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!

 

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

Fix It!

There’s nothing beautiful about this!  This situation is a symbol for all things that can ‘go wrong’. This is one of countless conundrums that can take over time, temperament and wallets, in the swoosh of a moment! This is the babysitter calling in sick early morning.  It is the tire that is flat after you’ve fixed the perfect lunch and feel that you’ve got life by the tail.  And in this case, it is the hoses on my thirty-year-old washing machine on delivery day!

The single day that I don’t teach this week and it was my intention to paint in the studio and wait for the call about the delivery of my brand new washing machine.  This is the day I decided to visit the hospice for afternoon Thursday tea.  It is the day when I was starting my day with a poached egg and a piece of whole grain toast.  It is wild how perfectly we imagine our days.  Well, at least I do.

But sometimes…and not always…there is a challenge lurking around the corner.  It is the news that my loved one is going to die. I stare blankly at the doctor. I feel that I am being dangled helplessly over a giant precipice.

It is that full glass of Pepsi that I  perch on the counter.  I put the ice cube tray away. The popcorn is hot. I knock the glass over and on to the floor.  Broken glass and sticky bubbly, everywhere!  Ouch!

At the point when either event (or something far worse or something much more benign) happens, it is my choice as to how I respond.  My own responses are often surprising, but also, during a certain set of circumstances, perfectly predictable.

I thought it would be a simple thing to disconnect the hoses on my washing machine.  It’s hung in there for so long.  I’ve lived in the same place of 20 years and I’ve never turned off these valves, NOT ONCE.  So, with delivery to happen today, I decided to go to my laundry room and turn off the water and disconnect my hoses before bed last night.  I was already in my pajamas when this story unfolded.

It was 10:45 when I made my first clockwise turn.  I noticed for the first time ever that the handle for one of my ‘nipples’ (I’ve learned that this is what they are called) had broken off.  But, this is what the other one looked like after that clockwise turn.

Panic set in at this point.  As my readers might surmise, the next step was naturally to go to my tool box and to find a set of pliers.  Surely I could turn the nipples to the right, with pliers.  As I madly gripped the first nipple, the pliers slipped around the metal and nothing seemed to move.

I think I made my first cry out to the universe at this time.  It was 11:03. Trevor’s name appears in my cell phone contact list as THE PLUMBER.  So what if it was after eleven at night, right??  I texted Trevor in a wild breathlessness.   I don’t know what I thought he could do from the warmth of his bed.  I just needed a plumber-connect like one might need a psychologist-connect.

I took photos (these photos) and began to communicate a narrative of panic through the medium of text.  When I clicked SEND the photos whirred around and around and never did leave my phone, a feature of my phone/text/approach that is consistent with every other time that I am given one of these life situations.  I was given a message that I could try re-sending. Over time, I deleted the photos and settled back into a state of self-actualization. (At this point of writing I laugh out loud. I think that in the panic, choosing to write is a real stumbling block.  Couldn’t I be painting?  No. As this story continues to unravel for my readers, you will all see that presently I am in a holding pattern.  I can not paint while in a holding pattern.)  From Trevor, I learned that indeed, I needed to turn off the water.  And yes, the faucets should be turned clockwise.

Phone put down, I began to look for a water turn off valve.  I walked upstairs to my computer where I began watching Youtube videos about replacing washing machine hoses.  Oh my goodness.  There wasn’t a single set of valves that looked like those on my machine.  Click Click Click…minutes rolled by as I became saturated with too many ideas, too many calm confident male voices performing such ‘simple’ procedures on their washing machines.

Max, my border collie, looked on with a particular look.  I know he was quietly thinking, “I wish I could roll my eyes.”

I explored my house for all of its personal plumbing lessons.  If I didn’t know my pipes before, I think I do now.

By 11:50, I texted my friend, Wendy.  Her partner is a phenomenal fix-it guy.  But, again, what was I doing sending out SOS messages to my dear friends in the middle of the night?  Wendy is an amazing woman who is busy, with her fingers, hands and arms in so many things!  I thought, too late, ‘Wendy is probably sleeping.’

I went to bed, feeling exhausted and defeated, but not after having a chat with my son in the cold dank laundry room.   He made all of the right recommendations.  His first inclination was to ask for pliers in order to turn off the valves.  (I told him I couldn’t bear any more drama before sleep.)  The second suggestion he made was to turn the water off at the  main valve.  I told him, in my small voice, “Let’s just go to bed.”

This morning, at the crack of dawn, I left a phone message with Dan at Dr. Heat and Air.  I  thought it best to get calls out to all the perfectly wonderful guys in my life.  On my own, I have learned to rely on my village a little.  It’s taken time to feel confidence in doing that when in life, I always, in every circumstance, relied on myself.  Certainly, on days like this one, it is good to know really competent people in a variety of fields.  Beats GOOGLE all to heck.  While plumbing isn’t Dan’s expertise, he always gives me an ear and has wonderful recommendations.  Most important, he offers a voice of calmness and causes me to feel that I still have control and I can still solve problems.  He gave me that this morning, as well as another recommendation for a plumber.

