Today’s Birds: May 13, 2017

I should be out gardening.  I am typically well ahead of the neighbours, but with owwies in the elbow this year, I’m lagging.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling fired up, however, as I listen to the sound of the neighbouring trimmers, lawnmowers and the stchhhh stchhhh of their sprinklers.

It’s pretty nice getting outside for long hikes, without the lawn work, I’ve got to say.

Here are today’s birds…all at Frank’s Flats.  I continue to hope that the pond on the other side of the chain link fence isn’t drained until the fledge happens.  We’ve a lot of nesting water birds at the moment.  We have one widowed Goose (female, I think), as well as a widowed Mallard (male).  They were hanging out together for quite a bit today. However, as I snapped a photograph, the Mallard flew out of frame.

No smiling at the pond these days!  If I smiled, I would eat my weight in bugs.  Must be the reason for the excitement on the water.  The gulls, laughing in a wild frenzy, are annoying the other birds.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds seem to be pecking away in the huge batch of blooming dandelions.

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Giving me the Stare Down!

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Female Blackbird

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Female Blackbird

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Black Headed Gull

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More than a few…and Noisy!

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One of the Male Grebes Having a Float

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Overseeing his possibilities.

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Female Blackbirds checking out the Men. So many visible, while for weeks, the men were out there doing the soft shoe on the cat tails on their own.

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Cranky Pants

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Widowed Two Weeks Ago

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This must be my O’ Canada Photograph

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Looking Up

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Chain Link Fence and Wigeon

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Gadwells and Gull

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Savannah Sparrow

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Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout

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One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)

Today’s Birds: May 10, 2017

I took my camera to my birthday brunch, thinking I would snap some family photographs, but once there, I didn’t really think about taking photographs.  So, for today’s post, I won’t have any accompanying images.  Well, I can share this one.

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Today’s a good day.

Instead of going to Frank’s Flats, this morning, I decided to take Max over to Sikome Lake and check on the status of the female goose on the Osprey Platform.

She finally broke her brooding silence and was honking away and very active on her nest, after about four weeks of stoic waiting.  This could only mean one thing.  And, sure enough, before leaving, I witnessed the tiny bobbing heads of some of her offspring.  As a result, my own motherly defenses surfaced and I got on the phone as soon as I got home, feeling very powerless and somehow, invested.

First, the Fish Creek Park Conservation Officer (didn’t get his name) returned my call and answered all of my questions, patiently, but also, firmly.  I felt huge confidence after he made two things clear to me, 1. it is a criminal offence to mess with nesting birds or wildlife under Provincial jurisdiction and 2. Mother Goose is doing what is natural to her, or she wouldn’t be there.   So, after saying good-bye, I decided that I was going to let go of my fears and upset over the potential loss of life and to accept that all is happening as it was/is meant to be.

Second to this interaction, I received a lovely and informative letter via e mail from Alison Anaka, the Environmental Specialist for Enmax, the company that is responsible for the maintenance and establishment of almost twenty platforms around the city. Alison has given me permission to share her information with my readers…communication that might be appreciated by my friends living, here, in the deep south.

Today’s Birds: May 4, 2017

Over the past two days, ‘they’ve’ been draining the water from one of the smaller wetlands that neighbours the pond at Frank’s Flats.  I’ve been holding a bit of a grudge, given that, of course, multiple families of geese and waterfowl have already done their romancing and settled in.  Changes will be even more dramatic when the 22X (Stoney Trail) expansion requires ‘them’ to interfere with the wetlands on the west side of Macleod Trail.  I know. I know.  This infringement upon wildlife and plant life is a constant struggle as human beings lay down more and more pavement, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t cause a person grief as they are witness to the process.  Where are the advocates for wild life and who is listening?  I sometimes wonder.

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I met ‘a guy’ in one of those bright orange vests.  Don’t ask me his position.  It was a complicated title.  I just nodded.  He seemed interested that I pick litter and that I know anything at all about the wetlands.  He participates in the annual river clean up.  hmmm

He was out on that fine day, checking that everything was staked out and assured me that the remaining large trees would be coming down, but that on the first rip down, because of a specific time line and government regulations, as well as the distance from wetlands, they were required to leave the big ones for the sake of the ecosystem and the nesting birds.  I explained that the magpies and crows….murders of them…were so distraught that for days they gathered in a single tree, yelling at the land.  And yes…I did cry over the crows.

Due to the construction of a heavy duty drainage system last season, Enmax has not been able to properly maintain/facilitate the Osprey Platform on the Sikome Lake side.  As a result Mother Goose has been there for almost five weeks.  I’m thinking the goslings will either starve or fall off the platform.  In the meantime two pair of Osprey have had to take up residence on top of sign platforms both directions on the loud and dangerous roadway.   I don’t know how they will all manage.

Follow Up to This: The Fish Creek Conservation Officer returned my call,  inquiring about this.  I was assured of a couple of things.  First, it is offence to mess with wildlife in any form, in its natural circumstance in a Provincial Park.  Second, if a bird is nesting ANYWHERE, then this is natural to that bird.  This gentleman had a very calm voice and was telling me the facts.  At this point, I need to grow in acceptance of some of these circumstances where I make observations of birds/animals.

