Fly Me to the Moon

This week has been filled with the magic of flight, whether that is metaphoric or quite literal.  This is the time of the season when every variety of wee bird or raptor seems to be in flight training and this year’s observations are even more magical because this is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission and the successful landing on the moon.

Here, a wee Northern Flicker, sound asleep OR knocked out on a paved pathway near the edge of the Bow River.  I thought he may have come to a sad ending, having likely fledged from a nearby tree, but, at my prompting, he stirred, panicked and disappeared into the wild flowers, a place that increased his possibilities, I’m sure.

Every new life is extremely vulnerable right now in the river environment and the adults of every species are doing phenomenal things, given the brutal thunder storms, hail and huge winds.  Finally, these past two days, we have had a reprieve from awful weather.

I was just 14 years old and living with my air force family on CFB Hornell Heights perched on a hill above North Bay, Ontario when the space program was initiating such wild adventures into the unknown.  That summer I would have just finished up my grade eight year with Mrs. Penner at Paul Davoud School and would be beginning grade nine at Widdifield in the city, the following autumn.  Mom would have already sewn me summer pop tops and jam jam shorts.  I was excited for time at the base swimming pool and my little sister would have been two years old.  We had a black and white television set and I would have been snipping out important news stories from the North Bay Nugget and pasting them into my scrap book. (some of them are featured below)

In my record box, (bright green floral vinyl), I had my single-play records including Revolution and I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles.  It was the first summer that I would, under my brother’s chaperone, be allowed to attend Teen Town dances.

My entire family was excited about the Apollo Space Mission.

We watched the moon landing, together, on the television.  I remember the images.  I remember looking up at the moon that night, the silhouette of the huge lilac bush outside my window, and being afraid for those men, so far from home.  It was truly unbelievable.

Well, this past weekend, we shared in the memory of that experience, now 50 years ago.  On July 20, I read poetry and watched the second eaglet fledge.  For me, the day was a celebration of flight.

On the evening of July 19, there was a tremendous storm brewing.  I watched, with great amusement as Mr. and Mrs. both fed Jr. #1, the little guy that had fledged three days before.  He’s doing well, having flown across the river, and having practiced moving about to a variety of places.  Over those few days I was captivated by several close visits, as well as a variety of shenanigans across from me on the river. (most amusing being a middle-aged couple manning kayaks, one that capsized and the other that became grounded minutes before a huge deluge…the two, totally unaware of a family of three Bald Eagles feasting within meters of them).  The male Bald Eagle stared at the adult male with a look that made me laugh.  I’m posting some of my recent photos, here.

On July 20, 2019, I witnessed the fledge of Jr. #2.  I considered this a huge gift on such a special anniversary.

July 16, 2019 (a visit to the river with summer guests, Angela and Preston)

July 17, 2019 (Mom and Dad spent lots of time the first two days prompting Jr. #1 to get up higher.  The fledgling seems to ball, especially on Day 1 and the adults patiently convince him/her that they can be relied upon for food, for guidance and for presence.)

July 18, 2019

Meals on the run…sharing treats with Jr….I’m just so surprised that Mr. came directly to me.

July 19, 2020

Second Fledge and little buddy is the one located in the vertical tree. Junior #1 doesn’t like that the attention has moved away from him.

July 21, 2019

Three visits to the river.  On the second, I didn’t have my camera, but I did have the company of Deb Sharpe.  Together we watched the siblings reunited on the tree root across from us.  Jr. #1 had remained there throughout the night.  Mr. and Mrs. shared the big tree on my side of the river to watch the pair of youngsters.  It was just so beautiful.  The icing on the cake is that one of the adults soared with the Year-old Juvenile that made a visit as well, chasing him, first, out of the territory.

On my evening stroll, I listened to a bag piper sending out his beautiful songs to the river…

Other species have been evident and beautiful…and new songs have been sung.  I’ve watched, but not documented American Goldfinch and have really enjoyed the Grey Catbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Kingbirds.  I’ve also really had fun speaking with different people who enjoy my love for the river.

It is a remarkable thing that human beings have traveled into the far reaches of space through manned missions as well as through the use of technology that brings images and science back to us from Mars.  It is for us to celebrate the abilities of humanity to accomplish wondrous achievements such as this.  However, it is equally as important to recognize the charm and amazing intuitive lessons that are given by other species.  It is essential that we connect with this wonder so that we become better stewards of the magic.

