The Clam Chowder Feast

Sidebar: To read up on how to make Rapure, see the post titled Comfort Food From the East.

Wendy Lees said it best…

“It took ages to coordinate our schedules but we finally all made it to the very inviting and interesting home of Kath for a delicious clam chowder feast, visit with Max, studio tour, and big catch up!

Along with the chowder, Kath treated us to Rappie, a traditional Acadian dish she recalled from her childhood. It’s made with shredded potatoes and fatty pork – yum! Tammy and Jas brought homemade pickles, spring flowers and a canned treat. Karen brought Red River bread she’d made, and we enjoyed Christmas baking brought all the way from Nova Scotia by Stephen made by his mom, Betty. Oh, and I didn’t get the memo about drinking at noon being OK but Lauraine brought vino from the Rockyridge growing region in Calgary’s NW.  Steven made the very same selection!

What a tasty and heartfelt meal. My only quibble with our gathering was there just wasn’t enough time to visit thoroughly with every one of these wonderful people ❤️”

I’m posting Karen’s bread recipe here.  It’s amazing! Red River Bread Photo Credit: Wendy Lees.

Red River Bread
Recipe
2 cups water
3/4 cup red river cereal
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 package dry yeast (fast rising works great)
4 1/2 cups flour

Combine 2 cups water in pan with cereal. Boil then simmer 5 mins or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add butter, molasses and salt. Cool completely.

Dissolve sugar in lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast and proof for 10 minutes.

Combine yeast with cooled cereal mixture.

Using a wooden spoon mix in all of the flour to make a stiff dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Form a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, covering the whole ball with grease. Cover with wrap and let rise (can use oven to proof) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until ball doubles in size.

Punch down dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide dough in half and shape into loaf pans. 8×4
Cover and let rise for about and hour. Then bake at 375 F. 30-35 mins.
Loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from pan and let cool. Enjoy!

Tammy and Wendy, Stephen and Steven and Lauraine, brought yummy things.  I wasn’t archiving at the time,  but, my buddies were.  The following two photographs, though, were mine taken this morning. The next time you pickle, Tammy, I want to be there.  They got eaten tooo fast for a photograph!

Photo display I made, in order to acknowledge my family.

Thank you, Jas and Tammy for the springtime flowers!  So beautiful when it’s -40 outdoors.

Check out the jar of pickles in the photograph, below.  This one must be Tammy’s shot.  I’m sorry I didn’t get an image of the plate of baked goodies Stephen and Steven shared.  Oh man!  So good!

The photo journal above is a collection of photographs taken by Wendy and Tammy.  We always have so many laughs when we gather.  I’m grateful for all of you!  Being with friends and sharing conversation/food/beverages and/or live music/dancing is so life-giving.

Please take note of Max (I snapped that one), only an hour after the lunch…completely played out!

Comfort Food From the East

While speaking with my sister, this morning, she reminded me that today, January 15, is the anniversary of the day our brother, John, went into hospital.  It was from this date, onward, that our family was sucked into the vortex of the medical system and diagnostic testing.  As it would turn out, our brother would celebrate his last birthday in Peter Lougheed Hospital.

I begin this particular post, writing about my brother, because I’m thinking about comfort food and what happens when people gather with foods that are familiar and rooted in memory.  These foods will often vary depending on cultural context…sometimes an affordability context…regardless, if my readers look back into their journeys, they will find foods that mark various moments along their journeys.  Stories and narratives will endlessly surface of childhood and Mom or Grandma or Great Gramma’s cooking.

For example, if I type the words, FRIED BOLOGNA (Baloney) SANDWICH…what memories are evoked?

