May the Blue Bird of Happiness…

Recently, I’ve been feeling as though nature is brutal!  I heard yesterday that our weather hasn’t been like this since 1940.  I’m not going to research to see if this is fact, but, I would have no difficulty believing it is true.  Weather impacts my feelings about almost everything.  Since the light has changed, it has given hope of spring and certainly makes the day feel more beautiful…but this cold!  And the snow!  YIKES!

At the river, I’m wondering about the natural cycles of all of these returning birds…how they will possibly sustain their populations, given this week’s temperatures of -14 and more snow and more snow.  The habitat just doesn’t seem to be available for nesting.  What are the pregnant does to do? The coyotes that have begun to den?  So…every evening and morning, as I walk at the Bow River, I contemplate nature and its ability to rise above such brutality.  When I return home, I have heat and electricity and unlike some countries and continents, I am not in fear (at the moment) of the flood, or horrid drought and raging fires.  I am so blessed.  I am safe.

I’m discovering wildlife in unusual places.  Geese are nesting, only meters away from Deerfoot Trail and a huge distance from the river.  I noticed them yesterday, huddled together, where the tall grasses emerge out of the cold snow.  This afternoon, no fewer than thirty American Wigeons were voraciously struggling for sustenance well above the river and in close proximity to human activity.  This was a first for me.

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The most remarkable thing, however, was to see at least five Mountain Bluebirds, flitting about in a mating dance and feeding on berries that remained clinging sadly to a winter shrub…

This sighting was a deeply personal experience for me…I felt as though these lovely birds were placed into this settling, just for me.  In fact, I tried waving down some other hikers to point them out and they waved and moved on, not taking a moment’s notice.  Have I lost it completely? (I’d like to thank Doug Newman for letting me know that they were hanging about…this was my first encounter and I was thrilled to learn that they are absolutely NOT shy.  Their antics were more than entertaining!)

I wrote about the Crucifixion a little bit on Friday morning…I look at this post as being about Resurrection.  The males were more than impressing the two females present…such charmers.  I am grateful for those species that will find renewal over the coming months.  We must be ever-vigilant in our care of our world, for the people living in it, and for these sentient beings that share the planet with us.  Probably more bluebird photographs than any of you might wish to see…but, I am experiencing such joy that I have no choice but to include them here.

I captured a female (much more shy) only twice, both times out of focus.  She was stunning in her beauty.

 

 

 

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On April 3, I returned and captured Mrs.  Happy 51st birthday to my sister, Valerie Jean.

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Heirloom Spoon

I have a huge appreciation for skilled craft and for unique approaches to materiality.  I’ve always supported emerging/existing artists and artisans and when I first saw Adam Weaver’s spoons, I knew that I wanted to invest in a spoon each month for a year, so that I would have a beautiful collection to enjoy for a very long time.

While attending the University of Lethbridge, my friend, Brian, carved me a beautiful wooden spoon and I treasured it for as many years as I could, when at some point, the spoon split and it was no more.  The idea of hand carved spoons has been nostalgic ever since.  Sometimes I think that with mass-production, we have lost touch with some of these hand crafted items.

This morning, Adam Weaver (Heirloom Spoon) came to my place in order to deliver January and February and so that I might select, from a collection of other carved spoons, March and April.

We shared a coffee at the feast table and I had the chance to look at and hold the spoons as he set them out in front of me.  They were all so unique and so lovely.

I’m very grateful for the new friendships, Adam and Pascia.  Thank you for taking the huge diagonal across the city to meet with me and to visit about travel, tools, art and life.  May you be richly blessed on your journey.

If interested, you can access Heirloom spoons via Etsy, as well as through various artisan events.

January: carved out of maple…a beautiful long-necked spoon with a leather toggle at one end and a beautiful scooped bowl on the other.  The wood was gifted Adam from Brampton, Ontario…so, given my family history and my connections with Ontario, this one sings to me.

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February: carved out of a piece of knotty birch wood, found right here at the edge of our beautiful Bow River.  It was harvested from trees cut down by some city workers.

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It turns out that I couldn’t resist May either…picking up a coffee scoop as a gift for my own birthday. The scoop is carved from Applewood, harvested right beside the studios at Artpoint Gallery.  They’re demolishing everything around there to build the new C-train line. :0( I love the many concentric circles that draw the eye into the depth of the bowl of the spoon.

