January 19, 2020

I wasn’t going to write today, but here I am, a glass of Malbec to my right, and so much to think about.

Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. I turn 65 in May. He and I were so very close. It pains me that we didn’t share as much in our later years. He became a private man. Still, we made time to share good meals with friends. We enjoyed live music together. We were both very proud of our city. I love all of the growing-up memories of John. He was sometimes rebellious. He was robust. He was quite a live wire. I like the memories of him grilling steaks and burgers. He knew what he was doing there.

I have been thinking about John all week. Birthdays celebrated with families are so special. He should be here to celebrate with us. Now, he is ‘with us in spirit’. That’s something people say…but words like that just crack open my heart and cause it to bleed, all over again. I feel bad for people who try to make just the right remarks when you’ve lost someone you deeply love. I’ve often been one of those people. Let’s face it, there are no really helpful words. Best to just say ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t blame or judge people for things that they’ve tried to say. I know that their intentions are good. Grief does weird unbelievable things to a person. There’s no real understanding it. I miss John, though, every day…just as I miss my mother.

Family went out for lunch together. I liked being with John’s son. We were ‘hospice buddies’ and call ourselves that to this day. There’s no way that one can know what that experience is like until one might find themselves living it. I take a moment as I’m typing and lift a prayer for families who are in the midst of all of this. I take a moment and pray for the beautiful hearts who give palliative and then hospice care…and the nurses…the doctors. A tear drops.

Our family was the very best through the pain of losing John. If family does work. We did our best work through that time.

My grandson broke out into a lively version of happy birthday when he received his vanilla ice cream on dry ice. He even got the part about ‘Uncle Johnny’. His timing was impeccable. A Moxie’s lunch to celebrate my brother was the perfect choice.

From the lunch and our good-byes, I had to head right for the river. For one thing, the temperature was steadily moving up and was -11 when I pulled up in front of the house. I can clear my head at the river. Through John’s last months, I always felt uplifted while at the river’s edge, even on particularly difficult days.

I first walked along the bank in a north west direction. Across from me, the beauty and tranquility of deer and geese. After five days of -30 to -40 temperatures and a bad wind chill, it seemed that all of nature was breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out. Such a lovely thing. Interestingly enough, in the icy times of winter, I always notice that the deer consume the geese droppings. Such was the case today. Vegetation must be minimal by now and what better way to consume some nutrition! Nature cares for itself in so many different ways.

Once heading south on the path, I experienced the most remarkable moment! In a flash, a coyote rushed out of the tall grass and a deer bound into the frozen river. The coyote lurched to a stop on the very edge of the ice. I was frozen…couldn’t move…didn’t even think about capturing the moment on my camera. Too late, I recorded the deer’s challenging swim and its exit from the cold water. I watched until it found its way, some distance, up onto the bank. It wobbled on the ice and then bolted for the cover of the brush.

I was relieved but remember pausing to wonder how all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the river valley manage to eek out a living.

Continuing on my hike, I was mindful that the coyotes are hungry. I figured that if one coyote came out of the brush, there were others. They work diligently together in order to eat, especially in these circumstances of frigid temperatures. Above me, to the left, I saw two. Do you want to observe a coyote? Listen for the Corvids (Magpies, Crows and Ravens) because all follow close behind the predators.

Sure enough.

I was pleased to observe this young beauty consuming something. It was either a rabbit or a pheasant. I could hear the pheasants articulating in the high brush as I made my way south. Looking closer, a Raven decided to peck away at the carcass.

Around this time, I bumped into Lloyd. I really can’t believe the distance he walks down in this same spot, in fact, he goes so far as to cross the ice to the island almost every day. He asked, in his jovial way, ‘Why he hadn’t seen me lately?’ And I told him that apart from one day during the deep freeze I came down to make my typical observations. He walked with me as far as the beaver dam. Together, we looked at the reflections on the smooth pond ice. He told me a story of skating ponds in his childhood….such magic! Walking, I told him about the incident with the deer. We parted ways. As he left, he said, “I hope you spot your eagles”.