I emailed Trevor the photographs.  I asked him for recommendations on name brands for good valves and asked if he would suggest any good ones.  I told him I’d keep him up to speed. (poor guy)

By this time, my friend Wendy was awake.  She sent me a calming message (as only Wendy can do) suggesting that, these challenges are tough.  (EMPATHY, right from the get-go)  Turns out she had put in a huge shift the day before, but that she would leave a message for her partner to contact me.

That brings us HERE.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a decision to ground myself.  I began this writing.

And since beginning this writing at around 9:30, Max barked at the front door. My dear friend and Wendy’s partner arrived, two wrenches in hand.  He was in the lowest level after giving Max’s rope a playful tug, two minutes later.  Five minutes after that, with water spraying a bit here and there, he completed the task and gave me directions for turning the water back on.  I stood in my tracks and wept, saying again and again, “Thank you.  Thank you.  It was so hard.  It was all so hard.”  A supportive hug and he was on his way to plant tomatoes and I was left standing, asking…

“What was that all about?”

Challenges are a part of life.  We can discover new things about ourselves by tackling them. We can connect with people through our challenges.  We can be creative and we can create.  Obstacles are not put in front of us as punishments or to make us stronger or even to teach us lessons.  Obstacles and challenges are just a part of what life is.  In the past twenty four hours I’ve learned a lot about washing machines, hoses and a little more about plumbing.

As my friend said, before leaving, “In the end, it’s just water.”

My washing machine has been broken since just a week before my brother’s diagnosis with Stage 4 Cancer.  The fact that a new washing machine will be here by evening causes me a strange bubbling up of emotion.  I know that John’s death and this story are not connected at all.  But, they feel connected.  It is ironic that it took so much energy, brain power and community support to get these hoses disconnected!

 

For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!

 

Gramma Reads With Royalty!

I didn’t wake until 10!! What??? The dreams that I had in the wee hours of morning were, again, of brother, but they were earlier dreams, back three months in the weeks at hospital, so less traumatic than recent dreams. That’s good, isn’t it? I poured out of bed and clicked my heels together! I had slept!! WHOOP! Whoop! But, QUICK! QUICK! This was the day that Gramma and Steven and Steven’s Mommy and Daddy were heading for the Seton Public Library, eager to enjoy the program, “Reading With Royalty”! The program would begin at eleven and there was still Max to get out and coffee to be had!

Program Description:

Reading With Royalty

Celebrate inclusion and diversity with our new glamorous family-friendly storytime program, led by local drag queen and king performers. Supported by ATB Financial.

Audience: All Ages – Ages up to 5

Gramma was picked up on a morning that felt oppressive, wet, chilly and grey! But how to turn a frown upside down? I was so happy to see my family and especially pleased to be sitting in the back seat with Steven who was nestled under his fuzzy blanket and constantly taking in his world through the windows, through the mirror and through the eyes of his Gramma. Together, we were about to be captivated by the magic of Seton.

Upon entry, the first piece of wonder was found in the huge YMCA swimming pool. What an amazing facility. Steven was in awe!

Gramma was captivated by the sculptural elements and a sense of flight throughout the facility! While I didn’t capture very strong images because of the back light and my lack of knowledge about the camera, I recommend to my readers that they take their own field trip to the venue and enjoy. Bird lovers, be surprised and fall in love with the themes.  Christopher Collins was the talented sculptor who created the birds.  I hope you will enjoy his imagery as they are so much more specific.

As we entered the Seton Public Library, we took in the aesthetic and the excitement first, but quickly discovered the helicopter!  The helicoptor carried on with the theme of flight, as did the suspended pinwheels.  What a glorious space and what a magical investigation for children who find these amazing flying machines in stories that they read!

It wasn’t long and we began to gather for the special event, “Reading With Royalty”.  There was excitement in the air!  The Seton Public Library offers graduated seating in amphitheater style for gatherings such as this one.

Not new to the Calgary Public Library children’s programming and Rhyme Time, our family nestled into a spot sandwiched between other grandmothers and their grandchildren and people who never miss Rhyme Time with their children.  Some were talking about the Fish Creek location…others, the Quarry Park location.  If you haven’t attended one of these programs, this Grandmother highly recommends! 

Today the MC was Tara and she did an amazing job!  My daughter and I were both moved by the land acknowledgement that was done, in such a way that children might understand.  We were prompted by verse to touch the land…as the acknowledgement was given and it was very special.  Tara then balanced the program of stories read by local Drag Performers and verses that were sung and acted out by the children.  This way the children were better able to pay attention to the two stories that were presented enthusiastically by L J Nailz and Oiliver Twirl.

Sending a link, here, to the kid’s book list that honours themes of inclusivity, creativity, acceptance and pride through the program, Reading With Royalty.