The smaller lighter spoon is made from a piece of Ash (Latin name: Fraxinus Excelsior!) found in a small village called Clare, in England.  I like the feel of this spoon in my hand…it’s flat and seems to have some sort of interesting weight/balance thing going on.  I just like it so much.

The big ladle…I chose for March…it felt the most womb-like to me and I was thinking about the birth of my son on March 17, 1990.  Adam used the natural curve of the wood.  This piece was from an arborist-friend of Adam’s again, harvested in Calgary.  I’m wondering if this would be my favourite arborist who trims up May (Mayday) every year for me, before the spring.

 

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When Adam puts his tools down and stops carving, he plants and tends gardens and fits in a lot of travel… as well, he enjoys his authentic relationship with wood and beautiful objects.

 

Respect

When my London-born son-in-law hears or reads something really impressive or heart breaking or touching, he voices or writes the word, “Respect”.  I think it’s a nice response.  If he says it to me, simply, and without explanation or embellishment, I feel that…respect.

I’ve noticed in my world, the world of ‘EDUCATION’ that there is a loss of respect these days.  Readers, don’t jump on my perceptions…it’s just what it is…my perceptions.  I find students are often lacking respect for teachers.  I find that professionals are losing respect, in their words and actions, for their peers.  I find that people in positions of authority are disrespectful to people ‘beneath’ them.  I’m wondering what is going on?

Social media offers us a plethora of disrespectful ‘threads’ day in and day out.  We have, as a people, stopped listening to one another.  Brief blasts of tweets or posts or images, leave conversations dangling, sometimes making us shiver with their hatred, negativity and stone-walling sensibility.

Recently, I had the opportunity to engage conversation with and learn about one soldier.  I had intended to add his photograph to the bottom of a post about my great-grandfather John Moors.  Master Corporal Joe Green was the person who took on the task of cleaning my great grandfather’s Memorial Cross, a sterling silver cross that would have been presented to my great grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow 100 years ago and another to his mother, Grace Rebecca Porter, as a result of John’s death during a German bombing raid in Etaples, France.  He had been lying in a hospital tent in Canadian General Hospital #51…a hospital situated with some proximity to a railway line.

Respect?

Often times a person still hears negative comments about the military.  There are wide-sweeping generalities made about peace and war and defense and aggression.  “They shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!”  Oh…to be ye, who judge.  Oh, to be ye, who remain safe in your comfortable beds, with your comfortable thoughts, with your perfect opinions of other people, other countries, other politics because having been given the power, you would done everything differently!

I’ve been faulted for ‘living in the past’.  But I don’t.  See!  I live here.  I live now.  But, I am absolutely NOT going to lose ties with our common past.  I am always going to engage the touch stones of history, in order to do better.  I am always going to remember.

Maybe it was the fact that I grew up in a military family during the Cold War years…during peace time…that I grew up with respect.

I remember attending high school in Montana.  The MIA were still returning home, some of them, after the war in Vietnam.  In 1969, the students were participating in fundraisers and wearing bracelets to bring their men home.  Many, as my readers know, were never to return.

I picked up the Memorial Cross for John Moors and drove home.  The roads were thick with deep snow, but I felt like I was floating.  I was so elated to be driving home in 2018 with a 1918 Memorial Cross as my cargo.

I  wrote the name Joe Green into my google search.  This is what I found…article written by Cassie Riabko titled After the tour: Canadian soldiers reintegrating into society.  Among the profiles, I learned about Joe.  He made the correction with me, over electronic mail, that he had done two tours, not three, as noted in the article.  He had not read the profile until I pointed it out to him through mail.

Green IMGIn 2008, Master Corporal Joe Green started working in the civilian workforce at Flowserve where he pursued drafting design. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green on Mar. 24, 2017. Photo by Cassie Riabko

Master Corporal Joe Green

Three tours overseas (sic)

Status: Active

Master Corporal Joe Green first joined the Canadian Military in 2002, serving two tours in 2006 and one in 2008. His primary role was defensive operations, working in dangerous environments with firefights and ambushes occurring frequently. Most of his negative experiences came from his tours in 2006. They have been connected to his difficulties with integrating back into the civilian way of life.