I’m wrapping up this post with a song that my mother used to sing to me…among others…but, this one is a good one for this celebration.

 

In Search of Buffalo

It was when Steven’s Great Grampa and Auntie Val made a trip out to Calgary to say good-bye to his Uncle John that our family gathered at Fish Creek on a very rainy day, to take family photographs.  This is something that daughter, Erin, really wanted for her birthday.  It was important to her.  I think that most of us whined about it, but in the end, it was really very fun!  Many laughs as we shivered and got wet, taking our turns hiding in the entrance to the visitor center, closed at this particular time.  We did press our noses against the glass, however, and it was then that Steven spotted the buffalo!

There is only one thing that delights Steven almost as much as trucks and emergency vehicles and that is buffalo!!

So, this morning, Nanny, Steven and I headed to the same location in the hopes of finding the buffalo and we saw him…and so much more!  A beautiful morning…a beautiful place, one of the most wonderful spaces in south Calgary.

No touch!

“Touch, Nanny.”

Campfire!

Tee Pee!

Beaver! Awe!

Touch.

River

In Tee Pee.

Campfire!

Wolf

Berries

Poet Tree Benches

Chickens

Awe.

Wow.

Ice-e-cream

Nature Walk

What? A goldfinch and NO CAMERA!! Lifer with Nanny and Steven

Looking for Trout in the river. “Hold on, Steven!”

Grass!

Splinter…a first.

Back home, in Gramma’s garden.

Another beautiful adventure!

Junior

The first eaglet fledged five days ago.  I made no siting of him yesterday or the day before and no vocalizations, so I was growing worried that he had come to some demise.  Last night, it poured rain…it’s just been that sort of summer.  If I wasn’t going to get out to Ptarmigan Cirque this morning with my guests from Louisiana (Preston and Angela) due to severe thunder storms, then I was going to get them down to the Bow River to hopefully site Mr. and Mrs.

Initially, we spotted Dad on the horizontal branch on the dead tree across the way.   It was pretty obvious it had been a rough night.  I took my guests south on the river to see if Mama was on this side in her favourite hang out.

Along the way, I pointed out the American Pelicans and the spot where the juvenile Northern Flickers had been eagerly waiting to fledge.

No Mrs.  Hmmm….I thought to myself, “Where can she be?”

I talked to Preston and Angela about skat…pointing out the coyote poop and its contents.  By this time, we were soaked to the knees, although the rain had stopped and there was just a sprinkle.  The colour and texture of mammal skat is very much impacted by what they have available for food.  Just yesterday I found some skat that contained a lot of animal content, likely rabbit fur and the dark colouring was reflective of old blood.  To me, this didn’t look so much like the coyote poop I most often observe on my circle.

The skat pictured below contains more berry content and a different texture.  This is what I generally think of as coyote skat.  I’m pretty certain that yesterday’s sampling (if you do a search, this will be confirmed) was Bobcat skat.

(I’m off topic, right?)  It my readers are out in nature a lot, it is important to be able to recognize or identify these clues so that  you are somewhat aware of what animals you are sharing space with at the time.  This can contribute to your safety in certain situations.  But moving on.

By the time we had done our circle and returned to the edge of the river, Mrs. was perched a short distance from Mr. but in an unusual spot for her…balancing on the top of one of the high branches of a tree across from us.  We watched both of them for some time and I was feeling very grateful that at the very least Preston was able to see the two adults that I blither on about constantly on social media.

The adults consistently stared downward and so Preston and I talked about what might have happened to the fledgling.  Given the silence, I believed that the youngster was at the very least injured, and at the worst, gone.  I got a big hug from Preston as we silently acknowledged that the first fledge had come to some sort of end and the adults were doing some grieving.   I took the lead as we carried on north along the very edge of the water.

As we came out of the tall grass and made our way onto the bike path, going south, I noticed through the trees that Mom was no longer there.  I shouted to the other two that I was going to walk ahead and go down to her roosting tree on our side to see if i could get them a better look.  As I came through the clearing and faced the water, my mouth must have fallen open as I saw the juvenile, with much grace and strength, fly directly for me….I shouted out, “He’s coming right into my arms!” And he alighted into a tree branch just above my head.

