You can’t have magic without reflection…just my thinking anyway. People these days don’t have a lot of time to reflect. Our lives are packed down with stress and scurrying about from one place to another. We need to stand still every now and again. It’s a very wonderful thing, taking time to reflect.
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.
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.
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.
While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.
Ox Eye Daisy
While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars. It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.
As I write, I also think about our indigenous peoples, the world over, who suffered trauma at the impact of disease through trade and colonization. This is not the first time the world has seen these life events unfold. All the conspiracy theorists aside and all of my readers who deny the seriousness of these events, I feel differently, and I will remember this as a global pandemic that caused the death and illness of many the world over. It is like living in a science fiction movie. Each person has to find their way through these events in a way that works for them, with respect for the medical people who are making educated assessments along the way. We must never take people who are working in the front lines for granted.
And now…for the subject of this post. Through history, whether it be in the days of the Spanish Flu or in the families of our indigenous peoples, disease has had an impact on children. I am exploring this because adults have a way of processing what is going on, but what are the children feeling through all of this?
When it came down to our family’s journey, my grandson, Steven, very swiftly found himself without his daycare friends and teachers and couldn’t attend Wee Wild Ones SE. His parents, similarly, found themselves with changing work situations. Mommy, immediately, had no choice but to stay home. My grandson is almost three. When this all began, we were reeling and I stepped in to help at the very outset, but really had no intention of spending a pandemic as a child care provider. My son-in-law was still working out in the world, as a part of essential services, and so, at a point, when restrictions were becoming more clear and as we discovered that the severity of the illness seemed to be hitting seniors more than anyone, I became scared for my own health. I stopped providing babysitting and that was a very difficult decision.
I geared up for a number of different projects including the writing of a historical fiction, creating a paper barn owl and painting in the studio.
When I left my two week stint, babysitting, I agreed that I could return on the condition that my son-in-law was able to pull himself out of the ‘real-world’ workforce and remain home for fourteen days. Dr. Deena Hinshaw had already introduced the idea of adopting a cohort family for children to have at-home playmates, and so I applied the same concept to child care.
There are so many grandmas who wanted to do the same for their grandchildren, but who were keeping themselves isolated from their families, that I felt guilty at times or felt as though I was doing something wrong. I also experienced a lot of push back from some individuals as a result of my decision. But, as mentioned before, I made a decision that I felt would be okay for me and as long as everyone in our circle could respect that parameters of our cohort unit, I would do alright to take Steven under my wing.
Long-story-short, I have been babysitting Steven ever since. Is it easy? Nope. There are lots of days when my back and knees are sore. There are days I’d like to sleep a little longer and get home a little earlier. My border collie, Max, who is also aging is spending a lot of time alone. So, there are those things. But, I have to look at this time as being really very special, as well, and I work, daily, at creating magic for Steven as we have one another exclusively for all of this time.
I try to be child-like most of the time because Steven and all of his little peers are missing the natural socialization that comes with Library programs, swimming lessons, play groups and day care. Acting three years old all day can really create exhaustion and I find that when I get home, I’m mostly unproductive. Just recently, I’ve surrendered to the need to be an adult some of the time and I’ve given myself the time to ‘take breaks’ from play and exploration. I’ve done it so well that now Steven will sometimes be found sitting on the rocking chair. I’ll turn to him and ask, “What are you doing?” and he will reply, “I’m taking a break.”
I’m pouring over the photographs I’ve snapped through these months and it’s really difficult to narrow down and post just a few that represent what we’ve done together. We read a lot. We play outdoors A LOT. I’m trying to teach Steven as much as I can about the places that I love. I’m helping him to notice aspects of nature that are important to me. I’ve been leaning on the lessons my Paternal Grandfather taught me about respect for nature and understanding the gifts as well as the dangers that are a part of that respect. He has learned about ice shelves and has been learning to read the river….shallow water looks lighter….fast water can look murky and/or dark….”Let’s throw a stick into the river and see what happens to it. A stone?”
I am putting limits on how long I can sustain this, but I will look back on this time as being a bit of a gift of sorts to our beautiful boy. He is so very important to all of us. To all of my readers who have made other choices out of concerns for the safety of your circle, you are giving a tremendous sacrifice, as are those who have decided to take care of your grand babies through these most trying times. I have your backs…all of you.
Gratitude, also to Wee Wild Ones SE who have provided weekly FLOW events/colouring sheets/creative links and recipes for goo and mixtures, music videos and zoom meet ups…while we can’t do all of it, we are glad for the connection and send our love to all of the hard workers! I have continued respect and love for you!
Thank you to Miss Carlie for your wonderful music classes!
Yoga with Ms. Chloe sometimes gleaned amazing participation and sometimes just brought the sillies out. And Steven loved seeing his little friends on Zoom calls, but Gramma mostly missed the appointments for her outside wanderings with her little boy. When the weather is nice in Calgary, a person just has to take advantage!
Steven has been learning a lot about balance and loves to practice on logs.
Steven has been learning a lot about predators and prey. He has been learning that animals are food for one another out in nature. Here, he is pretending to be a sneaky coyote. He has observed only one coyote at the river, but knows from Gramma that there are more and that when they have their pups, they are super cranky. He’s learned to shout SHOO and to wave his arms.
He is allowed to take as many breaks as he wants. He knows that Gramma will not lift him because he’s a toddler now and can toddle. I’m happy to explore places when he takes his breaks, with my eyes, nose and ears. I tell him to let me know when he’s ready. On this day we were looking for an owls nest on the west side of the river and into Fish Creek Park.
Throwing sand at the sand beach.
North Glenmore Park and picking up plants at Wendy’s home in Lakeview.