Nature will have to take it’s course.

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I know that for the entire extent of the Stoney Trail’s development, wildlife, wetlands and trees/natural plants have been impacted.  I know that I need to accept ‘progress’ here and in our beautiful park lands, including the Bow Valley Parkway.  It’s just that I don’t think the general population receives all of the information as some of these projects go ahead at warp speed and gather a momentum that becomes destructive and insensitive to a wilderness/natural environment that we, as citizens of Alberta, generally, treasure.

Maybe this is a cliche, but our human population needs to slow down.  Not good for economic climate? Tourism? Well…things to think about.

Today’s pelican…a senior, just like me.  On its own, but it took flight, just after this photo was taken…something about Max, I think.

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My friend, Julie, let me in on the very public location where Mrs. Great Horned Owl and her offspring are hanging out these days.  These owlets will likely fledge within the next week.  In the meantime, Max and I took pause, some distance away and watched.  Of course, I cried.  I was in awe that edging on a bike path, a mama could tend to her babes…so vulnerable, so strong, so absolutely magical.  We need to realize that the species we share this planet with require our advocacy.  We need to stop…and watch, learn and cherish.  This is my plea as I write tonight.

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Species that I have observed in the path of Stoney Trail development, presently.  The mammals; coyotes and deer, have already vacated the paths I take.

  1. Canada Geese
  2. Mallards
  3. Osprey
  4. Black-capped Night-heron
  5. Goldeneye
  6. Redheads
  7. 5 nesting pair of Grebes
  8. Common Mergansers
  9. Common Raven
  10. Red Winged Blackbirds
  11. American Wigeons
  12. Buffleheads
  13. Frogs like no other year

This Spring’s Spark Bird

Every year, I become more intrigued with the act of watching birds.  The book, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear put some of that into perspective for me…in fact, when I poured over the pages, it was the first time that I could really connect with why I am so driven to investigate Frank’s Flats; the wildlife, landscape, atmospheric changes and ecosystems.

I think that Maclear proposes that there is a single spark bird that draws the everyday person into the act of bird watching.  However, for me, it seems that every year, in springtime, I am renewed to the experience by a particular bird.

This year, that bird is this one, a Merlin.  And…I could be wrong in my identification and challenge my readers to look at its markings and confirm with me if I am mistaken or correct.  About three years ago, in my neighbourhood park, I noticed a nesting couple and likely heard them first.  They have a very particular high pitched call.

Merlin

Adult male (Prairie)
  • Light blue-gray crown
  • Pale face with no distinct pattern
  • Streaked breast
  • Dark eye with pale eyebrow
  • Prairie subspecies occurs in Great Plains states and southern Canada

This year, I’ve been close enough to the nesting pair to have received a bit of an annoyed reaction.  They are very defensive birds and protective during the nesting period.  As I’ve discovered on line, their talons and beaks provide for some very nasty feeding frenzies on pigeons, sparrows, mice and I’m guessing that they could do a mean attack on young children or dogs if they felt challenged.

So, for now, I’ll watch from a distance.  They are just beautiful!

Usually, one remains in a sparse deciduous tree or atop a power pole some distance from the nest, while the other stays tucked into the evergreen tree, a nest that was stolen from a mating magpie pair three seasons ago.

Recent photographs have helped me to make some distinctions in the small raptor, however, I’m still learning.  I got some good shots of the nesting adult yesterday.  I invite any feedback about these or other raptors as I expand my knowledge.

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Alvise Came to Town!

Dang!  I wanted to document each and every monthly angel, with its creator, Alvise Doglioni Majer.  This time I forgot.

We had lots of creativity to talk about, though, and the minute I saw her, I was smitten by July!  Thank you, Alvise.  She has now officially joined the other ladies in the Journey Around the Sun series.  The summer critter to be represented is the honey bee.  Alvise has two hives on his property now and will expand to four next year.  I particularly enjoy the face, halo and wings on this angel.  She has a bit of a summer tan.

I’m enjoying a bowl of beef barley soup on this rainy chill of an afternoon.  I’m glad I got out to the pond this morning…so sad, however, to find that pesticides were being sprayed in an area where young geese were feeding and the other birds were still busily harvesting worms surfaced after yesterday’s rain.  I just don’t understand why we are not more invested in caring for delicate ecosystems.  Why would the pristine turf of a sports field take priority?  The city of Calgary website explains that the presence of broadleaf weeds is a tripping and safely hazard.  But…I digress.  I’m praying for the conversion of the human heart, in so many ways.

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Former archives.

Alvise Doglioni Majer’s Studio

Sunday Driving on Friday

April’s Angel

Road Trip and Angels

 

 

Of Brutality and Tenderness

This is a post, of the sort, that I rarely write.  It will try to express, from my deepest heart, my own sense of conflict in a world that, with passing years, becomes more clearly hostile or as is explored by The Little Prince, in my favourite grown-up book, uninhabitable.

