Days at the River

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

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

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

2015 Pond Study With Litter

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

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

Mr. and Mrs. 2018 Bow River

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

First Snow 2018

They Remain With Us Through Remembering.

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

Adam’s River Salmon Run 2018

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

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

To begin…a short video.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Adam's River

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

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

 

 

 

Pacific Salmon

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Alberta Culture Days in Claresholm!

Donning my orange shirt, I got Max out for a quick walk on city sidewalks, dropped him home to a delicious breakfast (yeah, right?) and hopped in the car for a road trip to Claresholm, Alberta.  My friend-descendants of British Home Children were gathering for a display opportunity in the Claresholm Exhibition Hall and I really wanted to join them.  Yesterday was the first National British Home Child Day and I felt very pleased for the recognition and the remembrances that were shared yesterday by descendants who had grown up with mystery, secrets and shame around their ancestry.  I think that the disconnect from any roots at all is likely the most upsetting aspect of growing up in home child culture…very few children ever found solace in a relationship with siblings or Mom or Dad.  There was a helplessness there, a disconnect and a sense of true abandonment, often in powerlessness against abuse of all sorts.

In Canada, so many years later, families are hard at work, trying to unearth unspoken histories and share narratives that have been revealed via contact with the people who continue to house the files and reports on our ancestral family.  At a price and with great patience, piece by piece, we are all discovering who our people were, though most will discover that, at a point, the information will drop off.  Never did our ancestors show up on a Canadian census unless they were working as domestics in very wealthy homes.  I know that I have not found my great grandfather on any binding document between ages 13 and 21.  Those eight years are gone, although the families under which he was employed are well-documented in the foot prints of time.

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On a lighter note, I was so pleased to find Bruce and Connie, Hazel and John gathered before a beautiful display.  Hazel worked very hard to establish our representation at the open house and I have much gratitude for her efforts and her lovely display.  I appreciate that Bruce collected both Connie and John for the afternoon drive on such a cold and blustery day.  And I thank Bruce for the lovely addition to our Western Canadian collection, the poster featuring our new logo.  Excellent.

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Although I have other photographs of my four friends, I enjoy the fact that John Vallance’s true personality is showing through here and that Connie is taking it all in.  If any of you would like a more formal photograph for your files, just contact me.

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The woman who did the physical work here…and a visionary for BHC in the west, our Hazel Perrier.

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The program that the Claresholm museum hosted was fabulous!  I want to thank the town and its people who extended their hospitality.  I know that it was a cold and grey day, but the events and the people created a warm and happy experience for all in attendance.  I really enjoyed the sincere presentation/words and hoop dance performed by Sandra Lamouche. Due to lighting, very few of my photographs give justice to her performance and I hope that my readers will take a look at her website.

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At a point, Bruce, Connie and I went for a cup of tea in a neighbouring restaurant and we enjoyed a very yummy lunch.  It was nice to catch up with Bruce and Connie.  They are great people and I am so happy that they are in my life, with a common interest of family research and history.  I also had the opportunity to wander both the exhibition hall and the museum.  There is nothing like a focused wander through a museum, especially one with an RCAF display!  I enjoyed conversations with two ‘hookers’ who produce amazing works in the tradition of East Coast hooking and a lady who descends from family in Norway.  Very interesting stories and generous contributions!

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When I pulled out of my parking spot to head home at 4:30, I could still hear the ringing of beautiful music coming out of the concert tent.  Today was a perfect day and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy another Alberta Culture Day.

Remember…please…Leave NO CHILD BEHIND!

Hazel, John, Kath, Bruce, Connie

 

Doors Open YYC!

I’m feeling a little reflective tonight.  And once reflective, I write.  It’s what happens.  I’m close enough to enjoying the deposit of my pension into my bank account, as well, that I stopped off and bought myself a bottle of wine, so I’m sipping a glass, gratefully…and that also causes me to write.  I anticipate that very soon my go-to medium will be paint…but for tonight, this is awesome.

