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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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The Struggle is Real

Winter is oppressive this year.  I consider myself to be fond of all seasons, including winter, but as the snowbanks grow, I am in awe of the challenges this weather brings.  I have begun my journey of Lenten observances, but my Nativity display is still parked on the front yard, with no hope of being wedged out of the snow until some of it disappears.  I would guess that the accumulation is somewhere around the three foot mark at this point.

I came upstairs this morning, put on the coffee and then decided to sit and finish reading I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism by Lee Maracle.  Outside, the snow was coming down steadily and there was evidence that it had been piling up all night long.  Maxman was okay to chill out with me and we both eased into morning, without any attachment to screens at all.

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By 10:30, the book was finished and I felt completely depleted.  Interesting that in the very last section, titled, Last Words, Maracle stated that most readers would have stopped by that point.  I had hung in…decompressing at times, but certainly interested in the honest approach to dealing with the topics that other writers might easily skirt around.  It was a difficult book, heart-breaking in so many ways…only 140 pages, compact, intense but, most important for understanding.

I continue to be very moved by the journey and history of my indigenous brothers and sisters.  With this reading, I received new revelations to the struggles…for women, especially.

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This morning, the snow became a wall for me, insurmountable, while carrying the weight of the contents of this book.  I thought that getting down to the Bow River might create respite from my own thoughts.  Instead, I encountered the desperation of hungry animals.

My eyes seem to be wide open when I am at the river’s edge.  I feel blessed that way.

The first thing I noticed was the gobble gobble sound of a male pheasant as he valiantly took flight, gliding quite a distance from the hill across from me.  A scattering of snow and a coyote bounded from that same location, toward me and Max.  I hadn’t even left the parking lot, at this point, and already  spotted the female pheasant in a neighbouring shrub.  She was going no where!

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I was pretty certain that this coyote was one that I’ve been observing lately, easily identified by an evident limp and a mangy coat. As the weeks of bitter cold continue, a generous food source, in the way of mice, voles and such is becoming very challenging.  The predators are looking gaunt.

Stepping onto the trail, into the deep woods, and along the dark turquoise river, I noticed canine tracks in the fresh snow, unaccompanied by any human presence.  I looked down at Max and told him, “Let’s go another route today, Max.”  As I took pause and looked up, there, only a few meters away, stood one of the juvenile Bald Eagles about half way up a tree.  His back was hunched and covered in a transparent blanket of snow.  As Max and I moved to go around his territory, he took flight, his huge wings opening up directly above us.  Having taken the more traveled route, it wasn’t far and we met two of our friends, both intensely engaged in something else.

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It took Max a short while to respond.  I think he was curious, more than anything.  But, out of nowhere, he let out a wild and crazy barking-frenzy and in response, nine deer took flight and bounded across the landscape.  It all happened so fast that I didn’t have opportunity to react.  The coyotes followed the deer, without hesitation.

A moment’s pause and then, slowly and methodically, three other deer appeared.  I have a sense that these are the younger three and that the adults had reacted to Max’s barking.  Is that possible?  Dunno…  Tentatively, these guys carried on in the direction of the action.  Max and I headed north on the river.

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I wondered about there even being a possibility that coyotes might feed on deer during the winter.  I suppose if one were to fall ill or if the coyotes worked together, their clever approach to community-hunting might provide for a meal of venison.  I just know that in the cold and the snow, I felt compassion for all…the pheasant, the eagle, the deer and the coyotes.

For years, I’ve logged on to a Live Eagle Cam at Duke Farms.  I’ve just recently seen that a second egg has been laid at the nest.  Last year, surprisingly, no eagles nested in that location.  Tonight, the camera is capturing an adult sitting on the nest in a horrible snow storm…

The Struggle is Real.  Please take a moment and check in.

The Poems of Clea Roberts

The poetry of Clea Roberts has been a source of great inspiration since attending a Wordfest session, Into the Quiet, this year.  Every poem is an elegant string of words, sparse but potent.  I am left, after reading, with a sense of wonderment about this world of ours.

Because of the immediacy of social media, I have been able to access other people’s travel, adventure and world exploration over months and years…Nepal, Venice, Spain, Croatia, Haida Gwaii.  I get the sense of how vast our life experiences can be…to eat seafood in Japan, observe the art of the masters in far off galleries, stand at the top of the Empire State building.  I enjoy all of this very much.  It all comes into my home, while I sit in my pyjamas at the keyboard, with my cup of coffee on the desk, to my right.