The Geographer

Within the context of this hostility, I seek out tender and beautiful moments so that I might share, as much as I can, positivity, without politicizing or pontificating or professing my own views so as to be delicate with my social media readers.  Well, today, I’m going to deliberately confront, for no better reason than to get things off my chest.  It will not matter because the world will continue to be inhabited by, according to Chapter 16 of St. Exupery’s The Little Prince…

The Earth is not just an ordinary planet! One can count, there, 111 kings (not forgetting, to be sure, the Negro kings among them), 7000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7,500,000 tipplers, 311,000,000 conceited men–that is to say, about 2,000,000,000 grown-ups.

To give you an idea of the size of the Earth, I will tell you that before the invention of electricity it was necessary to maintain, over the whole of the six continents, a veritable army of 462,511 lamplighters for the street lamps.

Seen from a slight distance, that would make a splendid spectacle. The movements of this army would be regulated like those of the ballet in the opera. First would come the turn of the lamplighters of New Zealand and Australia. Having set their lamps alight, these would go off to sleep. Next, the lamplighters of China and Siberia would enter for their steps in the dance, and then they too would be waved back into the wings. After that would come the turn of the lamplighters of Russia and the Indies; then those of Africa and Europe; then those of South America; then those of South America; then those of North America. And never would they make a mistake in the order of their entry upon the stage. It would be magnificent.

Only the man who was in charge of the single lamp at the North Pole, and his colleague who was responsible for the single lamp at the South Pole–only these two would live free from toil and care: they would be busy twice a year.

I am sitting, this morning, watching two nests, two eagles, both sitting on two eggs, miles separating them…one in New Jersey, the other in Iowa.  Today or tomorrow, chicks will emerge and the miracle of life will begin…the obstacles, the weather, the natural abilities to thwart and maneuver around all of the various hazards that will daunt the juveniles and then one day if they manage, find them as adult eagles.  To watch live cameras would not be possible at one time in history.  It is a wonder that I am able to enjoy this privilege and I do not take that lightly.

The nests have taught me much over the past five years.  Moments at the nest have been both gratifying and horrifying. At one point, a chick, still like a wriggling worm with nothing but fuzz on its squirming body, managed to back out and under the tallest railings at the outside perimeter of the nest, and plummeted to the ground below, this after the tedious and daunting 35 days of incubation and the endless tending from both of its parents, once hatched.  In another circumstance, at the Hornby Island nest, a chick was caught up in the talon of its own parent who could not free that helpless bird, and eventually, having to leave the nest for sustenance, returned without the little babe.  This is how brutal life can be.

I have watched the spring birds, with amazement and horror this year. At my back yard feeder, I have watched dozens of male sparrows, harass and brutalize a single female.  A loud raucous noise, screaming, the female batting her wings fast and furiously while the males peck one another, pushing into her body.  She gets as close to the ground as she can, but they persist.  She is allowed no where near the feeder either, as the males take positions of domination.  I can only call these acts, in human terms, acts of rape and aggression.  I have seen it again and again.

I have watched two male mallards gliding in the water alongside a female; the males looking magical…bright green iridescent head feathers, brilliant orange feet paddling them smoothly through the water; the females, much smaller and dull brown.  Inevitably the wild shake of action and the loud forced honking sounds begin and the female lifts out of the water, one male furiously beating his wings a short distance at her back.  They circle the pond, over and over again, the male in wild pursuit. The female is driven into exhaustion. The energy explodes at the pond, the other male seeming to care less of the goings on on the blue spring air.

The pond is edged in human plastic…the life of the pond is choked as it swallows up our branded cups and cutlery.  One big plastic bag wraps itself around the bull rushes, the willow, the dogwood, the natural grasses and ties itself in a knot so that the pond can no longer breath.  The prairie dogs drag the styrofoam chips into their tunnels, warm insulation for the coming winter, where in spring, their kittens will be born.  The coyotes, the osprey, the herons, the field mice are all of no consequence.

At the pond, I am a witness and there are many lessons for me.

Sometimes, as a species, we believe that we are free of such traumas.  There is a false sense that we are ‘apart’ and that even if all of this and these pass, we will go on.  We do not believe, not really, that we are getting sick and that we are dying.  We believe that if our water supply is gone, if our ice caps melt, if we cut down all of our forests and milk the earth dry of her minerals and her oil supply, that we will somehow be free of any great consequence.  We do not believe that we have responsibility for any of the brutality that befalls the planet or other human beings.  Until some hellish consequence befalls us, we are not really linked to our own mortality.  As a people we become faithless, believing that religion radicalizes people and is the essence of all that fails us. Instead, humanity becomes disconnected from mother, source, creator, force, the divine, God…and aimlessly consumes like a rabid dog, everything and if it proves beneficial, every one.

The robust access to media and news, leads us to images that profoundly shock us.  I can only post one example, but one can find similarly distressing visuals surrounding ALL species…the indiscriminate poaching of animals, the inhumane practices in the farming of animals that we consume, the over fishing of our oceans and the devastating harvesting of the fruits of the 140 million year old Borneo rain forests; these to name only a few of my present day concerns.

