Doors Open YYC!

I’m feeling a little reflective tonight.  And once reflective, I write.  It’s what happens.  I’m close enough to enjoying the deposit of my pension into my bank account, as well, that I stopped off and bought myself a bottle of wine, so I’m sipping a glass, gratefully…and that also causes me to write.  I anticipate that very soon my go-to medium will be paint…but for tonight, this is awesome.

As for the reflection…

When someone gets physically ill, friends swoop in to help.  Sometimes meals are prepared or sometimes a person drops in for a visit.  There is evidence of injury or illness and it is apparent that that someone might need support.  The last while, I’ve suffered a different sort of illness…I’ve had a lot of struggle and as yet, I don’t even know how to describe it.  But, I’ve not been well.  I don’t think that the people I encounter in my day can even see it.  It rides beneath the surface, though, of pretty much everything.

But, enough of that…

What I want to do through this writing is to acknowledge one person who sat with me through this time….there were others and I am so grateful to them…but tonight, I want to write about Pat.  For one, I know she will read this post.  Not many will.  That’s okay.  In 2005, I began to write on a whim…never guessing that 13 years later, I would still be doing this.  I didn’t set up a blog with the intention of being read, but rather for a place to write.

About Patricia…Pat has this remarkable way of loving others…of genuinely caring for them.  Her love is not of the sentimental variety, but rather that of a reliable friend. Her friendship is not easy to describe, but as a single woman in a sometimes-tough world, I’ve been able to now track back through years where Pat has been a support to me.  She has never abandoned me.  It’s as though, at times, I’m sitting on a chair in the center of a room, with my nose cut off….everyone else is thinking it’s weird or ugly or distasteful and so they pull away…but, not Pat.  She’s there.  She’s staring right at my face, where my nose once was, and she is caring and kind and present…present, when many others face outward and away from me.  I wanted to begin this writing, about Doors Open YYC…by announcing my gratitude for Pat.

Her kindness has appeared in a package of home made cookies, wrapped up…just enough for my son and me.  It has been in the form of invitations, even when I could not muster up the means to respond or accept or sometimes, to get out.  It has been in the chatty drives…chats about everything but the big grey cloud that seems to hover over me. Like the cut off nose, Pat chooses to look through the grey cloud…I know she can see it, but it is such a relief to have the darkness pushed away with the gentle stories of a friend.  There are countless acts of kindness that I could mention, but suffice it to say that I aspire to be more like Pat in the world.  I will always be appreciative of Pat’s generous heart.

Recently I received one of Pat’s invitations via e-mail,  to do a day of Doors Open YYC.  I would have Pat all to myself and I thought, “What could be more wonderful?”  And so we went…

…and I enjoyed every moment!

On our list of destinations…Aleppo Soap  , the Calgary Buddhist Temple and Fiasco Gelato.  As I reflect upon the magic of the day, I have to say that the three locations we visited this year, were all about healing, kindness and strength of character.

First stop, Aleppo Soap is a business established and grown successfully by Syrian newcomers.

“Before Sabouni fled Syria, his soap factory was destroyed. His family spent time in Jordan before coming to Canada, where he tried to start the business again, but it wasn’t a success.

Now, he’s grateful he, his wife, and four children — his youngest son was born in Canada last year — have a chance for a fresh start.

“The Canadians come to support us, make me so happy … I want to say thank you Canada because I am grateful because it gives me and my family a new chance,” he said.”

We enjoyed a lovely tour of the soap factory and Pat and I both purchased some products afterwards.  The soap is so exceptionally beautiful.  There was, in the context of Aleppo, pride, generosity and hospitality.  I was so happy to see this venue well-attended by Calgarians.  I am in awe of the courage and hard work of the folk who have manifested their vision here in Canada.

 

Next, we headed for the Bridgeland area and enjoyed the hospitality of a Buddhist Priest at the Calgary Buddhist Temple.  Again, we were given a brief history and a simple explanation of the rituals, bell ringing and chants.  I found the temple to be very beautiful in its simplicity.  Those responsible for the tour were very generous with their time and reflections.

“The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran, a monk who lived in Japan in the 13th century. Jodo Shinshu means “true essence of Pure Land Buddhism” (or, literally: Jodo, meaning Pure Land or realm; Shin, meaning True; and Shu, meaning religion).”

