I headed out to the Saigon Royal Restaurant for a steaming pot of Jasmine Tea and a big bowl of Pho.  I started watching for a text message from my Dad who, I knew, was on the road from Ottawa to Belleville, earlier in the day.  He promised he would text, but I convinced myself that he would struggle with that as per usual and that he is well and safe and enjoying the traditions of the Mistletoe Market this weekend.

At home, Max and I walked the neighbourhood circle and then James and I watched some cop shows on his big screen.

Just a short while ago, I stepped out on the deck and snapped a few photographs of the moon.  While I didn’t capture them, there were three soft rings of colour surrounding her tonight.  Those colours and the lovely still air remind me of the beauty that is ours.  I am grateful.  And one never knows what a single day might bring.

Climate Strike

My feet are still cold.  But, now I’m dry and in a minute, I’m going to pour a glass of wine.

I started my day by posting a whole number of paintings I’ve done over the last years, some of them exhibited in a beautiful little gallery in Lethbridge by my cousin, Jo, and her then-partner.  I threw images out to Bookface Land (coined by my friend, Doug M) in order to cause people to think…not about the art, but about our planet and I sort of hoped they would think about the planet in terms of the subjects being vulnerable pieces of that planet.

I called this work, A Covenant Series, and for those of you who are not ‘into’ religion, I think it is obvious by that title, that I am.  At the very least, I’d have to say that my life is rooted in scripture.  The painting, above, is titled Genesis and at the base of all of the pieces in this body of work, I have submerged actual passages from scripture.  You see, I’m not afraid to admit that I am religious.  In today’s world, religious people can even be a little refreshing. It’s way more acceptable, however, today, to say that you are spiritual.  In that way, a lot of hard stuff can be avoided, like the horrific actions of people on other people, often in the name of religion.  Let’s start with residential schools!

Back to the subject of this post…

Human beings, as a species, have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth, water and air, as well as every living creature on/in them, and that includes caring for one another.  If you’re NOT religious, I think that this makes sense as well.  Don’t you think?

Long story/short, I have, along the way, painted some of my own fears down onto panels…fears of losing beautiful parts of our world.  Sometimes these paintings expressed themselves as landscapes. Sometimes, particular species were investigated.  Most recently, I’ve been focused on a single bush through a year.

And as several readers know, I have been very caught up in the life of a family of Bald Eagles at the edge of the Bow River.  We are so very blessed.

In the novel, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Morag, the protagonist is sitting and conversing with her young daughter, Piquette.  Piquette, a Metis, turns to her writer-mother and asks what a buffalo is.  The conversation between the two of them has always impacted me, as has the connection that Morag has with her river.  The fact that this child had lost connection with such an iconic animal and that she looked to her mother to describe it, caused me to think that I must begin documenting…the landscape…the river…animals.  I became a crazy lady, visiting places like Maycroft Crossing in order to see the Old Man River before the dam.  It seemed I needed to be able to collect and document life as it was for the sake of my children.

Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand delivered a powerful Land Acknowledgement and then offered a very few words.  His words created the one point in the afternoon of speeches that made me cry.  No, there was one other young female University student who also caused me to cry, speaking of the things that make her afraid.  Curtis talked about us being Treaty people.  In the context of this entire day, for me, it was exceptional.

Treaty and Covenant.  The one thing I know for sure anymore is that I am hell bent on protecting my grandson.   And, as I explore what this means, I feel like I can’t make very many promises.  I can’t promise him that he will have a beautiful world full of the magic of so many species of animals and birds and insects once he is a man, the age of his father.  I can’t make promises because the world isn’t sustainable.  Destructive fires are burning. Children, the world over, are starving. Traumatic climate events are more frequent. Consumption is unreasonable. And human beings are in a denial stew (something that I believe rises up out of fear).

What I am empowered to do, however, is to have my grandson see me as a Treaty person.  I want him to know that I will do everything in my power to care for the planet and the people in it.  I will be an exemplar for him.  I will stand up to injustice.  I will speak the truth.

I’m proud of those Calgarians who showed up today.  I’m proud of those participants in our great nation, Canada, who are listening to young people as they demand action. I am grateful to people the world over who have a concern for the health of our world.

The weather today in Calgary was crappy.  And tonight we get snow.  But, my heart is warm and I am determined in my walk, more so tonight than any other time on my journey.

 

Belted Kingfisher

Autumn means chasing this guy around, trying to grab a focused photograph.  Some people play football.  This is my sport.  I could spend hours listening for him and then high-tailing it to his next location.  He plays catch-me-if-you-can and I can be heard in the woods, laughing out loud.  If anyone else was around they would wonder.  First, readers, take note of the Belted Kingfisher’s interesting sound.

