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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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.

 

Where I Live Now by Sharon Butala

It was 1996 when I received the gift of Perfection of the Morning from a friend.  Sharyn had grown to mean so much to me over the years, having taught my children and worked along side me for the strength of Fine Arts in Education.  Her gift was a blessing and I began to list Sharon Butala as one of my favourite authors.  I felt Butala’s work really move my life forward in positive and meaningful ways.  Interesting that yesterday, when I looked over my shoulder from the front of the crowded room at the Fish Creek CPL, I should see Sharyn sitting in the back row.

The book on the program for readings and discussion was Sharon Butala’s Where I Live Now.  I was flanked on either side by two dear friends, Pat on one side and Denise on the other.  I had never met the author and was beyond excited, packing up all of my books for Sharon’s generous signing before the session began.  Because Denise knows Sharon personally, it felt as though I was sitting down next to a friend when she sat in the front row, with my stack in front of her.

This short post is a snapshot of the afternoon, not so much a personal book review, although as I’ve written on this blog since 2005, there are posts along the way that were impacted by my readings of Butala’s books…one being Wild Stone Heart and Other Matters.

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The Globe and Mail review, written by Alix Hawley, eloquently expresses…

For all that, Where I Live Now isn’t a map of grief’s progress in the mode of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, to which it refers several times. Butala’s quiet and unusual book is an excavation of the Prairies, rural life and, above all, herself. She declares: “With this memoir, I hereby claim forever my portion of that country whose many layers … still resonate in my imagination.” She also claims an archeological knowledge of her own soul, now that she is in her mid-70s, and the right to take us through it. We’re lucky to go along.

And that is how I felt yesterday…blessed…enriched…treated to a very special moment on a Sunday afternoon.  Sharon’s eyes lit up as she enthusiastically described her experiences on the ranch, her memories, transitions and disappointments. In good humoured and delightful fashion, she talked about the prizes of writing and the surprises of writing. Vulnerable, she spoke of loneliness, identity, and hope.  The topics in discussion were ones that often cross my mind as a 62 year old woman, single in the world.

I think that one of my favourite moments, related to the book, was the recollection of the special day when Sharon edged the top of a ridge, to look down and see her husband, Peter, sleeping in the grass in one of the fields…I felt as though she had let us in to a very private and pivotal moment in her experience.  I felt very touched by that.

I enjoy the company of my friends and treasured conversations with Denise, Pat and Sharyn.  What a lovely way to spend Sunday afternoon.  Thanks again, CPL.

The Boy and Me: Nature-ing

*ALERT:  This post ended up much longer than I anticipated…but, beautiful places, so make sure that you scroll down to the photographs!

This summer, I stayed around town.  There are still so many places I haven’t been…and, there are also beautiful places that I want to return to again and again.  I know that there are a lot of people who put up their noses about Calgary.  But, for me, Calgary is home and the access we have to genuinely wonderful experiences is right at our fingertips, should we wish to partake.  Because of the circumstances of early summer, I had opportunity to do a little bit of exploring with my son.  Before they disappear into the dark hole that is my desktop photo archive, I’m going to bring these snippets up to the surface.  And then, I’m heading out to the pond with Max.

McKinnon Flats.

“Archaeologists of Lifeways of Canada Limited have been contracted by Alberta Culture and Tourism to find out about early settlement at McKinnon Flats.  They’re part of Culture and Tourism’s three-year Post-Flood Investigation Program, which was initiated to record the effects of the June 2013 southern Alberta flood on archaeological and palaeontological sites along rivers such as the Bow, Highwood, Sheep and Kananaskis.  As a result of the program, 100 new archaeological sites were identified and additional information was gathered at 87 sites that had been recorded prior to the flood.  Many of these sites were found eroding from the riverbanks, with some in need of investigation before they disappeared entirely.

