Passing Through: Frank’s Flats

…not to be confused with Frank Lake.

Observed today….a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, not to be confused with the Lesser Scaups that I’ve seen during nesting season. Another first time identification for me.

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Also, passing through, two very shy Hooded Mergansers (I may be incorrect on this identification)  The males are very spectacularly coloured…these two are the cinnamon colour of the females or possibly juveniles…hard to get anywhere near this couple, especially with Max on umbilical.  I would appreciate the help of others on this identification.

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The following photograph gave me the most reference material I could capture…

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There remains, a single Pied Billed Grebe…don’t know why this one hasn’t headed out.  Very elusive and likes to go under at the first sight of me…I’m determined to get close enough to see the light in his eyeballs at some point.

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Anomaly at Frank’s Flats

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I shouldn’t always apologize for my photographs.  I’m not in the business of circling a single pond for the possibility of becoming a photographer, but I would like it if the images were focused.  I am walking daily, however, in order to document what I feel, see, hear and experience.  I am there to learn and to discover through all of my observations.

Well, today, I saw one single male Northern Pintail duck on the pond.  While a very common bird, I have never seen one and I’m always excited to spot a new species. I find it funny that I’ve observed such a variety this autumn and usually solitary male birds.  Please enjoy the link to the Northern Pintail that I have provided.  It doesn’t get much better than Audubon!

Just after snapping these two photographs, a train thundered to the west of me.  The Pintail took off, circled the pond and then headed south across the debacle that is the South West Ring Road, likely to the larger water body to the south.  Grateful for this siting.

The Poems of Clea Roberts

The poetry of Clea Roberts has been a source of great inspiration since attending a Wordfest session, Into the Quiet, this year.  Every poem is an elegant string of words, sparse but potent.  I am left, after reading, with a sense of wonderment about this world of ours.

Because of the immediacy of social media, I have been able to access other people’s travel, adventure and world exploration over months and years…Nepal, Venice, Spain, Croatia, Haida Gwaii.  I get the sense of how vast our life experiences can be…to eat seafood in Japan, observe the art of the masters in far off galleries, stand at the top of the Empire State building.  I enjoy all of this very much.  It all comes into my home, while I sit in my pyjamas at the keyboard, with my cup of coffee on the desk, to my right.

However, nothing moves me more than these poems.  Because somewhere in these images, lies the remembrance of camping with my parents, the smell of woodfires burning, the soft conversations as neighbours drift off to sleep.  The childhood listening.

It was some years ago that I spent time observing this schematic, the scale of the universe.  I realized even before encountering this illustration that just as there are so many more places to explore beyond our own communities, there are a multitude of places to visit in our own intimate surroundings, and to go deeper still, there are internal landscapes to explore.  The universe offers so many compelling and endless possibilities for discovery that it is an easy thing to become fascinated with the world that lives even on the petals of a flower.

The poems of Clea Roberts take me to that beautiful intimate place of connection in a much smaller place, full of limitless possibilities.

In the meantime, for two weeks, I have been observing a single Horned Grebe on a pond, hoping to capture a just one focused photograph.  I have watched muskrats frantically building winter homes in the cattails on the north side of the fence while bulldozers plow and reshape former dwellings.  I see miracles every evening as the sun begins to set.

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One poem to share this morning…from Auguries by Clea Roberts

If Suddenly My Dreams Are Premonitions

There is music or
there is snow falling
on the white-tailed deer.

They strip the ash berries
with precise, needful tugs.

There is music or
there is the gliding silence
between their hoofbeats
as the wind changes.

An introduction is made.
A small part of me
goes with them.

 

Painting With Kids Outdoors on a Windy Day!

As I continue with my “My Life Falls Out of Order” series of posts…I still find little nuggets in my archives about teaching, music, nature and art moments that I wish to put in some form of reflection.

Not much to say about this one that the photographs won’t explain, but, it all began with good intentions.  When the weather is nice and the year is grinding to a close, it’s nice to get students outdoors as much as is possible.  These experiences can be based on curriculum; you just need to think it through.

So, of course, I head outside to paint.  There is a tradition of painting landscape called en plein air…if good for the Impressionists, why not for children?  Any grade…

When painting a mural, it is the teacher’s greatest responsibility to share with students the idea behind collaboration and elevation of the group’s efforts over the familiar experience of elevating the self.  Well before a project such as a group mural, lessons need to focus on the personality of line quality and the very specialization of mark making.  In a group mural, it is explained, it is important to share your marks in a variety of locations.  This will lead to a more successful piece, in that Unity will be accomplished through the weaving of many personal approaches to colour, design and line.