Twice in the past two days, the Kingfisher has taken a place of importance, the high Y branch of the Bald Eagle family’s favourite tree.  First time, both Juveniles went at him.  I think that perhaps the Kingfisher was consuming a meal and the young eagles get pretty scrappy with the food of other river hunters.  Next time, the Sub Adult flew in, I suppose just to claim her dominance.

My visuals are all very unfocused, but I’m logging these here as a part of my birder journals.  This morning, in the fog, I also watched an Osprey dive, almost vertically, off of a tree and pounce upon a young Cormorant as he fished.  Life on the river is a bit of a dog-eat-dog world.  When I returned home, I saw that I got an unfocused capture of the Osprey leaving the tree.

The two juvenile Bald Eagles swooped into the scene, evicting the Kingfisher from prime territory.

He arrived at my side of the river, for only moments and I snapped this photograph, directly into the light.

Another visit to the river, and again, he chose prime branches.  Are you kidding?

In she swooped…and look, where the little guy ended up!

This morning, in the fog.

Life carries on, in all forms, at the river, but very different from only weeks ago.  The Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are in greater numbers, as are the White Breasted Nuthatches.  The Northern Flickers swoosh down and up onto the Elms.  This afternoon, the subdued landscape was broken by a huge frenzy of vocalizations of coyotes on the island and the howls were returned in unison by the coyotes on this side of the river.  It was absolutely magical!

Osprey taking a dive, not for a fish, but for the Cormorant catching the fish! (Horrible photo alert!)

Juvenile Cormorant.  Doug Newman pointed out one time that some Cormorant species have bright blue eyes in this stage.  This is the best that I’ve been able to capture that.

And, what exactly is this?  Has this wee babe been abandoned by Mom?  What is it?

The elegance of the young American Robins, at this time, fills my heart, whenever I see them.

This past week might have been impacted by bad-weather days, but nature continues to amaze me, regardless.

The female Mallard keeps her kids in line.

I will continue to attempt a good capture of the Belted Kingfisher during the coming week.

Days and Art at Vancouver General Hospital

I dread flying. (The fears stem from multiple days on a cross-country flight in a single engine Cessna…but, that’s another story.)

When I heard that one of my best friends, spiritual guides and artist-buddies was moving at warp speed toward death (as we all are), I had to fly.  It is with gratitude for a few people and circumstances and timing that I write these words down.  Everything lined up so that I could be with Bobbie.  Bob and I shared over twenty years of friendship and he inspired such rich and wonderful magic in my life.  It was an unwritten pact of sorts that led me to his bedside and into the wonderful circle of his family.

When we landed, I took words of a highly-traveled friend, Hollee, to heart and pretended, to some degree, that I was Dora the Explorer.  I had some reservations about flying into Vancouver, not being familiar with the ‘big’ city at all.  I had flown into Vancouver with a friend many years ago in order to enjoy a Dave Matthew’s Band concert and the Art Gallery, but hadn’t ever found my way around on my own.  So, on the advice of Hollee, I took my time finding my way to the Canada Line, enjoying the beautiful art displayed throughout the airport.  Bob would have loved that I did this.

I successfully found my way to the Broadway/City Hall stop and then began my short walk to the hospital.

Peter met me at the elevator on the 16th floor of the Palliative Care Unit, after a convoluted wandering of the hospital, having thought I would find Bob on the eleventh floor. When I stepped around the corner and into Bob’s room, his arms extended and opened up to me.  The embrace of two old friends was delicious.  He uttered his delight and I parked my bag.  I knew that I would make this room my home for the coming days, although Bronwyn had graciously offered me a bed.

I write this post to celebrate the type of care and the environment where Bob spent his last days.  The Palliative Care unit was exceptional.  It was a comfortable space for both residents and families.  And there was art…everywhere!  Referred to as the VGH/ UBC Hospital Foundation Art Collection, the collection gave me the opportunity to disappear into various visual experiences throughout my stay.

“We are grateful to our donors for their contributions to this innovative program,” says Dr. Bev Spring, a physician with the Palliative Care Unit at VGH. “Art helps to create an atmosphere aesthetically and attitudinally where emotional and physical healing can happen. This is important for the heart and soul of the hospital – and the hearts and souls of those who find themselves on the giving or receiving end of care here: patients, their families and staff alike.”

I collected a series of photographs…none of them great, because I was so impressed.  I wasn’t in Vancouver for site seeing or for a vacation.  And yet, the space where my dear friend spent his last days was absolutely beautiful.  I’m so grateful for that.  This post is written in order to celebrate Bob’s life.  He held, in his imagination, such knowledge, practice and understanding of place, aesthetics and image-making.  This collection would have awed  him.

I sat through the wee hours of morning on August 20th and felt an overwhelming peace.  Of course, I was weary, but I was and am so grateful for the people who are in my circle.  I am so blessed.  Bob was a gentle and kind man.  His spirit lives.