What Comes to Mind at the River

Reading and then meeting Kyo MacLear affirmed, for me, everything that’s been formulating inside me the past several years…about birding, art, nature and life.  Many things have formed me into this person who shows up at the Bow River around 10 on a winter’s morning, taking pause above the river and observing wildlife.

My friends and family wonder and ask…mostly not asking anymore, “What are you painting?  Why don’t you paint?”  and at those questions, I can only sit with who I am and be grateful for the grace of anything and everything that led me to this place where I find myself.  As I drove up from the parking spot this morning, I just kept saying, aloud, “I love my life. I love my life.”

I will paint again.  But, the truth is…painting was a lot about ego.  It was a lot about around-the-clock commitment.  It was about trying to balance full time work, raising children and keeping it all together.  My stomach sometimes hurt as deadlines for shows approached.  I was terrified in front of blank canvases.  I couldn’t assert myself with dealers, set boundaries or say what I needed.  I didn’t have money to buy those outfits that seem to be required if you are an artist, especially a female artist. Painting had lost its magic and so, when I paint again, it will be profound because it will be for all the right reasons, not for all the wrong reasons.

Doris McCarthy said, “Paint every day.”  I think more about her as days go by, without painting, than anyone.  She explained how those muscles work.  She explained how time also rushes by. Doris was my friend and she gave me a lot of strength. I think about Doris when I know that I will physically paint again.

Now…did the painting really stop?  I argue, “No”.  I have been intensely researching my next body of work for years now…having painted about 15 panels related to a Covenant series, I then began to connect again with the landscape.  It just happened.  It happened at the reading of two poems, the first,  The Wolf Between the Trees by George Bowering.  I used his poem, with permission, embedded in the poem along with a cup full of ash…remains of personal papers I had burned in the studio.  This is the painting…

Wolf

 

and secondly, a tribute poem written by Paulette Dube for the Caribou.  I’m including her words, here.  I hope you will read them.

In the new days, magic was on the surface of things, the shine of it all, quick and bright and fast as new rivers.

 Now Rivers winds Under Earth, has to be convinced, to play her deep song, entreated , to show herself.

 The Celts call these « thin places », where the other side is so close, the veil shivers your arms as you reach through.

 The First People travelled (sic) these sacred pieces of earth, to think on things in the presence of Creator.

 I know them as mountains.  I see them with my spirit eyes, walk them with blood and bone legs.  They teach, as clear as bird song or scolding squirrel lesson, bracing as clean water through moss.

 This alpine terrain is grey onion paper, thin as ash.  Feet must be wide to avoid lace-like flower and moss, spider web and lichen.        Be mindful.

 The Creator’s ear is earth as we do not see it.  Make joyous noise if you want to be herd.  Get yourself a song and string from bone to bone, a home of light and wind.

 She moves.  She feels her calf, inside, taking nourishment from her own bones and teeth.  The calf moves (as my son once did)  deep in the dreaming place.  The cow’s thickening body keeps the Small one warm, keeps him from hunger, keeps her     moving.

 Born where the dark forest gives way to lake, loon’s perfect call – silver sharp tremolo – traces the surface of this morning sky :  clear as mountain water scythes the earth.

 Loon calls from the lake face, that voice – shapes my form-    coming through the trees.

 The land reacts to our presence when we belong

 Noise of a sow grizzly and her two cubs.  To each a place, to each, a means of prayer and play.  To each, the necessary silence.

 Sacred whorl of grey and brown, blow open the gate.  Allow a wild glimpse of self.

 When you descend to leaf litter, feathered legs and all, you are an angel – touching Earth.

 The engine that is me, hears the song that is you…

 …coming together is a song I cannot bear for long.  Satiated by my own irregular rythmes.

 Promises shape who we are, what we will become –

we pray.

 His brow is unfurrowed.  Streamlined, he walks the wind, easily.

 Healing is water over stones, wind over grass, gaits – fearless.

Feral hearts wander – oblivious to fences of human design.

 Survival embodies existence but – does not define it.

 He moves through sunlight to scrub, deliberate – elemental – muscle.

 Hummingbird hears colour – Coyote knows crack in a leaf is direction – Bear walks trail made of wind.

 If Humans could once again divine the essential – would we find home ?

 A candle in a church is a thing of beauty – a flame in the wilderness is a miracle.

 Find something big to pit against – to throw loneliness into –  Amid bone, snow and stone –   caribou.  The precious, the delicate of design – we live here.

 Fire and earth – water and air – there is no room for anger.

 Memories permit us to speak of things –

our heart tends to in the night.

