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.
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.
The only people who ever read this blog are people who know and love me. Some of the content is simply ridiculous. My readers know, all too well, that I am also all about ritualizing my life…circling a pond every day, watching an eagle’s nest every day, following the nesting narrative of a Suburbian vent every spring…and it goes on and on.
Well, this spring there has been a twist at said vent. If my readers look back into my archives, they will note that the vent has changed shape over the years as one piece after another has dropped off. This, I believe, has contributed to the evolving bird narrative that makes up the history of the vent. I’ll make it easy for you. (Laughing my head off.) Here are the links! I’m now going to pour a glass of wine. After all, it’s Friday!
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a new sort of drama unfold as I’ve observed a single adult Pigeon nurture two wee Pigeons to life, one egg being tugged out of the nest, fairly early in the game, or we might have had three. (And yes, I did see Pigeons, this season, but some distance from my house, in the act of copulation.) I’m really getting an education!
It’s interesting what rituals birds hold, as watching Pigeons has been very different from watching House Sparrows or Northern Flickers. Every evening around seven, I hear the adult (I like to imagine that it’s Mom.) cooing from the top of my roof. (I know. I’m almost certain there are some surprises-not-surprises up there on my roof, as a result.) No other Pigeons show up, though, just the one mauve iridescent adult. This has been very-much a solitary exercise. And who knows…what the heck is she feeding them? Pigeons have always struck me as being a little dumb. Are they?
Well, this year, I’ve seen the funny little guys….and of course, I’m going to document. These aren’t great photos because they are taken through the screen of my kitchen window. Every year I learn something new about birds while washing up my supper dishes or while making my morning coffee. Life is so very good and so very interesting.
Mom thought this little guy was being a bit too adventurous this evening and from no where, a big flutter and the two disappeared into their cave.
This is the sweetest….if you look at the silhouette, you will see her. I’ve never seen her on my roof. She is very discreet. But, I’ve captured her presence, singing the evening lullaby to her two little ones.
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.
I think I was very late to the ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ party. I had heard the title kicking about for quite some time. This pandemic has provided an opportunity to read, probably, a little bit more than I usually would, sometimes staying up turning pages way later than is really acceptable, given that I babysit an almost-three-year-old most days.
Coming to books with my own insatiable appetite for the outdoors and for wildlife, particularly birds, this book filled me to the brim. And while I appear to be quite an extrovert to most, I feel inwardly uncomfortable being in groups of people and feel awkward in the world of conversation. As a result, this book by Delia Owens, retired wildlife biologist, is strongly appealing to me.
We see this part of the world, intimately, through the eyes of Kya.
By description, the protagonist has a most amazing collection displayed inside her primitive cabin, located in a remote marshland in North Carolina. More than anything, I wish that I could feast my eyes on this. Surely it was an image that I carried in my imagination throughout the reading. I loved the idea of leaving feathers tucked away in secret places, treasured gifts from a special visitor. I think I know how Kya felt as I feel the same way when I discover a feather nestled in the tall grasses by the edge of the Bow River.
The story, suspense, character relationships read as believable and there are no moments of disappointment, at least not for this reader. I was completely absorbed by this book and the hidden world of life on the water and in this magical place. The fact that the protagonist becomes a writer causes me to look at some of the books on my book shelf differently. This is one.
I highly recommend the book, Where the Crawdads Sing for its rich description and charming story.
Next, the memoir Educated by Tara Westover is a powerful true-life reflection. This is another page-turner that totally engrossed me in a circumstance that is foreign and in so many ways, unbelievable.
What I took from this novel was an astounding resilience and huge lessons about “education”. We encounter the brilliant truths about the stories we are told in our childhood and subsequently, the truths we tell ourselves. It is then a very complex process to integrate these truths with the lives that we live, the knowledge we attain and environmental impacts that come our way. Tara makes a stunning effort to communicate what this journey entails. This is such a powerful memoir. Please do read it.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Oh my goodness! I am not going to write individual reviews for the books that I’ve read during this pandemic (so far), not for Goodreads or for any other reason because generally, I’ve not been pleased with the selection thus far.
I was reading Hope Matters by Lee Maracle, Columpa Bobb and Tania Carter when all of this began. I know this because our March book discussion was canceled at Fish Creek Library. This was all new and at that point I think I shrugged my shoulders and thought this would be over before we knew it and that all would go on as usual. But now, all these weeks later, I realize how blessed I was in our group. I miss the group very much.
When I began Hope Matters, I was really excited about it, but as I read further in, I struggled and I came up against a lot of walls. Poetry is a tricky genre for people, generally, and this writing I found difficult to tunnel into. I think that there needs to be a hook for the reader of poetry. I am not saying the book is strong or weak. I’m just saying that something about me would not let the words in. If you’ve read the book, let me know your thoughts.