As for the reflection…

When someone gets physically ill, friends swoop in to help.  Sometimes meals are prepared or sometimes a person drops in for a visit.  There is evidence of injury or illness and it is apparent that that someone might need support.  The last while, I’ve suffered a different sort of illness…I’ve had a lot of struggle and as yet, I don’t even know how to describe it.  But, I’ve not been well.  I don’t think that the people I encounter in my day can even see it.  It rides beneath the surface, though, of pretty much everything.

But, enough of that…

What I want to do through this writing is to acknowledge one person who sat with me through this time….there were others and I am so grateful to them…but tonight, I want to write about Pat.  For one, I know she will read this post.  Not many will.  That’s okay.  In 2005, I began to write on a whim…never guessing that 13 years later, I would still be doing this.  I didn’t set up a blog with the intention of being read, but rather for a place to write.

About Patricia…Pat has this remarkable way of loving others…of genuinely caring for them.  Her love is not of the sentimental variety, but rather that of a reliable friend. Her friendship is not easy to describe, but as a single woman in a sometimes-tough world, I’ve been able to now track back through years where Pat has been a support to me.  She has never abandoned me.  It’s as though, at times, I’m sitting on a chair in the center of a room, with my nose cut off….everyone else is thinking it’s weird or ugly or distasteful and so they pull away…but, not Pat.  She’s there.  She’s staring right at my face, where my nose once was, and she is caring and kind and present…present, when many others face outward and away from me.  I wanted to begin this writing, about Doors Open YYC…by announcing my gratitude for Pat.

Her kindness has appeared in a package of home made cookies, wrapped up…just enough for my son and me.  It has been in the form of invitations, even when I could not muster up the means to respond or accept or sometimes, to get out.  It has been in the chatty drives…chats about everything but the big grey cloud that seems to hover over me. Like the cut off nose, Pat chooses to look through the grey cloud…I know she can see it, but it is such a relief to have the darkness pushed away with the gentle stories of a friend.  There are countless acts of kindness that I could mention, but suffice it to say that I aspire to be more like Pat in the world.  I will always be appreciative of Pat’s generous heart.

Recently I received one of Pat’s invitations via e-mail,  to do a day of Doors Open YYC.  I would have Pat all to myself and I thought, “What could be more wonderful?”  And so we went…

…and I enjoyed every moment!

On our list of destinations…Aleppo Soap  , the Calgary Buddhist Temple and Fiasco Gelato.  As I reflect upon the magic of the day, I have to say that the three locations we visited this year, were all about healing, kindness and strength of character.

First stop, Aleppo Soap is a business established and grown successfully by Syrian newcomers.

“Before Sabouni fled Syria, his soap factory was destroyed. His family spent time in Jordan before coming to Canada, where he tried to start the business again, but it wasn’t a success.

Now, he’s grateful he, his wife, and four children — his youngest son was born in Canada last year — have a chance for a fresh start.

“The Canadians come to support us, make me so happy … I want to say thank you Canada because I am grateful because it gives me and my family a new chance,” he said.”

We enjoyed a lovely tour of the soap factory and Pat and I both purchased some products afterwards.  The soap is so exceptionally beautiful.  There was, in the context of Aleppo, pride, generosity and hospitality.  I was so happy to see this venue well-attended by Calgarians.  I am in awe of the courage and hard work of the folk who have manifested their vision here in Canada.

 

Next, we headed for the Bridgeland area and enjoyed the hospitality of a Buddhist Priest at the Calgary Buddhist Temple.  Again, we were given a brief history and a simple explanation of the rituals, bell ringing and chants.  I found the temple to be very beautiful in its simplicity.  Those responsible for the tour were very generous with their time and reflections.

“The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran, a monk who lived in Japan in the 13th century. Jodo Shinshu means “true essence of Pure Land Buddhism” (or, literally: Jodo, meaning Pure Land or realm; Shin, meaning True; and Shu, meaning religion).”