The resulting painting, upon hearing this poem is posted below.  The words to the poem are written into the painting.  It was at this punctuation mark in my life, at this painting and the other, that I realized my painting would always be about ‘place’.

Caribou 3

So, as an artist, what I’ve been doing ever since is sorting that out….the surface, the paint, collage, text, subject matter.  It might take a lifetime to make sense of it.  I don’t know.  But, in the meantime, I am energized and interested and creative and LOOK!  I write!

Everything I’ve been doing, in the sorting,  has made for this wondrous life of mine.  It’s taken me out into the landscape.  It’s caused me to notice more.  It’s manufactured poems, paintings, photographs and connected me with videographer, Liam of Beam Media and the photographer,  Jack Breakfast.

And this morning, I met Doug Newman.  It was after two cups of coffee at home and after two posts about books that I have read that I headed out into the cold with Max man.  The roads were bad, so I decided to get us down to a parking lot that edges the Bow River and to explore the first wintry day on the river.  There was only one other car in the lot…a man speaking on his telephone.  Max and I headed out.

This is what I wrote once back inside the car…and after snapping four photos on my cell phone…and after turning up the heat and settling in with CKUA.

I didn’t bring a camera with me, but hiked the edge of the Bow River this morning. I watched a Bald Eagle fish, its wings, so powerful. Three times, it landed on tree tops to the left of me, by 200 meters. The geese, exhausted and resting, lifted off of the dark water, along with the cacophony of gulls each time the eagle dove toward the water. Two deer swam, gracefully, from this side and shook off like wet dogs, once arriving on the shore across from me. A perfect morning.

From an interview with Kyo MacLear, writer of Birds, Art, Life… this…

Q: In the book there’s a list, the “Pantheon of Smallness,” in which you compare items such as blackbirds and Rembrandt’s etching. Equating the arts with nature was deliberate, no?

A: It was. It was also a bit playful. I wanted the readers to come in and fill in their own ideas. The Pantheon of Smallness was a way of thinking about smallness differently. Sometimes we make small things, sometimes there are small bird songs, but it can have an enormous impact. Sometimes you have to whisper to be heard. Our culture is very much one of “bigging it up,” always upping the noise level in order to produce a louder signal. What you see in the bird world is sometimes that the smallest tweet can actually pierce through the cacophony in a different way. That became a metaphor for thinking about art. Emily Dickinson did quite miniature work that had a very profound, almost epic, impact, culturally speaking.

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While typing that paragraph, I saw the gentleman leave his car, carrying a camera and sporting a huge lens.  I watched, discreetly, as he took photographs.  I saw him pan as geese took flight.  I saw him quietly observe for quite a long time.  Finally, as he turned to get back into his vehicle, I rolled down my window and we began to chat.

It turns out that Doug also posts photographs to Alberta Birds.  We introduced ourselves to one another and I began to ask him questions about photography, equipment and we shared some of our ‘bird’ moments.  It is such a pleasure to discover another birder along the quiet pathways of my every day.  It was nice to experience his enthusiasm and his excitement.  He opened up his photograph of a goose taking flight and I was in awe of the detail and the strength captured in that single image.

I love my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Birds: May 13, 2017

I should be out gardening.  I am typically well ahead of the neighbours, but with owwies in the elbow this year, I’m lagging.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling fired up, however, as I listen to the sound of the neighbouring trimmers, lawnmowers and the stchhhh stchhhh of their sprinklers.

It’s pretty nice getting outside for long hikes, without the lawn work, I’ve got to say.

Here are today’s birds…all at Frank’s Flats.  I continue to hope that the pond on the other side of the chain link fence isn’t drained until the fledge happens.  We’ve a lot of nesting water birds at the moment.  We have one widowed Goose (female, I think), as well as a widowed Mallard (male).  They were hanging out together for quite a bit today. However, as I snapped a photograph, the Mallard flew out of frame.

No smiling at the pond these days!  If I smiled, I would eat my weight in bugs.  Must be the reason for the excitement on the water.  The gulls, laughing in a wild frenzy, are annoying the other birds.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds seem to be pecking away in the huge batch of blooming dandelions.

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Giving me the Stare Down!

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Female Blackbird

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Female Blackbird

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Black Headed Gull

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More than a few…and Noisy!

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One of the Male Grebes Having a Float

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Overseeing his possibilities.

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Female Blackbirds checking out the Men. So many visible, while for weeks, the men were out there doing the soft shoe on the cat tails on their own.