The main memory that sticks out to Green was back in 2006 when his platoon was called out for a mission to help the American Special Forces Forward Operating Base. He had to stay back while his platoon went to aid as support. That night, none of the soldiers from his platoon came back to base, they were all in the hospital and one, Private Rob Costall, was killed in action. From then on the tour accelerated for him.

In 2008, Green began his integration process, starting a job in the civilian work force. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green.

It wasn’t until roughly 2010 where the thoughts and experiences from overseas started to have a major impact on his everyday life. “I started being less involved in the military, I started drinking heavily —  not on a daily level —  but when I would I would get extremely upset,” says Green.

With his job, he would have to drive in the city often. “There would be a chain reaction of thoughts that would lead back to something that happened on tour. I would dwell on it and I would be driving and I would come back to reality hours later in some random location in the city,” says Green.

That was when he realized that he needed some help. He relied on friends that had experience overseas with him for support and he also reached out to Veteran Affairs by calling the 1-800 number.

He was able to talk to someone right away. “One thing I felt guilty about was using the system. I didn’t want to be the guy to claim PTSD to get some sort of claim out of it,” says Green.

He remembers the woman on the phone telling him to leave it to the professionals to diagnose his symptoms as he was comparing his situation to others he felt had worse experiences. Shortly after, his file was processed with Veteran Affairs and he had appointments booked at an operational stress injury clinic.

Green was diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder all related to his experiences overseas in Afghanistan. He was prescribed medication to aid in sleep and also for depression. He soon began to see results.

“I went through treatment in 2012, and I just ended last year. I went through the whole process of weekly sessions for about two years — from going weekly, I was going every second week to once a month to every three months,” says Green.

His process spanned from 2012-2016. In October 2016 he was officially discharged in at the operational stress injury clinic in Calgary. He weaned himself off the medication with approval from his doctor.

“The OSI clinic took really good care of me. I always recommend it to other members who are going through similar situations. However, if they are not ready to help themselves — they have to want to be better,” says Green.

He describes his experience as positive and very supportive from the organizations that helped him. “I don’t have anything negative to say about Veterans Affairs,” says Green. Currently he is serving as a Reservist with the Calgary Highlanders and he has taken courses to earn promotions within the Canadian Military.

Read more on the reintegration of a Candian veteran by clicking here!

criabko@cjournal.ca

Joe Green

Master Corporal Joe Green

Upon reading this profile, I made the decision to write a post that dealt with this issue of respect.  While reading Joe’s profile, I found myself with tears.  I took pause and remembered, in prayer, Joe’s peer, Private Rob Costall.  Joe’s journey has inspired, in me, a new level or respect.  This is the man who all of these decades later, held our family’s Memorial Cross in his hands and with precision and care, brought it to a beautiful sheen.  I received his name through the centrally located Royal Canadian Legion Branch 275 in Forest Lawn.  I had met a most amazing historian, there.

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I received this Memorial Cross (there were two that were sent out, one to John’s wife Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and the other to his mother, Grace Porter Moors…this is likely the one that I am now holding), kindly, from my father’s cousin JR Moors of Roseville, California.  My Dad’s Uncle Bob had kept it safe and in his care and then left it to his son for safe keeping.  The day it arrived by mail, I was overcome with emotion.

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John Moors medal front

Pte. John Moors Medal The Great War

John Moors back side medal

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And finally, with Joe’s work…the refurbished Sterling silver cross.

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As a part of our experience of respect, I think it is essential that we promise care of the objects that represent our soldiers and their service.  I highly recommend that you solicit the help of Joe Green, locally, in order to tend to these treasures.  Please contact me if you want his information and I will have him respond to your request.

I am blessed.  I am grateful.  I am filled with respect.

My cousin, James Perry, on my maternal side said it perfectly…

“A good polishing would bring back the shine of that silver too, IMHO tarnished medals are brought back to life with polishing, and are part of “Always remember, never Forget” and the sacrifice our families made to keep our world free from tyranny.”