Finally, we headed for Fiasco Gelato!  This was a very popular tour!  Fiasco Gelato is a story all on its own!  I was amazed by this place and really suggest that if you haven’t made a stop at the store, that you do!  What a positive approach to business.  Things haven’t come easy for the visionaries behind this place, but they have persisted and have created an amazing place…a great product…and a community-engaged enterprise. They have built something that matters!

“Fiasco is built on empowerment, innovation, forward thinking, strong relationships, passion, and the best customer experience. We are people focused and so little of what we do here day to day has to do with our product and more about doing great work and making people happy. We are here to do things differently, think differently and challenge the norm. We want people to be the best versions of themselves and think in terms of work and life blending together rather than segregating from each other.”

All three venues explored by Pat and I were places that nourish the spirit and sooth the soul.  The day could not have been better!  As I dipped into my container of Passionfruit Lemonade Gelato last evening, I was thinking back on how blessed we are in our city…how blessed I am.  I hope that every person who feels weary or sad or overcome with difficulties, grief or illness will find, in their lives, some one who is kind.  I have that in my life.

 

Download

It has been a cool and wet few days in Calgary, even to the point where we received a skiff of snow in September!  I was cautioned that I had no room remaining on my cell phone, so yesterday I downloaded from my album onto my desktop hard drive.  The thing about downloaded photographs is that I was, once again, reminded that life has sped by, filled to the brim, even in the most simple or dark circumstances.  There is so much that I haven’t written about or recorded.

I’ve read several books since spring and would really like to update my reviews, even if they are sparse.  So, that will likely still happen.  But, for today, I feel my thoughts are incredibly influenced by the book I am presently reading, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  It is my new favourite book.  I am profoundly moved by it and I’m hanging on every word.

As a result of this reading, I want to post a few photographs from recent walks at the Bow River.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out in the rain.

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When the earth is wet, there is such a rich and beautiful aroma that surrounds me while passing through the woods and beside the river.  I am at a loss for words to describe this because any description would not do the experience justice.  Also, there is a hush, apart from the drops of rain coming down from the tree canopy…it is a mystical silence…peaceful, even though I know that the entire landscape is vibrating with life in hiding.

Yesterday, stepping about in tall overgrowth, Max and I took pause…listened.  I heard a hollow clomping sound on round river stone, just to our right.  Uncertain, we remained still.  I held my breath and listened.  Max was alert.  I was alert.  A few more steps.  Stop.  A few more. Stop.  When once we began again, with a great explosion, a young deer sprung out and wildly flew deep into the trees.  Max erupted into a fit of barking and it felt like everything around us woke up!

I watched the juvenile Bald Eagle, an Osprey, a Hawk, Cormorants and Pelicans all struggle to find sustenance.  It was so amazing to watch the dynamic and to appreciate the effort involved.  At a point, the Bald Eagle, displaying his remarkable wingspan, swooped down upon an American Pelican.  He is not yet adept at his hunting and is frequently cutting corners by having others do his work for him.  Similarly, he dove into a gathering of Cormorants, investigating the possibility that there might be food among the opportunists.

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The Osprey, tucked secretly in the dark shadows of trees, swooped out aggressively, in order to give chase to the Hawk…crying out desperately as he flew so fast that I couldn’t identify him.  He had shared the east side of the river with me for a while, tearing into the hedges and thick shrubs and sage, likely in pursuit of rabbits and other small animals.  There was never a chance to get a good photograph.

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The Bald Eagle juvenile was looking intently from his low perch,  at these Killdeer…there were scores of them across the river from me.  If you’ve heard a single Killdeer, you may understand why the Bald Eagle is drawn to a location where twenty…maybe thirty…are calling out.

Can you spot two in the photograph below?

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Can you spot the Osprey here?

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I have watched the eagles for a little over a year now…given Michael’s prompting to leave the pond during the rip and tear of the Southwest Ring Road development.  I am so grateful for the life I have been able to observe at this location and for the healing experience this daily walk has begun in me.  As I write this post, I am feeling very blessed for a whole lot of reasons.  I hope that if my readers feel sometimes that life, like a sweater, is unraveling, one source of divine life and love can be found in an intimate relationship with nature.  I know that it’s helped me.  Here are a few other moments with the raptors this year.