I was exuberant! (understatement)  Quickly, I readied my camera and started snapping.  Then, hurriedly, I surmised that he must have followed Mama and I shared that I was heading south on the river to see if I might see her in her favourite tree.  Dad remained aloof on the horizontal branch right across from us.

Before launching off, I quickly said to Preston, “I’m still not convinced that this is fledge #1…I will check the nest for Junior #2 once I’ve located Mom.

I rushed ahead and Preston and Angela followed, but when I got to the tree, no Mama.  From where I stood, Angela and Preston said, “Look.  Is that Mrs?”  I did a pivot and there in the tree neighbouring Junior, Mom sat and surveyed all.  Back we went.

At this point and after confirming that, indeed, Junior #2 was still  disgruntled and sitting on the nest across from us, in my private thoughts, I was thinking how grateful I was that we had such a private showing of these two raptors and that indeed, Junior #1 was safe.  I was also thinking how happy I was that we weren’t at Ptarmigan Cirque.

I was snapping photographs of the two when things became even more dramatic and Dad headed for his family.  Alighting shoulder to shoulder with the female, she became unbalanced and was knocked off, leaving Dad in her place.  She headed north over the water, a tad annoyed. (But that is me personifying the situation…AGAIN.)  The following photographs were taken by Preston or Angela.

Preston and Angela, with their phones at the ready, documented this bit of drama as I was just gawking at the goings-on, very much in disbelief.  What a wonderful experience.

After watching Dad track a fishing Osprey within his territory for some time, and after sharing our happiness with the experience, we headed home feeling pretty satisfied with our morning in nature.

At home, I whipped up some sausages, eggs and brown beans and toast and we shared in another coffee.  I’m so grateful that Junior is doing so well…thriving on the river.  I hope that they will make their way back to the island where their environment is less-traveled by human beings.  Some days I just feel that creation was made for my pleasure.  This was one of those days.

The great thing about having some one with you when you witness such as this, is that you can share in the joy.  I’m glad you were with me, Angela and Preston!  Oh!  And, Max!

 

Breakfast for Boobies at South Centre Mall

Amazing!!  How they pulled this pancake breakfast off, with the numbers who attended, I will never know!  I feel so proud of Calgary and the Stampede and everyone who pulls together to make these events happen.  Given the line up for the actually pink pancakes, I didn’t really cover the show, the children’s events or the various ‘pink’ inspired activities, but I took in the crowd and loved just how much my grandson can adapt and invent and create his own amusements in so many situations.  It was a fun morning and I’ve tried to capture this in photographs.

Bless all of those who are suffering cancer…breast cancer and any other…bless their families and friends who are in the overwhelming situation of watching their loved ones negotiate the decisions and the medical/emotional and physical war of fighting cancer.  I love you and have profound respect for your journey.  You have my respect.

Stetson’s Band

Nanny did the cue yesterday…Gramma’s turn today.

Food and entertainment…today, avocado slathered on pancake.  YUM!

Keeping good company, except for Gramma got into a wee confrontation with someone in line…a story to be told at a later date.

A lot of engaged participants.

Cowpokes

Then, the real fun began!  Trucks!

Tank! Tank!

Then, Steven sought out employment!

We couldn’t leave the area without visiting Fish Creek Library!

This other kid…a bit of a pain.

Cement Truck and Digger

Walking a fine line all over second floor Fish Creek Library.

Pancakes! HEEE HAW!!!

An awesome job, Stampede Caravan!

Douglas Square Breakfast

Free pancakes, live entertainment, pony rides and more for adults and kids.

When: 9 to 11 am
Where: Douglas Square — 11540 24th Street SE
Price: Free

This event was so much fun!  YAHOO!  A great one for children!  Lots of activities going on, including pony rides, Butterfield Acres petting zoo, rope making, sheep roping, the walk through of the Marine and Navy bus and so much more.  We were entertained by live music, marching band and Indigenous dancers including explanations for the grand entry, male fancy, female jingle and female fancy.  Excellent times and a great breakfast.  I didn’t get a snap of our food plates today because my eyes were on Steven who had his mouth dropping open most of the time, for all of the excitement.  Such an excellent morning!

No touch piggy.

Sitting in the driver’s seat…Marine and Navy recruitment bus.