However, nothing moves me more than these poems.  Because somewhere in these images, lies the remembrance of camping with my parents, the smell of woodfires burning, the soft conversations as neighbours drift off to sleep.  The childhood listening.

It was some years ago that I spent time observing this schematic, the scale of the universe.  I realized even before encountering this illustration that just as there are so many more places to explore beyond our own communities, there are a multitude of places to visit in our own intimate surroundings, and to go deeper still, there are internal landscapes to explore.  The universe offers so many compelling and endless possibilities for discovery that it is an easy thing to become fascinated with the world that lives even on the petals of a flower.

The poems of Clea Roberts take me to that beautiful intimate place of connection in a much smaller place, full of limitless possibilities.

In the meantime, for two weeks, I have been observing a single Horned Grebe on a pond, hoping to capture a just one focused photograph.  I have watched muskrats frantically building winter homes in the cattails on the north side of the fence while bulldozers plow and reshape former dwellings.  I see miracles every evening as the sun begins to set.

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One poem to share this morning…from Auguries by Clea Roberts

If Suddenly My Dreams Are Premonitions

There is music or
there is snow falling
on the white-tailed deer.

They strip the ash berries
with precise, needful tugs.

There is music or
there is the gliding silence
between their hoofbeats
as the wind changes.

An introduction is made.
A small part of me
goes with them.

 

Grades 4 and 5 Discover Charles Pachter

…any excuse to tell the students about my memories of Expo ’67!

My teacher, Mr. Mackay, arranged a billeted field trip from DND Hornell Heights in North Bay, Ontario, to Montreal, Quebec to wander for a whole day at Expo.  With no money in our pockets for rides and such, we covered a vast distance on foot, taking in at least five different Pavilions.  I remember being in awe most of the time.  It turns out that Canada’s artist, Charles Pachter, along with Alexander Calder, was hired to work on the sculptural representations of Canada.

In his book,The History of Canada Series: The Best Place To Be: Expo ’67 And Its Time by John Lownsbrough,

Lownsborough shares the following archive…

All this aside, given that this is Canada’s 150th year…I thought it fun to share with the students what was happening in the world, 50 years ago.  To begin with, their eyes told me that they imagined a dinosaur was speaking before them…chatting away about what I was doing at the age of 12, with my teacher, my own grade five class and in the city of Montreal.  I shared during the Reflection component of the lesson, Charles Pachter’s website and his short biography.  We talked about moose, the Queen of England, satire, and simplicity of form.  I showed a few of Pachter’s works, in order to lead into a depiction lesson, followed by a painted composition.

These were the pieces of art that I shared with the students and that we spoke about, in terms of the subject matter and the arrangement of very simple forms in the composition.

Some vocabulary…satire, silhouette, flat space…

Dressage by Charles Pachter painted in 1988

NONE Charles Pachter art__ Uploaded by: Goffin, Peter

Brink by Charles PachterMoose Crossing by Charles Pachter
Bay Watch by Charles Pachter

As we viewed the works, we had a discussion about iconic Canadian animals.  I asked the students if they had ever seen the combination of coloured stripes that appears in the background of Bay Watch.  Someone mentioned a blanket.  So, for a few short minutes, I spoke about the wool blankets that were made and sold by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The students went to the chalk board and listed animals that they wished to explore in silhouette.  I think that caribou, moose and deer were unpopular because of the challenge of the antlers and thin legs, but, there were still several students that took on the challenge.

Level II (grades 3 and 4)
REFLECTION
APPRECIATION: Students will interpret artworks literally.
A. Contextual information (geographical,
historical, biographical, cultural) may be
needed to understand works of art.

DEPICTION
ACTIONS AND VIEWPOINTS: Students will select appropriate references for depicting.
B. Drawing strategies, such as gesture to capture action, contour to study important edges and massing to show bulk or weight, are helpful in depicting animate forms.

COMPOSITION:
Component 7 EMPHASIS: Students will create emphasis by the treatment of forms and qualities.
A. The centre of interest can be made prominent by contrasting its size, shape, colour or texture from the other parts of the composition.

EXPRESSION
PAINTING:

Component 10 (iii) MEDIA AND TECHNIQUES:
Students will use media and techniques, with an emphasis on mixing media and perfecting techniques in drawing and painting.
-Use preliminary sketches as the basis for a painting, as well as painting directly.

Level III (grades 5 and 6)

REFLECTION
ANALYSIS: Students will study and analyze the individual character of natural objects or forms.
B. Natural forms can be examined for less visible characteristics.

DEPICTION
Component 4 MAIN FORMS AND
PROPORTIONS: Students will modify forms by abstraction, distortion and
other transformations.
I. Gridding can be used for systematically capturing or distorting the proportions of things.

