As December approaches, many of us have celebrated our Covid birthday celebrations. It was different, wasn’t it? Several of my friends are enjoying really significant birthdays and yet I chose not to celebrate with them, given the risks and the concerns around gatherings. It makes me sad that I am missing them during really special times of their lives, but I am really determined to keep the people I love safe.
Halloween was really different this year. For one, Max wasn’t home with me. I haven’t written his tribute as a post yet because I’m just not ready, but on October 31 of last year, Max reinjured himself for the final time. While he managed for another year, almost, it was a different year for him. It was quiet and his walks were shorter and more thoughtful than ever before. He really struggled through this year, the year of Covid. What I am most grateful for, however, was the fact that I was home with him around the clock and that I shared his last year with him, immersed in love. Snacks were readily available and begging was allowed. I’m sure he found this confusing.
This year, on Halloween night, I headed over to my grandson’s to celebrate ‘revised’ Halloween, where everyone in his neighbourhood was a hero, making fun for children and parents by creating a new normalcy. I was really impressed. This year, three, Steven was going out as Rider of Paw Patrol and so, his Gramma dressed as Chase, one of Rider’s Patrol. We are creating so many memories.
I took some photographs of the magic that was created by my neighbours before heading out for the dress up event shared with my grandson.
Door to door was magical, as so many neighbours made special effort to create magic for the little ones. There were all sorts of contraptions for passing out candy safely and all of this ingenuity contributed to the celebration of the night. I’m grateful that Steven was able to enjoy a night of fun. In the midst of a global pandemic it is really special to make positive memories.
I was introduced to my new friend, Eric Wicherts, in the midst of a pandemic. I won’t forget that. It is a beautiful thing that something wondrous took place when times were unexpectedly difficult. Eric has lived and continues to live a very interesting life and conversations are always interesting, but not so much when both of us are wearing masks and unable to sort out the mumbles. Writing one another seems to be our most optimal form of communication and I look forward to hearing from him as he writes his advise, experience and his efforts on recent projects.
The day I met Eric, he spoke the entire time about his beloved wife, Andie, who passed away in May of 2019. Eric created a beautiful archive and history of Andie and her artistic journey in a book, aptly titled, Andie. This is such a thorough compilation of a life’s work. It is an incredible book.
As I experienced the beauty of Andie’s studio that day, I thought to myself, ‘this couple had an incredibly interesting life together’.
It is only through letters, since, and our few conversations that I am getting to know more about Eric Wicherts, without Andie. He is a remarkable story teller. I hope my readers will follow the link above in order to hear an interview. As time passed, it became obvious that I should invite Eric to see the amazing KOAC project and reconnect with Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe.
Yesterday was the day!
With Eric tucking into my back seat and dawning a mask, off we headed for the country, but by a very convoluted route. I took my cues from google maps, a system that was in no way as expedient as taking Eric’s verbal directions. The return to his residence at the end of the afternoon, was seamless and direct.
I would like to express a great deal of gratitude to both Harry and Katie for their generous welcome and their delicious conversation. It was a busy day, as a free tour was being offered at 2 pm, an exciting offering during Alberta Culture Days.
At a point, I left Harry and Eric to visit and engaged in a segment of the tour where a person can experience the convergence of art, nature, sculpture and story.
It was early in the conversation that I shared with Katie how she, along with other strong female artists and my sister, had inspired me to return to complete my BFA.
Eric has attended one of the KOAC fundraisers at the Hotel Arts. Here, Katie is showing him some of the news coverage on one of those events.
Sphere by Christian Eckhart can be seen at the right.
An early Alexander Caldwell to the left…I’m forgetting the title.
Katie’s Mother and Turtle in the foreground and 2 Crack, Pot Column Sculpture behind.
A close up of Sphere by Christian Eckhart.
The tour is listening to a description of the cement fondue piece, Woman Standing by Norman Sjoman. Bob Morrell is in the foreground.
Garden Sculpture by John Andrekson
A wee piece of ceramic pottery by Roy Kiyooka is sitting in the gardens…
An incredible story shared about Snakes by Elli Scheepens.
Zigzag by Claudia Questo
Earth Mother by Mich DeMuth
Two works by KO Arts Centre Resident Artist James Ziegler
Dandelion by Katherin Dobbins
Time spent, deep in conversation and deep in thought, with Eric and Harry. Harry shares such a rich collection of stories and remembrances. This part of the visit smacked of nostalgia and gratitude.
“What is a teacher? I’ll tell you: it isn’t someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello
Thank you, Eric, for the beautiful afternoon. I like what you said as I left you at your door. “I hope that I will see you again.” I will, Eric.
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
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.
All my life, I’ve been amazed by the night sky. It is not an unusual thing to see me looking up, whether day or night.