The Struggle is Real

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

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

Maxman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris

I’m struggling with writing lately…it’s been so long since I’ve posted to my blog and yet so many amazing experiences have come and gone.  Something that is keeping me from the comfort of writing is that the past six months or so I have had a number of ‘floaters’ appear in my vision; first the left eye, then the right, and now the little squiggles have moved in my left.  It’s as though my brain is constantly having to edit out these obstructions to my vision and looking at a screen just makes it worse.  A symptom of aging, the eye specialists have assured me that, as yet, the retinas are not involved.  As a visual person, this has been disconcerting and I suppose I could write an entire piece about that, alone, but I’m here to write about Solitude.

I met Michael Harris at Wordfest.  The particular session I attended impacted me so much that I ended up purchasing books from each of the four authors and am happy to say that Christmas vacation was the perfect time to curl up and read them all, as well as others from my book shelf.  I had a very intense reading period through the holiday and I spent most of that time alone, eating a little too much chocolate.

I found the book, Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World, compelling.   If you troll the internet, you will see that reviews are either very positive OR are insistent that this is a book written for ‘old people’.  So mayhaps ONLY BOOMERS will like this book.  I disagree!  I think some very discerning and weary millennials are suffering the backlash of ‘real’ disconnection.

I am one of the ‘old people’ who, in retrospect, feel concern for the gradual erosion of our time alone, our sense of creativity and playfulness, our disassociation with ‘uncomfortable-ness’ and our loss of ‘written’ language’ and mark-making.  The past few years, I have become a part of a very odd little subset of humanity…people who watch birds…people who photograph birds…and in my encounters with them, I see a particular kind of desperation to connect with the innate need for genuine solitude and as a result, genuine connection.

Solitude (shortening the title for a matter of expediency) was a book that suited my constantly-inquiring mind and opened up some revelation about the current state of the human family inhabiting this earth.  From what I can see, in my very small sampling of that earth, the author is right on!  This was one of the most invigorating reads that I’ve enjoyed in a long time…well, since reading Kyo Maclear’s  Birds, Art Life and that wasn’t too long ago.

For the first many pages/chapters…I read, turning pages, while curled under a blanket on the red couch.  But it wasn’t long and I pulled out a highlighter.  My review will take the shape of the posting of some of the views that align with mine.  Here are some of my highlighted bits…please, don’t let these bits keep you from reading the entire book!

Do I get a thumbs up for this? (laughing, as I type)

Having driven the 401 so many times, all by myself, with Max, the chapter where Michael Harris explored our reliance on Google Maps and a GPS really spoke to me.  I’m ‘that lady’, out there, with paper maps and slipping in and out of small towns along the way.  I’ve been lost and I’ve gotten off the highway, using the wrong exit.  Those experiences created some initial panic at times but, in the end, I found my way.  I met new people.  I saw surprising things.

These past years, since retirement, I’ve been circling a pond…I’ve been exploring my city…I’ve been traveling Canada by road.  I’ve been traveling inward and seeing magnificent worlds.  It is a different sort of travel…not better or worse than international travel.  The only thing about my sort of travel is that people don’t ask about it.  There is no sort of admiration or public support for my kind of travel.  While one person may see a pyramid, I might be seeing this. The same wonder is to be had…the same awe.

Reading!!  When a person shares something on a social media site, how many people ‘really’ read it, from beginning to end?  I agree with the following insight.If you have not yet read Rebecca Solnit’s A History of Walking…please do.  She is another one of my favourite authors, currently.
Ah….the lost act of letter-writing!  While my Christmas cards have yet to be written, I do try to write letters with intent and it always feels wonderful to put things in the post box. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandson and solitude.  It’s natural when you’re a Gramma for the first time.

I really treasure the ideas captured in this book.  I hope that my readers will enjoy it as much.

In the meantime, I will continue to nurture and enjoy my solitude.  It has left me, recently, being honest about not enjoying large group events where I must mingle.  It helps me admit my enjoyment of being alone and apart, as well as helps me understand why I enjoy small group visits so much.

 

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky

At a point, I got myself out of sync on the reading selections for the Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI reading list.  It all began at the reading of Clearing the Plains.  I haven’t reviewed this book yet because, honestly, I still have a chapter to go. (Intense)  This one should be required reading for every post secondary student…but, more on that another time!

Regardless, I attended the book clubs for those few months, as I am always so grateful for the fact that such excellent conversations occur and I learn so much.