The McKinnon Flats site is one of these locations. Although it had been previously recorded in 1971, no-one realized that it contained deeply buried cultural deposits.  As a result of the 2013 flood, however, a ten metre strip from the front of the site’s river terrace was removed, leaving a 400 metre exposure in the river bank that contained cultural evidence. This evidence included broken bison bone, large stone choppers and rock that had been heated and cracked in a fire. Among the eroding finds were the remains of a boiling pit that had probably been used to cook meat and process bone marrow in a skin-lined pit dug in the ground.  Evidence of the pit was found in the form of almost 100 heated “fire-broken” rocks that were eroding from one of the riverbank exposures. Between the time the pit was observed in 2014 and the site was excavated in 2016, however, all evidence has been completely eroded.”

It was at this location that my son and I did a beautiful-weather-day hike and shared in a Spoloumbo’s picnic sandwich on the river bank.  A spectacular day!

Frank Lake

Frank Lake is located in the foothills fescue prairie ecoregion. The lake is a hemi-marsh, which means it roughly has the same area of open water as there is emergent vegetation. Vegetation includes mostly hardstem bulrushsago pondweedRichardson’s pondweed, and northern waterfmilfoil. The lake and its surrounding upland areas attracts many species of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds and other birds use the lake for staging during migration, and nesting. Some birds that can be seen here include: tundra swantrumpeter swanCanada goosenorthern pintailFranklin’s gullring-billed gullCalifornia gullcommon ternshort-eared owleared grebemarbled godwitlong-billed dowitcherblack-crowned night-heron, and black-necked stiltBirdwatching is a popular activity.

The drive to Frank Lake was very relaxing, as was the walk on well-worn pathways.  Along the way, we only met two other people, so it really did give me the sense of getting away from the city and relaxing into nature.  Highly recommend!  Not to be confused with my daily pond walking at Frank’s Flats.

Nose Hill Park

I really want to get out to hike all of the pathways from all directions to the top of Nose Hill Park.  It is such a spiritually charged place!  It’s always been on my bucket list, but, living in the deep south of the city, I had to drive there, with intention and finally it happened!

The Leighton Center...I always take friends and family here.  Most of all, because of the huge dramatic view.  I feel the best of everything that is foothills living, when I visit the Leighton Center.  On this visit, I enjoyed the appearance of several Mountain Blue Birds.  I felt really excited about that.  The smoke from the growing forest fires to the west began to cloak the mountains in the distance.

Ptarmigan Cirque

Pretty much an annual hike…breathtaking for its pretty immediate views…a place to take visitors to Calgary because of the expedient pleasure in the mountains, with very little exertion.

Custom Woolen Mills

On this particular day, I had convinced my young adult children to drive out to the Dancing Goats farm, just a short distance from the Woolen Mills.  I thought that we would be able to visit the goat farm, but, was mistaken.  In fact, the owners were in the city dropping off product to a number of retail locations.  I spoke with one of them on the telephone, from the small town of Acme.

Instead, we ended up taking country roads to go to the Custom Woolen Mills.  I was happy that Ruthie was in the gift shop, so I got a wee visit with her and had a chance to take my daughter and son into the mill.  I feel so connected to the place.  I love it more and more every time I make the drive.

I also met the Artist in Residency…an amazing artist and knitter…I’ll just have to go back into my writing and figure out her name.

 

It appears that I had some amazing experiences this past summer, most of them shared with Cayley and James.  I realize that in this process of “Falling Out of Order”, there was an awful lot going on.  But, for this lovely Thanksgiving afternoon, and with a pond walk and a large plate of turkey leftovers under my belt, I realize that it is time that I settle down to mark some narrative writings by grade four and five students.

Whenever I go through the process of archiving the experiences I enjoy in surrounding areas of Calgary, I realize how blessed I am. Yes.  It’s possible to travel the world over.  But, sometime it’s a blessing to realize what treasures lie very close to you, treasures to be uncovered.  Today, I feel grateful.

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)

Wool

Yes.  Here it is again.  Another post about wool.

It can’t be helped.  Through time and research and memory, the smell of the woolen mill is a forever-sensory-experience.  When I DO get around to writing ‘that novel’, captured between the pages somewhere will be the sound of the machines and the smell of the wool…it can’t be helped.  It is in me to share.

My readers have been patient and tolerated my obsession with this process, texture, landscape…you know it it is the landscape of this woman’s heart.