Finally, we headed for Fiasco Gelato!  This was a very popular tour!  Fiasco Gelato is a story all on its own!  I was amazed by this place and really suggest that if you haven’t made a stop at the store, that you do!  What a positive approach to business.  Things haven’t come easy for the visionaries behind this place, but they have persisted and have created an amazing place…a great product…and a community-engaged enterprise. They have built something that matters!

“Fiasco is built on empowerment, innovation, forward thinking, strong relationships, passion, and the best customer experience. We are people focused and so little of what we do here day to day has to do with our product and more about doing great work and making people happy. We are here to do things differently, think differently and challenge the norm. We want people to be the best versions of themselves and think in terms of work and life blending together rather than segregating from each other.”

All three venues explored by Pat and I were places that nourish the spirit and sooth the soul.  The day could not have been better!  As I dipped into my container of Passionfruit Lemonade Gelato last evening, I was thinking back on how blessed we are in our city…how blessed I am.  I hope that every person who feels weary or sad or overcome with difficulties, grief or illness will find, in their lives, some one who is kind.  I have that in my life.

 

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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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The Matter of Place

Off the top…a great book recommendation made by Bill MacDonnell, Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama.

From the section of Streams of Consciousness Chapter 5…this preface by Gaston Bachelard.

“I was born in a country of brooks and rivers, in a corner of Champagne, called Le Vallage for the great number of its valleys. The most beautiful of its places for me was the hollow of a valley by the side of fresh water, in the shade of willows…My pleasure still is to follow the stream, to walk along its banks in the right direction, in the direction of the flowing water, the water that leads life towards the next village…Dreaming beside the river, I gave my imagination to the water, the green, clear water, the water that makes the meadows green. …The stream doesn’t have to be ours; the water doesn’t have to be ours. The anonymous water knows all my secrets. And the same memory issues from every spring.”
― Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter

These summarize my general sense of landscape and more specifically, place.

Just as I think that our narratives inhabit objects, and without materialism, contain our affections and memory, I believe that particular places do the same.

On Labour Day, my son and I headed to Magrath, Alberta to say good-bye to a house…my Auntie Ruth’s home…because on September 15, it will be possessed by a new family after all of these years.  James and I listened to CBC radio programming all the way south to Lethbridge.  It seems to me that a story on whistle blowers in places of employment kept us engaged for most of the journey.  The miles, as is usual, went by quickly.  Once traveling the 23 across from Claresholm, Barons was just around the corner and then, with coulees in sight, I felt as though I was home.

Rolling into Magrath, the first stop was the old house.  My cousins have been sorting and downsizing and cleaning…a very difficult experience, as I recall from the days when my parents went through the same process.  As I stepped into the house, all of the memories of childhood and adulthood rushed back to the surface.  There’s just no stopping that particular experience.  I snapped a few photographs…while Auntie Ruth had already moved…she was still absolutely present to my experience of memory and love.

Last week, my cousin wrote that he had found a package of negatives in among Ruth’s things…and much like I do at such discoveries, he set out and had them developed.  Here, is a scan of one of those photographs.  My parents, in 1954, brother John, a year old and one, a photograph of my Grandfather, John Moors, with his dog at Greg Lake.

Read this…on the Poetics of Space. About a house, Gaston Bachelard wrote…

“His use of architectural phenomenology lets the mind loose to make its way, always ready for what might emerge in the process. The house is ‘the topography of our intimate being’, both the repository of memory and the lodging of the soul – in many ways simply the space in our own heads. He offered no shortcuts or routes of avoidance, since ‘the phenomenologist has to pursue every image to the very end’.”

If one does not move carefully through a house/home, one might not capture these bits of magic or ephemera that remain silenced by time and circumstance.  I’m grateful to my cousin who discovered those negatives, flattened amid the bric-a-brac.