The remainder of the walk was very peaceful. I thought that I might discover more deer, given that the stressed white tail flew out from this side of the river, but no sightings. Several beautifully large and articulating Ravens flew amongst the bare branches. All was magical. Then, as if from nowhere, the young Eagle appeared. I haven’t captured any really clear photographs, but I would guess that it was either one of the one year olds from last summer’s nest, or a two year old. Its colouring is getting to be mottled. One thing for certain, it wasn’t the Huntress, one that I expected to see. A Raven flew in and gave this youngster some company for a short while. Dad was no where to be seen.

This day was a beautiful day. Again, it reinforced the fact that life is filled to the brim with both beauty and brutality. We have no choice but to take it all and in whatever ways it makes its way to us. We can control the ways that we respond, but apart from that, we should always keep a Plan B in our back pockets.

Arriving back to the car, I cranked up the heat and checked my messages. Doug sent a link to a marvelous series of photographs. I think that the images exemplify everything I believe about nature, life and the wonder of it all.

If you have a chance, take a look.

Here at home, safe and warm, a friend from the river, fired off a message to me. I was eating from a hot bowl of stew at the time. The message was about a deer that was wounded and down, just beneath 130th Ave. She met Lloyd while out on her hike (love my network of river friends) and thought that this deer was possibly the character from my narrative. I will never know. Initially, I thought, by description, the deer was above the bank, but as the information became more clear, I learned that this deer is wounded and is out on the ice tonight. It would be an impossible thing for anyone to assist it tonight, impossible to keep it from its suffering. While this is upsetting to me and to my friends, we have sometimes no choice but to accept what we can’t control. I’m hoping that the coyotes/eagles are able to make good use of its sacrifice.

This, it turns out, was quite a day. Blessings to those of you who have sent wishes today. Blessings on my father.

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.

Down the Rabbit Hole She Goes! This is How it Began

This morning, I sat with coffee.  Soon after, I told Max that I’d get dressed for a walk.  And, this is what happened.  (The LOOK ON HIS FACE!)

While I was downstairs, digging out the next pair of track pants, I tucked away a Christmas box in the closet and came upon my sketchbook…1968-1972.  Oh my goodness!  I propped myself up on my bed and took a look and all sorts of memories came up.  For one, at some point, my sister signed every one of my drawings.  She was just a wee little girl and she must have held me in some sort of esteem…or, the drawings.  As I think about my former Junior High art students, I think these sketches are very rudimentary.  There’s nothing at all impressive about them.  What’s with the solid contour lines?  They look like colouring book drawings.  Hmmm….f

I wrote little poems along the way…sentimental poems…what were they about?  I guess I’ve always been a dreamer.  Sketches and thoughts from 52 years ago…

So my trip down the rabbit hole began.  And Max, patiently waited.

 

The Season

Those readers who know me, know that for almost two months, I’ve been sequestered to the family room with Max, my border collie.  He’s been struggling, but at the moment, seems to have rallied after being put on a regime of medications that are helping him with the anxiety of pain and now, even tackling the inflammation.  In the meantime, we sleep here….together.  Thanks to those who have supported me.  For now, Max is making it up and down stairs, able to look out the window from his red sofa and is doing a walk around our urban circle each day.

There have been a number of events that have marked this season for me.  I’m just going to go through and gather from photos in my archives and stick them in here…I’m going to keep the writing brief.  This year, the darkness has really impacted me and I like that neighbours have strung up outdoor lights on their houses so early.  Christmas lights seem to dispel that cold and isolating feeling that might come with the darkness of winter.

Before I post the first photo,  I’d like to say that early in December, I ordered my gifts on line for the first time.  In the last week, I’ve received word that of all these, 100%, are delayed.  It’s 5 in the morning on a holiday Monday and I’m sitting here laughing about this.  Max is sound asleep on our wee cot, just behind me.

