For the Birds: April 23, 2017

I am becoming frustrated about birding photography because I am growing to recognize focused photographs and can easily determine that a lot of mine are not (focused, that is)!  At times, my equipment IS holding me back and I’ve decided that, given that I am highly enthusiastic about taking photos of bird species, likely my point and shoot Canon Powershot will not always feel adequate. Today, however, I’m going to post some of those poor quality photographs because, as I’ve said before, I’m trying to archive my sitings as my interest lies primarily with my observations and encounters and only as a sidebar, the photography.

I can not share with my readers what utter joy I have been having exploring this one pond ecosystem and it seems as though every season, I’m discovering more.  My eyes are wide open, that’s for sure!  Read Birds, Art, Life by Kyo Maclear  and you will find me inside those pages!

The nesting platform that has been for four years, attended by a pair of Osprey, this year, has been occupied by a ‘sitting goose’.  Damn! How could this happen?  Surprisingly enough, I’ve witnessed it happen before at the more westerly platform location and watched as the Osprey family violently fought the goose away.   This year, the Sikome Osprey couple arrived just a week ago, to learn that it was impossible to inhabit their familiar platform with such a stubborn, however, unusual bird already well-moved-in. You know, dear readers, and I know that this is going to lead to a certain fate for the large numbers of goslings that will fall crashing to their deaths, not long after hatching.

However, Enmax, who DID respond to my call for help in very short order, was unable to reach the nesting bird in their long armed bucket yesterday, due to the changed drainage ditches and rock retaining systems that were constructed before fall of this past year.  They wrote to tell me that the Osprey would have to wait until the gosling hatching and then, mayhaps, they would reclaim the nest.  I just wondered, after this response, why they can not erect a new platform in the meantime…and so…more drama today!

As I drove to Frank’s Flats, Maxman in tow after Mass this morning, I noted that Mr. and Mrs. Osprey were sitting on two different light standards staring, with evil eyes, in the direction of the platform.  The goose sat, indifferent.  I sent off a post to social media once I arrived at the pond.

Returning home, the first stick was set down.

“Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “by end of day, this, a nest will be!”

Sure enough, after Pow Wow dancing class (you should try it!), I drove down to check on progress!  A full nest is well engaged on the top of the sign that appears east 22x just before the bridge.  This nest edges the bike path directly and has a view of a bustling and particularly noisy traffic area.  Oh dear!

Yes, I HAVE let Enmax know….but, what saddens me is that, at the destruction of this nest, the Osprey will have to sort out a new location…and there just isn’t one that makes any sense.  What makes sense is for Enmax to grow some determination, get that goose down, and let the Osprey nest.

I’ll keep you informed…and in the meantime…this is all for the birds!

People are now out and fishing on the river.

I watched as a Bald Eagle and the two Osprey did the work of negotiating their way around these wires that cross over the Bow River…in the name of advancement.

The Black-headed gulls have returned to the south…I noticed this first when I was in my neighbourhood park at dusk last evening and hundreds of them flew overhead…pure magic!

First time for everything…I watched Mr. mount Mrs.(not posted here)

At Frank’s Flats…the past couple of days…The male Loon appeared yesterday and fished the pond for the entire day.  Today, he was gone.

Since chopping down most of the trees and leaving this single deciduous tree just on the other side of the fence, the crows are at a loss for where to build new nests.  They gather together these days, in far larger groups than this…but, I’ve noticed a change in their activities.

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Thanks to my friend, Pat, who has this amazing way of organizing for such wonderful experiences, I attended Theatre Calgary’s A Thousand Splendid Suns a few weeks back.  It was an event for ‘seniors’ (Pat, Mary, Janet and me) in the afternoon and we enjoyed coffee, finger foods and cake, as well as a short presentation/question period with Pomme Koch who played Tariq.  Pomme gave an interesting background on the play, as well as a little about his own prior accomplishments in theater, film and such.  He had an easy manner and was very gracious, answering questions. I noticed and was annoyed by some chatters throughout this portion of the program.  During our post-event discussions (we always have them) we considered what is it in audience members that causes them to dismiss their own responsibility to contribute to making it a wonderful experience for everyone.  Who speaks when there is a performer requiring our attentions?  Chit Chat can wait, folks!