And…when the wind blows, just revise the initial plan.  Don’t get sad about a splatter, enjoy the impact of elements upon the collective result.

Food Narratives and Traditions: Pierogi

It was the second year that I had the opportunity to work alongside Michael, a friend who grew up in the tradition of his mother making Perogies, spelled Pierogi (for those who really know what they are doing).  Last time, we took the project on in my little U shaped kitchen and this year, in the far more organized kitchen in Michael’s home, edging the bike path where, at this time of year, tall trees are clothed in glorious colour.

I am very grateful for the experience and feel like I really did get into the groove of the pinching and such.  I tried to be a support back-up person for Michael who moved through the kitchen rolling and boiling and pinching as though a well choreographed machine.  We stopped about half way through our shared experience to sit and sample the goods and they were delicious, but this only after whipping downtown to see if we could pick up a batch of miniature books on the topic of the 94 calls to action, resulting from the Truth and Reconciliation process.  I explained to Michael that I really wanted to make certain that each person who attended this years THANKS-giving feast would leave with one. No such luck! We arrived at the stroke of 4:14 when the Native Counselling Center closed at 4:00.  Drat!

Back to our culinary experience…

These tasty treats will be shared around with many friends and family members over the coming days and I really hope that Michael and I can make Pierogi as an annual event.  Good music, cold drinking water and much activity makes for strong friendships.  Working side by side in the kitchen is a great way to really get to know your friends!  Highly recommend!

(Thanks to Ellinor for the sour cream!)

Amounts for a single batch…divided and rolled a third at a time, after a half hour rest in a plastic bag.

5 level cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold milk
1 cup hot water (not boiling hot)

Whisk together your wet ingredients and then add your flour gradually.

Fillings this year… and we think we made approximately 30 dozen of these little gems because we worked up three batches in all.

#1 Potato, cheddar, homemade pickled peppers

#2 Mushroom, leek, truffle oil and dill

#3 Potato, cheddar and green onion

Thank you, Micheal, for your generous heart.

 

Music to Fill a Heart: Folk Fest Thursday, July 27, 2017

I haven’t updated my blog for most of the summer.  Sometimes life just carries you to places you didn’t expect.  It’s been one of those types of summers.  I purchased my Early Bird Folk Festival tickets months in advance of the event.  It was probably a good thing because otherwise, I wouldn’t have treated myself with so much going on at the home front.  In the end, I attended the entire weekend, with the support of my family and with coverage for dog walking and other responsibilities.  Max is always a factor in my planning.

It was July 27.  It was my mother’s birthday.  I remember taking my mother down to the the island, many years ago.  We sat on a bench and shared an ice cream cone. I thought a lot about Mom that evening. I ended up closer to the entrance than any previous Thursday night and had some lovely conversation with my line mates as we waited for gates to open.  I chatted with a family group and also met a gentleman who is married to a lady from Souris, PEI, so we had some time to chat about the Cheveries, as she has her family of origin in that line.

Oh, yeah…and I found this guy, in line.  (and yes…we need to get the programs in place NOW, in regards to homeless Veterans.  I’m with you on that, readers.)

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My first and most favourite food of the weekend…a Mediterranean plate, paired with an ice cold lemonade.  Thursday evening entailed no fly sheets, a simple cozy blanket for sitting.

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Thursday night saw me plunking my butt down at the Main Stage the entire time.  I ended up very close to the music.  I felt breath and peace and music sink into me, as for the first time, this summer, I truly relaxed.  My favourite discovery was the 5:30 performance by Dawes!  Why haven’t I heard Dawes before?  What???

Immediately, the song writing touched me and I related to the music at a heart level.  I’m going to post, not one, but two videos, here.

Ripped off, directly from the Folk Festival website…this biography.

“California in the ‘70s saw the rise of the singer songwriter scene, where musicians threw off the yoke of ye olde folk songs to try their hands at new, more personal creations that melded the personal, the political and the heartfelt. California roots rock band Dawes ably carries that musical torch, even recording their first album live to analog tape in a studio in Laurel Canyon. If you need a recipe for Dawes’s sound, imagine poignant and melodic songs, heartfelt lyrics, sweet harmonies mixed together in a package that’s just a little rough around the edges.