Steven and me after his very first daycare Christmas concert.  A brief video is posted below.

My Auntie Eleanor with a portrait I painted of her for her 90th birthday.  I love her so.

Daily walks at the Bow River fill me with a peacefulness.  I like to watch and learn from the various species that share this time with me.  I post a lot of those observations, here.

I did sponge printmaking with my grandson.  He’s made home made gifts for everyone this year.

Already, the male sparrow has taken up residence in the neighbour’s vent.  I will enjoy another springtime of observations…my sixth year of watching these families come and go.

Pat and I went to the Marda Loop Justice Film Festival again this year, this time being joined by Janet and Mary.  It was an inspiring experience.  I really learn so much when I attend this festival.  Thanks to all organizers.

When Wendy hosts a dinner party, the food is sooo scrumptious.  Happy birthday, Lauraine!!  Love the food, the conversation and all of the laughter.  Thank you, friends!

We attended the Bragg Creek artisan’s sale and I picked up my beautiful honey from Alvise and Paola.  Christmas wouldn’t be the same without seeing them.  A quick stop at the coffee shop to hug Randy and Jane…an ice cream.  Nanny Linda, it was so good to share this time with you.

A back yard snowman with Steven, Erin and Linda.  Fun in the snow!

I was able to paint Prince for my dear friend, Linda.  I’m pretty sad that she’ll be on her way back to London very soon.  I treasure her and I’m going to miss her very much.

Few people know that I’m deep in the application process for the Alberta University of the Arts BFA program.  The day that my sister, Val, contacted me that she had achieved her PhD, I was inspired to take this step, regardless the cost or the struggles that might come up.  In 1997, I took a sabbatical year to complete my third year of my BFA.  That’s when I met Bobby.  I’ve always been labeled a self-taught artist and I’ve really wanted to pursue my dream of actually ‘being’ an artist.  At this ripe age, it might be silly, but ‘OH WELL’.  When I went to the open house and orientation to the program, I stopped in to the Illingworth Kerr gallery and really enjoyed the exhibit, Thing to Wear.

Daughter, Cayley, and I were able to celebrate with Irene for her 70th birthday.  What a gorgeous setting at the Ruberto Ostberg Gallery.  Thank you, Phil, for the invite and your always-warm-hospitality.  We love you so much.

Linda and I went down to the Central Library to enjoy the exhibit of friend, Allan Rosales.  At this point in the season, I was beginning to feel unstuck.  I was beginning to feel lighter and like my feet were coming unglued from a deep muddy mire of grief.  It isn’t as though the losses of the past year were gone…it’s just that the grief was letting go of me and letting me stretch back into my life.  Good to bump into my cherished friend, Wendy.

My former student, Billy, asked if I would paint a tree on a headboard that he was creating and I was happy to do it for a few beautiful bottles of red wine.  I was spending my days with Max anyway.  These sorts of projects became opportunities.  I would see Billy again…a pleasure.


I reconnected with Joan.  My friend, Sheila, should be given credit for this because no matter how many years slip by, she has remained a friend over all.  I’m so grateful.  My heart is now open to share lunch with Joan on Fridays for as long as I can.  On a recent visit, Joan and I shared her books-to-read titles, stopping every so often to leaf through pages and talk about the subjects of these books.  Joan is such an influence on me.  Over the years she has given me so much in the way of ideas.  I love you, Joan.

My parish is my community of faith.  I love St. Albert the Great.  I love the narrative we share and the rituals of love, hope and peace.  I have found strength in this space over many years.  I’m grateful for this manger…and for the pure potential that I find in this space.

My cousin, Peter, took me out for a lunch to Earl’s restaurant.  I was so happy to get to do something so special.  I just don’t get out to dine.  It was fun.  Peter is one of my dearest cousins, always supporting and loving me.  No photo of him here, but, our server was a former student of mine, Nicole, so we grabbed this snap.