And so, I will keep words to a minimum and simply share that when my cousin, Laura, made a recent trip west, it was perfect that Laura, her brother Peter and I should drive north east to the Custom Woolen Mills, together.  Cousins, in our family, share a special bond and one can not possibly, in a post such as this, capture or contain the sort of laughter and fun that is shared when we get together, even as adults.  It’s pure joy and ridiculousness.

I am forever-grateful to our grandparents who gave us this bond and this relationship with wool and the manufacture of products from wool.  It is pretty special!

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Peter and Laura Dewar, children of Mary Moors and Peter Dewar

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Cousins, Kathleen Moors, Peter Dewar and Laura Lee Dewar

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Post-Mill and we share wine, laughter and lots of Italian food.  I was so grateful to share time with you, Laura and Peter.

We spent an hour or so together, researching and playing upbeat songs off of our phones…so hilarious.  Here’s one.

 

Coming Home

Taking to Canada’s highways is just one of those things I love to do.  Nothing is better than a road trip!  While I didn’t snap a lot of photographs on my journey home, after eight weeks away, I did feel very emotional and in awe of Canada’s landscape and its people.  I thought as a wrap up to my blogging about my experience this past summer, I might dig into my night time notations and see if there are some moments worthy of mention.

Leaving Belleville, I took my ‘balcony shot’.  Let me go and see if I can find it.  There you go. I’ve taken one of these as a ritual when leaving Parkwood Estates every time I’ve made the drive.  (and there have been more than a few drives) Typically, five minutes away, I start crying my head off.

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I had a small container on the passenger seat next to me, filled with Dad’s hermit cookies, a recipe that was given him by my sister-in-law, Ann Marie.  The highway 401, heading for Toronto, is a rush of a place to begin a morning, but with the early start, things seemed to really move to Whitby, where I pulled off, refreshed my coffee and gave Max his first break. (And, no!  I am not going to go into such detail as I continue.)

The point in all of this is that the first leg of the journey is the toughest part of driving home, because I feel like I’m leaving family behind and it is time to turn west.  I am also somewhat on edge through Orillia (because I take hwy 12 to hook up with the 400),  concerned that I make all of the correct huckle buckles when I arrive at the Midland sign.  Once I’m on the 400, I just motor it to bypass Sudbury (my birth place) and beyond.

Driving in September meant there were fewer vacationers on the road, a few red canoes on top of cars, but not what summer brings.  I was sad that driving cottage country meant witnessing a bear cub, struck by a vehicle.  The road kill scene always breaks my heart, as does traveling behind transport trucks moving pigs and cattle in what I feel are inhumane practices.  I pledged to myself that this trip was going to be the start of different eating practices and that I wanted to become a more evolved person in regards to what I ingest.  This is not something I take lightly anymore.

However (all that eating-consciously discussion aside)…I DID stop to have fries and gravy, just because I knew it would be my last chip truck, a regular thing in this part of Ontario.  Outside Parry Sound, I noticed a remarkable memorial.  There are so many marks of humankind along the highways of Canada; many heaps of rock along the shield, in the spirit of the Inukshuk, and many memorials.  I scratched a note in my notebook…

Once home, I looked up the circumstance connected to the beautiful drum kit sculpture.  It was placed as a memorial to Cole Howard, a young man, along with three other teens, who lost his life in 2012 in a head on collision.

A Family Photo that appeared in The Star By ZOE MCKNIGHT Staff Reporter Tues., June 17, 2014

A Family Photo that appeared in The Star By ZOE MCKNIGHT Staff Reporter
Tues., June 17, 2014

A road trip as extensive as the one I take on a fairly regular basis reveals so much about the heart of Canada.  I have thought about Cole’s family as a result of their memorializing this event in this way.  The sculpture was built by retired welder and artist, Laval Bouchard.