Minke Whales

Here

Our headlines tell the story of a radicalized world, one that expresses the insane reality of a humanity that casts away ‘the other’ and looks to fulfill an insatiable and personal/collective appetite for whatever serves to pleasure. At the same time as we preach equality and inclusion, we, who have so much, do little to provide for the basic human needs required for a basic existence in other parts of the world or in our own communities. At the same time that we profess inclusion, we feel the only way to live a satisfying life is to be disconnected from spiritual practice and religion, abhorring and publicly attacking those who have not chosen a similar path.

We have counseling for our own traumas and money to spend on frivolous things, but sometimes forget that the world over, children are struggling to care for dying parents and parents are holding dying children in their arms, most often as the result of the greedy intentions of others. (this is where people ask if I am driving a car…this is where I put my own comforts into question)  We negotiate our way blindly through our lives, and think that there is no end to the luxury of it all.

It is not simply in nature that we see male dominance over the female gender. (and let us not forget the exceptions…I really don’t want to piss anyone off)   Recent news has caused me to feel resentful, as I thoughtfully consider issues around narratives of domestic violence and rape. In 2016…it is a difficult thing to understand how humanity can take the position it does, one that continues to victimize the victim, one that can go so far as to mock. As a result of trauma, years later, a victim may hear, “Get over that victim-role!”

Best written by a smart friend of mine, one of those remarkable men in my life,

“It does not inspire confidence in our species that there is an epidemic of people (mostly men) who are so narcissistic that violation in pursuit of gratification is commonplace, with seemingly tacit acceptance.”

Refugees flee in desperation due to political and social turmoil and war, entire families absorbing the trauma of losing their lives as they knew them. Issues of exploitation of women, the impoverished, children; unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, homelessness, respect for people suffering debilitating disease and disabilities of every variety, respect for the dying…all matters of concern sometimes leading to brutal circumstances.  It is all so overwhelming, that humanity becomes numb to the shear enormity of it all.  For this suffering, the remedy seems to be to self medicate, whether that be in the depths of a screen, alcohol, drugs, sex, narcissism…experiencing life on the surface seems much better than feeling things deeply.  It is easy to experience hopelessness.

Just recently, an inspiring priest in our parish, shared this talk.  For me, Holy Thursday represents that moment where life flips from brutality to tenderness and the Easter Triduum, in its complete journey similarly encompasses both.  I’ve always felt this way, it’s just that, this year, I feel like I need to articulate it somehow.  These are desperate times.

I want to, therefore, return to the premise of this writing.  And that is, that despite the brutality,  there is such tenderness in this life and living.  There is hope to be discovered in the quiet and profound intimacy of nature.  For me, there is grace, also, to be found in a long and abiding journey of faith, in my case, in the context of the Catholic church.  This journey has been marked by periods of gut wrenching pain, but anchored in an enduring personal determination,  I negotiated through the darkness and into light.

Tenderness is to be discovered in the penetrating love of mothers.  At the nest, unceasing and true to their instinctual calling, the mother remains a protector.  And generally, so it is with our species.

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At the nest, one sees the absolute and determined protective instincts of adults for their offspring.  And within the human experience, we also see hearts that reach out in protection of others.  A few true life examples that came to mind for me over my own Easter Triduum experience…the suffering…sacrifice…dying to self…service…community of support and love…resurrection and light…

Mark and Carmen Vazquez-Mackay have, for weeks now, along with their son, spent Sunday afternoons playing with Syrian children, newcomers to our big city.  They have made an effort to allay fears and to show families who have escaped huge hostility in their own homeland, that they are welcomed and safe.  I think that this is an expression of human tenderness.

SIRIAN LOVE report #3
Today’s group was small…only 7 kids around the age of 8. Many of the families are transitioning to their first homes in Canada, so they couldn’t participate. On our walk to the park, a few of the boys fought to be the ones who held my hand for the walk; I wish I had 6 hands this morning. One boy in particular was wanting much of my attention. He is definitely a leader who keeps all the boys in check. When we were leaving the park, he yelled “No, no, no” and refused to leave. Made me happy to know the positive effect Carmen and I are having, but sad that I can’t give him more time. It took 5 minutes to pry him off the playground. When I gave my departing high-fives to the kids, this boy followed it up by blowing me a kiss…sic

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Wendy is the visionary who breathed life into create!   create! in the East Village offers free, drop-in, inclusive creative programming to all residents of the East Village. Sessions run 4 times each week.  The diverse group of people who gather and create and communicate with one another is such an absolute testament to the inclusive nature of humanity when the very best of love and concern shines through.  There is nothing like it.  To find yourself in a place where you are validated by the mere act of entering into the dance of creation is to be richly blessed and exemplifies what it means to receive tenderness.

create W

Hollee, L’Arche Canada’s National Leader, supports the vision of Jean Vanier who has committed his lifetime and inspires others to care for and tend to the human heart, no matter how lonely or isolated that heart might be.  L’Arche was founded in 1964 by Canadian humanitarian and social visionary, Jean Vanier. Distressed by the institutionalization and the isolation and loneliness of people with intellectual disabilities, Jean Vanier invited two men from an institution to live with him in a small house.