COMPOSITION
Component 8 UNITY: Students will create unity by integrating the parts of a composition into the whole.
C. Transitions of colour, texture or tone relate the parts of a composition to a unified whole.


EXPRESSION
PAINTING:

Component 10 (iii) MEDIA AND TECHNIQUES:
Students will use media and techniques, with an emphasis on mixing media and perfecting techniques in drawing and painting.
-Use preliminary sketches as the basis for a painting, as well as painting directly.

Students grabbed their Chrome books and did a Google search for silhouettes of their selected iconic Canadian animals.  They were given a pre-gridded piece of 11 x 17 white bond paper for the purpose of depiction.  They were challenged to use ARBITRARY colour (not representative in the predictable sense of an object or location…for example a red sky)  Students did a bit of sketching and colouring on these studies in order to prepare for larger works.

The students were also asked to include the colours of the Hudson’s Bay blanket some where in their compositions.

Off they went to the races!

Next, large 18 x 24 paper was folded into 8 rectangles (in half both width and length and then lengthwise from each end, into the center), proportionally accurate with the 8 rectangles that were printed onto the 11 x 17 bond paper.  Students prepared their own coloured construction ground, on the back, by edging with masking tape. (avoid ripping edges), flipped the work and began to use the grid to make relationships as they enlarged their silhouette in chalk.

Paints were mixed, as is my typical method.  See former lessons under Teacher…and all went swimmingly.  It’s time for me to seek out a great Netflix program for this evening.  I’m sporting one heck of a head cold, but before I do, I’ll post a few of the photographs I caught of the process.

The months are closing on Canada 150.  I’m happy that I had time to spend with these grades 4 and 5 students.  They have been fantabulous!

Entering the Dance: A Perspective on Elementary Arts Education

As a retired person, I see more and more the outrageously crazy and demanding life of educators out there.  Masters of all things, teachers are responsible for the constant changing world of demands placed down before them.  I have such admiration for them.

When I have opportunity to work with children, in my specialized world of visual arts, I am blown out of the water by their desire to learn how to see their visual world, learn to draw and master a variety of media.  Yesterday this was no more evident.  I was thinking about the fact that more and more reflection and drawing are being sacrificed in lieu of a more packaged and close ended result for the purpose of display, such as the results provided by a ‘Pinterest idea’.  In fact, I post my lessons on to the Pinterest site, in the hopes that the lessons will minimize fear about the process of teaching drawing.  I don’t know if I can impact any of this anymore, but I treasure the opportunities that teachers give me to further my research and practice.  I am still learning.

Each year, the child is immersed in a different set of schema and does not necessarily reflect our adult ideas of ‘what art should be’ or what is ‘pretty art’.  Children’s art needs to reflect where they are at their particular age and with their particular way of seeing, as well as their fine motor skill development.  Here, I provide a little bit of read on the topic.

If teachers pressure either themselves or their students to create a ‘pretty’ end result, the child is trained to ask that forever-question in the art room…”Is this good?” instead of entering the dance of creation.  I think that focusing on an open-ended result and curbing adult expectations of ‘what makes good art’ is warranted, although it may be a practice that is unfamiliar.

While the step-by-step process teaches a whole other skill set, it is not necessarily the way to go about nurturing the artist soul.  The very pieces of art strung up down those hallways that achieve the giggles from the viewer, are likely the pieces that represent the children who are filled with artistic magic.  Embrace that with everything that is in you.

Yesterday, I watched a grade three Hibernating Animals lesson unfold…absolutely a magical experience!  For now, I’m just going to post very few pieces that represent the process of evolution that takes place when art lessons are child-centered and not adult-centered.  The ‘before’ depictions gauged where the students were in their imaginations, with absolutely no instruction…just a brainstorm list of animals that hibernate.

Observe…the animals have smiles on their faces.  The eyes are dominant.  The little legs are outstretched, in this case, two legs consistently on each animal. The body form is coloured in. The nest or den is a circle.

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I then had the students pretend to be a hibernating mice on the classroom floor.

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They automatically bundled up in a closed circle.  I asked them to notice where their legs were…their tucked in heads…where their arms were, wrapping around their legs.  I had them rest like that for a while, with the lights dimmed.  They automatically stretched when I asked them to stand and return to their desks.

When they returned to their seats, I showed them a National Geographic film on what animals do in the winter.

