One Tree: One Hour July 8, 2020

This afternoon, while at the river, I decided to stand still beside one tree for an hour and document what I saw. This was an amazing exercise as I was able to reflect on springtime at this location and what I have observed since the snow melted and things came to life.

Steven (my grandson) and I discovered a nest in this tree quite early in the spring. An adult Robin was seen nesting for a matter of weeks and next, we noticed an adult Cedar Waxwing, her banded eyes, popping up above the nest. Today, mother Robin was the first bird that I spotted in the tree.

One of her ‘fledged’ was redundantly chirping from a higher branch…so…in a matter of minutes…

I watched the adult deliver the goods and saw the youngster move from branch to branch, eventually leaving and finding rest in a neighbouring tree.

The Cedar Waxwings seem to have some investment in this tree…its location…its resources because they were agitated, but not dive-bombing, because I was there. I always think that photographs of Cedar Waxwings look ‘fixed’ or manipulated. These birds look so unreal. But, no, this is how they look and the experience of them in real time is even more fantastical. These are only three representative photographs.

The Grey Catbirds are still very skittish, but this batch seem to be getting to know the lady who stands around and really does no harm. I found that they were more courageous today, even doing their remarkable call that secures their name, in my presence.

I kept looking over my shoulder into the brush behind me because Yellow Warblers were playing couples chase games, weaving in and out regardless of the blustery wind. I haven’t had a clear photograph of a Yellow Warbler this year, so I was delighted when I turned back to the tree and saw this little guy fully present and almost looking at me. Quick! Snap!

A female Eastern Kingbird took time to land and say hello, and then in her typical style, she took off, circled, landed, took off, circled, landed. I saw a male a short while earlier, but won’t include him here because these were all visible in a single tree.

A quick photo after noticing a Least Flycatcher…of course she turned her back on me and disappeared into the wood immediately after this shot.

And what would one nesting tree be without a female Brown Headed Cowbird? I’m sure that at this time of year, she is ferrying about, taking note of what birds are feeding her progeny.

And finally, as I looked down at my feet, this Northern Flicker was happily consuming ants on the pathway.

I managed to garner a few more mosquito bites than usual, but I enjoyed standing still to observe what birds might visit a single ecosystem over time.

As I continued on my circle at the river, these were a couple of the sights I took in. Another magical afternoon! Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper balancing on fencing in a huge wind. I got some really comical photos in this series.

Another clutch of Mallards…

The two juvenile Bald Eagles were holding on for dear life as their nesting canopy was swinging in the wind. I didn’t see Mr. or Mrs.

Advice to my readers…sometimes, just sit/stand still. You will be amazed.

Kiyooka Ohe Art Center (KOAC) on July 4, 2020

I was, just now, sitting on the red couch sipping coffee, Max sprawled out on the cool floor beside me.  I was listening to an old Live From Everywhere session with Craig Cardiff on Instagram.  He was writing a song for a couple from Milwaukee, as they shared their story of meeting and falling in love and staying in love.  I got really emotional and as I came down the stairs, strangely, big tears were plopping down my cheeks and falling off my chin.  What?  What is going on?  I think they were blessing-tears.  I just feel so blessed.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a morning drive out to KOAC, in order to do some yard work with a group of wonderful volunteers gathered together by wonderful connector, Alice Lam.  I was surrounded by mostly younger folk and it gave my heart such joy to see these people working so hard to make something beautiful even more beautiful.  I hope to work alongside these people again.  Thank you, Alice.

Alice is seen, here, on our lunch break, eating a fresh lively salad provided by a fantastic start up that has its own magical story.  Through the pandemic experience, Inspired Go has been a company that stepped up and connected with community, in order to make things better.  In April they announced the #feedthefrontlines campaign, providing free meals to local healthcare workers. For each box sold they donated a meal, for a total of 6714 donated meals. What an epic moment in Inspired Go’s history! It is a beautiful thing to see people in our community do great things.  Over two volunteer work days, Inspired Go provided lunch, served up by my dear and respected friend, Wendy Lees.  Thank you!