In L’Arche, people who have intellectual disabilities and those who come to assist share life and daytime activities together in family-like settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods. L’Arche in Canada has nearly 200 homes and workshops or day programs. These are grouped into what L’Arche calls ”communities.” There are 29 communities of L’Arche located across Canada from Cape Breton to Vancouver Island. L’Arche communities are open and welcoming of neighbours and friends and often engage in various collaborations at the local level.

In a seeming brutal world, there are those who make the invitation to others to ‘belong’ regardless of differences and prejudices.  It is possible to see the world with tenderness and to nurture her…all species…the land…the oceans and one another.

Given hours that I have spent in hospitals, sitting next to loved ones who are in pain or who are fading in health and life…I have seen the very worst and the very best of humanity.  The tenderness and compassion that comes with Personal Support Workers and nursing staff, Daycare Workers and those who choose to lovingly care for our aging populations, women and men who are sometimes completely helpless and suffering with memory loss, is to be greatly commended.  While in this lifetime, these responsibilities do not appear to be valued, these expressions of care and professionalism, are crucial to our healthy formation as a people.  Bravo to those who choose patience and kindness and for environments that honour tenderness before productivity and quick delivery of service.

Blessed are those who advocate for our planet…those who research and study, observe and document, diligently fight for the humane treatment and protection of the myriad of species we share this planet with.  Theirs is important work.  There are countless individuals who take in stray animals and tend to their woundedness.  There are organizations that take on very specialized mandates in protecting our forests, waterways and our resources.  There are those who fight for the cause of other human beings who are struggling, in our city and globally.

Ramona, my high school bestie, has just returned from serving with the Peace Corp in Guyana and before that, Peru.  Her photographs over these several years and her brief stories have sometimes made me cry; I am so proud of her service and her contribution to the education and well being of others.  Ramona’s heart has always been filled with tenderness and sincere care for others.  No time for ‘selfies’, this lady is captured in photographs in the ‘belly’ of life and living.  I love her so much!

Ramona

Ramona 2

Sweet Christina, who I’ve watched grow from dream-filled teenager to smart creative woman, decided to take on a mission.  She just decided she was going to do something meaningful and so readers discover, Slum Runners!

Slum Runners is a grassroots organization working toward the creation of sustainable community-run bases that address the widely unmet needs of: education, sanitation, access to clean drinking water and affordable food. We aim to develop access to these basic resources within urban slums.

One third of the world’s urban population lives in slums. This number is continuing to climb and the need for hubs providing these basic needs
are, and will be, both life enhancing and life saving.

Our project aims to develop a scalable model implementing natural design principles that incorporate traditional knowledge and modern-day innovation.

To date we envision robust earthen educational structures, rainwater harvesting, intensive urban food forestation and increased access to school supplies.

Our pilot project is scheduled to commence early in 2016 in the urban slum of Mukuru Kwa Ngenga, Nairobi, Kenya.

Christina

About this picture…

We started the Chinese year of the monkey with ZERO monkey business. Just dirty hands and straight faces!!! Today we dug our new small garden plot a foot deep into garbage, clay and actual boulders….that is the soil we have to work with 😳 BUT we did it! We’ve got a little lasagna bed starting. So proud of our growing environment club! Soon we’ll be ready to plant seeds. Oh! And when the kids came to class I asked them to get out all the compostable materials I had listed for them to bring and found 100’s of plastic straws mixed with mango peels and grass…I finally realised I had listed “hay/straw!” 😂😂😂

There is so much beauty and tenderness that rises out of the dark sludge of everything that ails…but, this post is becoming far too long.  If you’ve pushed on through all of it…I’ll summarize my thoughts here.

I am, in walking a single pond environment every day, learning lessons about the intimate beauty of an ofttimes struggling world. I’m capturing hope and light in the bubble of my heart and going home with it.

This Easter journey was a beautiful thing…it not only exposed much about the world that is brutal, (suicide bombings, disintegrating glaciers, Yemen murders of 16 people, four of them five members of the Missionaries of Charity)  but it brought to mind, everything that is glorious about life and peace (the tending and hatching of two eagle eggs over 37 days, the love shared between my children and my family members, my Dad, the laughter shared with students at school, my daily dog-walking and nature-watching).  This is what living means…all of it.  It is all by the grace of God.

Duke 812 March 27 2016 Feeding Easter Morning

The Peel Project

My children are warm-hearted and inclusive.  Last night I was very excited to have been invited, very spontaneously, by Cayley, to the viewing of the documentary, The Peel, in the intimacy of The Blank Page studio.

It was Cayley who, 27 years ago, picked purple flowers for me, while surrounded by wolf willow, at the edge of the Oldman River at Maycroft Crossing.

Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 005

Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 008

I had missed the huge public viewings of the film the night before.  So, as I look back on last evening, I’m very grateful that I was able to curl up on a sofa and enjoy such remarkable vistas coming out of the Peel Watershed documentary and to enjoy, in part,  the narratives of the participants on this wondrous adventure.  I could not help but connect with the narratives, struggles and histories in the documentary, given my close connection with the Oldman Watershed in southern Alberta in the mid 1970s through the 1980s.

OldmanWatershed

First, to describe the Peel project, directly from the website, this…

The Peel is a multi-layered project bringing together film, the arts and sciences as a means of telling a uniquely Canadian story of art, adventure and Canadian identity. The Peel highlights the landscape, culture and wildlife of the Peel River Watershed (PRW) in Yukon/Northwest territories. This watershed is one of the last undeveloped watersheds left in Canada, spanning nearly 68,000km2 of intact arctic wilderness.  As of January 2014 71% was opened for economic development related to mining and oil exploration — that decision has been continuously fought.

There is something very interesting about aging…one collects a whole bunch of experiences that later, become reference points for others.  I’ve always treasured the words and stories of my elders…now, very slowly, I become the elder.  It makes me smile.  Life marches forward.  We are left with the photographs and the archives and the documentaries.

Surprisingly, as I sat down this morning and did a search of the internet for the steps that we took in defiance of the building of the Oldman River Dam, there was very little in the way of an ideological footprint (there have been a couple of books written, one newspaper archive and the mention of the Oldman River Expedition appears sparsely on a whole number of artists’ Curriculum Vitaes) and so I decided to dig up my own archives coming from the late 1980s.

First of all, SAAG in Lethbridge celebrated the works of the following artists in an exhibit, as a response to a shorter but similar journey down the Oldman River.

In the summer of 1990, a group of well-known artists in all media from across the country took part in a week-long rafting and camping expedition down the Oldman River, arriving in Lethbridge on Canada Day. This exhibition will document that trip by showing that the work was initiated by that experience. Participating Alberta artists are: Barbara Ballachey, Carroll Moppett, Stephen Hutchings, Jeffery Spalding, Janet Cardiff, Billy McCarroll, Catherine Burgess and others include Dan Hudson, Tim Zuck, Judith Schwarz, Toni Onley, Tak Tanabe, Terence Johnson, Robert Blake and Landon MacKenzie. Although the work in this exhibition is diverse in media and approach, it is unified in its tribute to the southern Alberta landscape. – See more at: http://www.saag.ca/art/exhibitions/0516-the-oldman-river-expedition-exhibition#sthash.Z0dUPaWF.dpuf

I continue to admire the work of several of these artists and have followed their careers and work with great interest.

While painting could not be my sole focus through this precise period of time, I had been painting the Oldman River as a subject for a number of years.  Nestled on the edge of the river, the University of Lethbridge had already been my home for four years at this point.  The river became an obsession with me for many years and I had spent countless days/hours exploring and dreaming in the coulees and at the river bottom.  When the politics became heated over all aspects of irrigation and development of a Dam on the Oldman, I was consumed and soon became a contributing member to the “Friends of the Oldman”.  My own grandfather, the owner of Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill, had taken a position on the Oldman Planning Committee.

Grampa Moors 2

The number of connections I made and conversations I shared around the river, grew. I remember meeting and speaking with Joane Cardinal Schubert at the time.  It was an image of hers that became the poster for our legal and artistic struggle.

Joane Cardinal Schubert and the River 2

Joane Cardinal Schubert and the River I began painting a series titled Oldman on the Edge and continued to paint the river right into the 1990s.

Maycroft 3

I snapped some photographs from my albums this morning…as our family, like many others, headed out very early in the morning and drove from Calgary to Maycroft Crossing for a musical festival to raise funds and to voice opposition of the dam that was already in the works.  That day, I met Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Andy Russell and Chief Crowshoe.

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Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 012

So…was it any wonder that I felt deeply about the documentary, The Peel, last evening?  I’m glad I had opportunity to talk with both Katie Green and Daniel J. Dirk for a short while.  I admire their attempts to integrate the power of the journey, their artistic practice and their strong desire to preserve, for future generations, this last remaining watershed in North America.  It’s crazy what has happened to our rivers, in the name of progress and in support of industry.  I understand their efforts to articulate what their journey on a portion of the Peel has come to mean to them.  I know that, given my own physical/emotional/psychological efforts on  a 31 day Outward Bound experience (white water and mountain climbing), what it means to try to ‘be an artist’ on a journey and how it must have been challenging for the artists on the Peel Project.

Reflecting back, again, on ‘my’ river…take a look at this…the land use…the cut lines.

Land use Oldman Watershed

I’m publishing a few pages that come out of a 2010 report on the Oldman Watershed…I think it touches on the history of a river and might give my readers something to think about.  I guess something that really touched my heart last night were Daniel’s words to me…and I paraphrase…

I guess even if our voices aren’t heard and we are unsuccessful in our efforts to create sustainability, where the watershed is concerned, we will have been defiant and stood in opposition.  Maybe that’s the best we can do sometimes.