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Cranky Pants

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Widowed Two Weeks Ago

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This must be my O’ Canada Photograph

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Looking Up

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Chain Link Fence and Wigeon

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Gadwells and Gull

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Savannah Sparrow

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Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout

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One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)

Bleasdell Boulder

This past summer, I learned just how genuinely accommodating my father can be.  I tend to have many over-riding passions; reading, writing, history, art and family history.  Once I connect with a story, some one else’s story, I tend to want to explore it for its details and for its nuances.  This is what happened when I read Francis Itani’s Deafening.  Because the book was so regional and because summer brought me smack dab in the middle of her setting, I had to explore that.

Similarly, after Dad and I attended the County Festival Player’s rendition of  A Splinter in the Heart, an adapted screenplay based on Al Purdy’s novel…I just had to look deeper.  The following summary, borrowed from and linked to Goodreads.

 Al Purdy’s only novel, A Splinter in the Heart, is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that unfolds against the real-life tragedy of what came to be known as the Trenton Disaster. Set in 1918, it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Patrick Cameron and the events that will change him – and the Ontario town in which he lives – forever. Over the course of one summer and fall, Patrick finds love with a girl whose betrayal he cannot foresee, confronts the death of his beloved grandfather, and comes to terms with a neighbourhood rival. All the while, his hometown of Trenton lives precariously in the shadow of a dynamite factory, a sinister reminder of the Great War, which brought such prosperity to the town. Vivid with character and event, and evocative of time and place, A Splinter in the Heart is a moving portrait of a young man’s journey into adulthood in an era of change.

My father generously agreed to take me to see the location of the old munitions factory and also to visit Bleasdell Boulder in one of the region’s conservation areas.  The erratic is mentioned as a place for romantic meetings between young people in the early 1900s and likely, even today.  Well researched, Al Purdy’s writing, especially his poetry, is linked to specific places right across Canada.  I had a very enjoyable time, visiting many of these places, structures and houses most times demolished or changed, but natural geography, remaining as he might have experienced in his own lifetime.

So, on a beautiful late summer day, Dad and I headed out for a short hike to the erratic, Bleasdell Boulder.  I discovered that my Dad takes strides, much like my paternal grandfather…long and fast.  I had quite a time staying up to him.  Thanks, Dad, for going exploring with me!

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Ptarmigan Cirque

I’ve wanted to take my daughter and son-in-law up to the Cirque for a few years and it finally happened.  I also wanted to be with my hiking friend, Cathy, who has such a natural and beautiful connection with the mountains.  And gratefully, friend, Michael, could also join us.  So, we took our pot luck and headed up Longview direction.  A bit of a late start, we got on the trail just after the first explosion of hail in the parking lot.

The hike held some really fantastic moments.  I was in bliss at the beautiful showing of wild flowers.  Everything seemed more lush because of the moisture.  Forget-me-nots blooming, electric blue, next to yellow flowers, made me think of Mom.  Pink paintbrush, wild asters, Queen Anne lace…what a show!

The smell of the air…glorious!

The company…the people I was with…fun and patient and willing.

Views…heavenly.

Weather…dramatic…frightening at times, but contributed to a different experience of these towering mountains!  Thunder booms in a bowl of tall mountains are just somehow, different!

Apart from two Instagram shots, I didn’t archive any of this, but will post the collected photos here.

To begin…images from my first hike up Ptarmigan in 2010.

Ptarmigan Cirque 032Ptarmigan Cirque 030Ptarmigan Cirque 027Ptarmigan Cirque 024Ptarmigan Cirque 021Ptarmigan Cirque 019Ptarmigan Cirque 015Ptarmigan Cirque KathPtarmigan Cirque 009Ptarmigan Cirque 004

Yesterday’s Archives, beginning with our drive to Longview.  Canola field…candy purchase at the corner gas station in Black Diamond…the chat that goes on between friends, heading for the mountains.  Michael Collett…the artist snapping the shot.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 2016

Also, Michael’s photograph…an opening view from the trees…stops and starts of rain by this point.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 2 2016

My two little Instagram shots…Cathy ahead of me on the shale traverse.

Ptarmigan Cirque Kath Instagram 2 2016

The meadow…rich green always awes me.

Ptarmigan Cirque Kath Instagram 2016

Cathy’s phone…she captures…or attempts to capture the flowers in the meadows.  We both agreed we have never seen them like this.  Spectacle!

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As per usual, I am the least attractive woman at the trail!  Yesterday, wearing a Pitch-In bag.  lol

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This photograph speaks for itself.  We’re in mountain bliss at this point.Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 7Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 6

My friend…

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But, what of the others?  Here are Doug’s photos…Michael seems to not be represented well in this set of photographs.  He is an intense explorer…likely observing light and colour!