The magic of the stage performance was captivating; the sets, the characters, but especially the script; and I knew that I wanted to read the book over the coming days.  I had fallen in love with Mariam and admired the strength of Laila.  I wanted to know these women more and so once home, I picked up the copy of A Thousand Splendid Suns off my book shelf, another second hand book sale find.

Adapted by Ursula Rani Sarma
Based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Original music written and performed by David Coulter
Directed by Carey Perloff

I had read The Kite Runner some years ago and so I was prepared for the painful renderings of a history of Kabul and surrounding regions.  I knew, especially, having seen the play, that this would be a sad and painful story.

The bonded friendship between Mariam and Laila was the most essential element for me; a woman, reader and artist.  I was challenged through several moments of violence and violation of these women in the book.  These caused me tremendous pause and rage and sadness.  I loved that out of such hardship, this friendship grew.  While one might only focus on the darkness of their shared years, this is a story of resurrection for not only these two women, but also for the people of Kabul.  It is a story of hope, the final chapters, heart warming and sentimental.

Things I thought about…

The position of women in the context of family, culture and and the world.

The treatment of women in domestic situations.

Secrets we keep.

Who we protect.

Patriarchal entitlement.

Friendship

Nurturing

Basic Human Rights and Dignity

Jalil’s mistake.

A right to education.

Self-sacrifice

The complexities of the politics of this region.

What position does/should the world take in atrocities that occur in different regions of the world at any given time?  What is right?  What is just?

What about the children?

Forgiveness

A Thousand Splendid Suns

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.”
Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

 

Courting

It’s spring and the water at Frank’s Flats is only, today, beginning to open up.  So, it was no surprise that three couples were there to greet me and Max-man…all three on the same section of open pond; Common Goldeneye male and female, Mallard male and female and Canadian Goose, male and female.  I managed to get a few good photographs and had opportunity to watch Mr. and Mrs. goose participate in their courting dance.  Quite spectacular, but in some ways, frightening.

First…the Goldeneye twosome.

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And next, the geese and their special dance.

The two arrived and did a mirroring activity, scooping the neck down and up, beak into the water and then out, over and over again.

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Then, in unison…notice how their beaks are turned toward one another.

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Then, as if from no where, this happened!

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Mrs. is fully submerged here.

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He begins to move on…

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And he makes quite a scene about being happy and proud and ‘all that’…

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I guess she feels pretty grateful, also.

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Rituals at the pond never cease to amaze me.  By observation, I learn so much.  Last year, one of the nesting geese at Frank’s Flats became widowed and it was so heart breaking to watch.  The widow did not stop looking for its mate for over a month and mournfully journeyed the circle of the pond every single evening, returning again and again to their chosen nest site.

If one looks closely, even the water bugs, although their life cycle is very short, are multiplying on warm days and in sunshine.  I took these photos on March 31.  Every rounded rock exposed along the pond’s edge was a wellspring of activity.  Today, April 1, the stones were absolutely clear, with no signs of yesterday’s chaos.

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Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

It continues to be my goal to read the books of as many indigenous authors as possible this year…and to read content that will increase my knowledge, leading to better understanding of issues related to our Canadian indigenous peoples.  I have a desire in my heart to be a part of the mechanism that contributes to change, following a formal Truth and Reconciliation process.  The formal process is a mere stepping stone…the work, by all Canadians, is yet to be done.

I am grateful to have connected with author, Sable Sweetgrass, through an on line book club that Sable established and then on to a group book circle at the Forest Lawn Public Library once a month, with the gathering, Chapters and Chat, sponsored by the Aboriginal Pride and 12 Community Safety Initiative and led by Michelle Robinson.  Books offer inroads to powerful ways of viewing the world and understanding, whether non fiction, fiction, theater or poetry.  We owe it to ourselves to become educated.

This month’s read, Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, was selected as much for the weight of issues surrounding its author as for any other reason.  We decided we really wanted to have an honest discussion about appropriation of content.