We brought foods to hospital and those we love, also fed us.  My brother enjoyed jello and Cozy Shack rice pudding during those end days.  He also enjoyed fresh ju-jubes for the duration of his hospital stay.  My sister-in-law sent loaves.  John shared birthday cake. Spaghetti was brought from home.  Things we create in the kitchen, we have control over (usually).  Sharing food creates a feeling of joy, constancy and being rooted.  I am grateful for how food brought some pleasure to my brother in his last months.  Now, the remainder of this blog post will explore one particular recipe that comes from my memory banks and my Acadian family’s tradition.

Our little Airforce family found itself in Quebec and New Brunswick for two of its postings.  These postings gave some proximity to my Great Grandparents, Mamie (Sugar Arsenault) and Papie (Gabriel Gallant) and my great uncles and aunties.

My Grandmother, in back and my mother, directly in front of her.  Jimmy Fardy, my Mom’s cousin is directly to her right.

My Mamie, with my mother in her arms.

Mamie and Papie.

I knew when I went to Prince Edward Island that I was among some of the dearest people who were in my mother’s life.  I knew, also, that when we traveled there, my mother was home.

Memories of that little Summerside house on Front Street are connected with wood stoves, home made rolled cigarettes, potatoes grated and cooked up into pancakes, horse drawn milk delivery wagons, coal chutes, seaside smells carried on the wind, bingo chips, coffee, bottles on the kitchen table, loud laughter and kitchen gatherings.

It was in 2015, when I attended a library program with my friend, Pat, that I first considered researching this childhood dish. The topic of the presentation was on foods as they relate to a cultural road trip across Canada.  The presenter was going to be Julie Van Rosendaal, but as it turned out, she required a replacement.  The session did not disappoint.

Shortly after the session, I sent my Mom’s youngest sister an e mail. “I was telling Dad about a cookbook that was mentioned at a Library program I attended last night.  It’s called Feast: An Edible Roadtrip.  I asked the speaker if the recipe for “Rapeur” (don’t know the spelling) was in it.  One Acadian lady sitting next to me said it was called Rappi Pie  hmmm…Dad told me that you make Mamie’s recipe and I was hoping you might send it to me.  I know it’s a big job to make and that it needs a special touch to turn out right, but I would like to share it with my daughters.  If you would be so kind…I’d really appreciate it.  Kath”

I sent that note in 2015 and received an expedient reply that included these steps.  I quickly learned that the spelling of the recipe was Rapure and that its translation is coming from the word grate in french.

[cheese, carrots] râper

to grate some cheese râper du fromage

This recipe was followed by one through the post…thank you, Auntie Pat.

Some time during the Christmas break, I decided to invite a small circle of friends to the house to share some Clam Chowder, also made in my mother’s east coast tradition.  Clam Chowder also varies depending on where you grew up in eastern Canada.

With the invitation to my friends, came an opportunity to try making my very first Rapure, without any of my matriarchs present for help.  My friend, Hollee, was visiting from Vancouver in order to attend her Auntie’s 100th birthday, so she became my cheerleader as I endeavored to bring my east coast traditions in comfort food, to life.  I remember, well, this dish being prepared by my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother and my Mom.  It is important to me that I share this, along the journey, with my children.  One thing I decided, after looking over the recipes and speaking with Hollee, I was going to borrow my daughter’s food processor!!

The Rapure brought back particular aromas in the little PEI kitchen of my memory, pork and onion fried up on the wood stove, along with a scoop of lard.  This dish, along with my mother’s Meat Pies, was very much a symbol of home for me.

Nervous, the night before, I spent a lot of time seeking out Youtube videos, learning for the most part, that the Acadians from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were using chicken stock and chicken in recipes that they called Rappie Pie.

 

On the Arsenault Facebook group, I put out an all-call for recipes and these are some from the Rappie Pie tradition.

These were the posters’ connections with their recipes.

Judy Arsenault I recently made a Rapure from the cookbook Abram-Village Handcraft Co-Op Recipes (which I purchased from the Bottle House (PEI) that my cousin use to own) and it didn’t turn out. Has anyone used this recipe from this cookbook? How did it turn out for you

Thelma Arsenault Hack I have varying results with rapure, regardless of the recipe. Choice of potatoes makes a difference – I don’t think ‘baking potatoes’ work as well. And whether the grated potatoes are rinsed and dried well makes a difference. It’s a lot of work and very frustrating when the results are not good. I’ll be interested in what others comment. Good luck to you.