2010 Oldman Watershed Report Preface

2010 Page 2

2010 Page 3

2010 Page 4

2010 Page 5

Aldo Leopold’s words ring true…

“We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the 20th century; our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do.  They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides.  But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history; to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”

Congratulations on the North American premiere The Peel, a free Art!Flicks documentary directed by Calder Cheverie and Anthony Wallace.  Congratulations to six artists; Aurora Darwin, Carleigh Baker, Anthony Wallace, Katie Green, Daniel J. Kirk and Callan Field.

 

 

Bird Tails From the Hood

Feral cats roam free throughout the seasons on our circle.  A few of them congregate on the ‘cat lady’s’ step because I think she gets them through the winter.  One of the cats belongs to her, but he is definitely an outdoor cat.  The other three come and go, but always sit, when she’s gone, on her smoking chair. The one that has managed through the most years is a tortoise shell long hair who often stalks my bird feeder and routinely catches and tortures mice.  I watch, stunned, from the window.  Yesterday, this very cat sat on the sidewalk directly across from my house…crouched and ready to bolt.  Max, my dog, barked wildly from the living room window.  I stepped outside to see what the commotion was all about.  Looking carefully, I saw puffs of feather circling the cat’s mouth.  It looked funny until I saw the fledgling robin on the yard below me.

Both mother and father were posturing anxiously in near proximity to the evidently scruffed up youngster.  I shooed the cat away as it bolted and hid beneath one of the cars parked along the street.  Bit by bit, I coaxed the young dude east along the street and up onto neighbour’s steps where he/she might be able to get some height on the next flight attempt.  Prompted by its parents, it continued bob bob bobbing along, however exposed to the crows, the cats, the magpies and the great big world.

As I looked more closely at the young robin, I saw that it had been attacked on its chest and definitely on its tail feathers.  I don’t know that it will at any point be able to fly, given this disastrous result.  Once again, I contemplate the tough world of nature.  I think about the challenges of adults, in this case, the hatching and feeding and raising up of young birds in precarious nests and then, teaching them to fly.  In nature, there is so much fighting against birds, animals and plants.  Sometimes I am amazed that species continue to populate this earth, where now, there are so many forces operating against them.  Natural predators are one thing, but the forces that human beings exert upon species and the devastating development of natural environments is truly, staggering.

I managed, yesterday morning, to delay the violent ending of a young robin.  The lesson, however, is that ‘out there’, it is the strong that survive.  I guess it’s the same for us.

©Kathleen Moors  Mama bob bobbing, frantically.  Her antics, steering the cat's attention away from her progeny.

©Kathleen Moors Mama bob bobbing, frantically. Her antics, steering the cat’s attention away from her progeny.

©Kathleen Moors Dad, looking as puffed up and red-chested as possible, distracting predators, the cat and me, from his progeny.

©Kathleen Moors Dad, looking as puffed up and red-chested as possible, distracting predators, the cat and me, from his progeny.

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors Youngster, his own feather caught within his beak, survivor of the first attack.

For the Birds

I am spending quiet times at the pond, given that Max is injured.  He’s at the end of the umbilical leash, quiet, but cranky about my dawdling at the pond’s edge and making only one circle of the water…stopping frequently to gaze at various species.

I’m learning to use my camera bit by bit, but really have a lot to learn.  Honestly, the most amazing things I’ve seen recently are rarely photographed because I’m either too slow or I really don’t care.  I get wrapped up in the moment.

I’m learning how much light has to do with photography.  I always knew it…light and, more importantly, dark are essential to painting and the establishment of contrast, but to photography, even more so.  I think there needs to be a degree of drama and also narrative in a good photograph.  I dawdle so much because I’m looking for those sorts of stories.

I’ve been watching the American Coots a lot lately, just because of the shear numbers of them at Frank’s Flats.  Here’s Audubon’s version offered up by the Toronto Public Library.

aud-plate-239 Toronto Public Library American Coot Audubon, John James, 1785-1851I haven’t taken a single photograph of the coots, but I’m very caught up in the drama that surrounds these strangely disproportionate birds.  They are constantly picking fights with other water fowl, same species or not.  Wild chases erupt most times when they are around.  Also, they get extremely amorous, sticking their beaks into the water and fanning out their rear feathers, all the while, shaking their butts.  Most amazing, are their young!  Long strings of eight, nine and ten ducklings following mamas and then day after day…fewer and fewer in number; likely good pickings for crows, magpies and other like-spirited birds.  But the most amazing is the physical appearance of the baby coots!

Rob English of Birds Calgary took this photograph in July of 2011. What’s NOT to love about these goofy red headed little guys?

Photo Credit: Rob English Birds Calgary 2011

Photo Credit: Rob English Birds Calgary 2011

I don’t even know what these birds are called…just a sec…I’ll look.  Uh huh…a Savannah Sparrow, or as Audubon would have us know it, a Savannah Finch.