When the movie was finished, I went to the board and told the students that we would be focusing on hibernating FURRY animals just for today, so we wouldn’t be drawing bats or snakes or insects hibernating.  I told them we wouldn’t think about scorpions today, either, because we would be thinking about animals that hibernate near us, in Calgary.  We listed those on our white board.  Ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, beaver, skunks…

I drew an exemplar on the board of the kinds of things that an animal might add to their nest.  We looked at the kinds of lines that make a cozy home for the winter.

We then discussed if we could see the animals bundled up, what would we see?  Closed eyes…curled up tail…ears that were back on the head…maybe one leg or just a paw.  The animal would want a curled up little bundle and not a great big space.  I had the students join me in the reading corner and read them a picture book about hibernation where we saw some beautiful photographs of animals in their nests and dens.

Their After drawing…look at the leap in their understanding of the visual world….after a body gym exercise, a movie and a discussion about how to draw grass and straw, how to draw fur and what would we see.  This is where you will see more distinction between the individual student’s schema.  Don’t be alarmed if some still see their world in a more flat or symbolic way.  This is where you let the students be individuals.  You can guide with leading questions, but really aim to NOT frustrate the students.  They are NOT right or wrong.

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For expressive relief, after such concentration and after a recess break, the students decorated a picture frame for their piece with snowflakes…absolutely any way they wished.  We used chalk.  Given time, I would do this entire project in paint, but I was exploring an idea and this media made for an opportunity for me to see how I would revise the lesson.  Classroom teachers could use this idea of the picture frame on any project or piece of writing.  Colour of frame and motif can vary.

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Then the students found their nest.

Using chalk as the media for drawing, the students worked from their visual journal After sketches, to create their hibernating animals.  Once again, scale was an issue.  I discovered that their animals became smaller and skinnier as they placed them in these large nests.  This makes me smile…a result I didn’t anticipate and would likely spend some time talking to them about body mass if I explored this again.

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The results in this particular activity could not possibly be anticipated.  However, the process was invaluable and I enjoyed every minute of interaction with the students.  It isn’t easy ‘letting go’, but it’s imperative.  After this experience, I will be able to revise my lesson and further develop its outcomes.

I still have reservations about adult paint nights and classes that hinge on having students create images after an exemplar.  I think it’s just important to enjoy those experiences for what they are, a way to master techniques, materials or to train motor skills.  They are not experiences that lean toward the development of creative thought.  Closed-ended formulas are never as valuable as open-ended formulas.  For the record, my thoughts only!

Thanks for your class, Jenn!  They were awesome!

Being Caribou in Grade Two

We did the morning rituals…O’ Canada, prayer, calendar math, a reading about Samson and Delilah.

This is a difficult Old Testament reading to translate into grade two terms.  I did the best I could, but it was still tricky getting past the gouged eyes and the fact that the pillars were dropping on top of everyone.  However, we did our very best.

When we entered the room this morning, we saw an elf (and I’m afraid that I’ve missed out on the stories and the thoughtful handling of the elf up until this point…definitely a pop culture sort of experience) hanging from looped chain on the far side of the room. The children, in their excitement, wrote a journal entry responding to its location in the room and what they thought must have happened during the night.

From this point, the day became about caribou…also known loosely as North American reindeer.  You see the connection with the season, don’t you?

I projected this image…

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From somewhere behind me, a young lady’s voice chirped in, “My Dad kills caribou!”

I let it be, as you might also, in the same situation.

Someone answered, “He does?”

I messed around with the zillions of chords that were puzzling me, thinking ahead to the little piece of film from the documentary, Being Caribou, that I hoped to show a little later on.  (I wonder how I will figure out the sound part of this?)

She piped in again, “He kills deer and moose too!”

I had no choice but to respond, “You must get to eat some very tasty sausage, right?”  She just looked at me.

We divided a large chart paper into two sections, one with the heading Deer, the other, Caribou.  Using the image as a reference, we created a list of physical traits that make the deer and the caribou similar and different.  I forgot to take a picture of this for the purpose of illustrating this blog.

Once we had a list of vocabulary accomplished, I gave the students each a piece of regular white paper to do a depiction from the reference.  They could use media of their choice, but I wanted them to include all of the parts that we had listed; hooves, beard and antlers.

Kath's Canon, December 8, 2015 Caribou Art Grade 2 027

Recess, Hymn Sing and Skip Counting by 2s, 5s and 10s and finally I had sorted out  the sound issue and set the movie to playing the most wondrous migration of the Porcupine Herd caribou herds.  The students verbally ooohhhhed and awed…and I remembered my reaction when I first saw this section of the movie some years ago.

I stopped the film when the baby caribou found its legs and then began to create our Caribou Migration.  It took a few minutes to learn that caribou run in herds and not in flocks.