I have some wonderful and very special memories about loading the van up with sleeping bags and rousing my children at two in the morning to drive out past Canada Olympic Park, in order to watch meteorite showers.
My son and I were truly blessed one night, when we were both much younger, to share the Northern lights from sleeping bags parked on our own front yard. The green dancing lights entertained us for hours.
These are moments I will never forget.
I started my hunt for Neowise comet at the dawn, driving the entire length of Deerfoot Trail at 4:30 in the morning, only to find Neowise could be seen best at around 4. Then began the night time hunt, for several evenings, from the ridge above the Bow River. It is kind of spooky walking pathways between midnight and three in the morning, all on your own. Surprisingly enough, I met up with a young man at my perch on the first evening. There were other nights just like that one, where I was being chewed up by mosquitoes while standing on benches along the river pathway, searching the sky.
When, first, I saw Neowise, I bumped into a lovely couple in the pitch black. They were wrapped in blankets, hot chocolate in hand, sitting on lawn chairs, and whispering in quiet voices. Honestly, for a moment, I was spooked. It was that couple that oriented me to the location of our comet in the heavens. From that moment, I knew what I would be looking for on following nights. Armed only with a cell phone, this is my first shot of the comet.
The next night, I went hard core…out to Okotoks Erratic at 12:30 in the morning!
The wonderful thing about that experience was that there were maybe six other photographers out and about at the location. My quick observations came from a place of NO knowledge of photography, but all sorts of things seemed to be going on. I just started taking pictures with my cell phone because there she was in all of her glory! A man was standing in the foreground, upon a huge boulder, but I thought that this gave the images more interest. In the end, a person really should go on line and see some of the wondrous photographs taken by members of the Aurora Chaser’s group. They are unbelievable!
I met wonderful and generous hearts, Daniel and Arleney and their three children in the darkness. Daniel (I didn’t know his name at the time) was the man captured in silhouette in my photographs, above.
In an act of total abandon and without thinking much about it, I asked the couple if they would snap a photo of me looking at the comet. I really think that was a tad pushy, but kindly enough, they agreed. Little did I realize at the time the knowledge and experience these two have with nighttime photography. They are TRUE aurora chasers! Here is the result. Photographer: Daniel Sanchez Salazar I will be forever grateful to Daniel for this capture of Neowise Comet.
To follow this event, I knew that I wanted my adult children, if possible, to see the comet. My first born and her husband, I realize, have their little son, bedtime and work days to think about. The other two agreed, though, that on the next night (without clouds) they would be ready to join me in the wee hours of morning. While there was a thin veil of clouds in the sky, we still managed to captured the softest presence of the comet.
2020 has been the strangest of years, hasn’t it? It is important that as often as possible, we look for the magic. We are writing our collective histories. I am so grateful that so many professional photographers and darned good hobbyists have captured this comet in all of her glory.
Next up…watch for meteorite showers and fire balls!
I was so happy to receive Helena’s message, including me in an invitation to enjoy cello music at Fish Creek Park last Tuesday evening.
By that point, I had been spending a lot of hours through the night, chasing down the Neowise Comet and so, it was lovely just to bring my lawn chair and park it, alongside several sister-friends, and be lulled into evening by the beautiful sounds of many cellos.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Mary and, in these Covid-19 days, it was amazing to hear her beautiful voice carried across the required distance and plunked right into my heart. So, thank you, Mary, for listening to me go on about my University registration frustrations and know that I was just so happy to be out in the park, sharing time.
I previously attended a Moonlit walk with Morag Northey in Fish Creek Park, thanks to my friend, Pat. Morag is a lovely, generous and talented woman who has done so much for our community by sharing her intesne love of music, cello, humanity and life.
Morag and Good Vibrations (adult cello players) were being documented during their performance last Tuesday night and they did each of their pieces twice through. I was so taken by the beauty of the music, in combination with the reflections of the park in the glass panels that surrounded most of the perimeter of the performance. I liked that I could see the reflections of my friends there, as well.
This was a magical evening and I’m very grateful to Helena for organizing.
Thank you, cellists, for the magic of the evening. I’m very grateful for this opportunity!
This afternoon, while at the river, I decided to stand still beside one tree for an hour and document what I saw. This was an amazing exercise as I was able to reflect on springtime at this location and what I have observed since the snow melted and things came to life.
Steven (my grandson) and I discovered a nest in this tree quite early in the spring. An adult Robin was seen nesting for a matter of weeks and next, we noticed an adult Cedar Waxwing, her banded eyes, popping up above the nest. Today, mother Robin was the first bird that I spotted in the tree.
One of her ‘fledged’ was redundantly chirping from a higher branch…so…in a matter of minutes…
I watched the adult deliver the goods and saw the youngster move from branch to branch, eventually leaving and finding rest in a neighbouring tree.