Savanah Finch_090706110723 AudubonMy capture this evening…

©Kathleen Moors  Photo Credit Please

©Kathleen Moors Photo Credit Please

and…more animated, but perhaps less focused (and heck if I know).  These are so petite and so delicate…it makes me wonder about the complexity of my Father-Jesus-Spirit God that these creatures are so ‘wonderfully’ made.

©Kathleen Moors Photo Credit Please

©Kathleen Moors Photo Credit Please

I checked in on Mr. and Mrs. Osprey.  I have no idea how to accomplish a photograph of a bird in flight, but if ever there is one that should be properly captured flying, it is an osprey.  The male has been such a diligent partner and I have seen him feed mama daily.  I’m getting the feeling that she has wee ones because today her behaviour at the nest was very different.  Or, perhaps she just found a fish dropped in front of her.  Not certain.  These photographs are always taken a great distance away and I’m not getting the best quality as a result.  I find that photos early in the morning, while aiming west, are the best.  I’m so grateful that I have had opportunity to watch this nesting from the very first stick that was dragged across the width of all lanes on 22X.

Osprey by Audubon: Toronto Public Library

Osprey by Audubon: Toronto Public Library

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

Dad was a long way off, but always faithful to his duties.  Bare tree branches were filled with crows and magpies.  They frequently hang out with him, as they like to have such a great fisherman as their very best friend.

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

http://columbiawireless.ca/?fb_ref=Default

This guy…some type of hawk and his buddies find lamp posts to perch upon, no matter how busy the neighbouring road or high way.  At a moment’s notice, they dive down and I’ve seen them carrying all sorts of rodents.  He was marching about in the tall grass at one point.  I’m not certain his specific variety, but I wouldn’t be messing with those talons, if I was a mouse.  This character seems to have a thing for numbers. I think this may be a Harlan’s Red-Tailed Hawk, but my Dad will confirm once he checks out this post. (Hmmm…thinking it’s a Swainson’s Hawk…YUPPER!  Forget everything I said about a Red-Tailed Hawk!)  John James Audubon referred to the Swainson’s Hawk as being a Common Buzzard.

Swainson's Hawk (common buzzard)

Audubon: Harlan's Red-Tailed Hawk

Audubon: Harlan’s Red-Tailed Hawk

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

Kath's Canon June 19, 2015 Garden Frank's Flats Birds Super 3s 145

©Kathleen Moors

Hmmm…I was going to bash out tile tonight and it’s already eight in the evening.  The spaghetti squash is done.  It’s time for me to get going. (Nah…one more!)

I met up with this guy at one location and stood quite a distance away.  His antics stepping in and around the water were fabulous, but of course, I was watching and not shooting.  A very fuzzy capture of a Black Crowned Night Heron.

Audubon: Black Crowned Night Heron

Audubon: Black Crowned Night Heron

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

In the meantime, in the neighbourhood, the magpies squawk at the feral cats…the sparrows continue their romance in the vent across from my kitchen window,  the robins go bob bob bob along, tugging long worms out of the grass after every rainfall and one beautiful song bird visits a large back yard tree on the alley every morning. I delight in nature…in what grows.  I am grateful that I am able to enjoy such wonders.

Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area…Getting a Taste

Last evening, before my pond walk with Max, I headed west and south to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.  We will be taking our grade threes on a field trip to the location and in order to be fully prepared, a session is required for all instructors.  I attended with friends and colleagues, Jenn and Emily.  Lots of laughs and beautiful sunshine were shared.  Having a brand new camera meant that my head was sometimes out of range once we were outdoors.  But certainly I learned a lot about the conservation area from Maureen, the presenting educator, while we were inside.  (I have to say that the three yellow finches at the feeder located right outside the classroom were a little bit of a distraction.) From their website, this.

“Sandy Cross is the son of A.E. Cross (one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four”) and Helen Rothney Macleod.  Sandy started purchasing land south of Calgary in 1945 for what would become Rothney Farm and eventually the Cross Conservation Area. In 1987, Sandy and his wife Ann donated nearly 2,000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time, it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history and was operated by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.”

The land is spectacular and the approach that is taken in regards the sustaining the ecosystems is, by my standard, fabulous.  What a beautiful start to Thursday evening!

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From the Conservation Area, I swung home and picked up Max.  The sun was beginning to set and the birds seemed to be very active at Frank’s Flats.  I played a little with my camera and while they certainly aren’t perfectly focused, I will never forget my encounter with the male Black-crowned Night Heron and his mate.  Beautiful call…huge wing span…and a circle on the blue sky before alighting onto the brush below.  I also had a visit with the osprey…trying to capture the front of the male, but shooting into sunshine.

Kath's Canon May 21 2015 048Kath's Canon May 21 2015 074

This far away.  Mrs. Kept low in the nest at the neighbouring platform....but, as I drove passed on 22X coming home, I saw her tending her eggs and sorting things out.

This far away. Mrs. kept low in the nest at the neighbouring platform….but, as I drove past on 22X, I saw her tending her eggs and sorting things out.

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Mrs. eye-balling me.

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Max-man, my forever-friend…smelling like a post-winter pond….but, very very happy.

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