The aesthetic of the book is beautiful…lovely paper, interesting and welcoming format, gorgeous illustrations and attractive associations with the natural world.  Based on the historical events of a young boy, Chanie who, in fact, was forced into a residential school system and as a result, died,  the discussion about the issues surrounding the writing of the book became a many layered, and at times painful, conversation.

I was unaware of Joseph Boyden’s reputation as an author, given that this was the first time I have picked up one of his books. Highly successful and recognized as an award winning author, Boyden’s connections with indigenous culture and appropriation of indigenous narratives has been called into question in various ways over many years.  His response has been anything but straight forward and the topic has been explored all over the internet.  An example of one such article can be found in the National Post.

I love books and I love the act of reading and it is for me to be discerning around my selection. As a visual artist, I have had to consider ethical boundaries as I explore certain topics in my paintings and it is important that appropriation is considered as I set up these boundaries.  While I am not fond of censorship, I do think, as artists, there is something refreshing about being true to our own stories.  I found our shared discussion circle to be invaluable as it contributed to expanded knowledge, in a very thoughtful way.

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Big Brushes! Big Paper!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about  the Alberta Art Curriculum and where it concerns Division One students, including Kindergarten.  Division One, for those readers outside of Alberta, Canada, are Grades One, Two and Three.  Within the framework of the Expression Component of the Alberta Art Curriculum, there exists a language that, since 1986, when the curriculum was written, published and implemented by teachers,  is becoming more and more distant and misunderstood.

In the 1980s, I was blessed to be a part of the Fine Arts team under the inspiration of our Fine Arts Supervisor, one of the Supervisors in our District Program Department.  That team included a Music Consultant or two?, a Drama Consultant, and a Visual Arts Consultant/sometimes Visual Arts Specialist.  Today, I feel like writing about ‘the best of times’ in our District when Fine Arts were well-supported, vibrant, inspiring and growing!  Professional Development was offered on a very regular basis where teachers had opportunity to share ideas with other teachers in the District, learn techniques, share lesson plans and observe demonstration lessons being delivered by professionals in the field.  For many years, there had been a Fine Arts Center, a place where students were bused on a regular basis to have experiences in Art, Music and Drama.  It was an amazing time for Fine Arts in Calgary!

When the ‘NEW’ curriculum came out for Visual Arts, the schools were assured that expert teachers became familiar with how to use the document and feel comfortable with designing lessons, and further mentored non-specialist teachers to the point where they became comfortable with delivery of lessons and program.   Resources were updated, including textbooks and large visuals, in order to support the Reflection Component.  If teachers were struggling with ideas or implementation, a specialist booked one-on-one appointments and traveled to schools to explain, support, observe and assist with ordering media/resources or teaching.  This was happening in core subjects as well, but not to the detriment of Fine Arts education.

Somewhere during that process, our department developed a list of indices for administrators…these described what an administrator would see if, in fact, the curriculum outcomes were being met.  For example, walking down a hall, a person might look at the walls and be able to quickly identify what quality art works would look like at each Division.  Photo copied and cloned or teacher-made works, for example, would optimally, not be presented as student art work.

Not meaning to sound stuck up or arrogant, but truly, ‘perfect’ art is not ‘child made’ art.  Child made art is perfect because it shows the true schematic development of each individual child.  Somewhere along the line, adults, over the years that I’ve been teaching have somewhat imposed their fear of ‘not being able to draw a straight line’ onto children.  They sometimes fail to celebrate the wonky cutting and ‘out of control’ line that is imperative to developing fine motor skills.  Congratulations to those of you who treasure these discoveries.

All of these experiences and initiatives, I see as valuable and imperative to the life of the arts in schools.  It seems, however, that since then, this DISTANCE between educators and the arts, at least visual arts, has been growing larger and this concerns me.  I believed then, as I do now, that Fine Arts are essential to the healthy development and well-rounded education of children.  The parts of the brain used in each of the experiences of visual art, dance, drama and music must not be left unexplored.  Creatives are the answer to so many of the world’s challenges right now.  These have always been my beliefs.