Pat and I never did catch up to these guys…but we were all at the Holiday Train’s arrival at Anderson’s station.  I left my phone at home, so no photos for me this year.  But, that was perfectly fine because we were really swept up in the experience.  Here, Erin, Doug and Steven, with the Holiday Train in the background.  A great initiative for the food banks across Canada.

All three of my children were with me to decorate my tree this year…along with Steven and Linda.  This means so much to me.  I know that at some point all three of them will have families and traditions of their own and won’t be able to do this.  But, this year it worked out and I’m always going to remember it.  I am grateful for you, Erin, Cayley and James.

I’m going to miss you, sister-friend!  Thanks, Linda, for coming downtown with me for the Sybil Andrews exhibit.

Extraordinary Objects.  I was boggled by this porcelain work!

Thanks to Trevor for helping me to deal with this leak.  I’m so sorry that I missed Mark’s birthday, but I was so relieved to get this managed.  I had my own frozen Niagara Falls escaping the outdoor faucet.  Crisis averted.

Dawn asked me to paint poppies for her Mom’s 80th birthday, so this happened.  I taught Dawn’s son, Justin, and beautiful daughter, Jess.  I will always be connected to this family.  May you have a magical year!

Then I made Party Mix…lots of it! lol

I was welcomed into the Saint John Henry Newman circle and did some teaching before the Christmas break.  I was so excited to connect with Hollee, another former student of mine.  I snapped a few photographs of her grade six classroom because I felt so proud of her and so excited.  We embraced often.  We both have so many fond memories of those years in Junior High School.  Thanks so much, Louise and Carl and to Lorelie.

My neighbourhood is lit up!

My daughter and her partner and their two bands, Darktime and Napalmpom, participated in Merry Keithmas at the Palomino, to raise funds for Calgary Food Bank.  I had a very fun time seeing Cayley performing Stones tunes.

I drove to Didsbury to share in the annual Christmas open house organized by University-friend, Brian.  Juan and Brian, this year’s event was another very special time.  Glad to have connected with so many wonderful people.  Your home is warm and welcoming and so absolutely spectacular!  The food, (pickled sausage, lettuce wraps, pulled pork, etc etc) was so delicious!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  May you be richly blessed for the coming year.

Christmas baking, this year, was a major blitz.  It was a full day of chaos.  But, I can not tell you how wonderful it was to share time with these ladies.  Visits came in the form of nephew, John, toting coffee for people and treats for Max.  Thank you, John!  I love you!  Following that, we all shared in a very special Facetime event with my brother, Cliff, during lunch.  These two visits pretty much made my Christmas already!

The bell that friend, Pat, gave to Steven.  I love these two and I’m grateful that they come to Mass with me.

Winter walks at the Bow River are peaceful and help to recharge me.  I’m grateful for all of the lessons that the river teaches me.

Mikey’s on 12th, with friends Dan, Lauraine and Wendy…treasured time and terrific tacos!

 

I’m wishing all of you and your loved ones Peace on Earth….and Good Will to All!  Rest up…there are sure to be bumps along the way.

 

December 16, 2019 Insufficient Space on Memory Card

Nothing like clicking the camera and having this message come up.  I suppose, in some ways, a person should walk through life without space on their memory card, in order to be fully present.  So, I walked the rest of the crispy morning, without snapping and clicking and containing the magic of the landscape.  Instead, I considered the beauty of the Pileated Woodpecker and the bright flash of red through the hoarfrost to be a gift to me.  The morning was heavenly, on my side of the river.

I saw our adult Bald Eagle pretty quickly and snapped some shots as the fog off the river was quickly making its way toward me.  The sound of geese and ducks rose up out of the icy Bow River.  All else was silent.  These are the photos that I grabbed before my lens withdrew into my camera and my camera shut down.

The White Breasted Nuthatch was the best that I could get yesterday, when I left Max at home and did my walk by myself.