Upon arrival, Katie,  Harry and Ricardo were there to welcome volunteers.  We received a lovely overview of the studios and the expanse of sculpture garden, beginning with a gathering in Katie’s studio.  There, she richly described her process as she works on pieces connected with the concept Cluster.

I was most intrigued by Katie’s description of the selection of materials and the process of editing, along the way.  I loved her description of vessels that might contain the cluster and her process of discovery.  In the raven piece above, I especially loved the creation of the nesting materials in the bottom section.  All the while, Katie is holding strapping that will be required to pull a new bench into place.  She is always and forever thinking and solving spatial problems.

Off we headed for our various assignments.  I couldn’t wait to get to work.

Below, we head out, passing Queen of the Night, Michael Sandle.

Joe brought the gravel to fill up the space where the bench would be installed.

I enjoyed Katie’s back story on the evolution of the bench.  My readers must take the opportunity to visit the Kiyooka Ohe Art Center.  Sit on this bench!  After shutting down mole/ground squirrel activity under the Ray Arnatt sculpture, Binder, and cutting out invasive weeds, we had our break for lunch.  It was during this time that I had the opportunity to look at the gardens and some of the mid sized sculptures.

Thanks, Wendy Lees, for your homemade chocolate chip squares.  They followed our Inspired Go salads.  Yum!  Then, off to the woods in our mosquito net apparel!  What a fun bunch of hard working people!

It was at this point of the third huge pile of dead wood that the first loud boom of thunder began.  Our day was cut a little bit short by the huge foothills storm that raced through.  I’m sad that I didn’t grab a photograph of the dramatic sky at this point in the afternoon.  I hosed down my footwear and hopped in the car.  I had a chance to say good bye to Harry, but Katie was busying herself somewhere else on the property.

What an amazing day!

Through Covid-19, I have tried to support one visual artist, one musician and one gallery.  It was all I could do, although I wanted to do so much more.  As a result, I have purchased Janet’s Crown by Katie Ohe for my 65th birthday gift.  I am also, over time, purchasing Weeping Bees 2007, Brother Pear 1996, Monsoon2, 2006 and Untitled, 1977.  I’m over the moon about these acquisitions.

I don’t have a lot in the resource bin of life…but, I’ve always had enough.  I’m blessed that I was able to give my three children and myself what we needed, that we had food and shelter and I was, as a teacher, always able to make ends meet.  Often times it was the sale of my own art that provided us with what we needed at the end of the month and when things were really tough (I wasn’t always able to purchase art. lol), friends and family supported me.  Regarding visual art,  a lot of people don’t know that they can create an art collection if they budget a little bit over time.  Arrangements can be made with galleries so that the collector can surround themselves with beautiful art.  I have purchased works from various galleries in town including Gorilla House and Rumble House.

This has been the year of Katie. I purchased Katie’s prints through the Herringer Kiss GalleryKatie Ohe’s retrospective exhibit is now available to view by appointment at the Esker Foundation, until the end of August.  Do not miss this opportunity. I will always remember this year with gratitude.  Strange times often bring to the forefront of our imaginations what is beautiful about life.

It was a fantastic opportunity to spend the day out at KOAC.  What a privilege.  I highly recommend volunteer hours spent at KOAC and thank you, Harry and Katie, for this day.

Ptarmigan Cirque 2020

Around noon, Cathy, Anne and I hiked up to Ptarmigan Cirque, one of the most magical landscape bowls that I’ve come across.  A scenic drive from Longview, I feel myself unwind every time I have the opportunity to do this.

A little earlier in the season, I was gobsmacked by the multitude of Glacier Lilies that were in full bloom, as well as White-flowering Mountain Avens (Dryas hookeriana).  These made the hike today really special.

Be warned, the trails this summer, are heavily traveled compared to any other year.  On one hand, it excites me that so many people, with their children, are getting out to see the wonders that Alberta/B.C. offer.  On the other hand, sometimes I worry about preparedness as I see little children heading up in little sandals and no jackets. (The wind up at the top was cold and pretty powerful today.  I guess everyone learns their lessons in their own time, so, I’m leaving these thoughts as mere observations.

The air was so intoxicating.  It was cool and fragrant.

Conversation was easy among friends.  I loved sharing the trail with these two.  Again, my words are going to be limited, here, but I am excited to share a little bit of what we experienced today in photographs.  Anne and Cathy, I love you, dear friends.