So….what are the realities in schools today?  What are the pressures being put upon an authentic visual arts experience…for the sake of this rant,  and authentic visual arts experience for the youngest of our children?

Occupational health and safety guidelines now require that only a certain percentage of bulletin board space may be covered in paper.  Now, we see the art works, even by Division One children, shrinking.  We see their tools becoming smaller.  But, THIS IS A PROBLEM!!  We can not sacrifice who our young people are and what they need to experience based on the numbers of works that we can display at any given time.  It is possible to observe the safety requirements and still address the actual art curriculum, that also, is required.

Because of their little fingers, young children need large brushes and large paper.  If you have to rotate their works of art over a month long period, to be fair, I think that is a possibility.  Their fingers are not ready to hold tiny water colour brushes, or to manipulate lines and shapes, with paint in an 8 x 10 picture plane.

I’m ranting…let me see if I can find a little video or something that supports anything I’ve written here.  Well, HERE is a write up titled, YOUNG IN ART by Craig Roland, outlining and illustrating the natural progression of making symbols and then images.

You may want to mute the next video.  I know that I did.  Sometimes music distracts.

I think teachers of art will be less frustrated and children will be less frustrated if they can enjoy art experiences that challenge, but do not frustrate.  Somehow, it’s important for teachers to identify the stages of artistic development that exist within their classrooms.  If a student struggles with fine motor skills, media needs to be selected that will ease that struggle.

For young children, I recommend BIG brushes and BIG paper.  Drawings can easily be accomplished with a piece of white chalk.

My thoughts on Pinterest?  Did anyone ask? I’m laughing here.  Truly, this post is a rant and not anything but.  I have to say that Pinterest is both a blessing for a visual arts educator and a curse!  To generalist and specialist teachers alike, I pose these questions. Do you understand what the curricular outcomes are that are being met by each Pinterest ‘idea’?  Are the outcomes appropriate for students at your grade level?  Are you including in your art experiences, lessons in Reflection, Depiction, Composition and Expression?  Are the end products the driving force behind the lesson or is the experience the child is having while creating them, the most magical?

All things to think about…

I think that we have done a disservice to teachers cutting back on professional development where it includes topics with direct impact on teaching.  I think that these are the days where we focus most on technology, assessment and inclusion to the detriment of self-reflection, lesson and unit planning and professional sharing opportunities.  In ‘the trenches’, there is very little time to explore.

The cost of art materials is, I’m certain, escalating.  The time on the schedule is diminishing.  Visual arts education is slowly being absorbed by other subjects and being called integrated visual arts.  If students use crayon pencils and markers, there is some thought that they are practicing art.  This, in my opinion, is a fallacy.

Anyway, I feel like I need a drink after all of this.  Good for you, if you read to this point.  I hope that you know that I’m behind all my readers and I certainly use my opportunities, as a guest teacher, to explore the art curriculum with kids simply because I love it!  Sometimes the kids call me Painter Lady.  That makes me happy!  What better way to learn, create and explore ones mind, but to dip a big brush into a buttery bucket of paint and then to watch that paint flow out onto a surface?  For those of you out there, with kidlets, have fun with them.  They appreciate any opportunity you give them to roll up their sleeves and get into those gritty aspects of learning!

Valentines…a lesson, or two.

Valentines this year…Grades Three and One.

 

 

It’s Been This Kind of Day

I have to thank my new birder-friend, Bob, for his share of the story of Mrs. Shoveler on the Bird’s Calgary site, today.

I began writing on-line in 2005. In writing to an ‘imagined’ public, I discovered a public voice.  I learned to write about events that took place in my rather simple life in a way that could be explored and shared with any reader. There was a line that I refused to cross, a line that delved into the realm of the very personal.  I’ve enjoyed learning to narrate my life, while reigning in my voice to a degree.  In my head, I always remarked, “Only write what you feel anyone could read.”  I suppose the closest I ever came to crossing that line was at the loss of my mother.