 

 

I have been blessed by my walks at the river this weekend…I keep saying to myself, through winter, I don’t want to forget the purple.  I don’t want to forget the gold and red.  I will carry it with me.

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Three Days at the Bow

For days now,  smoke has hung on the air, seeming to press in on me.  It is a difficult thing to take pause and contemplate the horrendous impact so many wildfires are having on people and their homes as well as wildlife and its various ecosystems.  The yellow cast of grey over every landscape is a constant reminder.  An absence of the mountains on my horizon to the west is disorienting. The burning sensation behind my nose and throat brings on headaches and a heavy feeling.  It is a difficult time for so many people north and south of the border, east and west.  This is a strange and other-worldly experience.

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At the river, the mornings are quiet, with far less activity and chatter from the birds.  I don’t know if other birder friends have found this, but the Red Winged Blackbirds, usually first to arrive in early spring, seem to have taken their offspring and skipped town.  I miss their calls, especially at the pond.

The Bald Eagle couple have been diligently observing the Juvenile as he/she figures out what it means to be strong and determined.  Mr. and Mrs. did an amazing job providing for two kids at the nest.  I will never know what came of the first fledge.

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When I walk the river’s edge early in the morning, the earth is spongy and feels as though it has breathed in moisture somehow, magically, through the night.  I no longer look down as I walk because every day for days I observed a snake silently slip into the brush as my foot fell onto the path.  I’d rather not see that anymore.  Of all of the amazing creatures there are to enjoy, I have not yet learned an appreciation for snakes.

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Birds, in training, are practicing skills of flight.  For days, the Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Wrens had taken to the higher canopy.  But, since the smoke, they’ve been found in the lower branches, especially in the evenings.

Juvenile and Adult Cedar Waxwings.

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American White Pelicans.

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Eastern Kingbird.

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Osprey against smoke.

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Juvenile House Wrens actively chittering for food.

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Sometimes, when I get home and download my photographs…I see things I hadn’t noticed while snapping.  The following two unfocused photographs speak to those surprises.

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Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwing.

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Berries and berry pickers have been in evidence at the river’s edge.

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It has been a most amazing experience to watch the progression of life and death and life and death on the river, even through the brutal winter.  The wildfires remind us how tenuous life is for all.  The leaves, now turning gradually and the plants-gone-to-seed remind us of how quickly everything changes.

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Walk With Our Sisters: Calgary

I sit here eating a hot bowl of hamburger soup for breakfast, nursing a cold that after days, seems to hang in.  The soup is comforting and healing.

There are no photographs on this particular post, but a link, here, for everything you might want to find out.  Calgary’s Walk With Our Sisters memorial installation has been two years in the works (maybe more) and has traveled Canada.  It has just a few more visits and will be retired to Batoche. This stop in Calgary is an amazing opportunity for us to connect with the journey…to think about our sisters who are missing and murdered and to think of their families and friends.  It is important for us to honour their lives and their life force because these sisters remain with us, as long as we remember.

As you will see, there are opportunities for volunteers throughout the coming weeks.  All are welcome.  Orientations are offered, but it was made clear yesterday, at my own orientation,  no volunteer will be turned away.

As most of you know, at the onset of Canada’s 150, I decided that I wanted to embark on a journey of gathering knowledge and understanding about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.  I didn’t know how to begin.  Sable Sweetgrass hosted an online book club and this peeked my interest, so I began to read along and reflect on the authors and books that we were reading.  It was Sable who told me about the book club at Forest Lawn Public Library, hosted by Indigenous Pride with 12CSI and 12CSI Community Safety Initiative.

I attended my first monthly gathering at the library some time after that, intending to read a book a month, for a year, with a focus on Indigenous authors.  After bonding with this group and having my mind and awareness open up, I decided that I wanted to continue with the group and to enter into my own personal journey with Truth and Reconciliation and the 94 calls to action.  Michelle Robinson has been key in my life as an agent of change and her embrace is assisting me in becoming fearless in this journey.  I can not judge what other Canadians do with the knowledge of Residential Schools or with the initial shock of colonial movement across our nation.  I am responsible, first, to grow in knowledge and then to go forward to be a strong advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

I was invited to volunteer with Walk With Our Sisters and this has also expanded my knowledge.  As a result, I am inviting all of my readers to participate at some level during the weeks ahead.