I hold nature and wilderness in deepest regard.  Such joy…I’ve not found anywhere else.

 

 

Many Springs 2020

I was running behind, having spent some time taking care of ‘matters of consequence’ on the home front.  Once turning in toward Westhills Starbucks, I felt the excitement, even in the pouring rain, of getting out to Many Springs and discovering our wild flowers.

We missed Wendy.  We missed Carla.  And, we missed Darlene. And, we missed Darren, too!  Oliver and Cam, glad you could join!  We shared many remembrances as we made our way from our meet-up and headed for the Bow Valley Parkway and then on to our hike.  Only one other group was out on the trail while we were there.

Everything was lush and the colours were more saturated as we wound our way past Middle Lake and on to the parking.  Only a single ‘Bear in the Area’ sign, so nothing to be concerned about.

I don’t think we saw as many orchids as usual, but we certainly saw many more wild Tiger Lilies.

IT POURED….especially as we made it back to our cars.  Thank you, Val and Cathy for sharing this time.  It almost feels sacred.

When the ladies send me their shots, will publish them here…photo credit: Val Vine and Cathy Szata.

Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area

A beautiful little mid-day hike at Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area nicely preceded yet another afternoon rainstorm.  Thank you, Val, Oliver and Cathy.  It was a beautiful exploration of fescue, aspens, wild flowers, powerful skies, butterflies and conversation.

We started off with a little visit inside of the tipi.

Photo Credit: Kath and Oliver taken by Val Vine

Off to the open spaces…heading for Mountain views through the natural grasses.  The wild Lupines were electric blue.

Photo Credit: Close Ups of Lupines by Cathy Szata

Then through the Aspen Grove we went.  Butterflies and more wild flowers and Oliver hiding in the tall grass.

Photo Credit for the next three images: Cathy Szata  I really do appreciate getting into the photographs somehow, Cath.  Thank you.


Diamond T and Pick Up the Park!

It was a busy day.  It began with flowers in my own garden…

Oriental Poppy

Columbine

Orchid Frost Lamium

Peony

…and expanded to include a whole number of beautiful wild flowers.  As I type, I am thinking about the special friends who also shared this day with me.  I am so grateful!

We had a meet up at Station Flats to do the Diamond T hike, a good early conditioning hike.  Val, Cathy, Oliver and I were an eager little group.  The link provided is a 2016 map, but will be helpful if you want to know where to pull off for the trail head.

Cathy retires this year, so a little Naked Grape Blue was served at our picnic spot.

Mountain Shooting Star

 

Red Paintbrush, Orobanchacea.

Arnica, Arnica cordifolia

Purple Virgin’s Bower, Clematis verticellis

Raising the glass in celebration of Cathy’s amazing career as a teacher.  She has impacted so many people along the way.  She has a stunningly huge heart and I am blessed to call her ‘friend’.

Oliver is waving at the bottom of a very very long hill.

Canada Violets  (I LOVE THESE!)

Wild Geranium or ‘Sticky Geranium’

Canada Anemone, Anemone canadensis

I had a two p.m. meet up with the ladies at Bankside in Fish Creek Park for their annual litter pick up.  I knew I was going to be late by a bit, so sent a message to one of my sister-friends and ended up connecting without very much hassle.  I had fun sharing conversation, weather, but not much litter at all along this particular walk.  My friends are the very best for being open to fun and good times.

While we didn’t verbally acknowledge it, this day, my friend Ramona’s birthday, was a perfect celebration of the Summer Solstice.

Ox Eye Daisy

While the sky was threatening and the air very humid, I was grateful that the weather held and we made our way back to our cars.  It was magical to see a lovely bride and her wedding party making their way to the river’s edge and I’m glad that they had only the mosquitoes to contend with, but no lightening.

Happy Summer Solstice to all of my readers.

Joan Turned 91 in Covid Times

I know, first hand, how wonderful it can be to receive a Birthday parade during Covid times because my friends did exactly that for my birthday.  Well, this year is pretty important because our ‘fearless leader’ turned 91 yesterday.  My treasured friends in fine arts education came together to create a drive-by parade and then a Happy Birthday circle yesterday.

