Yesterday’s Birds: April 28, 2017

Calgary weather has been less than cooperative, this past week, for anyone trying to grab a photograph of birds.  Rain and snow and biting wind. What happens with grey skies and water and birds?  Everything becomes soft-edged.  New birds making their appearances:  Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Night Heron, Eared Grebe, several more pairs of Red-necked Grebes, many Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wigeons, many more Redheads, Lesser Scaups and Coots.  The pond is alive with activity.  The Common Mergansers feel the most regal and demanding of attention.

It amazes me that in a single pond ecosystem, over six years, I’ve learned and experienced so much!

Yesterday, after teaching grade twos for the day, Max and I enjoyed short breaks in the clouds and hope for a blue sky today.  At one point, a very cold wind and system blew in, but left just as quickly.  I was finally able to get close to a focused image of the Grebe.

But first, the reading of some Eric Carle.  We read the lovely book, A Very Tiny Seed…but, I spoke to the students about my memories of A Very Hungry Caterpillar.  (same story, really) A book about how one transforms, changes, grows…

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The birds…

I chose to photograph the female goose who has settled into a particularly public place because she was so different, from the back,  from the male and looks as though she’s ready to burst!  I continue to make efforts to get closer to the Buffleheads, Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers, but they are all camera shy.

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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Today’s Birds: April 11, 2017

Frank’s Flats 10:00 am

No fewer than thirty male Goldeneyes today and not a single good photograph! Regardless, it was a wonderful experience watching them dance around the few females (not an accurate count because there were also a large number of Common Mergansers in the mix).

There were more male Lesser Scaups today, but I could only identify two females.  Also, more Redheads.  It was a great morning at Frank’s Flats, with the water looking mercurial due to the atmosphere of soft cloud over sun.  For some reason the mud was stirred up along the water’s edge, sort of a strange phenomena.  Geese followed me for the entire circumference of the pond, like a flotilla of approval.  “Just thought we’d keep our eye on you.”

First siting of a Coot for the season and an enjoyable time watching trees full of Common Starlings.

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Max and I begin every morning, stopping to watch the nesting Merlins.  Today, this guy was enjoying watching me.

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The courting action for the Red Winged Blackbirds is in full swing!

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This was a beauty.

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Stick?  Max’s ACL has healed adequately enough, I let him go for a bit of a run on the flats and leash him up once we are edging the pond so as not to disturb the nesting birds.

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Starlings wrapped around tree branches, everywhere.  Once and awhile they would lift off…amazing stuff, this nature-thing!

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Wanted to pick up on some markings.  This wasn’t a bad zoom.

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Not perfectly focused, but the camouflaging on the Northern Flicker is so amazing…had to post.

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There’s a single Wigeon in this picture.  Can you spot it?  I’m so sad that I didn’t get some comical shots of the Goldeneyes today.

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Still trying for a clear photo of the Scaups.

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Two gents with their lady-friend….three more males were just out of this frame.

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I think it snowed a bit last night…would that have caused this weird phenomena?

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Redheads romancing.  Lovely birds and a little less wary of me.

Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by  German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz.  It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.

It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.

Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.

I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear.  In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.

I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!”  Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.

Here is an extract from the book that speaks of my philosophy and experience, very clearly.

I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago.  Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions.  I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.

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From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years.  He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage.  He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.

I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.

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My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical.  The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound.  I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.

Kath's Canon, September 22, 2015 early aft Frank's Flats Heron 038

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Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 141

If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book.  It is a treasure and my new favourite!  It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story.  I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.

Today at the pond…

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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

When one thinks of good literature…beautiful writing…one can include the title, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by writer, Carson McCullers.  At the young age of twenty-three, McCullers took on this project.  I reflect back on myself at the age of twenty-three; young mother of one, struggling in a turbulent marriage and I can hardly imagine sitting down to write a powerfully inspiring novel.  Carson McCullers did.

