Today’s Birds: April 18, 2017

I’m just so disappointed that I can’t share with my readers, images of the Buffleheads doing their courting dances at Frank’s Flats.  However, I never steer clear of the act of documenting the same subject again and again, whether it’s in paint, poetry or photographs.  I think in revisiting content,  you grow to know it more.

So, today…a few more images of the Mallards and the Blackbirds.  It was a glorious day at the the pond…a cool spring day.  Watch those ant hills!  They are awake and actively moving…you want to be wearing your rubber boots!

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Janet Beare Studio: Belleville

It is a very snowy day here in Calgary.  A quick outing this morning, and I’ve decided that the roads are such that I’m going to bunker down, drink hot coffee (which I never do in the afternoon), and do a bit of nesting.

In looking over my archives, I realized that I didn’t get around to writing about a lovely studio visit that I shared with Janet Beare in Belleville, Ontario last summer.  I was blessed to have spent a summer painting poetry in my father’s apartment and to have exhibited a show for the Lisa Morris and Peter Paylor’s Artist and Artisans Studio and Gallery.  Through this experience, I had the chance to meet and enjoy the company of the community artists and musicians who are creating work in their home studios, and for the most part, exploring media and the arts with wild abandon.

Over the years, I have enjoyed conversation and support in a wide circle of female artists.

I really did appreciate the dialogue with Janet, one beautiful summer’s day, in her home studio just off Farley Ave.  Thank you, Janet for the trust and fun of sharing your studio space!

Janet has experimented in a variety of media and her subjects range from purely non-objective colour/textural studies to representational works in both water colour and acrylics.  Don’t you think it’s fun to explore other artist’s spaces?  I like the intimacy and personality of these spaces…one of the reasons I really pleasure in Wendy Lee’s Love Art in Calgary Tours.

I hope my readers will enjoy exploring Janet’s space and thank you for the warm welcome of a visiting artist in your sacred home of creativity!

Some people like her work, some people don’t.  I really really love Tracey Emin’s work, first seeing it during La Biennale de Venezia when my daughter and I traveled to Venice years ago.  Tracey’s early work enveloped a process of personal healing and it has evolved tremendously through the years.  I find it deep, meaningful and reflective of women’s issues in the world.

I like this little film because of the accessibility to Tracey’s space.

Cutting Myself Some Slack

I have to admit, I’m not at the top of my game lately.  A person can be confronted by and, possibly, absorb a lot of gut-wrenching stuff via the media, daily. (the state of Syria, regional economics, pipelines, the American debates and election, unemployment and the economy, involvement of Russia in global agitation, the status of North Korea regarding armaments, the state of our environment and the care for dwindling species…these are just a few concerning factors that spewed out the tips of my fingers at the keyboard…free flow)  If that ‘removed’ material isn’t enough, then there are also the daily stressors that one must face, sometimes alone, and these can really nail a person down, both in body and spirit.  The important thing is to do something about it by changing patterns and practices.

This past weekend was one of those weekends for me.  Not really ‘into’ any interactions with my wider circle, I focused on ‘being’ with smaller groups, staying closer to home and eating good food.  Quality time with my daughter and my ‘real life’ friends was very healing.  I am grateful for that sense that the rest of the world can motor on at warp speed while I take a little vacation from the nonsense that becomes my whirling life.  What we’re trying to prove, I don’t exactly know.  What I’ve been doing, I do.

The weekend began with a gathering of my hiking YaYas and our ritual gathering photo op with prop.  Thanks to Cathy for hosting.  What a relief it is to talk and talk and talk and laugh.  And wow…those hugs at the end of an evening!

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Walking the circle of the pond at Frank’s Flats…always calms me and makes me live more deliberately or consciously.  Walking, itself, causes the lungs to fill up and with ‘real’ air.  The light filters in and replaces worry or dischord.

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Contemplating my closest companion…our friendship…activity.  There are many funny moments created by my Max-Man.  This weekend, I was grateful for my fur-boys, both dogs, Laurie-Dog and Max-Man and cats, Piper, Edgar and Peanut.

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On our Saturday afternoon walk, a flock of fourteen Trumpeter swans flew overhead. There is nothing like their sound pulling out of a blue sky.  I didn’t care about zooming or panning, obviously, but I can not look at this patch of blue, without remembering what that was like.  I always consider these events to be Holy events and I have been graced with the blessing of many such moments.img_2378

On Sunday morning, I went to early Mass.  For me, the peace that comes with this celebration can’t be replaced with anything else.  I was also very grateful to be embraced by the MacDonalds in the parking lot, afterwards. Such good people.