It was only a very short while after passing a sign for Algoma Territory that the weather changed.  Dark clouds surrounded me, but I pushed on, thinking that I’d still like to make it to Iron Bridge for the night.  I was pushing nine hours driving, but it would make the drive in to Thunder Bay do-able the next day.  Max was agitated in the back.  I told him everything was going to be okay.  I remembered Dad’s words.  Weather is moving east.  When you’re traveling west, drive like the wind and you’ll go through it.  When you’re going east, hold off for a few hours and the weather will speed ahead of you.  The lightening was straight ahead of me and over my right shoulder.  Everything boomed.  Water poured in sheets across the windshield.  On the highway, some pulled over.  Transports pounded me with flying ground water.  I was being pummeled, but persisted.  Sure enough, the weather thinned and like the great monster, it hurled its way east.  Ahead, I saw the sun behind the clouds and the rain became dancing sparkles as my wipers continued to thud.

We made the Red Top Motor Inn in Iron Bridge...and happily, I chatted with the owner…more about art, this time.  He is a collector of Norval Morriseau and is a local enthusiast for the visual arts. His partner, in the back kitchen, prepared me a dinner of Huron White Fish, tiny carrots, green beans, braised roasted potatoes.  I went back to my comfie room, after throwing the whizzo for Max countless times in the beautiful yard, and poured myself a nice tall glass of red.

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The next day was a day of magic on the road…something about the rain of the day before and the sunshine the next morning.  I set off early toward Bruce Mines, tickled by the romance of the Mennonite horse drawn buggies, straw hats, little girls in black bonnets.  There was a 3/4 moon and a single vapour trail straight ahead, on a perfectly blue sky.  The soft light hit the side of a red barn in just a particular way and a soft haze danced on the fields, now ripe and full.  Red maples were set into dappled forests of olive green and yellow.  Autumn was evident around the lakes, although this would be my only encounter with the season on this drive, while I thought that I had left it late enough that I would enjoy that particular Ontario colour.

I delighted in the drama of Lake Superior on Day II  At 10 in the morning, I pulled over to spend time at the water’s edge.  Something about Lake Superior gives me confidence and causes me to bask in a sense of celebration.

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Beyond Superior, both east and west, the roads reveal the economic times to the driver…small towns are lined with abandoned buildings; eateries, motels and gas stations; and there is evidence of graffiti everywhere.  Broken windows are like giant dark eyes, that lead to past narratives and histories of the people who have now moved on.  Nailed boards cover over a former life.  I drove past Orphan Lake, Dad Lake, Mom Lake, Katherine Lake.  I sighted two eagles.

I stopped at Old Woman Bay, where a man with a very thick accent, wanted me to take his photograph, not in front of the wild and dramatic water, but in front of his sports car in the parking lot.  I fixed a lunch of Italian meats and cheeses.  A honey-mooning couple offered to take my photograph.  A wonderful offer as I am rarely a part of my archives.

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More exploring at Rossport, knowing that the beautiful and abundant experience of being at the water’s edge would be over at Thunder Bay.  The third day is always the most difficult for me, given the drive in land through the most isolated and creepy landscape I know.

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People were all off the highway.  I had very little traffic sharing the road with me.  I let the truckers chug past me on big hills.  I just wanted to take in the scenery.  Awe-inspiring. Miles later, we hit Thunder Bay and not a single room was available in a ‘cheap’ hotel!  More than once, I’ve thought how much I’d like to be driving my own little customized pull over ‘bus’/camper.  So many picturesque places along the way. But, I didn’t have a customized camper.  And, I needed to get off the road.  It had been another epic day by the time I rolled in and so I took a room in the only posh hotel in close proximity to the Trans Canada highway and I headed for the shower.

Max liked this place.  He knows class when he sees it.  I poured myself a glass of wine.

Day III, my least favourite day, but I aimed to enjoy it…to relax into it…to really look.  The encounter in Upsala with this roadside attraction pretty much says it all…

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Google Maps

Google Maps

A train thump thump thumped along a track, for it seems like, miles.  I listened to country music.  At first, the trees were dense…then ferns, gold and sepia, lined the edges of the road as the marshlands encroached closer and closer to the highway.  More Moose Crossing signs.  Cars disappeared.  I felt alone out there, so I hit cruise.  (my father would be proud) I remembered, as I do every time I drive through English River, the movie, Deliverance.  Think of the Squeal Like a Pig scene…or the Red Neck Scene…the disturbing sense of these envelop me every time i drive this road.  At Ignace, I pulled into the Scenic Viewpoint.  I had never done this before.  I drove for quite some time and came to a circle of dirt road, a bobcat, a port-a-potty and if I were to hike into the dark woods, I might be able to see a bit of the valley that the highway sign professes, is an awesome view.  I returned to the car and headed back to the highway.  Max was unnerved by the silence of the viewpoint.