The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway by Arno Kopecky did not seem, by its title, to be anything I would ever consider picking up to read and yet, upon the recommendation by a book club member, I did.  While Arno Kopecky is not an Indigenous author, the book was suggested for its connection to numerous Indigenous activists, elders, fishermen and various people impacted by development and encroachment around the Northern Gateway.  This author introduced me to many of the issues surrounding the history and planning for transportation of product in a highly pristine and essential part of Canada.  One might argue that the narrative might be skewed, given that the writer is speaking from a non-indigenous voice, however, I feel that my personal journey addressing the Calls to Action involves a lot of discernment and listening..to many voices.  I have been living in a sort of fog all of these years, where it comes to this discourse.

45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of
all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples
a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by
the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal
Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764,
and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between
Aboriginal peoples and the Crown. The proclamation
would include, but not be limited to, the following
commitments:

i. Repudiate concepts used to justify European
sovereignty over Indigenous lands and peoples such
as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius.
ii. Adopt and implement the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as
the framework for reconciliation.
iii. Renew or establish Treaty relationships based on
principles of mutual recognition, mutual respect,
and shared responsibility for maintaining those
relationships into the future.
iv. Reconcile Aboriginal and Crown constitutional
and legal orders to ensure that Aboriginal peoples
are full partners in Confederation, including the
recognition and integration of Indigenous laws and
legal traditions in negotiation and implementation
processes involving Treaties, land claims, and other
constructive agreements.

47. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and
municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to
justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples
and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra
nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies,
and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such
concepts.

This book is built for the adventurer and for the person who has a big appreciation for wild parts of Canada that, despite the challenges in favour of development, industry and encroachment, remains one of the few places that exemplify that particular MAGIC that comes with WILD.

My preamble…then, I’ll carry on about the book.  This next paragraph is from my gut…a simple formulation of my own feelings.  Yes.  I drive a car.  Yes. I purchase packaged items.  Don’t throw tomatoes.

The Canadian government has demonstrated tremendous determination to create/grow an economy built on the back of energy.  There is no way that Canadians see ‘everything that goes on’, given the vast and oft-isolated topographical regions of this country, our home.  What we don’t see, can’t bother us.  And yet, living in these far off places, our indigenous brothers and sisters are well-aware of the tapping out of resources, the destruction and the economic hardship resulting from the abandonment of industry as it becomes obsolete or sucked dry.  There are witnesses.

Documentation to some of this…check out Alan MacLean’s photos at this site.  Let’s just take a bit of a look at Alberta.

I’m just going to let you sit with those images.  I’ve been sitting with them, and all I have to say is that things are way out of control and so much about it has to do with economics and employment.  ‘Corporate’ Canada wants YOU!

Enough of a side-lined rant!

The book is a good one…it moves very quickly.  It isn’t a struggle and it is certainly not dark or apocalyptic.  Arno Kopecky and photographer Ilja Herb, take the reader on a magical journey (I felt like I was there) aboard a small sailing boat…well, is forty-one feet, small?  It seems small to me.  Neither of them had prior experience sailing.  So, one aspect of the book is the story of negotiating this boat through British Columbia’s central coast.  So, firstly, this would be considered an adventure book as in this part of our country, the inland passages are linked together by a dramatic network of fjords, islands and lush forested land masses interspersed with inlets.  I was enamoured by the descriptions of place throughout and feel as though I was introduced to the Great Bear Rainforest in a very honest way.

Second to this, I enjoyed the many personal narratives by the people and accounts about the people who, in several cases, gave these men safe harbour, assisted in repairs and often contributed to the content of the book through interviews.  Several participants have committed their lives to the protection of this land and water, knowing full well that this is likely the last great wilderness on earth.  The writer seemed naive at times, meeting such wise and dedicated individuals.

Third, I grew in my knowledge about the history and planning of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway.  My knowledge now exceeds what I’ve picked up over news stories these last many years.  The book was generous in terms of presenting several different perspectives, as well.  I learned that the weather through this region is unpredictable and that the waters to be negotiated are prone to storms and crazy conditions.  It doesn’t take much for Canadians to realize the risk that such conditions pose to wildlife and environment.

The book was beautiful in its rich description of the land, the wildlife, the people and the waters.  I highly recommend this read.  As a result of this reading, I send out unlimited positive wishes regarding our human reliance on non-renewable energy sources and the almost obsessive willingness we have to challenge the delicate eco-systems of our nation, in order to continue down the same path, rather than pour that same energy into alternative solutions.