Off to the grocery store, I filled my basket with cheeses, beautiful squash, vegetables and fruit and some Kaslo sourdough pasta.  I had selected a lovely Cannelloni recipe to prepare for dinner.

Sunday offers the opportunity for people to recline and have a little snooze, or as my Dad calls them, a Sizz under the Fuzzy.  I had one of those and then…

I drove to Hull’s Wood…a part of my life, here, in Calgary’s fringe.  Jess has begun her teaching of this semester’s Pow Wow dancing.  I highly recommend this practice to all of my readers.  We began with the peacefulness of a smudge ceremony and the blessing of sweetgrass and sage.  Then…cardio…then practice.  This week, some basics in handling a single hoop.

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I had missed a few openings on the weekend.  I especially wanted to see the exhibit, For You and Me hosted by the Paul Kuhn Gallery, curated by artist, Ashleigh Bartlett.  As well, I had wished to offer my support of Mark Vasquez-Mackay and Rich Theroux for their opening, Mindfulness at the Rumble House.

I decided, on the way home from Pow Wow dancing that I would stop off at the Queensland Community Center and spend some time with Mark’s mural on the building.  On a perfect autumn day, it was a wonderful option for viewing art and giving one of my peeps, some support.

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At home, Cayley and I made Cannelloni together.  It was fun to share the kitchen and I’d like to do that more often.  The process of cooking can be a very relaxing thing.  When I went to my room in search of my bedroom slippers, I noticed that my daughter had also folded my clothes from the dryer.  Kindness from others is likely  the best medicine out there, for anything that might ail you as an individual…it is also the best medicine for the world.

I would like my readers to share what it is that they do to relax, to find their center…to be at peace.  We don’t have to control everything all of the time.  But, how do we let go of that need to control everything?

My Hunter’s Moon

Listening to my new CD Out in the Storm, as I type…

I cranked up CBC radio on my drive north on Highway 2.  Fen, of the Custom Woolen Mills, had asked us to bring our own bowl, plate and cutlery, (I forgot) so I stopped off at the WIN store on the way.  For five dollars, I left with a finely crafted porcelain plate, a hippie bowl, a crystal wine goblet and three pieces of silver, a fork, knife and spoon.  Then I was on my way.

Artist, Megan Samms, was celebrating the conclusion of this past summer’s artist-in-residency program with an exhibition of her hand crafted textiles.

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These next two photographs, shared by Wendy Lees.  Megan explained that her patterns here, were patterns almost contemporary with the equipment found in the mill.

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In the front of the mill, Shibori dying was undergo,

(The following Shibori Photographs taken by the world’s greatest connector, Wendy Lees)

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…potluck feast was being munched upon

(Dancing Goat Cheese promoted by both Wendy and myself…photos to her credit)

Craig Sanok & Paul Anthony Chambers, you rock!

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…and fantastic music provided by Ruth Purves Smith and Dave Holloway and Brian Sovereign was pumping up the large group that was happily in attendance.

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I guess when I step into that world…and I wish that I did it more often, I am overcome with a sense of history, industry and family.  Some of the equipment is stuff that I grew up with in the Magrath Wool Card and Spinning Mill, but I realized only last night, that I really didn’t ever take a good look.  Last night I did.  With dates of manufacture going back to the late 1800s and the places as far away as Massachusetts and Philadelphia, a person can only feel in awe.

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Click any of the images below in order to see them larger.

That feeling of amazement transferred into my conversation with Megan, as well.  I thanked her for learning and keeping alive, the hand made craft and industry of textile creation.  In a world of manufacturing, it is good to remember what the hands can do, along with some very primitive, but dependable pieces of equipment.

Thank you to Fen, for the invitation.  Thanks to the mill staff who made the mill look so absolutely beautiful for last night’s event.  Everything in the place showed a special touch. As per usual, when I write of such things, at the keyboard, the morning after such magic, I weep, warm tears of gratitude.  Thanks, for the music, Ruth.  The very first song, for the children.  There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea!  As an military family, traversing this great country so many times, my mother and father’s voices lifted together and made the miles around Lake Superior go quicker, singing our road songs.  And this one…one of the entertaining ones.  Who wouldn’t want to learn all those words?

I hope that my readers will connect with Megan’s work.  I hope that you will listen to Ruth’s Music.  And most of all, before winter passes, I hope you will head up to the Custom Woolen Mills and stock up on warm goods and supplies for your own hand making.