Joan has been one of the most inspiring people to serve as Supervisor of Fine Arts for the Calgary Catholic School District in the days when fine arts were understood to be essential to the development of learning within a child.  We were a part of a period in education when Fine Arts advocacy was well and growing in schools.  Teachers received regular support, exemplary modeling and resources in terms of professional development, in order that they could deliver solid programs.  So, Joan was all that.

But, at the core of ‘who’ Joan is….she is a treasured friend.  She has a brilliant mind.  She is a superb artist, one who has looked at her world and nature with precision.  Her observation skills can be surpassed by very few.  Joan is an empathetic listener.  Joan has an appreciation for song and celebration.  She is playful and fun to be around.  Little sayings filter in to every conversation.  I love Joan with my whole heart and she has been a blessing in my life.  Happy Birthday, Joan!

My grandson, Steven, helped me get ready for the parade by painting two banners.  Unfortunately, when I hopped out of the car, I forgot that I had this taped up, post parade.  It looked better during the drive by.

Joan, sharing words of appreciation.  Always self-effacing, she made certain she drew attention to the strength of our team, pointing to each one, “You, you, you and you”…pointing to each one and making eye contact.

Before the fall…

Thank you to the organizers.  These events are so important for these times.  Each person has to determine what proximity they can have in every situation as we enter into stage 2 with the opening up of our economy.  However, it is always important to keep in mind the safety of our senior citizens and those who are vulnerable due to various medical conditions.  Thanks to this residence that provided us with a safe circumstance in order to celebrate our forever-friend.

Babysitting in Covid Times

As I sit down to the laptop to write about Covid-19 days, I think a lot about the true life figures/people on our family trees who saw and lived through times just like these, but many years ago. They watched people close to them die, and struggled with physical symptoms. They dealt with the trauma of loss and experienced the dislocation brought on by illness. One of the real-life figures on my own family tree who succumbed to the Spanish Flu was my Great Uncle, my Grampa’s Uncle John ‘Jack’ Haddow. A wrangler, working on Forster’s ranch outside of the town of Drumheller, he saw countless inhabitants of the region succumb.

I ended up on a two-hour-long search of old Calgary Herald newspapers at this point and came upon some mentions of Great Uncle Jack and so never did return to this post until 6:30 next morning. I’ll try to get back on track, but it’s amazing to note that the item about the Country Dance of Berry Creek was published in October of 1906 and the marriage announcement appeared on April 17, 1916. Five years later, Jack would be dead as the result of influenza, this one, known as the Spanish Flu.

As I write, I also think about our indigenous peoples, the world over, who suffered trauma at the impact of disease through trade and colonization. This is not the first time the world has seen these life events unfold. All the conspiracy theorists aside and all of my readers who deny the seriousness of these events, I feel differently, and I will remember this as a global pandemic that caused the death and illness of many the world over. It is like living in a science fiction movie. Each person has to find their way through these events in a way that works for them, with respect for the medical people who are making educated assessments along the way. We must never take people who are working in the front lines for granted.

And now…for the subject of this post. Through history, whether it be in the days of the Spanish Flu or in the families of our indigenous peoples, disease has had an impact on children. I am exploring this because adults have a way of processing what is going on, but what are the children feeling through all of this?

When it came down to our family’s journey, my grandson, Steven, very swiftly found himself without his daycare friends and teachers and couldn’t attend Wee Wild Ones SE. His parents, similarly, found themselves with changing work situations. Mommy, immediately, had no choice but to stay home. My grandson is almost three. When this all began, we were reeling and I stepped in to help at the very outset, but really had no intention of spending a pandemic as a child care provider. My son-in-law was still working out in the world, as a part of essential services, and so, at a point, when restrictions were becoming more clear and as we discovered that the severity of the illness seemed to be hitting seniors more than anyone, I became scared for my own health. I stopped providing babysitting and that was a very difficult decision.

I geared up for a number of different projects including the writing of a historical fiction, creating a paper barn owl and painting in the studio.