I was in my father’s office, at the computer desk, the summer of her passing.  It was so bloody humid.  Dad tried to keep me from opening the windows because we had to have air conditioning or we were going to melt!  Whenever I would sit to write at the computer, I would secretly slide the window open to the right of me…in the night time, there was such stillness…not a breeze.  I remember writing this.

A lot of bloggers get weary of the process of writing after a while, but for some reason, I find the flow of evening-writing,  a wonderfully relaxing practice.  My initial story of Mrs. Shoveler and my effort to retrieve her from a small piece of open water achieved over 400 hits in an hour after publication.  I know.  I know.  I don’t really have a swollen head over this.  It’s not what the on-line crowd would call ‘going viral’, but, I was deeply touched that so many readers care about wildlife enough and in this case, a hen Northern Shoveler, that they would peruse the events that took place in the bitterly cold days of last December.  The follow-up story, involving the re-appearance of this dear bird, sent the numbers soaring yet again.

Well, today, with gratitude to Birds Calgary, more readers have visited and I’ve really enjoyed comments and messages and reactions.  So, readers, thank you for all of that.

This was my day…while Max and I played in snow and I met Abir again, after so long, and I made and enjoyed such a beautiful stew…while every thing was happening in my life, this is what was going on in the hum of the background.

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Thoughts on Social Media Shouting Fests

I was thinking about something today.  Why am I learning  (most times) to keep my fingers off of the key board when I feel very passionate about some of the issues regularly posted on Social Media?  My track record is that I’ve slid into ‘confrontation’ very easily in life (since being in high school) because I felt that confronting an issue was profoundly important to give voice to my thoughts on issues.  I thought that by vocalizing, and usually emotionally, I had the ability to change the perception of the other or convince them that the way that they were viewing an issue was ‘wrong’ or just plain weird.

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It’s taken many years…sixty one of them…to figure out that it is not necessary to vocalize, in order to make an impact or to solve a problem.  There are just some things that one is powerless to change.  It is healthy, instead, to empower oneself through action that is productive and meaningful.

It is possible to create change in the world by more consistently being an exemplar for others around issues and doing so with some humility and grace.

Recently, I found an all-encompassing article about what can sometimes happen in marriages that are strained or not working because of communication styles.  When two people, who see an issue differently, have a shouting brawl, are they able to solve the problem at hand?  When a couple is in a perpetual state of silence, are matters being resolved?  If it interests you, please click on the link below because I think that meekness is a fundamental quality that would be effective in dealing with the huge heap of problems that seem to be facing human beings today.

Regarding our view of history and decisions that are made for us, rather than with us, we will always find people with strong beliefs, taking polar opposite positions.  It is human nature.  Democracy is built on the belief that all people have the freedom to express these points of view.  What, I suppose, we might want to work on is how we express these.

Social media has created another layer of communication in our lives.  Its access and simplicity provides the opportunity for us to speak, without thoughtfulness and to send words that do not represent our most productive, kind or professional selves.  There, our words represent ourselves for all time.  No pulling them back.  We need to weigh and measure what that might mean.  An intellectual, Marshall McLuhan, once surmised, it is at these times that, the medium becomes the message.  I think that we are daily, in the sad position of falling into this trap.

Discussions about Donald Trump as President, the visit of celebrities to profess their views on Environmental Issues, whether or not Global Warming is a scientific fact, the responsibilities that fall on Canadians to take account of past mistakes where our Indigenous peoples are concerned, Rachel Notley and the NDP Government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the treatment of women in modern society, Rape, Foreign Policy and military intervention, Syria and Rwanda before, fossil fuels, exploration of the North, the status of wildlife the world over, to name but a few…listen folks…there is much to talk about, but without having productive conversations about the issues, how can we possibly be the creative productive problem solvers that this planet requires?

While Kevin Thomas’s points in the following segment of his essay may address a style of communication in marriage, a person can really apply this to any matter where human beings are concerned in an engaging and helpful conversation.

From Kevin A. Thomas’s personal blog, the Warning: Rocky Times Ahead

The end to apathy is not aggression; it’s meekness.