Watching the big screen…navy ice breaker!

 

What a great morning.  The food, again, was excellent, this time including those lovely circular shaped sausages, juice boxes and yummy pancakes.  Scrambled eggs were also served.

Departing the site, Steven spotted a forklift, so we spent some time also perusing that. Great times with the Grandson!

YAHOO!! Pancakes!!

Two down…more to come!

The festivities in Cow Town include pancake breakfasts, absolutely everywhere.  I’d like to thank the many businesses and the Calgary Stampede Wagon Train for the fabulous and generous contribution of such lovely events across our city.  While it is not very often that I find my way down to the grounds, I DO so enjoy the spirit that is demonstrated to even the far reaches of our city at Stampede time.  All three of my children participated in very dedicated fashion to the marching band in their young adult years.  Now that I am not chasing them around to all of their performances, pancakes is the way I really remain connected to Stampede.  Follow me over the coming days, IF YOU CAN!

So far, Auburn Bay Co-Op was a breakfast of champions shared with my friend, Hollee, from Sherwood Park, Alberta.  Activities for children included face-painting, balloon sculpture and rope making.  The breakfast was so very delicious and for the long winding line up, there were complimentary cheese sticks, bananas and visits with Harvey the Hound.  I loved the conversations, the tail wagging of dogs and the enthusiasm of the live band that played after we were seated.  A great time was had by all.

Today’s pancake breakfast was hosted by South Calgary Funeral Centre and Crematorium on Macleod Trail.  Yes, I know.  Initially it seemed a little odd to me, also.  But, let’s face it, there IS a lot of stigma around death and dying.  I have learned the last ten years just how deeply and sadly, death of loved ones can impact every moment of every day, likely for the rest of your life.  However, I’ve also learned that death is a part of life and the folks that work at these funeral ‘homes’ have a tough job and they have, in my experience, chosen to do it well.

(By the way, folks, once and awhile, please speak my brother’s name.  Please mention him.  Remember him.  And please, ask how I’m doing.)

So, off we went for pancakes at the Funeral Home!!  What???  Blueberries and Whipped Cream?  You’re kidding!  Nummers!  And, delicious orange juice!  John Wayne oldies playing on a the big screen all the while.  Grandson, Steven, was in his glory and consumed a full adult portion!  After that, a walk around a florist fridge and back alley building equipment!

I highly recommend getting out in your city this week!  There is a lot going on and most of it involves food!

HEEE HAW!

John Frederick Vallance: Farewell, Friend

December 30, 1924 – Ayr, Scotland
June 24, 2019 – Calgary, Alberta

In June, we lost John Vallance.  I want to leave a brief account of his life, here, because John became a true friend to so many during his time in Calgary.  It was a blessing to share in the celebration of his life, along with daughter, Billie,  friends of the British Home Child Descendants group that loved John so much and the generous folks of Trinity Lodge.

John and I both ordered a big plate of beautiful liver and onions the day that I met him in Didsbury, Alberta.  There, along with Bruce,  many stories and much laughter were shared.  I knew we would be good friends.  John was still living in his own house at this time and sure wasn’t crazy about moving into Trinity Lodge.  He was, all his life, a strong and independent man.  It was going to be a transition.

It was at this first meeting that I had the chance to share my own family history with John, the story of my Great Grandfather John Moors.

I have linked to John’s history here.

Child Migrant John Vallance is now considered “the chief” of his family’s clan. But for 50 years he had no contact with his four younger brothers and sisters.  Here is John’s story and how the Empress of Austrailia was the start of a new life for him in Canada – (article as it appears in the Summer of 2003 “the Barnardo Guild Messenger”)

MY MOTHER, Nancy, died in late 1937 at the age of 34. My father John was a fireman on the London and Mildland Scottish Railroad in Ayr, Scotland.

At 12, I was the oldest of five children, with two sisters and two brothers.  In March 1938, a few months after my mother’s death, I was sent to the Barnardo’s home in Stepney, then later that year to Kingston and Bromborough. In April 1939 I was sent back to Stepney for a couple of months before being sent to Bognor. Then in July that year, just before war broke out, I departed for Canada aboard the Empress of Australia.