How many caribou would be in our herd if each person in our room made ten caribou? (count by tens)

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A beautiful creation!  Thank you, Tracy, for your beautiful class!

Kath's Canon, December 8, 2015 Caribou Art Grade 2 047

Spring!

Spring means…

organizing photographs
dropping items to the Women in Need shop
Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow nesting in the vent across from my kitchen window
sprouts in the garden beds
return of water birds and the songs of red winged blackbirds, crows, geese, frogs, robins
crisp morning air
picking litter at Frank’s Flats
painting with children
keeping a close eye on live cams…eagles…wolves
walking lots

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Insert George Bowering poem here…living, breathing, birthing, protecting, growing, dying.

??????????Spring…a time of tremendous courage as new life needs so much protecting.

Such a true blessing to watch children paint spring.  I marvel at it.  Concepts…overlapping…large-forward, small-back.

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A Matter of Time

The weather is changing…in fifteen minutes, I had collected up my bag of litter and Max and I were off to enjoy the shift in temperature and remarkable scenery.  A woman stood on the ridge looking, I suppose, wondering what I was up to.  Two pigeons strutted about the east side of the glassy pool of open water, two muskrats slid, slippery, into the dark water on the west rim.  I never cease to be in love with this small bit of the world.  A jet black crow dipped, unbalanced, with nesting material already spilling out of its beak.  Spring is just around the corner.

Always company, no matter the weather.

Always company, no matter the weather.

February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015

A shift in the weather.

A shift in the weather.

A Mostly Full Moon

The past week at Frank’s Flats,  Max and I have encountered winter…the biting cold of it, but also the slushy warmth of winter’s low sun on the horizon.  It’s difficult to hold on to just how beautiful it is and how different from the lazy late evenings of summer.

Long shadows cast over the sea of white, where even blades of dried grass become giants stretched out on blue violet snow.  Each evening, the colours of things are subject to the sorts of clouds that celebrate the last rays of day and then melt into a pool of cerulean, ultramarine and lavender.

I dawdled at the beginning of our hike last night, snapping photographs of animal prints mostly.  Max kept running ahead and then bounding back, trying to distract me from the wonder of the light on the expanse of the pond.

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DSC_1547We set out on our hike too late last night and I had left my coyote-stick back at the car.  Sure enough, Max became agitated and, picking up a scent, began his fast, snout-to-the-ground zzzzz back and forth and back and forth along the fence. Then, FREEZE!  He stood utterly still in his tracks.  I stayed utterly still in my tracks.  And there, nose to nose, but separated from us by the fence, a large male stared intensely at us.  And as if tagged, Max woke from his stillness and barked madly.  As the coyote loped away from the fence…two meters…then five…then ten, I couldn’t help but take note of its beauty.

Grateful that he had a healthy thick coat and bright intent eyes and carried lots of weight for the challenges that lie ahead, I shouted out to Max.  COME!  MAX, COME!  Like a bullet, he flew through the snow banks and followed me as I attempted to walk in a steady and calm manner.  (I’ve let these animals see my fear before, only to be stalked for long distances by several coyotes.)  When Max did his about-face to charge the fence once again, our buddy had already turned himself around to follow us…but with the appearance, once again, of this loud herding monster of mine, the coyote headed into the scrub and disappeared.

DSC_1553My experiences of Frank’s Flats often bring to mind Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Prodigal Summer, where the reader encounters “three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia. At the heart of these intertwined narratives is a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. A reclusive wildlife biologist, watches the forest from her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin.”

Books like this one remind why I love Frank’s Flats so much and wish to be a steward of this small, but engaging ecosystem.

Tonight, the very same location was bathed in a soft blue light and until the sun set, the landscape flattened out.  Truly looking INTO the sky, it has been an every-evening- occurrence to see a hugely animated world of winged figures, flying in close formation, one formation after another and heading in the very same direction…ducks and geese…more and more ducks…making the journey that agitates everything within them. What a truly amazing sight!

Leaving Frank’s Flats, the sky to the west.

DSC_1567The moon on the eastern horizon, as I pulled off of the highway and steered home looked something like this…almost full…pink…and swimming behind blue cloud.

Veiled Moon Photograph by P-M Heden, TWAN

Veiled Moon: Photograph by P-M Heden, TWAN

Once pulled up to my front drive, she was a pure and bright golden ball in the darkening sky.  Tomorrow night sees the December full moon.  I wonder what beauty nature will hold for me as I greet another day.

Mothers, tonight, hold your children.  They are beautiful.  They are your own.  You are blessed.