The Cedar Waxwings seem to have some investment in this tree…its location…its resources because they were agitated, but not dive-bombing, because I was there. I always think that photographs of Cedar Waxwings look ‘fixed’ or manipulated. These birds look so unreal. But, no, this is how they look and the experience of them in real time is even more fantastical. These are only three representative photographs.
The Grey Catbirds are still very skittish, but this batch seem to be getting to know the lady who stands around and really does no harm. I found that they were more courageous today, even doing their remarkable call that secures their name, in my presence.
I kept looking over my shoulder into the brush behind me because Yellow Warblers were playing couples chase games, weaving in and out regardless of the blustery wind. I haven’t had a clear photograph of a Yellow Warbler this year, so I was delighted when I turned back to the tree and saw this little guy fully present and almost looking at me. Quick! Snap!
A female Eastern Kingbird took time to land and say hello, and then in her typical style, she took off, circled, landed, took off, circled, landed. I saw a male a short while earlier, but won’t include him here because these were all visible in a single tree.
A quick photo after noticing a Least Flycatcher…of course she turned her back on me and disappeared into the wood immediately after this shot.
And what would one nesting tree be without a female Brown Headed Cowbird? I’m sure that at this time of year, she is ferrying about, taking note of what birds are feeding her progeny.
And finally, as I looked down at my feet, this Northern Flicker was happily consuming ants on the pathway.
I managed to garner a few more mosquito bites than usual, but I enjoyed standing still to observe what birds might visit a single ecosystem over time.
As I continued on my circle at the river, these were a couple of the sights I took in. Another magical afternoon! Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper balancing on fencing in a huge wind. I got some really comical photos in this series.
Another clutch of Mallards…
The two juvenile Bald Eagles were holding on for dear life as their nesting canopy was swinging in the wind. I didn’t see Mr. or Mrs.
Advice to my readers…sometimes, just sit/stand still. You will be amazed.
I was, just now, sitting on the red couch sipping coffee, Max sprawled out on the cool floor beside me. I was listening to an old Live From Everywhere session with Craig Cardiff on Instagram. He was writing a song for a couple from Milwaukee, as they shared their story of meeting and falling in love and staying in love. I got really emotional and as I came down the stairs, strangely, big tears were plopping down my cheeks and falling off my chin. What? What is going on? I think they were blessing-tears. I just feel so blessed.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a morning drive out to KOAC, in order to do some yard work with a group of wonderful volunteers gathered together by wonderful connector, Alice Lam. I was surrounded by mostly younger folk and it gave my heart such joy to see these people working so hard to make something beautiful even more beautiful. I hope to work alongside these people again. Thank you, Alice.
Alice is seen, here, on our lunch break, eating a fresh lively salad provided by a fantastic start up that has its own magical story. Through the pandemic experience, Inspired Go has been a company that stepped up and connected with community, in order to make things better. In April they announced the #feedthefrontlines campaign, providing free meals to local healthcare workers. For each box sold they donated a meal, for a total of 6714 donated meals. What an epic moment in Inspired Go’s history! It is a beautiful thing to see people in our community do great things. Over two volunteer work days, Inspired Go provided lunch, served up by my dear and respected friend, Wendy Lees. Thank you!
Upon arrival, Katie, Harry and Ricardo were there to welcome volunteers. We received a lovely overview of the studios and the expanse of sculpture garden, beginning with a gathering in Katie’s studio. There, she richly described her process as she works on pieces connected with the concept Cluster.
I was most intrigued by Katie’s description of the selection of materials and the process of editing, along the way. I loved her description of vessels that might contain the cluster and her process of discovery. In the raven piece above, I especially loved the creation of the nesting materials in the bottom section. All the while, Katie is holding strapping that will be required to pull a new bench into place. She is always and forever thinking and solving spatial problems.
Off we headed for our various assignments. I couldn’t wait to get to work.
Thanks, Wendy Lees, for your homemade chocolate chip squares. They followed our Inspired Go salads. Yum! Then, off to the woods in our mosquito net apparel! What a fun bunch of hard working people!
It was at this point of the third huge pile of dead wood that the first loud boom of thunder began. Our day was cut a little bit short by the huge foothills storm that raced through. I’m sad that I didn’t grab a photograph of the dramatic sky at this point in the afternoon. I hosed down my footwear and hopped in the car. I had a chance to say good bye to Harry, but Katie was busying herself somewhere else on the property.
What an amazing day!
Through Covid-19, I have tried to support one visual artist, one musician and one gallery. It was all I could do, although I wanted to do so much more. As a result, I have purchased Janet’s Crown by Katie Ohe for my 65th birthday gift. I am also, over time, purchasing Weeping Bees 2007, Brother Pear 1996, Monsoon2, 2006 and Untitled, 1977. I’m over the moon about these acquisitions.