Weather and nature contribute to struggles…constantly, I’m reminded that life contains brutality as well as beauty.

Always trying for a good shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch, but never quite getting it.

In all of that blue, above, one can see a Juvenile flying over.  It’s wonderful that recently another birder-friend, Julie has sighted one of the Juveniles close, on our side of the river.  At least one of them has thrived thus far, through the wintry weather.

As I poured over my archives last evening, On December 15, 2018 I observed an adult Bald Eagle on the nest.  At the end of my walk this morning, I noticed that an adult had landed on the nest and was doing some shifting of the snow on its surface.  So many beautiful miracles at this nest the past six years!  It’s all so intuitive and spectacular to watch unfold.  Already, I’ve been given a promise of spring.

Through All Ages

Nature teaches us lessons.  It is a powerful thing to walk along the Bow River’s edge.  I observe and learn about so many elements of nature through those observations.  I struggle as I watch my beautiful border collie, Max, decline in his abilities and in his health.  But then, I step out into the landscape that he and I have enjoyed for so many years together, alone, and I am witness to how the land, water, animals and birds have also changed over these years.  I need to be grateful for the journey and for the ever-changing  characteristics in all things, even myself.  As the years go by, I am grateful for the shifts and the adaptations and the spectacles of my life.  I am grateful for my time at the river today.  Here are the beauties that allowed me close into their world.  I was still and so they moved around me and allowed me to be a witness to a -5 day at the river.

I will share from youngest to oldest…I was engaged by all of them today…a very rare thing.

 

Marking the Advents of Our Lives

It was in 2006 that I circled the pond with Maxman, for the purpose of taking a single photograph of a bush.  I walked very regularly at this location for several years before, and was a steward of the pond daily, creating a project called Changing the Landscape: One Bag at a Time.

For almost five years I filled a trash bag with litter and left it at the side of the bin for the city to pick up once a week.  I believe that I changed the location through this stewardship, but I guess I’ll never really know.  I’ve been back to visit and the land is covered, once again, with layers of plastic and fast food containers and plastic bags do blow, like flags, in some of the shrubs and trees that grow at the pond’s edge.

During those early days, I noticed that the light and weather and time of day seemed to really impact my experience of the pond on these walks.  I began snapping photographs of natural forms as a way of archiving these experiences along journey of the revisited circle.  In the end, I focused on a single bush, noting what amazing atmosphere was observable through its branches, particularly created by the water/ice/snow and sky.  That’s when I began archiving the bush each day, a single Instagram photo to capture the light and the narrative of that particular ecosystem.

I called the place Frank’s Flats.  In the days when I picked litter, a free spirit named Frank, used to sit on the slope and drink back six beer every time I worked.  He would give me the empties and off I would go.  At end of that summer, Frank moved out to Vancouver, where he said the weather would be better for sleeping outdoors.

The winter of the Instagram bushes, I discovered that there was another young man who tucked in to sleep under the tall evergreen trees each evening.  His shopping cart, containing his few possessions was pushed in tight against the branches.  In the daytime, I’d see the large sheets of cardboard and his sleeping bag, waiting for his return at the end of the day.

This is when I had the idea to light up and decorate the bush for Advent.  Each day I added more ornaments/ribbons/led lights.

On Christmas eve, in dark of night,  I filled the mystery person’s cart with treasures…warm socks, a winter hat, chocolate, Christmas cookies, a scarf, a thermal underwear shirt, some magazines (National Geographic).  Nothing made me happier that Advent and Christmas than creating magic around that bush.

Why am I writing about this right now?  What made me think to write about this?  Well, this past couple of weeks have been pretty difficult weeks for me and my dog, Max.  He’s been struggling with a back leg injury and I’ve been deliberating about his quality of life.  I had to sneak out of the house to make my daily trip to the river last evening and I was pretty sad that I wasn’t able to take him with me.

Once at the river, I discovered this wee decorated tree, in close proximity to Lauren’s bench.  I was sort of wondering if Lauren’s family might have done the very thing that I did so many years ago, at the edge of a pond.