The Parcel by Anosh Irani was sitting on my bookshelf. I purchased it while attending the last Wordfest event, here in Calgary. This is a powerful and essential read. It was a solid piece of writing that evoked a great deal of emotion and brought social consciousness to the forefront as I read. I had heard similar stories before. I think, also, that movies and Hollywood has given us a picture of what life is like in Bombay. However, I feel that this author, having his own life rooted in Bombay, gave the reader an authentic experience of the subject.
My heart went out to the protagonist, Madhu. I entered into her life and felt her exasperation. While I’m grateful for having read this book, I must warn other readers that this is a dark story and it is very sad. It pulled me down. I thought to myself, at the time, “Lady, you need to find something a little lighter for these times.” As these types of novels typically are, this is a story of redemption. I recommend…but, with a warning. This author is talented and honest. You will like his writing.
I decided to read the next book that was on the list for our Book Discussion in April. The book was also on the Canada Reads list, From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle. Bravo to Jesse Thistle who gives us this powerful memoir, a story of human strength and an inspiration to anyone who feels that life has dealt them a very difficult hand. The writing is good. But, a little voice kept needling me…”Why don’t you tackle some light reading, Kath?” These books, while eventually reaching the resilience of the human spirit, are so darned sad, for the most part.
On my friend, Hollee’s, recommendation, I next read Starlight by Richard Wagamese, published after his death and with the support of his estate. I loved this book…the protagonist was a wildlife photographer living on a beautiful piece of land. Here, he intervenes in the protection of Emmy and Winnie. It is written with such eloquence and heart that I was so totally engaged. As I was running out of pages, however, I became disarmed because I felt that the ending was not going to be tied up comfortably for me…and it wasn’t. I highly recommend this book. It didn’t have the same impact on me as the other books I had read to this point of the pandemic experience, and beginning in March.
It was at this point that I picked up The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. Because Atwood was my first born’s favourite author during high school and beyond, at some point I decided that I would read all of Atwood’s writing in order to understand my daughter a little more. Isn’t it funny that I think that might happen through books? Erin was my BIG reader in the day. I couldn’t keep her stocked in L.M. Montgomery books when she was younger. She read them all. And I haven’t.
Previously, I read Bluebeard’s Egg, a collection of Atwood short stories and really really enjoyed those! I also sailed through The Handmaid’s Tale….maybe every one does. But when it came to The Robber Bride…oh, my! I crashed into a wall. This book felt somehow surreal and it amplified my mood surrounding the epidemic that we were learning to endure at the very same time. In this book, Zenia exercises such power over three different characters; Toni, Charise and Roz, that I felt a huge frustration at their naivety. I was absorbed by certain sections where Atwood explores the particular motivations of her characters, but as a whole, it was just a really hard read. After the book, I read various reviews and discovered that the author intended all sorts of connections to be made about the 60s feminist movement and a review of this writing even compares it to the grisly tale of the Brothers Grimm. I found the book to be too raw in its subject. It made me squirm. I haven’t decided which of Atwood’s books I will tackle next, but having used three weeks (WHAT??) to read this one, I thought I’d look for something ‘mindless’. On this one, consider yourselves warned.
I enjoyed Ken Follett’s first trilogy back in the day, so I looked at my collection of Follett books on my shelf and chose one that dealt with the theft of a virus (NO, I’M NOT KIDDING) called Whiteout. Sheesh!! This one is one that you will whiz through. It is mindless. There’s a bit of a romance. There is a series of cheesy good guy bad guy stuff happen in a very bad storm. I really did give this one a try…finished it in three evenings, but it wouldn’t be one I’d recommend. Goodreads mentions that it has startling twists. Hmmm….I would beg to differ.
I think this book would provide some creative connection for high school students and for adults, spending time at home. It provides unusual approaches to making art in your own spaces and in your own communities.
My readers knew that eventually it would come to this, right? Of course I’ve picked up my Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds identification book! This morning, for the first time, in my neighbourhood, I saw a Thrush. This was a very cool experience! I also received a photograph in my messages from a friend who snapped a photo of a beautiful yellow and orange bird that she saw in Carburn Park yesterday! I knew what it was!! Seven years later, I’m very excited about identifying birds. Get yourself a Bird Identification book!
Last night, I opened a page turner. I’m already heart broken for the protagonist, little six-year old Kya, in the book, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, but the syntax, description and opening up of the story are eloquent. Thank goodness! I’m living in hope that I’m now on the right track for the remainder of my pandemic reading. I’d love you to let me know what books you are picking up through these times. Leave me a message. There was a great little CBC program on just after lunch today, asking folks what they’re watching on television…what they’re reading…what they’re listening to. All good questions. Again, I’m coming from a place of privilege, that I should have the time and ability to read. I’m always grateful.