To be honest, I would never have picked up the novel, given the title.  It sounds to be a bit of a cliche and looking back on my life and the significant events that mark transition, loss and accomplishment, I managed to steer clear of this one, up until now.  It sat on my book shelf, having been picked up along the way, as a second hand cast off.  Upon reading it a couple of weeks ago, the title now makes perfect sense and represents the content as much as any other could.

As one pours over the many reviews given to this book, it is difficult to articulate those qualities that make it so successful, just because there are so many.  I decided to write about just a couple and to simply recommend the novel to those who haven’t read it yet or those who read it a very long time ago.

Categorized as Southern Gothic, it is a novel that captures that particular flavour that one might find in To Kill a Mockingbird or A Street Car Named Desire.

 

McCullers’ use of language is elegant and it is consistently supportive of character development from beginning to end.  The reader comes to know, in the most intimate way, the characters who live ordinary/extraordinary lives in this small mill town in the south.  As if under a microscope, we observe their motivations, thoughts and ‘hearts’ from their introduction to the very end.

From the book, Without a Map: A Memoir by Meredith Hall, this…

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Oprah Winfrey offers a thorough book study section on her website for any of my readers who are considering taking on this one with a book club.  I highly recommend.  Included is a visual map and character links in order to explore, deeply, the motivations of each of the ‘lonely hearted’.  You can find the schematic and links here.

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Every one of these characters holds lessons for the reader and given Meredith Hall’s brave confession at the end of the quote shared earlier in this post, I will confess that I, too, am a lonely hunter.  Now, don’t be worried about me.  I think that there is much that is ‘unspoken’ in each of us.  Yes, I have faith.  Yes, I have a beautiful life, as do the written characters of this novel.  However, there is loneliness, even in the most social and ‘connected’ beings.  I think that McCullers’ characters are very brave and for a whole number of reasons.  At completion of the novel, one is left with the revelation of one’s own courage to face the day-to-day issues of living.

I find John Singer to be central to the themes explored in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  We meet him, along with Spiros Antonapoulos, very early in the novel.  The fact that he is mute, and that others rely on him for his good counsel, is essential to the theme development.  I think that the fact that his advice is really only fleeting and that he is left to seemingly absorb the personal narratives of others, is very significant and sometimes painful.

Since reading this, with respect and care, I highly recommend the novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.  You will find yourself or someone you love, written inside the pages.

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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.

Gestures of Love

Recently, like everyone else, I’ve been swept up in more fear and anger than usual because of the shifting tides of political, economic and philosophical posturing the world over.   We try, surrounded by the bombardment of ideas, reactions and media, to sort and sift things out, but sometimes, regardless of our efforts, cave to the tumult.

I was feeling the darkness of our times.

It seemed that last evening, there was a shift of this dark into light, as my dear cousin living in Utah, sent me a message to give him a call.  He’s known for a long time that I have a big heart for family research,  and a desire to find the pieces of our history, however narrative in nature and lacking in the documentation required to make real sense.  He and I, both, have worked on our paternal side for a very long time, in our own ways, if you count up all of the years between us.

I weep this morning, as I type here, about the lovely conversation shared between Dr. Ted (our name of affection for him) and myself.  Ted lead me through some of his research on our family.  It was like bags of sweets laid out before me. (Remember that feeling as a child?)  He guided me patiently, while the both of us logged on to a family ancestral site…this is a fan chart…click on person…click on tree…this is who this person was…and this one…here is the document…And so it went!  Any of you who do this sort of work know how generous this gesture of love is.  My grandfather, John Moors, would be so pleased.  My father, John Moors, will be, when he reads this.  Blessed!  I love you, Ted! And I will pour over every detail bit by bit and so much will be revealed to me!