As of 2016, this… A look at the status of Northern Gateway and other major Canadian pipeline projects

January 2018…of course….lost revenue. 

What comes of all of it is that we need to challenge our thinking.  My readers are either extremely right on this issue OR extremely left…I think that the important thing is that we discern the various implications and decide what is most important to us.  This book revealed to me the physical nature of the rugged coastline, the past issues surrounding the use of oil tankers in even more benign waters…and the high potential for an ecological disaster.

My peeps, as captured by Michelle Robinson.  I love this lady…and I love her archive of photographs!  We were visited that night by APTN National News.

What Comes to Mind at the River

Reading and then meeting Kyo MacLear affirmed, for me, everything that’s been formulating inside me the past several years…about birding, art, nature and life.  Many things have formed me into this person who shows up at the Bow River around 10 on a winter’s morning, taking pause above the river and observing wildlife.

My friends and family wonder and ask…mostly not asking anymore, “What are you painting?  Why don’t you paint?”  and at those questions, I can only sit with who I am and be grateful for the grace of anything and everything that led me to this place where I find myself.  As I drove up from the parking spot this morning, I just kept saying, aloud, “I love my life. I love my life.”

I will paint again.  But, the truth is…painting was a lot about ego.  It was a lot about around-the-clock commitment.  It was about trying to balance full time work, raising children and keeping it all together.  My stomach sometimes hurt as deadlines for shows approached.  I was terrified in front of blank canvases.  I couldn’t assert myself with dealers, set boundaries or say what I needed.  I didn’t have money to buy those outfits that seem to be required if you are an artist, especially a female artist. Painting had lost its magic and so, when I paint again, it will be profound because it will be for all the right reasons, not for all the wrong reasons.

Doris McCarthy said, “Paint every day.”  I think more about her as days go by, without painting, than anyone.  She explained how those muscles work.  She explained how time also rushes by. Doris was my friend and she gave me a lot of strength. I think about Doris when I know that I will physically paint again.

Now…did the painting really stop?  I argue, “No”.  I have been intensely researching my next body of work for years now…having painted about 15 panels related to a Covenant series, I then began to connect again with the landscape.  It just happened.  It happened at the reading of two poems, the first,  The Wolf Between the Trees by George Bowering.  I used his poem, with permission, embedded in the poem along with a cup full of ash…remains of personal papers I had burned in the studio.  This is the painting…

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and secondly, a tribute poem written by Paulette Dube for the Caribou.  I’m including her words, here.  I hope you will read them.

In the new days, magic was on the surface of things, the shine of it all, quick and bright and fast as new rivers.

 Now Rivers winds Under Earth, has to be convinced, to play her deep song, entreated , to show herself.

 The Celts call these « thin places », where the other side is so close, the veil shivers your arms as you reach through.

 The First People travelled (sic) these sacred pieces of earth, to think on things in the presence of Creator.

 I know them as mountains.  I see them with my spirit eyes, walk them with blood and bone legs.  They teach, as clear as bird song or scolding squirrel lesson, bracing as clean water through moss.

 This alpine terrain is grey onion paper, thin as ash.  Feet must be wide to avoid lace-like flower and moss, spider web and lichen.        Be mindful.

 The Creator’s ear is earth as we do not see it.  Make joyous noise if you want to be herd.  Get yourself a song and string from bone to bone, a home of light and wind.

 She moves.  She feels her calf, inside, taking nourishment from her own bones and teeth.  The calf moves (as my son once did)  deep in the dreaming place.  The cow’s thickening body keeps the Small one warm, keeps him from hunger, keeps her     moving.

 Born where the dark forest gives way to lake, loon’s perfect call – silver sharp tremolo – traces the surface of this morning sky :  clear as mountain water scythes the earth.

 Loon calls from the lake face, that voice – shapes my form-    coming through the trees.

 The land reacts to our presence when we belong

 Noise of a sow grizzly and her two cubs.  To each a place, to each, a means of prayer and play.  To each, the necessary silence.

 Sacred whorl of grey and brown, blow open the gate.  Allow a wild glimpse of self.

 When you descend to leaf litter, feathered legs and all, you are an angel – touching Earth.