I entered Ignace and pulled in for a coffee and maybe a tart.  I learned quickly that the home made tarts were back in Upsala.  I was disappointed.  A burly man in a plaid jacket moved a fridge.  The grapefruit juice I pulled from the other one, duct taped handle, was room temperature.  At the counter, paying, the middle aged woman entered into the dance of conversation.  Lonely, likely, she pulled out her phone and we proceeded to goo goo over the photos of her chocolate lab…this went on for quite some time.  The man, red faced, continued to struggle with the fridge.  The conversation ended as another customer drove over the bell hose stretched across the wet dirt at the pump.  I was relieved to get back into the car.

There were miles of straight road.  There, finally, Savanne Portage and a huge sign for the Time Zone Change.

Early fur traders used a portage at Savanne Portage to connect east to Lac du Mielieu (near Raith) to the Kaministkwia River to complete a fur trading route between Lake of the Woods and Lake Superior, at Thunder Bay. Raith marks another Continental Divide, with points to the north and west flowing into Hudson’s Bay, and points to the southeast flowing to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic.

A painted bear and moose sign dominated the side of the road, at a point, Hand crafted, it was more evidence of the remote feeling that echoes through my day.  All water, from there, flows to the Arctic Ocean.

A bloated moose in the ditch was being  pecked at by crows and buzzards.  I turned to CBC radio after miles of listening to Spotify selections.  Static, but I was absorbed by interviews and such.  Jane Jacobs spoke about gentrification.  Emily and Ogden played.

Kenora meant a picnic and a walk about.  I always take the drive through the city.  I think about Jim and Sue when I make Kenora.  I feel closer to home.  It happens suddenly.  More up and down, the landscape edges water and feels more open, in a less mysterious way than the landscape I have left behind me.  We walked under the bridge to the big muskie.  The tourists were gone.

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On the outskirts of Kenora, I felt about trees, the way I’ve felt about cattle…their heads stretching to see out the back door of transport trucks,  eyes wide, seeming to be asking…asking me.  The trees, fallen, seem to be asking…asking me.  It goes on for a couple of miles.

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Making Winnipeg, the ring road seemed forever.  I thought to call up Angie and Rylan, but I was drained.  I flopped in the Motor Inn and felt comfortable, having stayed here on route to the east.

I knew already that I would not go north to Neepawa again, as much as I wanted to visit Margaret Laurence’s home town.  Two extra hours of driving north and then back down seemed excessive, given my state at the time.

Max seemed accepting all the way along…he also flopped every time we stopped.  Happy to receive his walks every hour and a half, he didn’t look for a lot of exercise in the evening.  He took a pose…and this was it!

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We would make Moose Jaw the next day.  The weather was shifting again, becoming grey as we made our way west.  Many hawks, a truly unreasonable number of hawks, were seen in a field just west of Regina.  I wondered if they were mousing, given that the crops had come in and just stubble remained.  I’ve never seen such a spectacle.  In golden fields, horses stood neck to neck, all facing west.  I think that we can take our cues from animals.  Weather was coming.

By Moose Jaw, it was raining.  Max waited patiently while I stepped into the CHAB radio station to see if there were any archives kept.  My father used to sing live on radio with his sisters.  That would have been the early 1940s.  The receptionist explained that it would be a nightmare to keep historical archives.  This was a disappointment to me, a chronic archivist.  Who are the keepers of our histories?  I guess I thought that radio stations, newspapers and such would be a safe bet, in terms of our contemporary narratives.