Two Little Dickie Birds
Watching Decorah Live Eagle Cam during afternoon snack time, especially fun on wintry or bad-weather days.
My 65th birthday began as most days do, with time well-spent at the edge of the Bow River. The vast numbers of Midges at the river meant that Swallows were feeding in droves of thousands, skimming the water over and over again. The Bald Eagle adults were feeding new youngsters on the nest and this always creates lots of magic at the river. While the day was turning out to be grey and a little chilly, I still felt that I was able to breath, relax and do a little reflecting about what my life is all about, what I value and what is important to me.
In the afternoon, on the advice of my middle daughter, I watched a couple of episodes of the The Great Canadian Baking Show. I laugh as I think about this because the last thing I am is a baker. It was relaxing and mindless television and that was okay.
Colourful gifts were appearing on my dining table. Thank you, Kathy and Val!
I walked Max…
I captured a quick photograph of our new vent resident…
…before heading over to my daughter’s for a Dragon Pearl take out dinner. The Dragon Pearl brings up so many memories for our family. It’s been our favourite family restaurant since the children were in high chairs. I miss and love all of the people who cook and serve at this beautiful little spot in Inglewood.
While any food in a take-out situation doesn’t taste exactly the same as if you are eating it in the restaurant, it was a generous and loving thing to sit down with one of three children and to eat such delicious food. After all, my grandson was sitting at the end of the table, entertaining me with his enthusiasm about the cupcakes that were hiding over in the red pan. I opened his card and he vibrated with excitement and loving smiles.
A little over halfway through the meal, he started pointing and saying, “Auntie Cayley” over and over again. My son-in-law’s eyes started shifting side to side. He was just acting weird. So, finally, I looked over my shoulder to the front yard and saw Pigeon on the yard, pressing mounted balloons into the gardens. I saw her partner, Shawn, waving and signalling. I went to the door and was excited enough about the balloons and the company when all of a sudden cars began to file past, covered in hand made banners and decorations. The participants bonked their horns enthusiastically!
Oh my gosh! It was a stream of my friends in cars! Let me tell my readers something.
On the television feel-good news stories and on social media, we’ve all seen friends and families and teachers creating parades for friends, family members and students. It looks like a lot of fun. It also warms your heart when you see it. But, to have it happen in your own life is beyond exciting. I broke out into an immediate ugly cry, sobbing uncontrollably. I felt such overwhelming love pour into my life. It would have been perfect had my son been able to be there to enjoy it, but truthfully, it was an experience I will never forget!
We celebrated with yummy cupcakes, a sip of wine, lawn chairs and more birthday greetings, reminiscing and physical distance. I loved this experience…a combined effort of love and celebration. Thank you, friends and dear family! If you wish to really make someone’s heart swell and to fill them with an affirmation of love, try throwing them a parade. These are pandemic times, so throw pandemic parades!
I never get tired of remembering the birth of my sister. As a little girl there are only certain details that are real, so a woman, once older, has to sift out the details that would belong to others.
My memory is of the air. It was an April evening. There were shear curtains hanging on my window. The bed lined up along that wall, I turned to face the window. There was still a soft light. I already had three brothers.
I said (spoken or in my head…I don’t remember) “Dear God, if you are giving me a sister, please move the curtain.” The window was closed. I remember being hot. The blankets were tucked around my neck. I fell asleep, looking at those curtains, waiting for them to move and believing that God could do it. Already, I believed in miracles.
I fell asleep.
In the morning, my next recollection was my father touching my shoulder. “Kathy. Kathy. You have a sister.”
The next recollection was of her home coming. I remember the front hallway and a beautiful bassinet where my mother placed her so tenderly. Most wonderful, I remember my mother looking so absolutely beautiful. I remember embracing her.
In 2013, these photographs finally surfaced in a packet of undeveloped negatives. These would be photographs of Valerie, taken in the hospital. In those days, a baby couldn’t go home with a mama until after the mother had demonstrated that she could bathe the baby. It’s amazing to think that these photographs were snapped by someone in the hospital, using colour film, 53 years ago.
Next, one of my favourite photo memories, this time, in black and white film.
Next, one of my favourite family reunion photographs…simply because Val and I are together with our Mom and Dad. Little do people know when snapping a photo or two, just what that image might mean, years down the road. I’m likely more attached to these memories than most….I’m pretty caught up in nostalgia. In these days of isolation and separation from family, these become more important.
And finally…just snapped yesterday…a photo from the very current on-line communication format…my sister, Val, with her beautiful daughter, Eliane. They are both angels.
I love you, Val and Happy Birthday! You’ve always been such an efficient and hard working woman. You have had remarkable strength. You have accomplished so much and raised two amazing children. We’ve spent more years apart then years together, but I want you to know that I could not have been more blessed than having you come into my life on that April night. Mom would be so proud. She, is loving you into your life, still.
One day, when all of this is over, I really really want to go on a road trip with you. I want to go to one amazing concert with you. I want to hang with you again. I love you. And for now, remember, Love Can Build a Bridge.
I just returned from the river and had five minutes alone with Mr…one other lady was walking into the park at that time and took out her phone to capture the magnificence. She had just happened to turn into the park and off of her usual walk, so it was fun, at a distance, to explain to her what was happening when he leapt from the perch and made his way to the ridge. It’s remarkable that this family of eagles follows the same course. While, again, the photos are not exceptionally clear, I was excited to see the male return to the nest where the female was sitting and then to see an egg roll (based on movement) and a shift change. What a stunningly beautiful time at the river.
Wouldn’t you love to live in one of those homes…or on a single floor…or in a single room of one of those homes and see nature every day all day long?