Last week, a lovely group of women gathered to tie tobacco and I grew new friendships and new knowledge.  I really love the fact that working with our hands created such a warm community feeling.  My mother would have loved it.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation and was blessed by Autumn EagleSpeaker’s clear and welcoming approach. Autumn is a strong woman who is a source of inspiration for these coming days.  It was evident how she has inspired so many others on this journey.  I am grateful for our meeting.  I was further blessed to  meet Christi Belcourt, artist and visionary where this memorial is concerned.  We were given an extended opportunity to preview the work that has been done to this point and to be given more information about the ceremony and protocol involved.

I loved being given the story of the shape of the Calgary installation, with consideration for the two rivers, the elbow, the native plants and medicines and the dress.  The configuration of the vamps has been very specific to each city’s Indigenous peoples along the way, while the vamps themselves represent and include a wide variety of peoples, even expanding beyond international borders.

I am really looking forward to my shift later on today, the final installation shift prior to the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow afternoon, at 2.  I hope my readers will attend.  I hope that you will even extend this to volunteering a few hours, if it is possible.

Just ending this post with a lovely video of Christi describing the world of plants represented in a large painting in acrylic.  Amazing stuff!

cSPACE

This afternoon, People’s Portrait Prize came down.  Yesterday, I was pleased to be able to immerse myself in all of the different pieces created by so many artists, all on my own.  As artistic subject matter goes, I especially enjoy portraiture.  Each artist relies on a subject/reference/idea, but puts down very personal marks during the process of painting, sculpting or drawing.  It was a fantastic exhibit, so varied and was demonstrative of the vision and effort of many people.  Congratulations to all of you!

I enjoyed the wander-about, as well.  It was a wonder I could wander out of the stairwells because I became captivated, as I always do, by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk’s Imaginarium, 2017.  I hope that they won’t mind that I did my point and shoot with my phone as I walked backwards up the stairs.  Amazing and surprisingly restful!

 

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

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Imaginarium by Katie Green and daniel j. kirk 2017

I stepped in and chatted with the gentleman at reception for Alliance Francaise (don’t know how to get that accent under that ‘c’).  I was smitten by the remarkable library and the impressive line up of activities that are handy for people who want to access resources or up their game as French-speaking Canadians.  A wonderful and welcoming spot!

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I was carried away by a variety of venues, all housed in cSPACE with a deliberate and tasteful aesthetic.  The Alberta Craft Gallery, as part of the Alberta Craft Council, was a really ‘happening’ place yesterday.  I loved the surprising and ephemeral works created by Dena Seiferling and Stefanie Staples.  Participating in an exhibit titled PERCH, is it any wonder I love this stuff?

Allison Tunis’s embroideries for Acceptable Bodies are flippin’ amazing!  Wowsah!

I guess I stopped wandering and started starting and stopping for the next longest while, completely swept up by the wonderful efforts by so many artists.  The portraits were next.   I couldn’t possibly grab a photo of all of the portraits that moved me.  My readers will get the gist…

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I’ve been following a portrait series by Chris Flodberg as he’s been posting bits here and there on social media, so it was really, with fondness, that I had opportunity to enjoy these ‘in the flesh’ so-to-speak.  These photos stink…but, I’m hoping you will follow the link that I’ve provided.  Chris is represented by the Masters Art Gallery, here in town.

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Portrait with Candles and Belt by Chris Flodberg Technique: oil on board Dimensions: 27×16 in.

I apologize…I didn’t even take note of the artist…but, had to photograph this one as I engaged it.  If you can help me out with the documentation, that would be great.

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Nick Rooney…an artist I met during my committed period at Gorilla House and then Rumble House, just always amazes me with his technical considerations, his hands-on approach to materiality and his connection with pigments as a traditional practice.

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Nick Rooney

Dawn Escobar…just a dear and beautiful human being.  This is a portrait she did of her mother.  I find it interesting that I migrated to this piece, took a photograph of it and this morning, I read the following message on social media.