This morning, I decided to continue to focus on the unbelievable possibility of the positive.  Rolling out of bed, I stepped into my slippers and shuffled upstairs to go through my morning rituals.  As a single woman, I typically do a day’s dishes in the evening, later than you choose, I’m sure, but, just the way I do things.  Last evening, I didn’t.  I expected to bury my hands and arms into warm sudsy water while the coffee maker burbled.  I like doing these things, although when I had a partner, I was over the moon about having a cup of coffee prepared for me and delivered to the sofa, while I either read the paper or eased into the day.  Rituals change and I have become very happy about treating myself to those tender gestures of support and kindness.

But…today…

I woke to a note on my kitchen counter.

Went to
gym.
Made you
coffee.
Leave the
dishes +
garbage. Will
do when I come
home.

❤ you

My adult daughter and a gesture of love…makes everything feel different, doesn’t it?  When someone does you a kindness?  Little effort, but a whole spin that takes you to a place of reassurance and gratitude.  Thank you, Cayley.

I opened up Twitter while I sipped on this first hot cup of coffee.  This, after turning on the Tallest Man on Earth. (My cousin Peter finally showed me how to connect to those lovely speakers over there, with Bluetooth).

My friend, Wendy, had posted this…and I felt so grateful.  Something about me? Really?  The artist?  And the title of the piece, STABILITY!  Thank you, Wendy!

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I’m feeling that these three gestures of love are a small smattering that represent the possibilities that are available to me today, these and the warm nuzzle of my Max Man pushing up against my thigh, here at the computer desk.  “Let’s go, Mom!  Let’s walk!”  Today, let’s all look for the gestures of love in our lives and look away from the natural draw to worry and sadness that pull at our heart strings these days, often issues that we have no control over.  Let’s simply do what we can, with a real focus of what are the blessings of our lives.  Create!

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KOAC: Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre

This morning, I’m celebrating Wendy Lees and the Love Art in Calgary tours that she provides, here in the city.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to enjoy the intimate and generous experience of visiting KOAC.  Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe directed a magical tour of their property, studios and home and today I am still ruminating about the conversations, the practice and the encouragement received.  Grateful!

Katie and Harry have done so much for our community and, both visionaries, they have a commitment to leave an amazing legacy for all of us.  But right now, they need our support, both monetary and philosophically.  Calgarians need to see themselves as both beneficiaries, but also contributors to this dream.  I hope that my readers will take the time to visit the website and explore how they can be a part of this.

We began our tour with the wondrous drive out to the property under an amazing chinook arch.  The light and arch contributed to the aesthetic experience of being on the edge of the city, looking west toward the mountains.  Good conversation, laughter and shared philosophies are always a part of a Love Art in Calgary tour and this time, I reconnected with a like-minded woman, Sharon, who I had met on a previous workshop at the Esker Foundation and Melissa, who has a long history of Gorilla painting with me.  So much fun.

Melissa and I went for a wander to look at a couple of the sculptures on the property before the tour of Katie’s studio began.

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This one made a journey across the ocean in a crate…missed the sculptor’s name.

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‘Dandelion’ a kinetic sculpture created by one of Katie’s former students.

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Treasures.

Walking to Katie’s studio, we stopped and had fun, listening to Katie’s stories and being present to her larger-than-life energy!

I think this woman is such a role model for us.  She is so full of warmth and has such a generous nature.  And…she says that she writes a lot of reference letters! :0)

Katie Ohe, when speaking of her sculptures, touches them in such a special way and speaks about them in that manner, also.  It is evident that she has a very close relationship with the materials and knows and loves the process of creation in a very intimate way.  I cherish listening to her speak of her art.

 

 

Next, we went to Harry’s studio, a treasure trove full of discoveries and large canvases.

Harry is such a gentle and kind man, with such enthusiasm for the vision that has been forming over such a long period of time…a vision and partnership shared between Katie and him.  He is a huge promoter of KOAC and has announced that tickets are available for the next big fundraiser.

Next, the two artists invited us into their home and we sat and snacked and shared a coffee break, while being surrounded by amazing works of art, as well as an extensive collection and library!  Phenomenal!

 

I will never forget the strength of Katie’s hand wrapped around mine, as I thanked her for the afternoon.  What an amazing woman!