The band’s founders are brothers Griffin and Taylor Goldsmith, so they come by the sweet sibling vocals honestly. Turns out the band’s name is part of their family roots. Dawes is Taylor’s middle name, inherited from his grandad who really liked the idea of keeping the connection and introduced them to two of their favourite artists, Bob Wills and Hank Williams. Dawes mines five albums worth of originals and occasionally serve as the backing band of their old friend and collaborator Bright Eyes (Connor Oberst). And they spread their modern take on ‘70s music, touring folk and rock festivals in the U.S., building a loyal audience for their distinct brand of indie California folk rock.
ER”

 

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A highlight for me was musician, Duane Betts, son of Dickey Betts, who joins Dawes with their touring band.  Mouth dropping guitar interludes absolutely blew me away!  A great experience in music!

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Choir! Choir! Choir!  was entertaining at 6:45, but honestly, Calgary, I would have liked to see more participation.  This makes me laugh, as I see the teacher-heart spring up.  We did a poor version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  It sounded nothing like the version I’ve posted, here.  I did move right up to the front and gave it my best effort, as you can all imagine.  We didn’t have Rufus Wainwright with us, but you get the idea.

 

An academic study into the effects of collective singing at one Mideast protest found that it helped the group vent negative emotions, strengthen solidarity, foster hope and experience spiritual transcendence. That’s also a typical review of a Choir! Choir! Choir! experience.

And it is an experience, more than a show or a gig. Choir! started as a weekly event at Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto, where anyone with $5 and any skill level could show up and sing along. As word and YouTube videos spread, they begin taking the experience on the road. The onstage setup is simple: usually, just an acoustic guitarist and somebody waving their arms (the conductor). The audience does the heavy lifting. No audition required: Choir! leaders hand out lyric sheets, divide the group into highs, middles and lows, teach the harmonies — and then a radio staple by Tragically Hip, Rihanna or a ’90s grunge band becomes a beautifully shared moment. Hope, solidarity and spiritual transcendence are often outcomes of a great Folk Fest stage, but never quite like this, where the magic emanates from all of you.

JM”

Up next was Coeur de pirate.  She has the pipes!  I was watching her perform through the eyes of my friend, Denise and I thought a lot about our friendship throughout the performance.  A beautiful and animated performer, she blew us all away.  It was at this point that I connected with friend, Jane, who happened to be hanging with all three of her kids and families.  I feel so blessed to have joined them on their tarp for this set.

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Billy Bragg and Joe Henry performed next.  It was difficult to separate the opinions of others regarding Billy Bragg and my experience of this music.  He is looked at like authentic ranchers would view a Rhinestone Cowboy…a bit of a star who doesn’t suffer the actual realities of hard working people.  However, I have to tell you, I was really impressed by the music.  I am nostalgic when I think of trains and this was the general drift of this set.  Joe Henry and Billy Bragg have been collaborators on a project that, I think, archives a history of music as it relates to the American Train.  I guess one would argue that this is an appropriation, of sorts.  I say this, simply, because its a subject that comes up a lot.

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I enjoyed my first night of music listening minus some parking shenanigans….so began folk festival 2017.

Serendipity?

Today marks the beginning of another week and I anticipate holding my first grand baby in my arms.

On August 11,  I decided I wanted to celebrate my daughter’s rite of passage and be with her in a calm and supportive environment as she moves into the last days of her pregnancy.  I stopped, with purpose, at the grocery store in order to choose some white carnations and baby’s breath.  My father, as a ritual, would stop in to a store on his way home from work and bring my mother carnations.  Sometimes they were red. Sometimes they were white.  And sometimes they were a combination of both.  I wanted to call into our prayer circle,  my mother, grandmothers and the matriarchs of my son-in-law, as well.  During the blessing, I told the story of the carnations, placed in the center of our prayer circle.  Here they are, here. (My son-in-law snapped this photograph for me yesterday morning,  August 12, because I had a “Facebook Memory: This happened four years ago” photograph pop up on my Timeline and my mouth dropped.)

White Carnations August 11, 2017

My father sent me this bouquet on August 12, 2013, the summer my beautiful mother passed away.  Here is the photograph I took of those flowers four years ago.

White Carnations August 12, 2013

Hmmm….perhaps, just serendipity?  The hairs stood up on the back of my neck.  Mom, you are always with me and I know that you will be with us all as we take this wonderful journey over the coming week.  I love you.

Wild Stone Heart and Other Matters

Hours, days, and weeks pass without writing, as I plow my way through matters of the heart.  Today, however, I feel an impetus to put down a layer of words.  It comes from a tree huggin’ place, from my utter respect for nature and for pain at watching consumption impact absolutely everything.  I am one of those consumers.  It’s not as though my ideas have transitioned much, into action.  For example, I do not live off grid.  I drive a car.  While I don’t buy a lot of stuff, I get my adult children Kinder-Surprise eggs at Easter time….that sort of thing.  This isn’t intended to be a defensive post or a judgmental post.  I simply want to archive my observations of today.