I was one of a party of 30 boys and girls (one of whom was called Mary Love) who arrived in Quebec a month later. We were taken to Barnardo’s head office in Toronto where we were farmed out to foster homes.  My foster parents were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Davies, an English couple who owned a mixed farm in Burgersville outside of Woodstock, Ontario.  The Davies had no children and were good to me. I learned all about farm life, and enjoyed this new phase of my upbringing.  My only regret was that I never went back to school to complete my education.

Early in 1941 I left the farm and went west to Assinobia, Saskatchewan, where I worked on a wheat farm and ranch for three years before following in my father’s footsteps and joining the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a fireman.  A year later I enlisted in the army, where I qualified as a paratrooper.

I spent 30 years in the Canadian Army, including spells in Korea, where I was a Platoon sergeant, and in Germany. Later I qualified as a marksman and trained pistol and rifle teams at the Royal Roads Miltary College in British Columbia. I was released from the army in June 1974.

While in the army, I married Elizabeth a wonderful lady from Brandon, Manitoba. We had four beautiful children, two boys and two girls.  Sadly Elizabeth died in 1997. But my children are all doing well now and I have three grandchildren. I live alone with my dog Buddie in Calgary.

After Elizabeth died, my daughter Candace encouraged me to try and find my sisters and brothers. I remembered how I had arrived in Canada all alone, with no one to say “Here, John. Here’s a nickle. Buy yourself an icecream.” It was a sad life in that way.

My daughter and I sent a letter to 10 Vallances living in Ayr, Scotland, whose details I had found in a book about the history of the Vallance family around the world.  Within 10 days, I discovered that I had one brother and one sister still alive, my sister Isa in Enlgland and one brother George in Tasmania. I phoned Isa, who was very surprised, as she thought I was dead. She is married with three daughters and lives in Yorkshire. She told me she was planning to visit George the following month and asked if I could fly to Tasmania for a reunion. I immediately said “yes”.

I arrived in Tasmania to find George in hospital undergoing a hip transplant. He has two sons and a daughter, all working for the Tasmanian government. We had a great reunion and made the front page of the local paper with the headline “Siblings reunited after fifty years”. I now have the family life I missed as a child.

I found out that my older brother Robert, had served in the Royal Navy during the war, then went back to work as a miner in Scotland and died of lung cancer. My sister Lily served with the Woman’s Land Army in England and Scotland during the war.  They both have families in Scotland who I later visited.  I also found out to my surprise that both Robert and George were in Barnardo’s homes before being sent to foster families together.

I am now considered the chief of the Vallance clan. As I never had the benefit of a proper education, I have created a college fund for each of my three grandchildren.  I now feel at peace with the world, and that I have done my duty as a good Canadian citizen. And I am still a Barnardo’s boy.

What an amazing human being with such a phenomenal history.  John’s friends and family shared amazing recollections of John as a young man, a father, a husband and a child growing up, separated from his family of origin through devastating circumstances.  John’s resilience and willingness to educate others was huge.

I’d like to give a special thank you to Hazel who has been a diligent worker for descendants of British Home Children here in Alberta, for without her efforts, I may have never met John.  Thank you, Hazel, not only for the beautiful quilt, but for your thoughtful initiatives in caring for our John.  He will be missed.

Claresholm, Alberta Heritage Days event.

John may you rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon you.  To Billie and all family and friends, may you find strength for the coming days…

A Scottish piper accompanied the family.  Beautiful words were shared by John’s daughter and his grand son.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

Photo Credit: Hazel Perrier

John and dear friend, Bert.

John on his wedding day.


What a Difference a Day Can Make: 2019 at the Vent

Well, Mr. and Mrs. lost the first clutch to Northern Flickers competing for the nest early in the season.  This is the second year this has happened.

But, determined, the Sparrows laid down new nesting for a second clutch.  On Sunday, when I left town, I collected some documentation of the three little chumps that were voraciously eating and the determination of the adults that flew until sunset, feeding these little ones.

I returned Monday evening and couldn’t help but being hit with the complete silence at the kitchen window.  The little guys were in no way ready, with enough secondary feathers, to fledge, so their demise was likely due to the Corvid family that successfully fledged two juveniles just four days earlier.  The two juveniles have been so vocal and so needy. The adult crows have been determined, vigilant and doting parents (if crows can be parents).  In the end, I’m reminded of how brutal nature can be.  I also know clearly that life ends on a dime.  While we wait nine months for the birth of a child, we have no idea the time or the place when that life will end.  I don’t mean to be so ‘dark’  this morning, but I am very much aware of the immediacy of loss.  And, there is no way that we can prepare ourselves.