 The engine that is me, hears the song that is you…

 …coming together is a song I cannot bear for long.  Satiated by my own irregular rythmes.

 Promises shape who we are, what we will become –

we pray.

 His brow is unfurrowed.  Streamlined, he walks the wind, easily.

 Healing is water over stones, wind over grass, gaits – fearless.

Feral hearts wander – oblivious to fences of human design.

 Survival embodies existence but – does not define it.

 He moves through sunlight to scrub, deliberate – elemental – muscle.

 Hummingbird hears colour – Coyote knows crack in a leaf is direction – Bear walks trail made of wind.

 If Humans could once again divine the essential – would we find home ?

 A candle in a church is a thing of beauty – a flame in the wilderness is a miracle.

 Find something big to pit against – to throw loneliness into –  Amid bone, snow and stone –   caribou.  The precious, the delicate of design – we live here.

 Fire and earth – water and air – there is no room for anger.

 Memories permit us to speak of things –

our heart tends to in the night.

The resulting painting, upon hearing this poem is posted below.  The words to the poem are written into the painting.  It was at this punctuation mark in my life, at this painting and the other, that I realized my painting would always be about ‘place’.

Caribou 3

So, as an artist, what I’ve been doing ever since is sorting that out….the surface, the paint, collage, text, subject matter.  It might take a lifetime to make sense of it.  I don’t know.  But, in the meantime, I am energized and interested and creative and LOOK!  I write!

Everything I’ve been doing, in the sorting,  has made for this wondrous life of mine.  It’s taken me out into the landscape.  It’s caused me to notice more.  It’s manufactured poems, paintings, photographs and connected me with videographer, Liam of Beam Media and the photographer,  Jack Breakfast.

And this morning, I met Doug Newman.  It was after two cups of coffee at home and after two posts about books that I have read that I headed out into the cold with Max man.  The roads were bad, so I decided to get us down to a parking lot that edges the Bow River and to explore the first wintry day on the river.  There was only one other car in the lot…a man speaking on his telephone.  Max and I headed out.

This is what I wrote once back inside the car…and after snapping four photos on my cell phone…and after turning up the heat and settling in with CKUA.

I didn’t bring a camera with me, but hiked the edge of the Bow River this morning. I watched a Bald Eagle fish, its wings, so powerful. Three times, it landed on tree tops to the left of me, by 200 meters. The geese, exhausted and resting, lifted off of the dark water, along with the cacophony of gulls each time the eagle dove toward the water. Two deer swam, gracefully, from this side and shook off like wet dogs, once arriving on the shore across from me. A perfect morning.

From an interview with Kyo MacLear, writer of Birds, Art, Life… this…

Q: In the book there’s a list, the “Pantheon of Smallness,” in which you compare items such as blackbirds and Rembrandt’s etching. Equating the arts with nature was deliberate, no?

A: It was. It was also a bit playful. I wanted the readers to come in and fill in their own ideas. The Pantheon of Smallness was a way of thinking about smallness differently. Sometimes we make small things, sometimes there are small bird songs, but it can have an enormous impact. Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Our culture is very much one of “bigging it up,” always upping the noise level in order to produce a louder signal. What you see in the bird world is sometimes that the smallest tweet can actually pierce through the cacophony in a different way. That became a metaphor for thinking about art. Emily Dickinson did quite miniature work that had a very profound, almost epic, impact, culturally speaking.

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While typing that paragraph, I saw the gentleman leave his car, carrying a camera and sporting a huge lens.  I watched, discreetly, as he took photographs.  I saw him pan as geese took flight.  I saw him quietly observe for quite a long time.  Finally, as he turned to get back into his vehicle, I rolled down my window and we began to chat.

It turns out that Doug also posts photographs to Alberta Birds.  We introduced ourselves to one another and I began to ask him questions about photography, equipment and we shared some of our ‘bird’ moments.  It is such a pleasure to discover another birder along the quiet pathways of my every day.  It was nice to experience his enthusiasm and his excitement.  He opened up his photograph of a goose taking flight and I was in awe of the detail and the strength captured in that single image.

I love my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IS-ness

Through the kind invitation of a dear friend, I ended up at the Calgary Catholic Retired Teachers Spring Luncheon at the Calgary Elk’s Club the day following my birthday. Thank you to Ruth, Pat and Emelia for the gracious planning.  I felt so blessed by the renewed connections and the warm embrace of the educators in my circle.  It was an absolutely magical afternoon.