Jim N Wendy Spain This recipe was made by my great grandmother Catherine (Lefave) Doucette, from Nova Scotia. I recently typed it as shown, for a family reunion. 🙂

With great courage, Hollee and I peeled 10 lbs of potatoes and I chopped up the pork roast into 1 cm cubes, setting aside the pork fat to coat the roaster surface, keeping all chilled and prepared for the morning’s culinary adventure and the visit with my friends.  I decided to stick closely to my Auntie’s recipe.

At 7:00 am…I began my processing of the potatoes and put my pork to browning.

I’m going to log my notes here, for future reference.  I had my daughter’s food processor set for grating and tried both the medium grate and the fine grate.  In future, I would  use the fine grate setting.  Whoosh…out spewed the gratings of ten pounds of potatoes.  The kitchen smelled yummy and CBC radio was turned up, as the pork, onion, salt and pepper were bubbling in the 350 oven.  (use the roasting pan for this)

Once the potatoes were done, I quickly covered them with wrap so that oxidization wouldn’t happen. (green bowl) I cut up my cheese cloth and began the process of removing starch from the potatoes. (I will use my red bowl for this next time.)  I transferred my shrunken potatoes into my large soup pot.  Once finished the cheese cloth step, I added the yummy pork and onion to the big soup pot and mixed and mixed and mixed some more.

This is the step where I decided that in future I would use the fine grate.  I remembered my Great Grandmother’s Rapure being smoother in texture, but being coated with crunch.  This is what my kitchen looked like, right before beginning my Clam Chowder.

From the mixing stage, I pressed the mixture into my roasting pan…nicely greased with some cubes of pork fat (not all), and pulled from the oven.  (don’t burn your hands, here)  I roasted the Rapure at 275 for an hour and turned it up for three hours at 350.  Next time, two hours at 350 for me!

Thank goodness, Wendy brought a salad as it made the appearance of the square of Rapure look more appetizing, on the plate.  I began apologizing before we even sat down because I knew already that the topping was TOO crunchy.

My guests are such dear friends that I could tell them I expected them all to try a piece, as I was very much in the mood to share my PEI nostalgia.  They all carried on, without complaint.  I love them so much! Photo Credit below: Wendy Lees.

Later, I discovered that the crust softens with just a short wait after removing from the oven, so I would serve it a little differently next time, and definitely crust up instead of flipping it over (lol).  I have been happily nibbling on the leftover Rapure ever since and I am generally really happy with the flavours and it very much reminds me of Mom, my Grandmother and my Great Grandmother.

See the next post…the feast…for the treasured gathering.

When I remember my brother, I also remember the family meals that brought us together.  I remember celebrations and loud responses to the yummy-ness of food!  Much of the recollections of family come with the memory of food.  I am so grateful for this.

Thanks to Lauraine, who remembered that her mother made ‘Snowballs’, those red cherries wrapped up in coconut buttery sweetness and rolled in graham cracker crumbs.  Isn’t comfort food amazing?

 

Archive Your Work!

As I sort and toss, a practice that seems to be going on forever, I am getting to the end (I THINK) and I might have some valuable advice to give to young artists.  I may not have a hope in Hades of ever really getting my art on a roll, but for you young sprouts, now that you live in a digitized world, please try to keep a record of your progress.  Second to that, take quality photographs.

An artist who really inspires me with his practice is Mark Dicey, on Instagram. @paddlecoffin If you don’t follow his work, he is absolutely breathtakingly amazing.

Part of this revisit, just last week, included digitizing my grade nine-eleven sketchbook from 52 years ago!  Cough! Sputter! It’s never too late, right?