If, in fact, this was Lauren’s family, I captured photographs of just two birds, among several  Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches and Blue Jays that were making themselves known at that very spot.  I think that it’s an interesting thing that they were sporting the same colours as the ornaments on the tree.  Is it possible that angels were in my midst last evening?  Certainly, I felt blessed.

My decorating will begin on December 1, the beginning of Advent.  I don’t get the early jump start that most Calgarians do, and my ornaments will come down with Epiphany.  I am praying that Advent is a blessing time for my readers.  May you have good health and much strength for the difficult stuff.

Nothing Could Have Prepared Me For This Day

Today’s Facebook ‘wall’ is plastered with various news blips on the topic of the cuts happening here in Alberta. I’ve made those posts.  But, rather than deleting them, I’m going to take a moment to consider what this day has actually been and been about.  Only moments ago, I brushed my teeth.  I stepped out onto the back deck and looked up at the moon.  I am taking pause and thinking about my day…my actual day…not about that veneer, that public explosion that happens for us if we dig too deep into the chaos that is today in the news.

My morning began like this.

I sat down, with coffee, and pin pointed the Barrow in Furness address where Mary Eleanor Haddow, my great grandmother, was born in the early 1800s.  I then scrolled Instagram, up on the red couch, while stroking Max’s head redundantly for almost a half hour.  I dreamed about making one more trip to England so that I might visit such places and walk Blackfriar’s road and travel, again, to France to stand at my Great Grandfather’s resting place in Etaples and maybe even get myself to Ortona, Italy.

I went to my computer station, in order to print out this map and while cropping it, my sister and I exchanged a few messages with one another.  She sent me a photograph of her and her three pup companions and I sent her a photograph of me and Max.  I love yous were shared.

I decided that Max’s injury had been quiet enough for a few days that I would take him to the river.  The air was so mild and the light, so beautiful.  We took our time; it was more a stroll than a walk, but it was so incredible.I really felt huge gratitude as the day opened up to me.

I dropped Max back to the car and then went for a last look to see if I could sight any of the coyotes.  I spotted several deer across the river, but no coyotes.  And then, the magic of friendship was enjoyed, as I saw Jeff making his observations along the pathway.  As is pretty usual, we ended up talking about cameras and such.  Today I learned about the Polaroid Cube and the Zoom Audio Recorder.

Lunch consisted of a lovely little Greek Salad at home.

After doing just a few things around the house and checking in on all things political (lol), I made a quick stop at the Dollarama Store to pick up some small canvas boards.  I felt a need to paint some poppies with my grandson before Remembrance Day.  There was a bit of a wait for him to wake up from his nap, so over two cups of hot tea, I had a nice visit with Linda and Erin.

Then, this.

I decided to stop at the river, again, on my way home, just to see if I could make any eagle sightings.  At the edge of the Bow, everything  was wildly alive, although the colour was muted which contributed to the magic of everything.  A loud cacophony of sound filled the air as hundreds of Canada Geese found their way to the river.  I was overcome.  And there, in the midst of the geese, one eagle flew assertively in and out of their crowds.  It was amazing.  I managed to capture a brief moment.  But, let’s face it,  no images were going to be focused because the light just wasn’t there.  I didn’t know what to do with my feelings about the scope and beauty in that moment, so as has become habit, I snapped photographs.

I spotted brilliant white southeast on the river, and so, took a quick peek through my camera’s viewfinder to identify the white birds and happily discovered the presence of Swans or Snow Geese, interspersed with the Canada Geese.  A quick and fuzzy snap and I was off and rushing to the location where I enjoyed watching them making their disappearance around the point and onto the river.  Darkness was settling over everything, apart from soft pink directly west.  I headed back.

 

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw Doug and Shirley Anne’s car, stopped, opened my window and together, we marveled at the wonder we had just seen.  The three of us felt very blessed and it was just so nice to know that I had shared the magic with friends.