“You enter with hopes of winning some thing knowing that the chances are small. Congratulations to those who did win 🎉. The second hope is that someone saw your piece and you touched them. 😊. Thank you for having the contest. See you if not soon, next year. 💐💐💐💐💐. P.s. mom enjoyed herself

Your work touched me, Dawn.

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I didn’t leave cSPACE without first stepping into Assemble Work/Shop and spoke with Anne Kirsten.  What a very exciting space.  I’m going to let me daughters know about this!  cSPACE is a bit of a wormhole…a person could disappear and not resurface for a very long time.  I just got a taste yesterday, but I’ll be back.

It was time to rush off in time to view Humans as presented by TheatreCalgary.  A nice light lunch was served and the Director, Vanessa Porteous, had opportunity to speak to us about her process, the play and future projects.

The day grew legs of its own.

 

Respect

When my London-born son-in-law hears or reads something really impressive or heart breaking or touching, he voices or writes the word, “Respect”.  I think it’s a nice response.  If he says it to me, simply, and without explanation or embellishment, I feel that…respect.

I’ve noticed in my world, the world of ‘EDUCATION’ that there is a loss of respect these days.  Readers, don’t jump on my perceptions…it’s just what it is…my perceptions.  I find students are often lacking respect for teachers.  I find that professionals are losing respect, in their words and actions, for their peers.  I find that people in positions of authority are disrespectful to people ‘beneath’ them.  I’m wondering what is going on?

Social media offers us a plethora of disrespectful ‘threads’ day in and day out.  We have, as a people, stopped listening to one another.  Brief blasts of tweets or posts or images, leave conversations dangling, sometimes making us shiver with their hatred, negativity and stone-walling sensibility.

Recently, I had the opportunity to engage conversation with and learn about one soldier.  I had intended to add his photograph to the bottom of a post about my great-grandfather John Moors.  Master Corporal Joe Green was the person who took on the task of cleaning my great grandfather’s Memorial Cross, a sterling silver cross that would have been presented to my great grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow 100 years ago and another to his mother, Grace Rebecca Porter, as a result of John’s death during a German bombing raid in Etaples, France.  He had been lying in a hospital tent in Canadian General Hospital #51…a hospital situated with some proximity to a railway line.

Respect?

Often times a person still hears negative comments about the military.  There are wide-sweeping generalities made about peace and war and defense and aggression.  “They shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!”  Oh…to be ye, who judge.  Oh, to be ye, who remain safe in your comfortable beds, with your comfortable thoughts, with your perfect opinions of other people, other countries, other politics because having been given the power, you would done everything differently!

I’ve been faulted for ‘living in the past’.  But I don’t.  See!  I live here.  I live now.  But, I am absolutely NOT going to lose ties with our common past.  I am always going to engage the touch stones of history, in order to do better.  I am always going to remember.

Maybe it was the fact that I grew up in a military family during the Cold War years…during peace time…that I grew up with respect.

I remember attending high school in Montana.  The MIA were still returning home, some of them, after the war in Vietnam.  In 1969, the students were participating in fundraisers and wearing bracelets to bring their men home.  Many, as my readers know, were never to return.

I picked up the Memorial Cross for John Moors and drove home.  The roads were thick with deep snow, but I felt like I was floating.  I was so elated to be driving home in 2018 with a 1918 Memorial Cross as my cargo.

I  wrote the name Joe Green into my google search.  This is what I found…article written by Cassie Riabko titled After the tour: Canadian soldiers reintegrating into society.  Among the profiles, I learned about Joe.  He made the correction with me, over electronic mail, that he had done two tours, not three, as noted in the article.  He had not read the profile until I pointed it out to him through mail.

Green IMGIn 2008, Master Corporal Joe Green started working in the civilian workforce at Flowserve where he pursued drafting design. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green on Mar. 24, 2017. Photo by Cassie Riabko

Master Corporal Joe Green

Three tours overseas (sic)

Status: Active

Master Corporal Joe Green first joined the Canadian Military in 2002, serving two tours in 2006 and one in 2008. His primary role was defensive operations, working in dangerous environments with firefights and ambushes occurring frequently. Most of his negative experiences came from his tours in 2006. They have been connected to his difficulties with integrating back into the civilian way of life.