Thanks, Wendy, for sharing the drive through the light of a full moon, fog, and conversation.

I have so many photographs this morning, that I really don’t know how to present them.  My children have told me no one reads this blog (wrong), so, it’s irrelevant, I guess.  This, more a journal of the magic of my life, than anything else.

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A Splinter In the Heart

An adaptation of the coming-of-age story written by Al Purdy, A Splinter in the Heart was performed, yesterday afternoon,  by the Festival Players at Rosehall Run in the county.  The screenplay adaptation was written by David Carley.

What a beautiful Reader’s Theater to watch…under the blue sky…under the white tent…on the edge of a vineyard.  It was absolutely magical.

Directly from Carley’s site, I’ve included some lines from the play.  From these lines on, both Carolyn and I wept quietly in our seats…right until the very end.  And how appropriate that I should have mapped in an ancient tree on a large panel before Dad and I headed out to the venue early in the afternoon.  I just completed the painting late this afternoon.

‘Portugee would ask, “You ever stand in a pine grove, Patrick? It’s like you feel yourelf changing into a tree. There’s a brown forest floor under your feet from the needles, and there’s wind, higher up, a sound of the sky. Yep, for just an instant, you feel like a tree. And the trees themselves, they was made into ships, sailing ships for all the seas. And I always wonder, “Did them trees ever feel what it was like to be a ship?”

You ever feel like a tree, he’d ask? And every time he asked it, I knew it was the ONLY thing that was worth feeling.’

I didn’t know that Bob and Carolyn were attending and I was so excited to see them! Over the years,  I have worked with drama students on various reader’s theater performances, including my favourite, Love You Forever, by Robert Munch.  I always wrote my own scripts for these performances.  I’ve also seen some professional productions by One Yellow Rabbit and really enjoyed those, also.  But, I have to say, yesterday afternoon’s performance definitely tugged at my heart strings.

The sound devices and staging of the production were fantastic, along with the exquisite performances of the actors.  I will always remember this production.  Very powerful, in its execution and in its content.

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On the evening of Gord Downie’s final performance with the Tragically Hip, just up the 401 in Kingston…this.

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With a west-east migration in the works, I’m  giving this little compact device the opportunity to prove herself while I’m  still at home. I just went through and documented all of the Al Purdy poems that will be subjects for paintings in September. (Dang! I already wish I had a larger keyboard!) Anyway, there are still projects to organize, so this won’t be long. A test is all. Hmm mm now,seeing if I can attach a photograph? Something unrelated, I’m  guessing.

Alright. So it appears that I can’t up load  images taken on the device and stored in the album. I’m going to have to do something about that!

I really really like WordPress! In minutes, I was on live chat with a support person (I think they call them happiness engineers) and Jason explained how to download the WordPress  app from the Playstore. And so, I’m going to try to post a second photo, this one, from my tablet.  I’ve now got this sorted out and that’s one more accomplishment before getting on the road!

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What a Difference a Day Makes!

At the pond today, I wondered about the fragility in nature.  Only yesterday afternoon, I was admiring the reflections of the clouds in water.

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Today, the clouds were ominous and pounding rain drove down in the SE from eleven o’clock in the morning and on into late afternoon.  The two Ruddy ducklings are all that seemed to have hatched.  I have no idea what happens to the population of eggs as tended by all of the other Ruddy partners that edge the pond.  Are they all lost?

I captured a marvelous series of a red finch feasting on one of the plants…the red was very intense, given that the bird honestly seemed to be soaked through.  I’ve taken some photographs of the edge of the pond to show it’s evolution over the past week…if my readers look at the cat tails, they will get a good idea of how high the water is today.

IMG_9574IMG_9576Mr. is trying to find a place to hide.  There are no fewer than 15 male and 15 female Ruddy Ducks that edge the pond.  Only one female has been seen the past week, with two little guys and they are successfully diving and having a grand time, even through all of this unreasonable amount of rain.IMG_9578Mrs. with soccer ball.  It’s atrocious, now that the water level is so high, just how much human waste and plastic floats on the water.  It made me sad today.IMG_9579

This is the Grebe nest as it appeared today.  I’ve posted several photographs of this nest this past spring.  The other nest, on the opposite side of the pond, is completely submerged today.IMG_9582

Well…the rain brought these two around again today.  I’ve never had my camera with me when I’ve spotted them and while these aren’t great photographs because of the conditions, I’m glad I have them documented.