I am also very impacted by how the instinct of the Sparrows tells them how hard to work for the life of their youngsters.  I’m amazed by parents and their love.  While I never saw it in myself, I now know how hard I worked to keep my children well, even though my resources were always meager.  It can be unnerving when one witnesses parents who are failing their children.  Even in nature, this happens, but instinct tells the adults to nurture and tend, feed and water.  As detached as House Sparrows are from any emotional bond (I imagine) with the eggs and hatchlings, they certainly demonstrate commitment.  Today, I am sad for the empty nest.  I am also very mindful of lessons that the nest teaches me.

This morning, my prayers are specifically for those mothers and fathers who have lost children, through miscarriage or at birth, through illness or through tragic accident.  There is nothing that can be said about this but again and again, “I’m sorry”.  I can not imagine or know.  I was speaking to my Auntie Eleanor, yesterday.  Now in her nineties, still, when she speaks of my cousin Laura Lee who died as a child, she tears up.  When my Auntie Ruth speaks of her daughter, Linda, who passed as a young adult, she also wells up with tears.

Glad to see that Mama was feeding her little ones ants from my garden.

Dad fought so hard. Every time he went to the nest, he turned his back on the youngsters and was vigilant to protect them.

nvrlnd

Yesterday was a good day teaching grade six students. I mean it, the students were so beautiful and so eager to learn and relate and participate and help. I’m grateful that the day teaching was such a positive one.

My old boy Max and I hung out on the red couch for a bit after work and we both waited in anticipation for daughter, Cayley, to arrive and share in a Monday glass of wine with her mama. It’s always a blessing to chat with my kids and last evening I relished that I had two for end-of-day-catch-up. Oh, and Max!

After dinner, James and I headed down to Ramsay and nvrlnd, to enjoy the Jillian McKenna Project. Oh my! The trio was amazing! In fact, I want to write a poem today inspired by a piece that Jillian wrote…something about a meadow…and the Bow Valley Parkway. Sigh. Mayhaps I will write to her and inquire about the title. The following description was available on the invite. No idea who wrote it, so will link to the site. The piece gave me chills and today as I remember it, I feel the same way. This is the first time that a jazz piece has remained with me and so I want to celebrate it.

The Jillian McKenna project is a jazz-influenced group made up of some of the top established and up-and-coming Canadian musicians on today’s scene. Stretching what is possible in a standard jazz format, McKenna’s original music is rooted in jazz, pulling from different aspects of folk and world musics. With the Juno award winning Adrean Farrugia on piano alongside Mackenzie Read on the drums, this trio is quickly making a name for themselves throughout the country. Often using her voice as a fourth instrument, The Jillian McKenna Project is blurring genres and attracting listeners of all types.

Band members

Jillian McKenna – Bass
Adrean Farrugia – Piano
Mackenzie Read – Drums

nvrlnd is a bit of a magical place and, last evening, Carsten Rubeling was able to give some background as he toured the jazz show attendees through the art studios during intermission. Thanks, also, to Cory Nespor for his hospitality. I was captivated by the space, for the caliber of jazz, for the sense of community and for the obvious thoughtful management. Please read the linked article for the background on the nvrlnd project. My son and I have attended two events and have felt really happy with the experiences. I’m recommending nvrlnd to my readers.

I grabbed a number of business cards as I wandered past the studios. Such a variety of media and approaches. You can read about the artists, here.

Thanks to Kelly Isaak who allowed us to invade her space. Phenomenal work!

Also, Cory Nespor, thanks for opening your studio to us and if you are unhappy with the zillion photos I’ve posted here, please just let me know and I’ll pull them down. You are making magic!

Again, Carsten, thank you for your hospitality. Thank you for a venue where we can relish quality Jazz. Thanks for the wonderful casual space where artists of every kind can visit with one another and celebrate experiences. Thanks to my friend Steven for the invitation and for Wendy and Elena (possibly spelled wrong) for the connection. (Wendy, I’m taking care of your Stampede seat cushion.) Thank you, nvrlnd.