Last night, I finished another chapter of Wild Stone Heart: An Apprentice in the Fields by Sharon Butala.  I usually don’t write a review on a book until I finish it…and honestly, I’m quite a bit behind in that activity, as well…but, this book bears a lot of weight on my heart as I continue the act of circumnavigating a single pond environment every day.  I’m now moving into my seventh year.  Butala writes about her personal relationship to and with a Saskatchewan field, what it teaches her and how it calls her to grow in knowledge, understanding and spiritual depth.  This morning, her words reached into a corner of my heart.

I have been circling the same pond ecosystem every day for six years now.  Every day, I see something remarkable.  Some days I have a camera.  Some days I don’t.  Often, even if I have the proper tools with me, I choose not to snap a photograph, claiming all of the beauty for me alone.  In fact, recently, I’ve done a lot of that.  I’ve gifted myself the time for all of it…for me.  It doesn’t have to be photographed, blogged about or even written about…I walk with it…pause with it and it has been a crucial part of my healing.  It is my daily prayer.

Nature provides me with a sense of time and light and continuity.  Only weeks ago, male Red-winged Blackbirds were in chorus along the pond’s edge, nestled in the cattails, brilliant red wings on showy display.  Then, the females became visible.  Air combat broke out as the males became territorial.  They fought curious and hungry crows and even dive-bombed humans who walked or ran along the trail.  Soon, the loud chirping of hungry voices deep at the base of the cattails and not an adult Blackbird without a beak filled with dragonflies and mayflies.  Days later, clumsy juveniles tried balancing on chain link fence or on the tips of cat tails, falling and tripping through the pond environment, Mom and Dad, watching closely from a short distance away.  And now…only a few linger back.  The population has shrunk in a matter of days.  Yesterday, only two sightings of males and a single female.  And inside, I feel a sadness and a great gratitude, for what summer has meant at the pond.

The Red-necked Grebes have done well.  There was only a single loss, from what I can tell, out of six successful nests.  At the most easily viewed nest, four eggs hatched and four youngsters hung out for almost a week, when one was lost.  The American Coots have increased vastly in numbers.  Ruddy duck females are still swimming in formation, with eight and ten little ones tagging behind.  Geese in great numbers and the juveniles have been batting their wings, like crazy, while swimming on the pond, preparing for huge and harrowing flights in the autumn.

A single male Kingfisher was sighted just recently, always a little late in the season, but I’ve seen a Kingfisher here for the last three years, at this time.  I like to imagine that it’s the same bird, stopping by.

Every day is different and spectacular at the pond.

Yesterday, I looked up from the path and saw three of the most majestic bucks and five female does, edging a particularly busy four lanes of traffic on the west bound lanes of 22X-now-Stoney Trail.  The bucks, in the lead, were casing out the situation as they wished to take the females south and across this horrible maze of fencing (all types), asphalt and construction machinery.  I waited with my mouth opened wide, uttering, out loud, my fears.  It was my instinct to grab for my phone…who would I call?

With that, the three bucks, made huge leaps and bounded onto the highway, the does following…traffic lurched to a halt.  Car horns, in symphony, went off.  It all lasted about two minutes.  One of the females,  in utter terror, bounded back and disappeared into the shrubs on this side of the highway.  I swore.  I yelled, “You stupid assholes!”  I was left feeling angry and frightened for our brothers and sisters; wildlife.  I thought of the wild fires blazing west of us.  I thought of the bears that are being so hemmed in by humankind at the height of berry season.  I thought of the hundreds of gulls and crows, together, flying overhead…east…changing migration patterns.  I was left feeling very sad and very helpless.

Leaving the pond that day, I took a different route, seeking out some answer about where the deer had gone, but I was cut off by a barricade of cranes and plows.  I wondered what would happen to the female, separated from her tribe.  I came home, driving under the two osprey nests built precariously on the signage for ‘Deerfoot’ Trail.  What’s to be done about all of this?  Has it all gone too far?

What is left for me is to experience, document and remember.  In the meantime I pray for the inspired thinking of developers, biologists, scientists of every variety.  I pray that the next generation goes forward with clarity, knowledge and determination.  Our generation, I think, has made a mess of things.

 

 

 

 

 

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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