Black-necked Stilt (Recurvirostridae)
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L: 14″

This is a very distinctive black and white shorebird. It has a long, thin black bill and either pink or red legs and feet. This bird is common in the marsh environment.

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His feathers, plastered against his body, I could not help but document the process this male House Finch went through to pull apart segments of this plant.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t concerned about my presence and just worked feverishly.IMG_9616IMG_9621IMG_9627IMG_9629IMG_9638

Site occupied by another of the Coot families and the successfully hatched Ruddy Ducks.  Much plastic floating on this corner of the pond.IMG_9643

The cat tails are submerged, as is the rock shoulder of the pond.  The bush that I have documented since October 13 is partially submerged in water.IMG_9646IMG_9647

This wee one feels water logged and exhausted.  IMG_9649IMG_9661

Female Ruddy Duck on the north edge of the pond.IMG_9666

May and June

This past winter was an unusual season, so mild that it was difficult to even classify it as winter.  The plows came around once.  We had two big dumps of snow.  And, that was it.  Spring came early, with many warm days in March.  As a result, everything is dry.

At my kitchen window, in the neighbour’s vent,  Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow have nested three times, all without success.  On the first go, we had babies and Mom and Dad did a marvelous job feeding and protecting their wee ones and then all at once, one morning, there was silence.  Given that the duct tape I had applied last season had fallen off (and I’m sort of glad it did because I always imagined my neighbour charging me for a repair), I believe that either a Crow or Magpie rampaged the nest.  The sparrows tried two more times, but with no successful hatch. The nest is now abandoned, apart from the occasional visit from an adult. This has made me pretty disappointed because I enjoyed my daily observations of Sparrow behaviour, while I worked at my kitchen sink.

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The Fort McMurray blaze happened and left the province in shock.  To not mention this would just be wrong. The media images of the devastation and mass exodus from the city were terrifying.  I think that this fire changed all of us in ways we could not imagine.  Our hearts are still reaching out to those impacted most.  In an economy that was already struggling with woes, this has contributed additional stress.  My prayers continue to be for those impacted and for the fire fighters who continue to make efforts to quell this blaze.  This image, from Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press.

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A giant fireball is seen as a wild fire rips through the forest 16 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

There just isn’t a transition from that!  As a result of the differing and dry climate, different insects are inhabiting our gardens.  My asparagus failed to come up this year and very few Oriental poppies.  My strawberry plants are weak, as are my lupines. I learned, one morning, while taking photographs that this is all due to the destruction of the Tarnished Plant Bug, last season and this.  I’ve spent these months trying to ethically rid my garden of the ‘damned’ things.  Sadly, this means I will likely be chasing them away to someone else’s garden.  I am thinking it will take me a couple of seasons to build up my garden again and I’m anticipating more damage next summer, given that the bugs likely produced eggs before I got on to this.  Gardening causes me to think about what it must mean to farm and to weigh my decisions around protecting beneficials such as bees and lady bugs.

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Tarnished Plant Bug presence Noted!

Different birds have settled into the pond area at Frank’s Flats.  It’s easy for me to notice because of my close relationship with this location the past five years.

Last year, at this time, I was watching the nesting practices of Osprey very closely.

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In late April, this year, two nesting platforms maintained by Enmax were pulled down as a result of future infrastructure development on the Stoney Trail ring road and so things have changed. I can only keep track of a single platform from a huge distance.  There is no access at this location on Sheriff King Road, for viewing.  I think that the relocation happened just in the nick of time, however, so I am grateful for the efforts of Enmax. Presently, Mr. and Mrs. are watching over a couple of eggs, if not chicks by this time.

Mr. or Mrs. showed up right on time this year, overlooking the pond south of 22X and exactly where the platforms were located last year.  I’m not certain if this is one of the siblings born last season or if it is one of the adults, but I am really happy that we have this presence.

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No place to go, the Osprey began building on the tops of the power poles.  This photo was taken once all nesting materials had been removed, demonstrating the adult Osprey’s determination to set up camp.  I quickly contacted Enmax via Twitter and from there, same-day action ensued and a new location was selected for the erection of the platform.  Disappointed, I knew that I wouldn’t, with my Canon Power Shot, be able to monitor the nest this season.

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From a distance, I saw that the very next day, male and female had established a home, with an abundance of nesting materials.  It was a thrill to see.

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I have visited a few times, just to make certain that the beautiful raptors have had a successful experience.  Only a week ago, I checked in.  Mr. is attentive as Mrs. sits patiently.  These two are slightly behind the other nest I watch, nearing the edge of the Bow River at Sikome Lake, but they look like they are managing.