Meekness communicates that one still cares about the marriage. It announces “I’m still here.” It shows concern for the other person. It reveals a vulnerability and welcomes the other person to reciprocate.

Meekness reigns in the aggressive and it provokes the apathetic.

For some, meekness would say “stop yelling.”

For many, meekness would say, “start talking.”

Wonder if you operate with meekness? Consider the following questions:

 

Bitterly Cold Winter, Wrapped Up In Wool

Monday morning saw the accumulation of a whole lot of snow overnight.  The sun was shining and I was grateful for that, as I picked up the shovel and cleared the sidewalk, yet again.  I was excited to be heading for sister-friend time, a hearty soup and warm-biscuit lunch prepared by my Ya-Ya, Wendy Lees, and the experience of felting with a woman who knows wool, so well.  In fact, like me, wool is her history…her story.  Ruth Purves-Smith, oh, how I grow to love you!  Now, you have been my teacher and I treasure that!

Gathering together means the sharing of stories, the week’s events, creative projects, vision, frustration, hard work and yes, edits on cover letters, even dog tales/tails!

Meeting  Booster for the first time was more than fun!  This sweetie really wasn’t ever supposed to have a chance at life, but because of her willingness to negotiate around Booster’s many special needs, Ruth gave her that!  Apart from very unique dietary concerns and the fact that she has to consistently wear a little diaper, Booster seems to lead a very happy and contented life.  As Max’s best friend, I can tell you that this gives me great respect for Ruth.

Settling in, I loved the colours and textures that began to spill out into Wendy’s living room!

I’ve had opportunity before to watch a remarkable lesson on felting delivered by Leah C. Donald  to my grade three students.  However, I didn’t have the opportunity to share in the experience because it was necessary to supervise the students’ use of the felting needles and to be a part of their process.  So, I was excited to actually manipulate the media and to enjoy the hands-on practice.

Ruth brought some of her creations and I was at once, in awe.  Hmmm…no pictures of lunch, likely because I was enthusiastically ‘putting it down’.

 

I decided that I would like to create a hot pad for the table and to focus on technique.  I was definitely the slowest person in the room!  It took quite some time before I sorted out the use of the felting needle.  Thanks for your patience, ladies!

 

Yesterday afternoon was just one of those magical times that created memories, both in my heart and head, but also in my body.  The warm smell of wool, the texture and the concentration…all so wonderful!  The next time you feel really cold, I highly recommend wrapping yourselves up in wool, good food and friendship.

Support the Custom Woolen Mills, when you can.  Buy your gifts from artists and artisans.  Buy music from local artists.  Support the creation of treasures that come out of your local community.

 

Coming Clean!

I have to update my readers.  I’ve intentionally stopped posting about the pond.  No bush. No duck. No footprints in the snow.

Four days ago, I wrote a tribute to Mrs. Shoveler, a hen Northern Shoveler who, having suffered an injury, was grounded on the pond.  I first noticed her on December 14.  Very consistently, nature shares some revelation with me on December 14, every year.  This year, having solicited the support of all of my social media contacts and City of Calgary wildlife organizations, I had lost hope of retrieving this bird from the open water and on January 2nd, having come upon a kill site, I knew that she had come into the clutches of a canine predator.

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I woke, on January 3rd, knowing that later in the afternoon, I would be attending prayers for Emelia, a former student who passed away, sadly, on December 26.  I had one of those mornings where I drifted in and out of sleep for quite some time.  I’m an early riser, but when it’s bitterly cold outside and the alarm isn’t set, I enjoy that wonderful pull-back into sleep.  I didn’t know where the distinction was, that morning, between dream and thought.  Let’s just say that the images that surfaced from the fog included a big red vessel, many cables from land being pulled strenuously, heavily weighted, a duck-like bird that looked as though it was a character in a graphic novel, these images all in techno-colour blue and red and yellow…somewhere, a shift…a large wolf-like dog pouncing, shaking, lifeless form, indistinct.  I jolted awake from this.