Today, I came upon a white envelope filled with some very poor quality glossy photos of some flower paintings I did for a Tribute Show for my parents.  The subjects were all based on their country gardens in Frankford, Ontario.  It was an exhibit dating back a lot of years, hosted by the West End Galleries in their Edmonton location. (I have that date in my art archives somewhere.)  I remember, at the time, hearing other artists poo poo painting flowers, as a subject.  One person gave me permission and that was Ed Bader.  Thank you, Ed.  At the time, I was painting my own series of poppies as a response to losing two former students to a tragic car accident.  Ed pulled together a series of books featuring a number of very significant paintings created by important historical artists, dealing with the subject of flowers.  He was covering for another teacher at ACAD back in 1997.

This morning, I took photographs with my phone of some of the these teeny photographs.  Now, I can toss them as I’ve got a bit of a record.  As more flower paintings/sketches surface, I will post them here.  If you paint flowers, I give you permission.  There are a myriad of subjects for art and through any subject, you can address the ideas that are floating around in your head.  It’s all valid, representational or not.  Make art…and keep a record of it.

These images are all fuzzy/unfocused, cropped badly to replace their original wonky formats…likely bad colour…but, they are illusions of the originals and they make me happy.  I learned a lot painting these…and they are a mere sampling of the many works present in that show.  I wonder where they are now.

Remembrance Day 2019: Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium

Yesterday I heard two presenters say that Remembrance Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day.  Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars.

Like everyone else, I am disappointed that the Don Cherry fiasco stole so much from the highlights of a beautiful day remembering those soldiers in our families and in our Nation who offered the ultimate sacrifice in past wars, Afghanistan and because of selfless service.

I was really pleased about attending the commemoration at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium this year and taking in the various rituals, but indoors, while cozy warm.  Last year, we headed to the cenotaph downtown and it got a bit cold at times, although it was also an amazing experience.  Next year, the field of crosses.

The seats were assigned, as we arrived.  This created a sense of calm and order.  Beautiful music was provided by the HMCS Tecumseh Band along with Jeanette Embree, Detachment Commander, CF Recruiting Center, Director of Music, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve.  What a lovely repertoire.

I thought about my Dad while singing this hymn.  I used to sit next to Mom in the Protestant Chapel pews while Dad directed or sang in the choir.  I felt them beside me yesterday…and I felt surrounded by my family, many who have served.  My Great Uncle Joseph Gallant gave the ultimate sacrifice, as did my Great Grandfather John Moors.  This hymn was a perfect one to bring everyone home to me.

While we were prompted to save our applause until the very end of the laying of the wreaths, two of our Veterans from the Colonel Belcher caused our hearts to stir and we broke into wild applause.  I cried my face off at these points in the service, as well as during the Last Post.  Our friend, Helena, laid a wreath on behalf of the Alberta Retired Teachers.  We were very proud of her for representing us.

After the commemorative service, and as we were leaving, I noticed that Ralph MacLean, the 97 year old Veteran who had served with Canadians in Hong Kong in 1941.  Please follow the link and listen to his story on the Memory Project.  Through various circumstances and very quickly, I connected with Ralph’s son, daughter and grandson, author of Forgiveness, author Mark Sakamoto.  

I won’t soon forget the kind hearts of Ralph’s family.

I had the opportunity to exchange quite a number of stories with Ralph and I feel that it was a huge blessing to meet him.  I will be visiting him at the Colonel Belcher.

As I took my evening walk, slow around the circle because Max is ailing badly, I took in the beauty of the day, my friendships with Janet and Pat, my children, the freedoms I enjoy.  I thought about my family and their huge military connections.  I contemplated including their photographs here…but, I’m leaving the images of their faces and my research in my heart.  I’ll leave it all up to peace…the sky…the river.  I will always Remember.