Upon my return home, my son and I headed out to the Saigon Royal Restaurant for a steaming pot of Jasmine Tea and a big bowl of Pho.  I started watching for a text message from my Dad who, I knew, was on the road from Ottawa to Belleville, earlier in the day.  He promised he would text, but I convinced myself that he would struggle with that as per usual and that he is well and safe and enjoying the traditions of the Mistletoe Market this weekend.

At home, Max and I walked the neighbourhood circle and then James and I watched some cop shows on his big screen.

Just a short while ago, I stepped out on the deck and snapped a few photographs of the moon.  While I didn’t capture them, there were three soft rings of colour surrounding her tonight.  Those colours and the lovely still air remind me of the beauty that is ours.  I am grateful.  And one never knows what a single day might bring.

Autumn Mash Up

I am a single woman, in the last decades of my life, and sometimes I lay my head down on my pillow at the end of a busy day and wonder about being solitary in the world.  My life plays through my mind like a thin thread of film, projected on the dark wall across from me.  I am both in awe and fearful.  My life, alone, is a peaceful one.  Perhaps this is what was always meant to be.  But that acceptance and peace does not necessarily keep me from looking at the connection that others have in their partnered lives.

Autumn often causes this rerun, the movie of over sixty autumns that I can remember.  In every other autumn I would not have written the previous paragraph down, especially not in this format, perhaps in a private journal.  But, now, how does it really matter?

I remember a moment in a single engine Cessna, somewhere over Wisconsin.  We were flying north into Duluth when we got into difficulty and with time, our cloud ceiling was at 200 and then 100 and our pilot was requesting permission to land on a highway, the only visual reference we had.  Knowing that there were towers in the area and knowing that our pilot only had visual rating was frightening.  I clung to my then-partner’s hands, both of them.  Averting the first option, the wings bowed deeply sideways into the white cloud as we banked to go south and out of the fog/cloud.  When we came around,  the tree tops were an arm’s length from the plane’s belly.  I remember them as though it was yesterday.  They were conifers.  I kept saying, “The trees.  The trees.”  Not yelling and not particularly panicked.  This was a nightmare.  I had time to think, “I wonder how Mom and Dad will find me.”  I let go of my partner’s hand.  Instinctively I knew, ‘in the end I face this all alone.’

And I do.

Winter is coming.  A family of bald eagles has taught me much these past months but for several weeks, the juveniles have been distant, sent out of this territory to hunt, fish and find their own way.  The female came to some demise and is now gone.  The male has sheltered and fed the young.  A new sub adult has made herself known and has done multiple demonstrations for the juveniles.  She is a beautiful strong huntress.  The male has been close to her, but it seems that they are always in some wild discussion, resistant and yet set on a path.  Who knows what spring will bring.  It was only in the first snowfall that the youngsters returned to their nesting territory, bleating to the cold wind, about their fears and their challenges.  It was the day before yesterday’s snow that both the male and female arrived and consoled me with their familiar roosts in their favourite tree branches.  These beautiful raptors act as a unit, but live deeply their singular lives…it is what they must do to survive and for the species to survive.

These photographs were taken over these few weeks of Autumn..in no particular order.  They capture the prayers and the beauty and the journey of a single woman in a very beautiful world.

 

Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah

Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind”

This, borrowed directly from a beautiful relation’s blog post this morning.

Several events unfolded yesterday that were totally out of my control.  These events did NOT happen to me, but happened to two of my children.  As every mother knows, when things spin out of control for a child, it is a natural outcome to want to swoop in and save them from the experience and the outcome.  Even at not intervening yesterday, I was thrown into a ‘spazz’, as Alyssa writes.  I haven’t learned in life to ‘still the fluctuations of my mind’…but as I read these bits this morning, I certainly can see the value in doing so.