Ptarmigan Doug 4Ptarmigan Doug 3Ptarmigan Doug 2Ptarmigan Doug 1

I love the artistry in Doug’s photos…the image below, I guess, shows scale.  lol Erin and Michael coming down from a wee jaunt they did on a higher trail.

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This one shows the glory of it all.Doug's Artistry

Proud of my son-in-law, Douglas…a great way to celebrate Canada Day weekend!

Ptarmigan Doug solo

Awe!  There’s Mike!Doug's Ptarmigan Mike

We made it to the parking lot…a tad wet, but very satisfied!

Ptarmigan we made it

And then…the tailgate party.

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And the drive home…no less magical!  We stopped at that canola field.  The drama of the evening’s sky evolved as we headed toward the city.  This is Michael’s photograph.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 3 2016

I’m a single woman in the world.  If I think too much about it, I can get sad about that…the fact that I don’t have a life partner, helping me reach the things high in my cupboards or rubbing my back when I get the pukes.  Truth is, I realize how grateful I am for my children, my son-in-law, his family, my family near and far and my dear friends who are always there with their thoughts, ideas, tremendous support.  I don’t know what I’d be without them!  Thank you.

 

Flower Walking at Many Springs

Many Springs 2007

Many Springs 2011

Many Springs 2012

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It was that time of year…time to check out the blooms.  It was sad to see Val have to stay back.  Little Ollie got sick at our meet-up spot and his Mom had to do the nurturing thing.  I thought about Val a lot today.

So, it was just the four of us for a walk about and a picnic.  It seems that the lack of water has impacted the lushness of the wild flowers this year.  I don’t know if I’m right on that or not.  We got our standard bridge photograph and the shot from the little floating deck.  Oh!  And this year, we met up with three Kananaskis volunteers who were passing out reminders of etiquette as it relates to bears.  Just up the trail a bit…a little sampling of bear skat was in evidence.  Had to get a photograph of that.  I don’t think we EVER think of bears when we come to Many Springs!  Always a first!

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We missed you, Carla, Dar and Val!  Next year!

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Orchid

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Wild Columbine

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Wild Asters

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Tiger Lily

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Lady Slipper

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Shooting Star

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Paintbrush

Our stops along the way…

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Three Friends

Cathy, Kath and Wendy

Hiking Many Springs

Wendy, Darren and Kath

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Picnic lunch at the end of it all.

 

 

 

Bad Pictures – Big Heart

The sky is growing very dark.  It is a bit past noon on Friday.  The long weekend looms ahead of me.  I’ve got lists of arts events on my calendar, ones that I began skipping last night and will probably continue to skip through the weekend.  I have no idea why, apart from the fact that I feel so content…since the broken foot, the forced recovery period, the slower Max walks, the stopping and looking at birds, the filling of the bird feeder, the moving out of clutter.  The process has made me peaceful, but I’m not sleeping.

Today, Frank’s Flats looks like this.

Kath's Canon September 4, 2015 frank's 027Autumn is definitely moving in…my favourite season.  I even delight in the chill of the air, the kind that leaves your nose dripping.

I think the papa osprey is pushing his kids out of the nest. (I just learned recently that the female leaves the nest experience first, so it must be papa who has been teaching the kids to fish). This morning, one of the kids (female) was crying on this side of the highway, from atop a pole…no sibs at the nest as I passed by, on the other side of the highway….no sibs fishing the neighbour hood pond.  I think Dad’s saying, “Adios”.  Now what’s a kid to do?

It’s an unbelievable thing that this family will begin an epic migration and that the monogamous couple will reunite again, barring any tragic events.  This map illustrates known migration routes…so for those of you who grew weary of my amazement by these raptors this past season, know that these lives are miracles…one couple, three juveniles.  I can only wish them well.  It looks like they are heading for South America.

migration-paths Osprey I’ve learned the voice of the osprey amid the huge number of voices in this one landscape. This morning, I heard the sad vocalization by this little lady and grabbed a shot from a huge distance away just to record the moment.  I like that I turn my head at the sound of an osprey.   I like this little place in the world.  I was pleased to hear one of the youngster coyotes articulating this morning, although in the lush green of summer, they’ve managed to be very discreet and invisible.  While I have not been a professional archivist and photographer, I have intimately grown to love my time behind the lens.  If you wish to see some beautiful photos, likely of some of the same birds, look here.  I particularly love the captures of the Night Heron and the Great Blue Heron.