 

 

A Morning at the River: March 4, 2019

Life is both brutal and beautiful.  It is impossible to sift out the bits, and take only the ‘good’ bits..  And while some contend that you can choose happiness, I beg to differ.  Life is about the entire spectrum of what life brings.  Some days, you just step out in faith.  Some days there is a bitterness that the warmth can not permeate, but you step out anyway.  This morning, was one of those for me.  And, look!  Mr. was waiting with a striking bunch of Magpies, with a brilliant blue sky as their backdrop.  Never before have I heard a Bald Eagle making sounds with the breaking of bones, much like you might here from a dog chowing down on a soup bone.  It was an amazing experience.

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

 

Days at the River

I started walking daily at the river, once prompted by a friend.  I remember this friend in the same ways that I remember the pond, where I had for six years, taken respite from the world, from work and from my worries.  I circled the same still water and watched its changes, daily…apart from a very few days when the roads were too icy on the hill to make it there OR when I drove to Ontario to visit my mother…or to be with my loved ones when they celebrated her life.

I became a new person at the pond.  I became a soldier for sustainability there.  I became an observer of what human beings have become, in the order of dismissing their responsibilities to the earth.  My sadness grew exponentially over those years as I communicated with management and staff in many big businesses that surrounded the area, scrolled through sustainability reports,  became an activist with the City of Calgary, and talked about nothing more than what was happening in this single ecosystem.  I picked litter…garbage…most days, filling and depositing bags and bags of human filth by the one bin that remained…”$13 dollars a bin to empty”, the city worker chimed in one day when I asked him, “What is going on with our city?”  He explained that it is a vision for the city that people will learn to take their litter out with them…”much cheaper”.  I sighed.  That was when I began to lose it.  I was crying during my walks, instead of taking in the bliss of the Mergansers, the Pintails, the Coots and Grebes. 

Arriving home to upload my photographs, I would notice for the first time, plastic bags lying on the slopes as Black Capped Night Herons fed.  I’d notice a 2L plastic bottle as a backdrop to the beautiful gesture of a Great Blue Heron.  The evidence of our thoughtlessness was in my face daily.

2015 Pond Study With Litter

I left the pond about a year ago and came to the edge of the Bow River.  I’m still questioned about why the redundant act of circling the same location.  To that, I can only say that by returning again and again to the same place, one really comes to know it…much like being with one person every single day.  I really come to know this place in all sorts of weather and in all sorts of moods.  I notice.  I observe change and transition and presence with a keen eye.  New is easy to see.  I never see the same thing.  And, while there are still signs of human carelessness, I do not directly see the road development, hear the machines or feel wholly responsible to clean up other people’s mess.

I feel as though I am walking in the middle of a Clea Roberts poem when I am at the river…and that is a beautiful place to be.

Mr. and Mrs. 2018 Bow River

Please, if you can, read Clea Robert’s poem, The Forest, from Auguries.  Perhaps then, my readers will understand why I come to this same place.  Blessings for a remarkable day.

First Snow 2018

They Remain With Us Through Remembering.

This morning, at 11:00 on the 11th day of the 11th month…I will remember.  I am forever-grateful for the service of my family members…some of them acknowledged here.  I especially remember the 100th anniversary of the armistice and those who represented Canada in World War I, the Great War.  Click on the individual images in order to enlarge.
   

Adam’s River Salmon Run 2018

I headed out on the ninth of October on a bad-weather day, first to meet up with friends and next, to drive early-morning to the Adam’s River, north west of Sorrento in British Columbia.  Days have passed and I’ve been unable to sit down in order to write a post.  I’ve asked myself, ‘Why the hesitation?’  To some degree, I feel like my words can never contain the powerful meaning this experience had for me.  While the numbers of returning Sockeye did not match predictions at the time, given that 2018 is a ‘bumper’ year, it didn’t matter to me.  I have spent half of my lifetime wanting to be a witness to this journey and with all that is impacting various species globally in the present, I jumped at the chance to go.