From Tim Rollingson Black and White 11From Tim Rollingson Black and White 9

Our footsteps echoed in the house, as James and I traveled room to room.  And while memories flooded my walk, my son James had a completely different experience of place and quietly uttered the words, “This is so sad.”

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I remember the front door always being open or unlocked.  Family came and went.

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My father asked me to take a photograph of the front door.  Several times repaired or renovated, my father had recollection of an incident from his childhood in this part of the house.  I’m publishing that recollection, here, as it was written.

 “Well the problem is Kath this new door had the hole above it fixed. Anyway my dad and his buddies came home from hunting birds one day in Magrath Alberta . Of course they were half cut (as dad told me years later”if you are going to drink just drink good scotch and you will never have a hang over”. Well that day Dad left a shell in his single barrel 12 gauge shot gun. I being an inquisitive young lad wanted them all to know ( Mom and the whole family was in that little living room); anyway I lined up the duck flying above the door cocked the gun and pulled the trigger.. BAM you should have heard the screems and the shot about knocked me on my butt but there was a neat round hole firght through trim at the top of the door which appeared just seconds after a big guy way over 6 feet had walked in. Dad was the only one who got supreme heck for having a loaded gun in the house. Now I have bared my soul to all those interested.PS I was about 7 or so when this happened..”

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I remember fried eggs and bacon cooking….the smell of toast freshly-popped.  I remember my mother’s laughter in this kitchen.  I will always remember where my Auntie sat.

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The back room…I remember the ceiling being lined with cardboard egg cartons.  I remember my cousins and drumming and laughter.  I remember the door from this room out to the back, always open.  I remember summer.

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I remember Linda.  I remember sleepovers.  I remember lots of quilts and pillows.

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I remember food supply.

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Objects of the every day.

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I remember the gardens…the lilies…the geraniums…the hanging baskets.

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More than anything, I remember my Auntie sitting on the front porch.

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From the house, James and I went for visits with both his Great Aunties…Ruth and then Eleanor.  We are so blessed to have these women in our lives, as well as my Auntie Jackie and Auntie Mary.  I lift up prayers for all…for their health and their safety and that we keep memories such as I enjoyed with my son, close to our hearts.

Just this morning, and the reason for this post, I interviewed Auntie Ruth over the telephone, about her home.

Back in early 1940s, my Gramma and Grampa moved to Magrath, mostly in an effort to help their young daughter, Ruth, fight the symptoms of asthma.  The humid air in Ontario seemed to really irritate her breathing and  my grandparents were willing to try anything.

The first home they lived in was rented from a Ukrainian family.  I am in the process of researching their name.  Water was manually pumped from a well on the property.  There was an outhouse and bathing happened in the middle of the kitchen floor in a round tub.  Auntie Ruth remembers the water being heated in a kettle on a wood/coal stove.

Magrath had two stores at the time, the Trading Company and Louis Stevenson’s store.  There was a black smith shop on main street, as well as a show house.  There were no sidewalks in the town.

When Ruth turned 16, she remembers that the family moved into a white stucco house, the very house that James and I visited on September 1 of this year.  She remembers that Eleanor, Margaret and Johnny went off to school in the town, located where today’s school stands but, of course, a much smaller building.  During the war, Ruth worked at one of the blanket-making machines in the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill.  I’m posting a photograph of that particular mill here…it is not to be confused with the Woolen Mill that my grandfather opened up some years later.

John Moors Woolen Mill Magrath, Alberta

Many contracts came in to the Magrath Golden Fleece Woolen Mill during World War II 1939-1945.  My Auntie remembers working there.

A booklet published by the Magrath History and Museum Association and written by John Balderson, explains…

“When in full operation, the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill ran three 8 hour shifts, 24 hours a day.  Twenty-five men and women were on each shift making seventy-five individuals in total.  Two hundred and twenty five army blankets were made each day using 1,000,000  lbs of wool each year.”