When I left my two week stint, babysitting, I agreed that I could return on the condition that my son-in-law was able to pull himself out of the ‘real-world’ workforce and remain home for fourteen days. Dr. Deena Hinshaw had already introduced the idea of adopting a cohort family for children to have at-home playmates, and so I applied the same concept to child care.

There are so many grandmas who wanted to do the same for their grandchildren, but who were keeping themselves isolated from their families, that I felt guilty at times or felt as though I was doing something wrong. I also experienced a lot of push back from some individuals as a result of my decision. But, as mentioned before, I made a decision that I felt would be okay for me and as long as everyone in our circle could respect that parameters of our cohort unit, I would do alright to take Steven under my wing.

Long-story-short, I have been babysitting Steven ever since. Is it easy? Nope. There are lots of days when my back and knees are sore. There are days I’d like to sleep a little longer and get home a little earlier. My border collie, Max, who is also aging is spending a lot of time alone. So, there are those things. But, I have to look at this time as being really very special, as well, and I work, daily, at creating magic for Steven as we have one another exclusively for all of this time.

I try to be child-like most of the time because Steven and all of his little peers are missing the natural socialization that comes with Library programs, swimming lessons, play groups and day care. Acting three years old all day can really create exhaustion and I find that when I get home, I’m mostly unproductive. Just recently, I’ve surrendered to the need to be an adult some of the time and I’ve given myself the time to ‘take breaks’ from play and exploration. I’ve done it so well that now Steven will sometimes be found sitting on the rocking chair. I’ll turn to him and ask, “What are you doing?” and he will reply, “I’m taking a break.”

I’m pouring over the photographs I’ve snapped through these months and it’s really difficult to narrow down and post just a few that represent what we’ve done together. We read a lot. We play outdoors A LOT. I’m trying to teach Steven as much as I can about the places that I love. I’m helping him to notice aspects of nature that are important to me. I’ve been leaning on the lessons my Paternal Grandfather taught me about respect for nature and understanding the gifts as well as the dangers that are a part of that respect. He has learned about ice shelves and has been learning to read the river….shallow water looks lighter….fast water can look murky and/or dark….”Let’s throw a stick into the river and see what happens to it. A stone?”

I am putting limits on how long I can sustain this, but I will look back on this time as being a bit of a gift of sorts to our beautiful boy. He is so very important to all of us. To all of my readers who have made other choices out of concerns for the safety of your circle, you are giving a tremendous sacrifice, as are those who have decided to take care of your grand babies through these most trying times. I have your backs…all of you.

Gratitude, also to Wee Wild Ones SE who have provided weekly FLOW events/colouring sheets/creative links and recipes for goo and mixtures, music videos and zoom meet ups…while we can’t do all of it, we are glad for the connection and send our love to all of the hard workers! I have continued respect and love for you!

Thank you to Miss Carlie for your wonderful music classes!

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Yoga with Ms. Chloe sometimes gleaned amazing participation and sometimes just brought the sillies out. And Steven loved seeing his little friends on Zoom calls, but Gramma mostly missed the appointments for her outside wanderings with her little boy. When the weather is nice in Calgary, a person just has to take advantage!

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Steven has been learning a lot about balance and loves to practice on logs.

Steven has been learning a lot about predators and prey. He has been learning that animals are food for one another out in nature. Here, he is pretending to be a sneaky coyote. He has observed only one coyote at the river, but knows from Gramma that there are more and that when they have their pups, they are super cranky. He’s learned to shout SHOO and to wave his arms.

He is allowed to take as many breaks as he wants. He knows that Gramma will not lift him because he’s a toddler now and can toddle. I’m happy to explore places when he takes his breaks, with my eyes, nose and ears. I tell him to let me know when he’s ready. On this day we were looking for an owls nest on the west side of the river and into Fish Creek Park.

Throwing sand at the sand beach.

North Glenmore Park and picking up plants at Wendy’s home in Lakeview.


Two Little Dickie Birds

Watching Decorah Live Eagle Cam during afternoon snack time, especially fun on wintry or bad-weather days.

Love Your Family in Covid Times

A blessing that has come to me during these strange times is a weekly check-in with my siblings and Dad on Sunday, after I attend my ‘virtual’ Mass with Bishop McGratton.  10:00 am Comox Time, 11:00 Calgary Time, 1:00 Ottawa Time.  These conversations are always so pleasant and I feel so grateful.  While these are not ‘real time’ connections, they are more than we’ve chosen to do over the past many years, through our years of separation from one another.