The main memory that sticks out to Green was back in 2006 when his platoon was called out for a mission to help the American Special Forces Forward Operating Base. He had to stay back while his platoon went to aid as support. That night, none of the soldiers from his platoon came back to base, they were all in the hospital and one, Private Rob Costall, was killed in action. From then on the tour accelerated for him.

In 2008, Green began his integration process, starting a job in the civilian work force. “From going from carrying a weapon 24 hours a day to sitting at a computer, it takes some adjusting,” says Green.

It wasn’t until roughly 2010 where the thoughts and experiences from overseas started to have a major impact on his everyday life. “I started being less involved in the military, I started drinking heavily —  not on a daily level —  but when I would I would get extremely upset,” says Green.

With his job, he would have to drive in the city often. “There would be a chain reaction of thoughts that would lead back to something that happened on tour. I would dwell on it and I would be driving and I would come back to reality hours later in some random location in the city,” says Green.

That was when he realized that he needed some help. He relied on friends that had experience overseas with him for support and he also reached out to Veteran Affairs by calling the 1-800 number.

He was able to talk to someone right away. “One thing I felt guilty about was using the system. I didn’t want to be the guy to claim PTSD to get some sort of claim out of it,” says Green.

He remembers the woman on the phone telling him to leave it to the professionals to diagnose his symptoms as he was comparing his situation to others he felt had worse experiences. Shortly after, his file was processed with Veteran Affairs and he had appointments booked at an operational stress injury clinic.

Green was diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder all related to his experiences overseas in Afghanistan. He was prescribed medication to aid in sleep and also for depression. He soon began to see results.

“I went through treatment in 2012, and I just ended last year. I went through the whole process of weekly sessions for about two years — from going weekly, I was going every second week to once a month to every three months,” says Green.

His process spanned from 2012-2016. In October 2016 he was officially discharged in at the operational stress injury clinic in Calgary. He weaned himself off the medication with approval from his doctor.

“The OSI clinic took really good care of me. I always recommend it to other members who are going through similar situations. However, if they are not ready to help themselves — they have to want to be better,” says Green.

He describes his experience as positive and very supportive from the organizations that helped him. “I don’t have anything negative to say about Veterans Affairs,” says Green. Currently he is serving as a Reservist with the Calgary Highlanders and he has taken courses to earn promotions within the Canadian Military.

Read more on the reintegration of a Candian veteran by clicking here!

criabko@cjournal.ca

Joe Green

Master Corporal Joe Green

Upon reading this profile, I made the decision to write a post that dealt with this issue of respect.  While reading Joe’s profile, I found myself with tears.  I took pause and remembered, in prayer, Joe’s peer, Private Rob Costall.  Joe’s journey has inspired, in me, a new level or respect.  This is the man who all of these decades later, held our family’s Memorial Cross in his hands and with precision and care, brought it to a beautiful sheen.  I received his name through the centrally located Royal Canadian Legion Branch 275 in Forest Lawn.  I had met a most amazing historian, there.

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I received this Memorial Cross (there were two that were sent out, one to John’s wife Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors and the other to his mother, Grace Porter Moors…this is likely the one that I am now holding), kindly, from my father’s cousin JR Moors of Roseville, California.  My Dad’s Uncle Bob had kept it safe and in his care and then left it to his son for safe keeping.  The day it arrived by mail, I was overcome with emotion.

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John Moors medal front

Pte. John Moors Medal The Great War

John Moors back side medal

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And finally, with Joe’s work…the refurbished Sterling silver cross.

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As a part of our experience of respect, I think it is essential that we promise care of the objects that represent our soldiers and their service.  I highly recommend that you solicit the help of Joe Green, locally, in order to tend to these treasures.  Please contact me if you want his information and I will have him respond to your request.

I am blessed.  I am grateful.  I am filled with respect.

My cousin, James Perry, on my maternal side said it perfectly…

“A good polishing would bring back the shine of that silver too, IMHO tarnished medals are brought back to life with polishing, and are part of “Always remember, never Forget” and the sacrifice our families made to keep our world free from tyranny.”

What it is Now

As I head out to the pond with Max…thought I would post a bit of a flash back.  I found a wee video in my archive, that I had made in 2011, the first year I began picking litter at this location and got into the ritual of circling the pond.  Beneath the video, some photographs taken during the past week.