Whenever my Auntie speaks about that time, she mentions the Canadians of Japanese descent who shared her machines with her.  She also talks about the shame she feels at how they were treated.  She explained to me this morning that eight Japanese-Canadian women were pulled off the Sugar Beet fields, to work in the mill.  They were all University educated and lovely, however, shy women.  Auntie Ruth  said that their housing was comprised of sheds lined up on the far edge of town, rows and rows of sheds where these beautiful and hard-working people were treated as prisoners-of-war.  My Auntie will never forget the women she worked with on her shifts.

In terms of the house, my Auntie remembers very good and also, difficult times.  She dated my Uncle Roy for four months when they got married and moved to Lethbridge, Uncle Roy worked for Western Drilling.  Ruth was 20 at the time.  Auntie Ruth will always tell you that the Korean War finished off her husband.  And all these years later, having read about the war and discovered the exposure these soldiers had to Mustard Agent and Lewisite as well as the bizarre view of PTSD at the time and the irresponsible treatment of these veterans, it is absolutely no wonder that he and his family, struggled upon his return.

I remember vacation days in both Magrath (at my Auntie Ruth’s and at my Grandparent’s place in front of the mill) and Raymond (at my Auntie Eleanor and Uncle Ted’s place).  In fact, I regret that I didn’t have the chance to grieve the farmhouse in Raymond like I did this house.  I remember much family laughter.  I remember the smell of a slow-cooked blade roast in the oven.  I remember my Grandmother’s laughter.  I remember the smell of wool.

This past weekend, I said good-bye to a place.  That does not mean that it does not remain with me…always.

 

 

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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For the Birds

The most calming activities of my day are my walks with Max.  I am either over at the wetlands drainage site that I named Frank’s Flats some years ago or at the Bow River.  I used to diligently pick litter daily at Frank’s Flats…I guess I did that for six years.  A man named Frank slept under the trees through summers there and I made a habit of chatting with him as I circled the pond.  He would drink six beer in the time it would take me to pick a full bag of litter.  He was one of about ten people who thanked me…but, he thanked me every day.  He would also bag up his cans and I would collect those for coin.  At some point he told me he had to head for Vancouver.  He said the weather was more predictable there.  I told him that I was going to name the pond and the area after him.  And, I did.

That space and the river have provided me with a great deal of solace.  I’ve done some grieving and a lot of growing.  Ideas, images and poetry have surfaced in these places. Many walks have been shared with friends and family.  I’ve watched these places change and sometimes, in good ways and not-so-good ways.  Because of walks at the pond, I purchased my first really nice camera, a Canon Powershot.  I began to notice the birds and vegetation.  Some time late last year, I picked up and read the book,  Birds Art Life: a Year of Observation by Kyo McClear.  I realized that she had written about my own journey and my own experiences, somehow.

Once I had the camera, I captured images of birds and vegetation, as well as learned to identify these varieties.  It has given me immense pleasure and creates a form of meditation for my daily life.

This past while I’ve been in awe of the nesting behaviours of the adults, as well as the dedicated effort that is made once the eggs have hatched and there are so many little mouths to feed.  The predatory activity is also huge and so there are a lot of lessons to be learned regarding the survival of the fittest.  It is sad to see such effort exerted in protection of the young when in the end, a quick visit from a Crow, Magpie, Bald Eagle, Merlin or Osprey can end it all in a flash.  One grows in acceptance as one considers the way that nature provides and one species feeds upon another.  Everything is interconnected.  Life is both brutal and beautiful.

I’ve captured a few little photographs the past couple of weeks…going to post them here.  However, if you have the opportunity to visit Alberta Birds or Birds Calgary, please do!  The photography is beyond anything you could imagine.  I love being a part of this group of people, regularly making observations, whether that is in a back yard or by the water.

Savannah Sparrows…a great program on CBC a few weeks ago caused me to feel even more enamored by these lovely little birds on a CBC program.

A 2016 brief about the Sparrow.

and also, an article titled Different kind of tweet: Study says oilpatch causes sparrows to sing a new song.