Oliver Twirl: drag performer and enthusiastic reader of the book, The Princess and the Pony

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is a story that naturally breaks down assumptions.  It explores that sometimes warriors just need cozy sweaters.  There were laughs that came up throughout the reading of this book, especially with the use of the word, ‘fart’.  What is toughness, anyway?  What does it mean to be a warrior?

Tara, MC on behalf of the Seton Public Library

L J Nailz reads Quit Calling Me Monster

 Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John and illustrated by Bob Shea supports children in their identities and their unique personalities.  It presses up against the act of labeling or naming.  It encourages ‘excellent manners’.

Steven is blessed to have this woman as his Mommy.

During the conclusion of the program, the performers were asked about their favourite music and what things they enjoy doing.  Oliver Twirl shared the fun of playing around with both masculine and feminine clothing.  Their favourite music included bubbly theater pieces and punk rock.  

To end, three large Dress Up trunks were brought out and children spent the next part of the morning playing dress up and pretending.  It was a great deal of fun although Steven, at his age, was just eager to do the stairs and to make his way back to the front seat of that helicopter!

Steven is blessed to have this guy as his Dad!

I am always impressed by the variety and the quality of programs offered by our Calgary Public Libraries.  It is with gratitude that we left today’s experience at Seton, feeling a part of a wonderful and diverse community here in Calgary.  Thank you so much to those who organized the program, booked the story book readers, pulled together the resources and covered these topics with finesse.  A very wonderful experience was had at Reading With Royalty!

Now, Gramma needs a nap!

What is Essential

… is invisible to the eye. Both scriptural and found in the eloquent pages written by Antoine de St. Exupery, these words resonate with me on this seeming ordinary April day.

As the world’s citizens gasped in horror while the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral fell to the ravages of fire, I not only grieved the loss/damage to such an iconic structure, but I immediately connected with my own memory and what the sense of place meant to me and my own family. I can not possibly know all of what Notre-Dame has meant over history, nor can I know the myriad of treasured moments shared there by other people just like me, from all over the world.

Instead, I think of my own three children and my, at-the-time, soon-to-be son-in-law. I think of the utter joy at the early morning surprise of a plane ticket from London to Paris, a subway ride into the core from the airpoirt and the magical events that unfolded, all of them shared as family.

Over the past ten years, if one runs just a few searches on the internet, one will find out how many of civilization’s greatest monuments have fallen, destroyed in natural catastrophes or through the mindless and hateful ravages of war. The destruction of the most cherished landmarks in human history shatters us, somehow, to the core. These are places captured in the minds and imaginations of all of us, places written about and found in movies, settings that we assume will always remain stable and present in those same imaginations.

I think we need to think about the fragility/the ephemera of our lives and our planet. This morning, again, I reflect upon what is essential. I’m hoping that through the damage done to such a seemingly permanent icon as Notre-Dame Cathedral, our human family might combine their efforts in creating a better world. Let us take pause and go into this day, empowered to make a difference.

Gramma Searches for Wood Ducks!

Yesterday morning, there was a nip in the air and by the time afternoon arrived beautiful large snowflakes were dropping from a springtime sky. To look at them was somewhat mesmerizing as they drifted so slowly to the wet ground.

9:30 saw my Grandson and me heading north to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Gramma was going in search of Wood Ducks…a lifer in her long bird wish list.

The Bird Sanctuary is yet one more jewel in this city that I treasure so much. I want to, over the years, share at least once, each of these places that I’ve grown to love.

With his little bowl of rice chex in tow and his toy car, Uncle, in his drink cup, off we headed, arriving slightly before opening. We let ourselves in through the side gate and having agreed to walk and not use a stroller,  we were off. My grandson was looking for Wode Guks and I was looking for Wood Ducks, but of no surprise, the Canada Geese became the main event with their flirting and honking, landings and take offs and other shenanigans. We even experienced the close-up hissing and big tongue of one dude along the way.

Wofe! Wofe! Sceery!

Sculture!

Walk. Train. Sky. Walk.

 

He carried that piece of wood along for most of the first half of the walk. I was mindful…continually scanning for predatory birds and canines, even skunks, porcupines and such. This was a very busy field trip for Gramma!

Bidge.

Bidge

Dutt


Goose

Bidge (I love this photograph, by the way)

Wode Guk! (please click on photos to enjoy larger images) Lifers, for me!

Wok. Wok. Goose.

Can you believe this kid?

Other birds… Redtail Hawk, Mergansers, Goldeneyes

Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck

Warming up in the center… In in in!

Another beautiful experience, shared with my remarkable, funny, interested, cheerful, resilient boy!

Simple Gestures of Love

So many gestures have been made for me and my family the past while.  I don’t want to forget any of them.  As I set out on the journey of another day…the journey of an hour…I am taking pause for reflection.  I am saying, Thank You.

When everything slows down…becomes more simple…I notice more.  I see the love and the detail that goes into simple things and simple gestures of love; right down to the way a package is wrapped.

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