Kath's Canon September 4, 2015 frank's 024For the past two weeks I’ve been given many opportunities and moments to observe the Great Blue Herons and it seems that this would be every where I would go, even a siting while visiting my dear friend out in Chestermere.

I thought that I was in amaze-butts-ville because one lone heron was hanging out at Frank’s Flats, that is until two days ago.  I observed at least five in a marshland area that I could only catch from the highway.  I’d have to do a hike down into that space, probably next year.

The truly remarkable thing is that in a single day, I saw hawks soaring and learning to fly, ducks, mergansers and coots running on water for their experiments in flying (circling the pond at low level as though they were playing) and then seeing them take flight, fourteen pelicans, flashing white black white black in a triangle overhead…and then finally, observing the spectacle of two great blue herons, dodging one another in the wind, flying…weaving…playing…skimming water…reaching up…I’d never seen anything like it.  The camera just sat against my chest.  I love moments when, in today’s archive-focused-world, the camera is put on the shelf because the world ‘is your oyster’.

I’m going to post the crazy bad photo that I DID take…because I wanted to have an image that said, September 3, this happened. “Two great and fragile giants with huge wing spans were given to me to watch and enjoy.”

Kath's Canon September 2 Rumble and Franks September 3, 2015 105

September 3, 2015, I watched two herons in flight for approximately five minutes…dodging one another…staying in flight…a wonder!

It’s not that I know anything about totemic animals apart from the fact that a huge number of cultures listen to, speak to and are impacted by the creatures that share this planet with us…whether they fly or creep or roam or swim…but I do know that all of this and them, are grace…holy…

We have not taken very good care of any of this and these.

Whether in July, you notice and think about the Dragonflies that hover at your feet or in August you are looking at the Great Blue Herons, it all has a significance to your life, your heart and your mind.  Nature has taught me much these past two months and I am filled with gratitude for her lessons.  God is manifest and all is Holy.

The Gyre

gyre [dʒaɪə] Chiefly literary

n

1. a circular or spiral movement or path
2. a ring, circle, or spiral

vb

(intr)to whirl

[from Latin gȳrus circle, from Greek guros]
I went back to the location where, for three months or more, I picked up a bag of trash a day; mostly plastics and fast food containers.  While drinking my coffee this morning, I spent time watching a couple of TED talks.  They got me wondering about the landscape that I had tended.

After listening to the artist, Dianna Cohen, I then moved on to Capt. Charles Moore.  By the time I had finished these two films, I became determined to make a conscientious effort to minimize my consumption of plastic even though the globe is deeply entrenched in its production, use and thoughtless discard.

Unfortunately, when I went back to Frank’s Flats, an idyllic place for many ecosystems and a harbour for waterfowl, I found so much plastic and waste that it brought me to tears.  I just find our community so detached from its actions.  I don’t really know what steps I can take to contribute to a change.  I pick up one bag of garbage every time I visit this special location.  It is a piece of land that I hold dear.

 

Many Springs: Discovering Wildflowers…Again!

Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid

The hiking Ya-Yas and two wee sprouts headed for the Bow Valley Provincial Park Trail System today for our annual spring wildflower hike on the Many Springs Trail.

“The ‘Many Springs’ trail head is located about 2 km west following the paved road that goes through the park. This is a 2.4 km loop around a spring fed lake. This trail is known for its abundance in spectacular flowers.”

“This is also an area known for its diversity of birds. At Waypoint #1, a spectacular view opens toward the north, revealing Mount Yamnuska, Loder Peak and Door Jamb Mountain.”

Anenome canadensis ‘Canada Anenome’, Buttercup Family

“At various points, the trail is going directly over the lake allowing for close study of life in the water below.”

Aster

It was an exceptional day for snapping photographs.

Wild Columbine

The weather co-operated nicely and things seemed to be well into bloom, particularly the wild tiger lilies!

Wild Tiger Lily

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the trail head and celebrated the tradition of flower-gazing as a group.  It has been such a blessing!

I like the brief quote that appears on the last sign on the trail. “Not many are as lucky…to break from the round of daily chores to come and discover this place called Many Springs.”

Viola Canadensis ‘Western Canada Violet’, Violet Family,

I am not including here, my photos of Indian Paintbrush, Wild Flax and other common flowers from the area.  It was such a joy to find some unusual things and to have the time to try to capture a decent record of them.

Lonicera dioica, Twining Honeysuckle

Out-of-focus, but an intriguing find.  Help me identify this one!

No idea…but this was one of my favourites!

Then there was the wee bush bunny, the conversations and the friendship!  All made for a most amazing day!

Little Miracle

Here’s to another springtime of Many Springs.