So, thank you for the words and as this morning feels full of calm, it is easier for me to look back over yesterday, with a clear perspective.  I am thankful for conversations with Adrienne and with Karen.  I am grateful for the engaged presence of Shawn.  I am thankful for a full night of sleep.  It is a celebration that I rolled over and looked at my clock lit up in the darkness of morning, to discover that indeed, I had slept until 6:30, instead of a week-long frustration of 2:00 am wake ups.  I apologize that I went a little off grid yesterday and was a grumpy-pants with some of the peeps in my life.  Today is a new day.  And I hope that when, next time, there are circumstances beyond our/my control, that I will climb up onto that strong branch and look down upon the situation, with a degree of separation.

The Bald Eagles have left their typical routines at the edge of the Bow River and both juveniles are absent.  It is very quiet as autumn approaches.  Here are the last photographs of Mr. who after a summer of raising two juveniles on his own, is remarkable and held, by me, in high regard. Here are the last photographs of the juvenile that really resisted leaving his home, the nest and its territory.

Mornings are darker and the sun fades earlier.  I am experiencing some loss of the rich sights and sounds of summer.  With the full moon, I feel that I am entering the next season and I am assured that it, also, will be beautiful.

I’ve received some recent e mails from my friend that fill me to the brim with the love of nature.  It is interesting and I do contend that one needn’t go very far in order to enter into the mysteries of the natural world.  And so, I share these words, without permission to illustrate that point.  (sorry, friend)

One day. “You would have liked the view from my kitchen window. As I unloaded my groceries I thought of you.  Blue jays came calling.  Flying among the shrubs and trees.  Perhaps finishing off the few apples, raspberries and saskatoons that are still on the branches.  If i took pictures there could have been some good ones.”

Another. “So, I cleaned bathrooms, quick vacuum, suppers ready and now im going to watch tennis.  But this morning there were lots of robins.  Don’t they leave, shouldn’t they be gone.  And a couple of flickers eating ants in my lawn, good thing, but they do stir up the roots, not so good.”

And finally. “Went out to my gardens today with the intentions of moving some lilies around.  My tiger lilies in front are too tall and some Asiatic in the back get hidden.  Planted them with good planning at the time, i thought, but the ways of gardening you need to change things.  However, the ground was a bit too wet.  Did pick mushrooms, again, in my lawn.  Heard Mr. Hole the other day say mushrooms in the lawn are a good thing!

Deadheaded a few perennials and cut down most of my delphiniums as the leaves have now turned brown.

Lots of perennials still in bloom, fall asters beginning to blossom.   Sending a couple of pics.  My primula is back in bloom again.  It is one crazy plant, blooms for about 3 months in spring, rests for a couple and then starts again.  None of my other primulas do this.  So, don’t know if its location or variety and of course haven’t the tag anymore.  Even with the summer blooms gone there is still so many shades of green to enjoy.

And, wished you were here to identify a bird that was out the whole time with me.  Googled and think it was a downy woodpecker.  Cant say I’ve ever seen one in my yard like that before.  White breast, black and white feathers and no everyone is was not a magpie.  Rat a tat tat on my bamboo stakes the whole time.  Bamboo is strong, I would have thought its beak would get sore.

Still lots of robins and blue jays in the gardens.  And everyday a lone flicker comes to eat the ants.  Wonder if it is the same one and why doesn’t it tell its friends to come feast at my place.  So, I have put up with ants and aphids in hopes that the birds can live without my use of pesticides.”

I feel blessed with the beauty of these descriptions of ordinary moments, that truly ARE extraordinary!  Thank you, friend, for taking me to the peaceful sanctuary of your garden through words.

Now, I’m posting just a couple of your photographs, without permission.  Get back to me if you wish me to remove any/all of your creative material.  I’m celebrating your connection with nature and the beauty of your garden this morning.

Photo Credit PT

Photo Credit: PT

Today, I’m going to try to be more mindful.  I’m going to demonstrate calm.  I hope that I can be here, in a healthy capacity, for those who need me.