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The American White Pelicans have been exceptional in numbers this year and are stunning against the colour of the river.

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The red on the male Red Winged Backgrounds is far more subtle now than in mating season.  They continue to play an important role in protecting their little ones, but most of the feeding seems to be taken care of by the mamas.

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Wild Delphinium…there is just no way that I could capture the electric blue.

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An unlikely duo on July 25.  I looked through my archives and have a series of this Swainson’s Hawk casting dirty looks at this enthusiastic male Red Winged Blackbird.  It’s interesting how, for every raptor out there, there are a whole crew of Magpies or Crows or Blackbirds looking for easy pick’ns.

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Cedar Waxwings showing really brave behaviour around me…coming quite close at a point, although the camera wasn’t ready at the most remarkable times.  I think that I figured out why they were less shy than usual…I’m pretty sure in this set, I captured more than a few fledglings.

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I saw four Black Crowned Night Herons…most avoiding me and flying from one end of the pond to the next, but managed to see this one adult sit quite patiently in the midst of all of the earth moving and noise.  It seemed like a huge visual dichotomy.

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Lots of Blackbird youngsters about…mostly continuing to cry out to mama for bugs and dragonflies.

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Spotted Sandpiper…very distinctive and high pitched call.  It seems like this guy was hanging about for almost three weeks.  I spotted him again this morning.

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I call these Blue Bells, but don’t know their actual name.  The flowers have been lovely in the wild, this year.

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The Bald Eagle family continues to provide much viewing pleasure.  I’ve captured some nice photographs from this side of the river, but, for the most part I love spending the hours just watching them.  I’ve only spotted one fledgling, although I watched two eaglets at the nest for a couple of months.  I’m hoping that one has not come to some demise.  Perhaps other observers know?

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Since fledging, the little Wrens have caused me great delight.  When I step into their little part of the world, their chittering raises up in unison.  There’s just no missing them.  However, they are so darned tiny, it isn’t easy to capture them.

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These sweet buy sometimes-annoying House Sparrows at my backyard bird feeder.  When they’re young they are so darned funny.

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White-breasted Nuthatch…so tricky to capture.

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Here’s the wee guy again…vocalizing to Mom and Dad who are trying to ignore the noise from a tree near-by.  My friend, Doug Newman has captured some amazing close ups of Mom and Dad…

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And of course, there are a few families of Mallards nearby…on this particular day, sunning themselves.  Mom was keeping an eye on me.

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I’ve got some others to add to my portfolio, but, HEH!  A former student of mine and his wife are preparing me an Italian dinner, so I need to blow this pop stand.  I’m glad I got a good start on this.  July has been amazing for the watching.

 

 

Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage

My friend, Pat, has an astonishing way of discovering new and wonderful places to visit around Calgary.  My tendency is to always say “YES” when an invitation comes my way from Pat because, in the end, I learn something new and see something fascinating.  So, when I received an e mail to travel south to Nanton and to see the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, I was keen.  Included in the experience would be a lovely and reasonably-priced brunch served up by Brown’s Catering and live music under a tent (although we all agreed the musician of the day might have turned down the mic…just a little).  As well, we then strolled about and admired the gardens and the buildings.  Delightful!

We could not have had a nicer day…a huge open sky and golden canola fields in full bloom created a backdrop of magic. The drive was filled with our usual enthusiastic banter and that always makes the miles fly by.  Gail, Mary, Pat and I embraced the visit and the views.  It was an exceptional time.  I’ve been digging myself out of a period of sadness, despondency and disconnect.  I am grateful for dear friends who have stuck with me through the malady, and anticipate, as I do, better days.  What can be more healing than amazing sky, flowers and forever-friendship. Thank you, Pat.

Click on individual photographs, in order to have a better look.

 

Thanks to Gail who hosted a further debrief at her home in High River.  I appreciate the hospitality and it was so wonderful to see you again.