Driving home the next day, was a celebration-drive.  I felt to be floating as the sky opened up so beautifully.  I love Saskatchewan and Alberta skies.  I had left home for home.  My father and sister and brother are HOME, my children here in Calgary are HOME.  Canada is HOME.  I know her well and want to know her better.  I dream to drive north…to stop…and really take in what makes the north HOME.img_1805 img_1841 img_1850

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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Bleasdell Boulder

This past summer, I learned just how genuinely accommodating my father can be.  I tend to have many over-riding passions; reading, writing, history, art and family history.  Once I connect with a story, some one else’s story, I tend to want to explore it for its details and for its nuances.  This is what happened when I read Francis Itani’s Deafening.  Because the book was so regional and because summer brought me smack dab in the middle of her setting, I had to explore that.

Similarly, after Dad and I attended the County Festival Player’s rendition of  A Splinter in the Heart, an adapted screenplay based on Al Purdy’s novel…I just had to look deeper.  The following summary, borrowed from and linked to Goodreads.

 Al Purdy’s only novel, A Splinter in the Heart, is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that unfolds against the real-life tragedy of what came to be known as the Trenton Disaster. Set in 1918, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Patrick Cameron and the events that will change him – and the Ontario town in which he lives – forever. Over the course of one summer and fall, Patrick finds love with a girl whose betrayal he cannot foresee, confronts the death of his beloved grandfather, and comes to terms with a neighbourhood rival. All the while, his hometown of Trenton lives precariously in the shadow of a dynamite factory, a sinister reminder of the Great War, which brought such prosperity to the town. Vivid with character and event, and evocative of time and place, A Splinter in the Heart is a moving portrait of a young man’s journey into adulthood in an era of change.

My father generously agreed to take me to see the location of the old munitions factory and also to visit Bleasdell Boulder in one of the region’s conservation areas.  The erratic is mentioned as a place for romantic meetings between young people in the early 1900s and likely, even today.  Well researched, Al Purdy’s writing, especially his poetry, is linked to specific places right across Canada.  I had a very enjoyable time, visiting many of these places, structures and houses most times demolished or changed, but natural geography, remaining as he might have experienced in his own lifetime.

So, on a beautiful late summer day, Dad and I headed out for a short hike to the erratic, Bleasdell Boulder.  I discovered that my Dad takes strides, much like my paternal grandfather…long and fast.  I had quite a time staying up to him.  Thanks, Dad, for going exploring with me!

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Deafening by Frances Itani

On the recommendation of a friend back here in Calgary, one of the books I read while visiting my father in Belleville, Ontario was Deafening by Frances Itani.  With a regional setting of Deseronto, Belleville, the railway and the surrounding area, upon completing the book, of course, I had to go and visit the places.  Itani’s novel, placed during World War I, is exquisite.  A Winner of a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, I was captivated and motored through this one at warp speed.

Grania, the protagonist, emerges from a bout of scarlet fever as a child, deaf.  The novel evokes a real sense of what language means.  As stated in the Goodread’s summary,

“A magnificent tale of love and war, Deafening is finally an ode to language-how it can console, imprison, and liberate, and how it alone can bridge vast chasms of geography and experience.”

In published reviews, it appears that a lot of readers lost interest as Grania becomes involved with Jim. I think the author is successful in steering clear of sentimentality and introduces Jim as a device to talk to the reader about war, its impact on the small community and how the concepts of lost communication express a similarity with loss of hearing.

At the conclusion of this book, I thought this was my favourite book of all time…but, you know and I know, this is just until the next one!

My father humoured me and visited the grounds of Belleville’s Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf with me and I went, on another day, to Deseronto in order to document some of the places mentioned in the book. Why?  Just because I could.

The school for the deaf has a beautiful campus including several stately brick buildings and wonderfully groomed grounds.

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Deseronto…

The places of Canada…driving driving driving…remind me of the blessings of our common narratives.  Everywhere, windows are boarded up, mostly in small towns and names are written, as are profanities on the baked painted surfaces of what used to be animated corner stores and bakeries and churches…places where people gathered, all working to get through hard winters and humid summers.

Deseronto captures all of it.  The tea rooms and antiques, the post office, the docks…

I am grateful to have seemed to step into a book.

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Post Office Deseronto

Post Office Deseronto

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St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church Deseronto

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church Deseronto

I strongly recommend Deafening by Frances Itani.