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Birds have been plentiful at the pond and I’ve nudged up closer than in the past.  Sometimes I imagine the birds saying, “Oh, it’s just her again!”  I still haven’t made the capture of a male or female Shoveler and that disappoints, given that they attended the pond in large numbers this year.  Because they are so skittish, I also haven’t a focused photo of either variety of Grebe, although I’ve captured some great out-of-focus drama!  Below, see some of my collection of species this year.  I am thrilled with the closeness I have developed with nature and seeming, all because I am present for a walk each day, since October 13, in order to take a single photograph of a bush on Instagram.  I have been blessed!

 

The garden has not disappointed and continues to give me a quiet place to sip my coffee in the warm morning sun.  I’ve always received peace in flowers and green. This was a very early photograph…I can’t believe how things have changed and I’ll have to get out there again to snap a photograph or two.

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My Auntie Ruth turned 90, as did the Queen of England.  This meant a trip to Raymond and it meant a 200.00 speeding ticket!  It was a beautiful reunion of family!

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So much in the way of art and art exhibits!  I guess compared to usual, maybe a little less. The Ivor Strong Bridge has been dealing with some repairs and so I feel, every evening, as though I am on an island and don’t wish to struggle my way out of the community.  Not so much live music.  I think I’m going to have to remedy that!  I was definitely grateful for Allan Rosale’s invitation to the University of Calgary!

I’m very interested in learning the traditions and practice of Indigenous dance.  Jess has been so helpful in this regard and is a very inspiring teacher as well as practitioner.  I hope to continue with this study more consistently throughout this coming year.  I met Jess through Eileen since we were all in attendance to the Juno Awards event that featured Indigenous Nominees and included a power house performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

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I hope that if you or your children are interested, you might contact me for information as the camps and study continue throughout the summer.  Such a positive and physical experience! Sîpihkopiwâyisîs Jess McMann-Sparvier is a powerful spokesperson for her cultural traditions and is inclusive, finding the narratives so important to share.  She is rooted in history and is constantly doing research.  She combines her delight for music, dance, tradition and teaching and is just one of those people you must meet and spend time with!

While I may not be athletic, I find this circle of beautiful people to have a very positive impact on me and the dance forms, a definite wake-up-call to my muscles!

Read Trail of Tears to Prokofiev HERE.

Find the link to Indigenous Dance Studio here.

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May and June have been full and richly lived…home repairs, teaching, paint, writing, family history.  I can’t ever imagine life not being beautiful.  I am filled up as I look at what has passed this last month and a half.

 

 

 

Cleaning Up the Desk Top Computer

I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.

It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn.  It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.

I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!

I’m going to loop the photographs here.  My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.

For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.

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For the Birds: 2016

This morning, I needed to get out for a walk…no connection to photography or the act of stalking birds.  It was raining and then, so cold, that the snow began to fall.  It was a very wet morning at the pond.  But, OH!  What a celebration!  Birds of every type seemed to be singing joy, singing love and hanging on the wet air!  It seems that the black birds, of every kind, just arrived…by the hundreds!  I made my first siting of a Ruddy Duck for the season.

I’ve watched the posted videos of murmurations of starlings on line…ones like this…

Well, this morning, I had the blessing of watching a smaller version of the same thing (not such a dense number) and a dance that moved just over the surface of the water and then up high, to return again and again.  Because the water was so much warmer than the air, a blanket of dreamy fog covered the pond.

In the trees, so many black birds…both red winged and yellow-headed blackbirds.  Max and I walked along the path and on both sides, the trees were filled with the birds.  They didn’t budge, but remained as we passed through.  It was an unbelievable experience.  And, through it all, I said to myself, “Lord, this magic is just happening for me…no photographs necessary…no Instagram…this is your gift for me.”

I’ve been tirelessly stalking first, one pair, then two and yesterday, five pairs of Northern Shovelers, trying to get a good ‘shot’.  This morning, I counted the males…15!!  What???  The females are more difficult to find, but, where there are that many men…there have to be a few chicas!  Again…no camera!  Wow!

I continue to be disappointed that Enmax has removed the nesting platforms for returning Osprey due to development of Stoney Trail.  A lone Osprey has been sitting in the vicinity for over a week, given that the nesting season begins in April.  Today, he was gone.  I noticed there are nesting materials stacking up on the top of a power pole, some distance away.  Normally, I would be watching the nesting behaviours of these beautiful Raptors, but, I guess this year will be different.

Posting a few of my favourite photographs here.

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