The Rare Birds

Just sipping an early coffee. James and I arrived home from Lethbridge at midnight last night and had it not been for Max and his request at the back door at six this morning, I would still be sleeping.

Yesterday was an exquisite day. I liked the surprises of it and the colour of it. In its own way, yesterday was a rare bird.

But first, there were the ordinary rituals. First, the update from the red couch.

I got Max down to the Bow River early and discovered how powerful and fast-moving it was, after all of our rain these past days. Experts assure Calgarians that these continue to be usual run off levels and that we needn’t be anxious about the swelling river, but given the floods of other years, the changes at the river can feel unnerving.

Some one doesn’t care. He always smiles on these walks.

Something to identify.

Another something to identify.

Birds were very busy and there was a cacophony of sound as it seemed they were all rebuilding, particularly the Red Winged Black Birds. At the eagle nest, I’m pretty certain that we’ve had one of the eaglets ‘fludge’ (accidentally fledge) as I’ve only been able to pick up the profile of one of the siblings these past four days. One adult continues to stand watch in neighbouring trees, but I’ve seen only one this week. We’ll see how that all plays out over the coming days. With full foliage in the trees now, perhaps I am missing things. The adults raised up only one of two last year and this may end up being a similar season. I’ve been documenting daily what I see at the nest, but am not publishing these, as a way of protecting the location of the nest.

Once arriving home, James and I loaded up and headed out on the highway, after gassing up the vehicle and buying our road trip treats. It was sad to leave Max behind, but I was super happy that my nephew, John, agreed to come and take care of Max’s needs late in the afternoon. This was a great relief and I am very grateful to John.

We got as far as Nanton before we began our exploring. There was a vintage car show going on, as well as a Barbecue cook-off and parade of garage sales. The sights and smells were wonderful. Good job, Nanton!

In Claresholm, there was a stop for lunch. The most wonderful thing about lunch was spending time with my son. I was already thinking about how wonderful it was that he wished to spend the day with me and celebrate my art. He has been very encouraging since I have begun painting again. He is a great support.

We hit Lethbridge in the midst of Pride festivities and it seemed that the core was alive with activity and fun. GO PRIDE! Karen and Mel had already visited Casa and so we hooked up at the Tim Horton’s where I enjoyed an ice lemonade and the four of us had a lovely chat. It was good to reconnect and to give ourselves the time to share. I so appreciated that Karen made this visit happen and that we were able to celebrate my art and one another. My heart was spilling over the entire day.

I tried to locate my friend, Michael, with no success and so James and I steered the boat toward Larry and Nina’s. Along the way, I shared stories about my memories of the years 1973 to 1977. I’m sure at times he was overwhelmed with the name dropping, but I love that I was able to bring him into the circle of love that I experienced through those years. Gratefully, Larry and Nina were home and we managed to really shake up their afternoon! But, oh my, it was so much fun! Talks of single-engine Cessna flights, books, family, Herb, renovations, Kaslo…it was rich and filled with belly laughs. Thank you, Larry and Nina, for letting us crash into a quiet afternoon of watching baseball. I love you.

I changed my clothes and off James and I headed to Casa for the celebration of a group exhibit as well as two other exhibits that were going on at the time. Casa is a beautiful facility and Darcy is a hard working curator! The following words shared by Lorraine Lee, the writer of the poem, Child’s Rara Avis.

The Gallery at Casa Presents:
CHILD’S RARA AVIS
work by A Cluster of Rare Birds
Concourse Showcase
June 22 – August 24, 2019

Hugh Prather wrote in Notes to Myself:
“There were seventy-five people in the lobby and only a seven year old girl was finding out what it felt like to sit on a marble floor.”

Or, in this case on a rock.

The exhibition is based on a verse written by one of the artists at the age of 17 – about sitting on a rock and looking at her world through a child’s eyes but now, on the cusp of adulthood, thinking she would no longer be able to do so. This exhibition says we absolutely can, and SHOULD, still ‘sit on that rock’ no matter how grown up we are.

Each woman in this group has used the verse as their “guide”. Some have used direct imagery from the verse, some used the idea of the verse.