While I made my coffee, I prayed for parents who have lost a child, for each morning, for each new day’s realization.  It was ridiculous that I should have had an attachment to the Northern Shoveler. “Time to let go of these images and these attachments.  What can I do to disconnect from this experience?”  Several people, including my father and Ruth Purves-Smith and Sean Kubara said all of the right things and while disappointed, I did realize that in nature, you truly find a circle of life.  I headed for the pond, with Max, thinking that I might collect a feather to bring home.

This is what I found…”PIGEON FEATHERS!!!  Are you kidding me???”

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Looking to the right, this is what I saw…

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“YES!  That’s her!”  I hooted!  I ran to the car and called the non-emergency fire department. That was it!  I wasn’t messing around anymore.  I was going to get Mrs. off of the water! The department was kind enough to assess the situation and their feed back was, “She seems to be enjoying her time out there on the pond.”  Okay…so, that wasn’t the avenue I was going to take.  I sent a message off to AIWC Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation.  Ducks Unlimited sent me a message, “Ducks sometime choose to hang out all winter long.”  At this point I thought about all of the people who had supported me and who had read my heart felt thoughts in my Mrs. tribute.  I decided, until this situation had a resolution, I was going to stop myself from sharing anything at all.  I left the pond, feeling determined.

I went to say prayers for Emelia, connecting with so many people who loved and shared time with Emelia in life…hugging her Mom.

Exhausted, I headed home, full of the absolute joy and sadness of life and living.

On January 4, word came from AIWC and a capture attempt would happen, around noon. Thanks to the training and experience of Cheryl, Dan and a Birds Calgary member, Rodney, we put in an effort and discovered more about the little lady on the pond.  First of all, the injury was to her leg/foot and not her wings. This was a good thing.  This meant that she could escape a predator if need be. Since December 14, I had visualized getting a raft out onto that open water, and yet that would not have been helpful at all.  She would take off at every approach, circle and swish down into the water over and over again.  When she landed onto the fresh snow, she couldn’t walk and would take off from there again and again.

Mrs. got really annoyed with all of us and finally took off east down the line of 22X.  We had to close up shop.  I had gratitude, for the fact that she could fly and that she could use her natural instincts to avoid predators.  Unfortunately, I knew that bad weather was on the way.  The next attempt would not be until January 6.  I hugged the volunteers and headed home, informed of how to feed her and what to feed her in the case that she came back, so a quick stop was made and that evening, as sun was setting, I headed to the open water, hoping for her return, bucket of corn millet in tow.

Not only was little Mrs. back, but she had company in a female Mallard who enjoyed the easy pickings of the seed that I threw out onto the water.

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The next day, Mrs. Shoveler was alone again,  when Max and I stopped in to throw some feed and to go for our walk.

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I knew that weather was changing and sure enough, when I visited her at 5:00, the water was turning to slush, the seed was just sitting on the solidifying surface and she was barely moving on the far side of her patch of open water. Evening…and I wondered with the snow that was falling if there would be any way to survive the plummeting temperatures and the snowfall.

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Today, I hiked down to the site, with Dan and Cheryl’s promise that they would be coming down for noon time, to find this…

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I texted Cheryl…there was no reason she should make the effort and come south from Airdrie in such rotten conditions, if our Shoveler had met her demise.  I went back to the car and stayed warm and hoped that Cheryl would contact me.

We hugged in the parking lot and then, together, walked down to the site, in order to scout around the cat tails.  It took no more than ten minutes and Cheryl spotted her…back wing feathers and tail feathers out of the snow…but otherwise, buried and seeming stuck on the slope directly up from the pond.  Quietly, Dan approached with his net, gathering her up.  There were joyful utterances from all of us and an urgency to get the snow off of her and warm her up, however gradually.  Wrapped in a towel, Cheryl described how small she was, likely underweight and also dehydrated.  So readers, we got the save!  This is the ‘resurrection’ story…this is a story of how things sometimes ‘go right’ in nature.

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Cheryl, new friend and advocate for wild life.

 

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Cheryl and Dan AIWC volunteers…amazing people!