I wish to contain the archive of this experience on my blog.  However, I will note right from the beginning, that there are no words for the experience of standing on rounded river stones and looking out to see the brilliant red backbones of so many fish, struggling against current, with an instinct that insists somehow that they must go home.

To begin…a short video.

On the evening before my firstborn’s wedding day, family members gathered in my studio…not all at once, but a few at a time.  My brother Cliff owns and operates a salmon charter business out of Comox, British Columbia.  His company is called Cliff’s Chinook Charters.  More than anyone, he has taught me about salmon populations and what variables contribute to a healthy population.

My brother wrote a piece that he called, The Salmon’s Plight onto my studio wall.  These words have been embedded in a few different paintings over the years since and every time I read them, I cry a little…for the memory of the salmon and for the memory of my brother.  Given our family’s military history, we live in every part of our great nation.  I miss my brother very much.

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I was blessed to ride along with Cliff and catch a couple of fish with him, my father and my daughter.  It goes down as one of the most beautiful times of my life.

 

 

 

Bad road conditions took us all the way to Lake Louise and then it seemed that the skies opened up and the mountains became crisp against a light grey sky.  Gratefully, Pat shared oatmeal cookies that were so buttery that they melted in my mouth. After a stop in Golden to enjoy our packed lunch of turkey sandwiches and garden carrots, we were off, on the last leg of the journey.

We headed immediately for the Adam’s River Salmon run.

Adam's River

At this point, I’ve decided to post some photographs…if I write anything at all, it will be heartfelt.  Years ago, having completed a 30 day Outward Bound course, I accepted myself as the artist in the group…that person who was taking in the sensory experiences, but not necessarily bound to the physical achievements and the orienteering.  My head was in the clouds.  Consistent to that, I was completely plugged in to this earthy, fishy, visual encounter with these amazing salmon during their upward surge.

I highly recommend CLICKING on some of the images of the salmon…they are just so absolutely beautiful…powerful…mesmerizing.

 

 

 

Pacific Salmon

We stayed that night in a local Bed and Breakfast in Chase.  I highly recommend the Sunny Shuswap B & B.  This was breakfast!

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We checked out and headed right back to the Adam’s River.

 

 

 

 

Poems to follow…I need to head out with Max.  I am blessed for having had the opportunity to see the salmon run 2018. Grateful.

 

 

Download

It has been a cool and wet few days in Calgary, even to the point where we received a skiff of snow in September!  I was cautioned that I had no room remaining on my cell phone, so yesterday I downloaded from my album onto my desktop hard drive.  The thing about downloaded photographs is that I was, once again, reminded that life has sped by, filled to the brim, even in the most simple or dark circumstances.  There is so much that I haven’t written about or recorded.

I’ve read several books since spring and would really like to update my reviews, even if they are sparse.  So, that will likely still happen.  But, for today, I feel my thoughts are incredibly influenced by the book I am presently reading, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  It is my new favourite book.  I am profoundly moved by it and I’m hanging on every word.

As a result of this reading, I want to post a few photographs from recent walks at the Bow River.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out in the rain.

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When the earth is wet, there is such a rich and beautiful aroma that surrounds me while passing through the woods and beside the river.  I am at a loss for words to describe this because any description would not do the experience justice.  Also, there is a hush, apart from the drops of rain coming down from the tree canopy…it is a mystical silence…peaceful, even though I know that the entire landscape is vibrating with life in hiding.

Yesterday, stepping about in tall overgrowth, Max and I took pause…listened.  I heard a hollow clomping sound on round river stone, just to our right.  Uncertain, we remained still.  I held my breath and listened.  Max was alert.  I was alert.  A few more steps.  Stop.  A few more. Stop.  When once we began again, with a great explosion, a young deer sprung out and wildly flew deep into the trees.  Max erupted into a fit of barking and it felt like everything around us woke up!