The drainage of the pond began and the people I spoke with promised that lots of volume would be left for the healthy fledging of the young birds.  The project was stopped for a day so that the biologist who worked for the contractor could assess my concerns regarding the nests and the fledge.  Readers, look at the following photographs and tell me about volume.

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“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods

Today’s Birds: May 4, 2017

Over the past two days, ‘they’ve’ been draining the water from one of the smaller wetlands that neighbours the pond at Frank’s Flats.  I’ve been holding a bit of a grudge, given that, of course, multiple families of geese and waterfowl have already done their romancing and settled in.  Changes will be even more dramatic when the 22X (Stoney Trail) expansion requires ‘them’ to interfere with the wetlands on the west side of Macleod Trail.  I know. I know.  This infringement upon wildlife and plant life is a constant struggle as human beings lay down more and more pavement, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t cause a person grief as they are witness to the process.  Where are the advocates for wild life and who is listening?  I sometimes wonder.

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I met ‘a guy’ in one of those bright orange vests.  Don’t ask me his position.  It was a complicated title.  I just nodded.  He seemed interested that I pick litter and that I know anything at all about the wetlands.  He participates in the annual river clean up.  hmmm

He was out on that fine day, checking that everything was staked out and assured me that the remaining large trees would be coming down, but that on the first rip down, because of a specific time line and government regulations, as well as the distance from wetlands, they were required to leave the big ones for the sake of the ecosystem and the nesting birds.  I explained that the magpies and crows….murders of them…were so distraught that for days they gathered in a single tree, yelling at the land.  And yes…I did cry over the crows.

Due to the construction of a heavy duty drainage system last season, Enmax has not been able to properly maintain/facilitate the Osprey Platform on the Sikome Lake side.  As a result Mother Goose has been there for almost five weeks.  I’m thinking the goslings will either starve or fall off the platform.  In the meantime two pair of Osprey have had to take up residence on top of sign platforms both directions on the loud and dangerous roadway.   I don’t know how they will all manage.

Follow Up to This: The Fish Creek Conservation Officer returned my call,  inquiring about this.  I was assured of a couple of things.  First, it is offence to mess with wildlife in any form, in its natural circumstance in a Provincial Park.  Second, if a bird is nesting ANYWHERE, then this is natural to that bird.  This gentleman had a very calm voice and was telling me the facts.  At this point, I need to grow in acceptance of some of these circumstances where I make observations of birds/animals.

Nature will have to take it’s course.

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I know that for the entire extent of the Stoney Trail’s development, wildlife, wetlands and trees/natural plants have been impacted.  I know that I need to accept ‘progress’ here and in our beautiful park lands, including the Bow Valley Parkway.  It’s just that I don’t think the general population receives all of the information as some of these projects go ahead at warp speed and gather a momentum that becomes destructive and insensitive to a wilderness/natural environment that we, as citizens of Alberta, generally, treasure.

Maybe this is a cliche, but our human population needs to slow down.  Not good for economic climate? Tourism? Well…things to think about.

Today’s pelican…a senior, just like me.  On its own, but it took flight, just after this photo was taken…something about Max, I think.

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My friend, Julie, let me in on the very public location where Mrs. Great Horned Owl and her offspring are hanging out these days.  These owlets will likely fledge within the next week.  In the meantime, Max and I took pause, some distance away and watched.  Of course, I cried.  I was in awe that edging on a bike path, a mama could tend to her babes…so vulnerable, so strong, so absolutely magical.  We need to realize that the species we share this planet with require our advocacy.  We need to stop…and watch, learn and cherish.  This is my plea as I write tonight.

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Species that I have observed in the path of Stoney Trail development, presently.  The mammals; coyotes and deer, have already vacated the paths I take.

  1. Canada Geese
  2. Mallards
  3. Osprey
  4. Black-capped Night-heron
  5. Goldeneye
  6. Redheads
  7. 5 nesting pair of Grebes
  8. Common Mergansers
  9. Common Raven
  10. Red Winged Blackbirds
  11. American Wigeons
  12. Buffleheads
  13. Frogs like no other year

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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Mrs. Shoveler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am in gratitude that nature has taught me more.