I’m so grateful that I have this story to share with each of you and thank all of you for putting up with my perpetual efforts and amusement in all of this.  I will be applying for AIWC as soon as possible.  There’s some evidence that I take an interest!

Report from Cheryl is that Mrs. Shoveler is being assessed by their vet team…she couldn’t stay for her check up as she was off and running to deal with an owl stuck in a vehicle rad. :0(  Apparently, these are the stories of our wildlife friends and I encourage you to support, how you can, the fine people who fulfill this very specialized need.

To update my readers…and again, thank you for your support through this little journey into nature.

To all of my readers/supporters/wild life enthusiasts, I am sorry after such a ‘save’ today that I have to report that Mrs. had to be humanely put to rest this afternoon. Her fracture to her left leg was a complicated one as it was on her joint, she had multiple fractures to her toes and she had extensive frost bite to the left foot as well. There was no treatment that might have prepared her body for the life of a functioning Northern Shoveler. She was a resilient and determined Mrs. and she filled my heart…and she made Max bark…and she created light in her life by the sheer beauty of ‘being’. If she was that for us, how much more can we be for others, not by appearances, but, by sheer will? Just paddle as hard as you can. It is enough. AIWC rocks. I just want to thank you and I’m happy that she isn’t alone out there, in the snow and cold tonight.

The Principles of Uncertainty

by Maira Kalman

Two days ago, before or after Emelia’s funeral prayers, I wanted to write a post titled something like, “The Loss of Children”. About that choice of title, I thought, “Who are you to write a post titled, ‘The Loss of Children’, when you have been so blessed and your children are safe and healthy?” So much has happened, in my head, during this Christmas/New Years holiday, that I postponed the post and now I’m writing this.

I woke at 5:35.  I’ve had a lot going on in my head.  (I guess I already said that.)

I dusted off the final two shelves of books.  It’s been a two-shelves-a-day project ever since the dust settled and the window casings were clear-coated.  If you are connected to my Instagram account, you’ve seen that I’ve snapped a few shots of books, but I stopped that because it was actually distracting me from getting the job done.

A side note: I was able to, with the guidance of the book,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo,  choose twenty books to box up and deliver to a WIN shop.  Apart from the books in the cardboard box, I can say that the titles that remain, give me joy.

To celebrate the completion of the task and to stall Max’s walk at the pond (Facebook status: [Big fat flakes falling, beginning at around 6 this morning. It is easy to see them, lit up by street lamps. Morning light is still some time away.]), I sat under the green quilted blanket, cozy, on the red couch and read the most beautiful book, The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.  The smell of home made turkey soup was heavy on the air…yesterday’s cooking continued because the carrots still had a tad too much crunch.

I loved this book so much that, for a short while, until my next book, it is my favourite.  Yes!  I finished it a short while ago.  It is that type of book.  For its sparseness, it is absolutely overflowing and packed with content of the heart.  It is an entire history and archive of those bits of life that are inspiring and magical, in part, anyway.  I also like that Maira dedicates the book to her mother.

Maira Kalman  is a woman of my own heart, very much captivated by the magical moments of life.  A fabulous illustrator and person.  I highly recommend this book.  I’ll be moving on to her other books.

I attended a gathering last evening at a friend’s house.  She’s just recently completed a kitchen renovation.  Ten women sharing a meal on a wintry night…just beautiful.  It is our habit to talk about everything, really.  And, at some point, we always share our current reading, authors, genres and such and last evening was no exception.  I was a bit embarrassed to share that I was still struggling my way through a werewolf story, titled Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones.  I think I’ve decided that werewolf stories are not for me.  Anyway, back to The Principles of Uncertainty, the book gives me a fresh perspective on the human condition. The themes are very personal and yet universal.  Everything is uncertain…even the books that we pick up and our experience of them.  I felt warm and happy looking around that room last evening, with the realization that, for the past twenty-five years, these women have shared their reading with me.  Ours is a delicious friendship.

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I will be writing about the loss of children at a later time, not because I know that experience, but because I can’t imagine that experience.  And why? What will that do or help or prove? Absolutely nothing…just that I can.