I watched the juvenile Bald Eagle, an Osprey, a Hawk, Cormorants and Pelicans all struggle to find sustenance.  It was so amazing to watch the dynamic and to appreciate the effort involved.  At a point, the Bald Eagle, displaying his remarkable wingspan, swooped down upon an American Pelican.  He is not yet adept at his hunting and is frequently cutting corners by having others do his work for him.  Similarly, he dove into a gathering of Cormorants, investigating the possibility that there might be food among the opportunists.

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The Osprey, tucked secretly in the dark shadows of trees, swooped out aggressively, in order to give chase to the Hawk…crying out desperately as he flew so fast that I couldn’t identify him.  He had shared the east side of the river with me for a while, tearing into the hedges and thick shrubs and sage, likely in pursuit of rabbits and other small animals.  There was never a chance to get a good photograph.

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The Bald Eagle juvenile was looking intently from his low perch,  at these Killdeer…there were scores of them across the river from me.  If you’ve heard a single Killdeer, you may understand why the Bald Eagle is drawn to a location where twenty…maybe thirty…are calling out.

Can you spot two in the photograph below?

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Can you spot the Osprey here?

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I have watched the eagles for a little over a year now…given Michael’s prompting to leave the pond during the rip and tear of the Southwest Ring Road development.  I am so grateful for the life I have been able to observe at this location and for the healing experience this daily walk has begun in me.  As I write this post, I am feeling very blessed for a whole lot of reasons.  I hope that if my readers feel sometimes that life, like a sweater, is unraveling, one source of divine life and love can be found in an intimate relationship with nature.  I know that it’s helped me.  Here are a few other moments with the raptors this year.

 

 

I have been blessed by my walks at the river this weekend…I keep saying to myself, through winter, I don’t want to forget the purple.  I don’t want to forget the gold and red.  I will carry it with me.

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Three Days at the Bow

For days now,  smoke has hung on the air, seeming to press in on me.  It is a difficult thing to take pause and contemplate the horrendous impact so many wildfires are having on people and their homes as well as wildlife and its various ecosystems.  The yellow cast of grey over every landscape is a constant reminder.  An absence of the mountains on my horizon to the west is disorienting. The burning sensation behind my nose and throat brings on headaches and a heavy feeling.  It is a difficult time for so many people north and south of the border, east and west.  This is a strange and other-worldly experience.

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At the river, the mornings are quiet, with far less activity and chatter from the birds.  I don’t know if other birder friends have found this, but the Red Winged Blackbirds, usually first to arrive in early spring, seem to have taken their offspring and skipped town.  I miss their calls, especially at the pond.

The Bald Eagle couple have been diligently observing the Juvenile as he/she figures out what it means to be strong and determined.  Mr. and Mrs. did an amazing job providing for two kids at the nest.  I will never know what came of the first fledge.

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When I walk the river’s edge early in the morning, the earth is spongy and feels as though it has breathed in moisture somehow, magically, through the night.  I no longer look down as I walk because every day for days I observed a snake silently slip into the brush as my foot fell onto the path.  I’d rather not see that anymore.  Of all of the amazing creatures there are to enjoy, I have not yet learned an appreciation for snakes.

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Birds, in training, are practicing skills of flight.  For days, the Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Wrens had taken to the higher canopy.  But, since the smoke, they’ve been found in the lower branches, especially in the evenings.

Juvenile and Adult Cedar Waxwings.

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American White Pelicans.

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Eastern Kingbird.

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Osprey against smoke.

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Juvenile House Wrens actively chittering for food.

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Sometimes, when I get home and download my photographs…I see things I hadn’t noticed while snapping.  The following two unfocused photographs speak to those surprises.

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Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwing.

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Berries and berry pickers have been in evidence at the river’s edge.

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It has been a most amazing experience to watch the progression of life and death and life and death on the river, even through the brutal winter.  The wildfires remind us how tenuous life is for all.  The leaves, now turning gradually and the plants-gone-to-seed remind us of how quickly everything changes.

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