Previous posts…

Art Tour 2013

Poem For Katie Ohe

Katie’s Idea Books

Objects of Affection

Mrs. Shoveler

I discovered her, first, on December 14.  The temperatures, the week before, had been frigid, plummeting to -27 on some days.  I had, a couple of times, walked around the pond, breathing hot air into my wool scarf, tied tightly around my mouth and nose.  My eye lashes grew icicles.  Max, sometimes wound up with cold feet and I would stoop to clear snow from between his pads.  On the 14th, the weather seemed better.  At the bottom of the slope that edged the football field, I first saw her, recognizing her beak profile as being that of a Northern Shoveler.  “What the heck?” I thought to myself.

I had my first experience of closely observing Northern Shovelers on the far side of the fence, last summer, and never did get a good photograph of a Mr.  On the other hand, I had several very beautiful encounters, image-wise, with females.

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I am not one for making a big deal of things in nature, knowing that, for the most part, nature will find its way.  I watched her, thinking that perhaps she had been widowed during the extreme temperatures.  Mates will remain where they have suffered loss, for weeks, sometimes months.  I had made observations of a mating couple of geese last summer and when one had obviously lost its mate, the bonded partner remained at the same place on the pond for June and most of July.  Therefore, I didn’t make any calls for assistance right away.  Today, this is my only regret.

Finally, with the vacation approaching and having experienced two days of intensely bitter cold wind, on Frank’s Flats, I decided I should look for sanctuary for little Mrs.  What one discovers as one begins to seek support in this city is that sometimes it doesn’t come easy.  Without recounting my negative or non-productive experiences, I wish to merely express gratitude for those who did reach out with empathy and concern.  First, Bob of Birds Calgary, took the time to research, make inquiries and hook me with other organizations.  I’ve followed Birds Calgary for some years now and love the documentation of birds in our community and the narratives that some times surface on the website.

My second communication with Calgary Wilderness Rehabilitation Society, again, functioning mostly on volunteer-steam and funded by donation, seemed to be hopeful, but a New Year’s blast of winter, meant that services were taxed in other areas of need.  This was a non-emergency situation.  I’m sending on a link to their Wish List, in hopes that this experience of mine might lead to positive change and solicit support for organizations such as these.

In the end, I received the greatest and most professional treatment from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) and I certainly hope that you might, if this is one of your interests, support this organization.  Please spend some time perusing their blog.  They were quick, responsive and had a nice flow to their communication; e mail response, phone and on-line website.  The City of Calgary 311 on-line request form needs some careful attention in order to become expedient and avoid glitches.

I documented my visits with little Mrs.  Sometimes the photos were lovely…sometimes not.  Do I regret being obsessive over an injured duck for the past few weeks?  No.  I learned so much.  I regret to report that sometime in the night or the wee hours of morning, a predator did carry and kill Mrs.  I followed the edge of the pond, the tracks and the narrative until I found her soft fan of feathers in the snow.

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I’m thankful to all my friends and my daughters, for their hearts, ears and suggestions.  I love you all for caring.  I think that we are all called to action.  I think it is easy to get comfortable in our own lives, sometimes.  I think that Mrs. is a mere metaphor for ‘the other’…for the marginalized who are living in our own city.  It is important that we not become so comfortable that we forget that there are others who are cold, without shelter, circling the small pond of their own lives because it feels as though there is no way out.

I am in gratitude that nature has taught me more.

Bringing in a New Year, Mexican Style

I was blessed to have an experience of friendship and love and creativity last evening as we moved from 2016, beautifully, into 2017.  I was so full to the brim with happiness that it took me quite a while, at home, to settle into a peaceful sleep.  I watched the snow fall for quite some time…looked at rabbit tracks that wove through the fresh snow on the front yard…watched it grow into a perfect blanket in the back yard.

Wendy, Dan, Lauraine, Stephen and Steven, our time together was magical!  Thank you, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!