Sitting on my right, was Joan.  In 1979, weeks after the birth of my first child, I took a bus from Lethbridge to Calgary, to interview with this person.  Little did I know, at that time, what a powerful inspiration Joan would become, in my teaching, but also in my way of seeing life and the world…visually…but, in so many other ways.

Last Tuesday…she gave me something more to think about….IS-NESS…the experience of being completely present in this moment.  It’s common to talk about the optimal state of ‘being’, living for this moment only.  There are many ‘gurus’ among us. “There is no past.  There can be no future.  There is only ‘now’.” These run the risk of becoming mere platitudes.  I think we all know what’s really going on…and it’s what the world is telling us is important, not what we know to be important. (sorry to be speaking for all of us here…maybe I’m wrong)

During my life, I’ve driven forward more than anything.  In youth, I thought that I needed more.  I set huge goals for myself. The wheels were in spin and forward I drove!  (when I type the word, DROVE,  an image comes up for me…a huge wind pressing at my face and the full weight of my body pushing against it). I dedicated myself to the work of that…the industry of that.  I taught full days, but didn’t wind down, painting well into the night and rising early in the morning.  I tasted what the FUTURE might be, but never really grasped it.

At some point, I opened the door, and rolled out of the speeding vehicle that was the life I had created and landed safely beside the freeway traveled by all of those around me. For the first time, I noticed what ‘other people’ were doing while I was painting, teaching and raising three children. I looked at my life through the rear view mirror and came to a lurching halt. I saw, for the first time, what it meant to stop….not to slow down, but to stop.

I am not writing this post, in judgement of my choices in youth.  If one looks at the accomplishments of ‘the greats’, one knows that their achievements came to be through commitment, dedication and mostly, sacrifice.  It is no wonder that I spent most of my life seeking success, recognition, accomplishment, production, money. These are the false promises of the human construct.

I am listening to Chris Cornell’s album, Higher Truth, as I type.  I just listened with a new ear to the song, Dead Wishes. While it is not for me to question why, at the age of 52, he took his life, it is for me to explore what it is in this human heart…every heart…that aches, struggles and seeks to be MORE.

One blessing of my life was to sit down with my children and gather for Sunday dinner; another, to seek to communicate and connect. I was rich for the opportunity to see, write, learn and experience art, music and performance…for the opportunity to be still with nature, make observations through all of my senses.  Joy came with walking my dogs, Max-man and Laurie-dog before him.  It came with sitting in the church when it was quiet.  Gratitude came with writing a poem. Magic was to hold my mother’s hand when she slept, warm under her blankets, her Buddy-dog curled into the circle of her back.  Freedom was and continues to be to turn on my favourite music and to paint in my studio, in the same way that the other might dance, with no one watching…for me alone.  IS-NESS….articulated by a dear friend.

(of course, I came home and looked through my documentation of years gone by…the photographs, mere snapshots of times shared…so much wisdom and joy contained in the flashes of light)

I was hired on with Calgary Catholic School District #1 in 1979.  My experiences for the following nine years at Holy Cross Elementary/Junior High were life changing.  This is where I learned the value of the person, above program.  To nurture a love for reading, learning, creating and self ultimately leads to enthusiasm for content, practice and consistent attendance.  I was blessed when opportunities in my career, led to both St. John Fine Art’s School and the Fine Art’s Center (in two different locations).  There, I met some of the most amazing people…educators who fearlessly impacted the district with the truth of the matter…and that is that experiences of art, music, drama and dance teach the brain in new ways, enhance all learning and create well-rounded human beings, prepared for a world that requires problem solving and new ways of seeing!  I went on to take everything I had learned to that point and participated in the opening of Cardinal Newman, a school in the deep south.  There, I continued to work as an advocate for the fine arts and to dream that they would be honoured within the curriculum.

In the following photographs, I’ve captured just a very small sampling of those educators, my mentors and friends. As Alberta is deliberating about and writing new curricula, I’m pleased to recall that I participated in the implementation of the art and drama curricula all those years ago.  It was wonderful to meet up again, with friends, and to share some stories…to speak of life and art and books and Is-ness.  Thank you.

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.