Today was really fun, mostly because my brother Cliff was sorting his tackle box.  Cliff is a charter operator who has, of course, had business grind to a near halt…first because of last year’s catch and release policy, and this year, due to Covid.  It was fun to have him do a show and tell.  This week we also discussed paper barn owls, bamboo gardening, tomato gardening and reminisced about Mom and Dad’s property in Frankford, Ontario.

I love my family.  I miss them terribly.  But, we are making the best of things.  I hope that my readers will make sure to connect with family as much as is possible through these strange times.  Happy Sunday!

Live Stream in Covid Times

Live Streaming is not a new format, but definitely a more frequented format since Covid-19 times! The Internet is spilling over with opportunities to make some human connection through this platform.

In mid March, I found myself without a church community and so my first step into the world of Live Streaming was to connect with, when I could, daily Mass with St. Peter’s parish and weekend Mass with our Bishop McGrattan at the St. Mary’s Cathedral.

I light a wee candle as Mass begins and join in any sung bits and even click little heart icons when I am wanting to participate in public prayer responses.  It is a very strange experience, not to be surrounded by my prayer community, but through Live Streaming, I can remain connected, celebrate the liturgy of the word, take in many inspiring homilies and journey, with support, through these troubling and isolating times.

If a person wants to connect with Live Streaming opportunities, they can be found on most social media platforms.  They could keep you busy all day long, so I have a few favourite ones that I will share here.

Because I come from a creative background, I can not help but feel concerned for the many musicians who rely on income from gigs and live events throughout our city and across the nation.  I often wonder how our local musicians are managing through Covid.  I think it’s a great idea to attend and support at least one musician, artist or other performer through Covid times, if it is possible, without creating a struggle in your own home.

Each evening, at 7:00 Monday through Thursday, I attend I Love Ruthie, a music/book/story telling type event, hosted by Ruth Purves Smith.  This event puts a smile on my face and is conveniently set between dinner and my Skype visit with my father out in Ottawa.  Each evening we meet cats, see plants, hear readings from a book of the day, look out Ruthie’s window to a completely different landscape and answer the question of the day.  An art book of the week is opened to an image each evening…something to think about and ponder.  If you would like to attend, I can connect you with a link.

Ruthie has been self-isolated in a small Alberta hamlet named Stalwell since this all began.

As well, Craig Cardiff is hosting a Live Stream event on all formats: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  He is such a generous person and I encourage you to offer support by connecting with his profile on Spotify.

Craig is living with his family in Ontario.  I attend bits and pieces of Craig’s every night performances.

As well as musicians on Live Stream, a person can find a lot of different Live Stream art events and lessons.  While not technically Live Steam, the Esker Foundation provides beautiful and well presented activities for youth and for wee ones, at home. (Keep an eye out because I will feature a ‘How to In Covid Times’ post. They have a fantastic Watch and Listen section on their website.  Take a look! 

I’m filing these away for ‘after the pandemic’ times because I just don’t seem to have time to take absolutely everything on.  I’ve recently done some curbside purchases at the Inglewood Art Store and I’m motivated to get my own creations rolling out of my home studio.

The Glenbow Museum and Gallery have been doing Live Streaming, as have most other gallery spaces.  The first one that I bumped into was ‘Staring at My Four Walls’ With Viviane Art Gallery.  I loved this series.  From here, I went looking and found artist talks, gallery tours and all sorts of efforts being made by supporters of the visual arts.

Christine Klassen’s Art Gallery hosted an art panel during the exhibit Papyromania featuring work by Heather Close and Rick Ducommun and I thought that was very well done.

Don’t feel intimidated by these sorts of experiences.  I know that some have enjoyed Opera, Concert performances and even cooking experiences through Live Streaming.

If you are a nature buff, there are also a whole number of Live Cams set up at nests or rivers, where you can watch Live Streaming.  One of my favourites is the Decorah Live Eagle Cam.  I hope you will explore some of these events and experiences through Covid times.