I don’t have a lot in the resource bin of life…but, I’ve always had enough. I’m blessed that I was able to give my three children and myself what we needed, that we had food and shelter and I was, as a teacher, always able to make ends meet. Often times it was the sale of my own art that provided us with what we needed at the end of the month and when things were really tough (I wasn’t always able to purchase art. lol), friends and family supported me. Regarding visual art, a lot of people don’t know that they can create an art collection if they budget a little bit over time. Arrangements can be made with galleries so that the collector can surround themselves with beautiful art. I have purchased works from various galleries in town including Gorilla House and Rumble House.
Around noon, Cathy, Anne and I hiked up to Ptarmigan Cirque, one of the most magical landscape bowls that I’ve come across. A scenic drive from Longview, I feel myself unwind every time I have the opportunity to do this.
A little earlier in the season, I was gobsmacked by the multitude of Glacier Lilies that were in full bloom, as well as White-flowering Mountain Avens (Dryas hookeriana). These made the hike today really special.
Be warned, the trails this summer, are heavily traveled compared to any other year. On one hand, it excites me that so many people, with their children, are getting out to see the wonders that Alberta/B.C. offer. On the other hand, sometimes I worry about preparedness as I see little children heading up in little sandals and no jackets. (The wind up at the top was cold and pretty powerful today. I guess everyone learns their lessons in their own time, so, I’m leaving these thoughts as mere observations.
The air was so intoxicating. It was cool and fragrant.
Conversation was easy among friends. I loved sharing the trail with these two. Again, my words are going to be limited, here, but I am excited to share a little bit of what we experienced today in photographs. Anne and Cathy, I love you, dear friends.
I was running behind, having spent some time taking care of ‘matters of consequence’ on the home front. Once turning in toward Westhills Starbucks, I felt the excitement, even in the pouring rain, of getting out to Many Springs and discovering our wild flowers.
We missed Wendy. We missed Carla. And, we missed Darlene. And, we missed Darren, too! Oliver and Cam, glad you could join! We shared many remembrances as we made our way from our meet-up and headed for the Bow Valley Parkway and then on to our hike. Only one other group was out on the trail while we were there.
Everything was lush and the colours were more saturated as we wound our way past Middle Lake and on to the parking. Only a single ‘Bear in the Area’ sign, so nothing to be concerned about.
I don’t think we saw as many orchids as usual, but we certainly saw many more wild Tiger Lilies.
IT POURED….especially as we made it back to our cars. Thank you, Val and Cathy for sharing this time. It almost feels sacred.
When the ladies send me their shots, will publish them here…photo credit: Val Vine and Cathy Szata.
The only people who ever read this blog are people who know and love me. Some of the content is simply ridiculous. My readers know, all too well, that I am also all about ritualizing my life…circling a pond every day, watching an eagle’s nest every day, following the nesting narrative of a Suburbian vent every spring…and it goes on and on.
Well, this spring there has been a twist at said vent. If my readers look back into my archives, they will note that the vent has changed shape over the years as one piece after another has dropped off. This, I believe, has contributed to the evolving bird narrative that makes up the history of the vent. I’ll make it easy for you. (Laughing my head off.) Here are the links! I’m now going to pour a glass of wine. After all, it’s Friday!
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a new sort of drama unfold as I’ve observed a single adult Pigeon nurture two wee Pigeons to life, one egg being tugged out of the nest, fairly early in the game, or we might have had three. (And yes, I did see Pigeons, this season, but some distance from my house, in the act of copulation.) I’m really getting an education!
It’s interesting what rituals birds hold, as watching Pigeons has been very different from watching House Sparrows or Northern Flickers. Every evening around seven, I hear the adult (I like to imagine that it’s Mom.) cooing from the top of my roof. (I know. I’m almost certain there are some surprises-not-surprises up there on my roof, as a result.) No other Pigeons show up, though, just the one mauve iridescent adult. This has been very-much a solitary exercise. And who knows…what the heck is she feeding them? Pigeons have always struck me as being a little dumb. Are they?
Well, this year, I’ve seen the funny little guys….and of course, I’m going to document. These aren’t great photos because they are taken through the screen of my kitchen window. Every year I learn something new about birds while washing up my supper dishes or while making my morning coffee. Life is so very good and so very interesting.
Mom thought this little guy was being a bit too adventurous this evening and from no where, a big flutter and the two disappeared into their cave.
This is the sweetest….if you look at the silhouette, you will see her. I’ve never seen her on my roof. She is very discreet. But, I’ve captured her presence, singing the evening lullaby to her two little ones.