– the adventuresome spirit of her grandchildren
– her own childhood memories of walking in nature with her grandmother and seeing the magic there
– believing the world to be filled with colourful, impossible creatures
– familiar landscapes but with a child’s touch of fantasy and painting style
– childhood images of magical worlds she could only dream about
– the freedom and innocence of childhood
– seeing everyday beauty, that as adults, we often pass by
– an archive of treasures suspended through her experience of her own child like sensibilities

All of us have been able, through our creativity, to reach to our child self and in the process, make some discoveries about who we are and what we believe. And, essentially to discover, or rediscover, the spirit of fun and wonder that children naturally gravitate to. To look again through the eyes of the child we used to be.

Come join us on the rock.

A Cluster of Rare Birds:
Patti Blackstaffe
Diane Brinton
Vaughan Coupland
Claire Hatton
Shauna Hayward
Laurel Krause
Lorraine Lee
Kathleen Moors
Kathy Schwarz

We met one another (this was my first time meeting the other artists) and celebrated with wine and cake. Thank you for your hospitality, Lorraine.

I will also include here, my own artist’s statement regarding the work that I am presently producing. With over 220 Instagram images archiving the life and times of a bush at the edge of a pond, I have many references for a vast exploration of time, atmosphere and presence. I am very excited about it.

My Rara Avis: Instagram Bush

A person aligns with certain values throughout the course of living a sometimes-joyful, sometimes-challenging life. My way of being is strongly influenced by literature and most specifically, by two books; Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Both writings include lessons on noticing, presence and place. The protagonist of Dandelion Wine, Douglas Spaulding, keeps a diary throughout the summer of 1928, in the front, collecting a record of ‘usual’ things about summer and in the back, a record of the revelations about those ordinary things. My life, thus, is marked by a huge history of seeing the spectacular embedded in the ordinary.

The poem, a Child’s Rara Avis written by Lorraine Lee, aged 17, invited me to share my rara avis, my incredibly beautiful and evolving experience of a single landmark along a circular pond walk with my dog, Max, daily, in 2015. I took pause in front of this bush and observed the changing aspects of its structure and surrounding environment through the course of our walks, snapping one Instagram photo and capturing the moment as a matter of preservation. I logged the time of day, the weather and the date at each visit. Through the course of this presence, I collected samples of vegetation and other organic materials found beneath the branches of this same bush and bottled them up as an approach to archiving the moment. Douglas Spaulding, similarly, observed his grandmother bottle the ‘Summer of 1928’ in the cool basement of his home, in the form of Dandelion Wine, a tincture to be brought out in the wintertime to combat aches and colds.

In the studio, I am pouring over the references and field notes, enjoying the sensual memories and the experience of walking. I am intimately recreating these experiences by transitioning the Instagram photographs into paintings. This process contributes a seeming permanence to something that is very ephemeral. (see Chapter 15 in Le Petit Prince) It elevates my rara avis.

It is the child’s heart within me that discovered the wonder of this location. It is here that I ‘sat on a rock and watched the world’.

During the process of walking, I realized that while incubating the idea of these works, all square formats and all acrylic paintings, I wanted to also capture the act of walking. Videographer, Liam Hawryluk, of Beam Media, generously joined me on the circle and collected footage across the seasons, capturing the reality that within a very huge narrative, there is a rara avis available for personal engagement, if one chooses to take notice.

Kathleen Moors

This is the video created by Liam Hawryluk.

Liam’s company, Beam Media, produces amazing videos and I am so grateful that he took this project on. This archive means the world to me. Thanks, Liam.

I think that the first surprise, and a glorious one, was to see Kasia. It was such a quick embrace and I wish we had shared more time, but so quickly, a big chunk of my amazing family including my Auntie Eleanor, descended into the space. Thanks also to Tim and Tamaki. And, thank you, Larry and Nina. And most importantly, thank you, James. What a wonderful and surprising night. We all live such busy lives and I’m grateful for those of you who were able to find the time to give me this support. Now, please readers, forgive my blast of photographs.

Martine, Kath, Danielle

Nina, Kath, Larry

Kath and son, James

Kath and Auntie Eleanor She described my art as having a lot of movement.

Tamaki and Tim

Tristan, Robert John de Gruchy, cousin Deanna and beautiful daughter, cousin Barb, cousin Martine and daughter, Danielle and cousin Margy. In front, Kath and Auntie Eleanor

My Auntie Eleanor Witbeck