I’ve written about this magic before, so I won’t use words, but to say that recently I took some old slides to be converted digitally. They really didn’t process well…so much dust, scratches and such, but I am excited to have an archive of these. The summer of 1978. In April of 1979, I would be holding my first born in my arms. What a journey!
Training phase, in camp, involved rope obstacles, wall climbing, jumping pillars, 6 a.m. swims, running through arid cactus-riddled landscape.
Busing to locations for skill delivery/practice like advanced river crossings, rock climbing and mountain rescue as well as first aid…
I don’t have a single photo archived as it relates to three days white water kayaking on the river.
First hikes and orienteering sessions, mountaineering, minimalist camping/food preparation in preparation for our 11 days, without instructors…
Could this have been Apex? I wish that I had kept journals of actual locations and such…instead, I remember I wrote a lot about my internal landscape instead.
Out on our own, followed by three day solo.
Ladyslipper Lake in the depths of Cathedral Provincial park.
I caught a fish in this lake and we cooked it for dinner on one of our makeshift hibachis. I remember how flavourful it was after multiple days out on the trail, with no fresh food. We sheltered under sheets of plastic, light weight and quick install, sometimes the entire group of us laying on top of ground sheets.
Three days solo…left in a spot on our own with our sheet of plastic, a journal, a sleeping bag…three lemon candies.
This is Liz, our advanced instructor and a very accomplished mountain climber. Since 1978, I’ve wanted to reconnect with her, but didn’t know her last name. Sad, I know, but true.
This is a photo, along with one or two others, that someone in my group shared with me. I never had any other contact with my group members after the course, and I have no idea where my record of contact went after the program. Pregnant, shortly after Outward Bound, trust me, I had bigger fish to fry.
I’ve recently located an Alumni group and I’m looking to reconnect with the other nine people from across Canada who shared this experience with me. That was the motivation for having my strangely formatted slide film digitalized. My apologies for the excruciating condition…the dust. I’m just so happy to have the images collected and presented in one place, with only one image missing…we’ll see if it surfaces.
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.
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.
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…
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 –
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’.
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…
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 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.
Giving me the Stare Down!
Black Headed Gull
More than a few…and Noisy!
One of the Male Grebes Having a Float
Overseeing his possibilities.
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.
Widowed Two Weeks Ago
This must be my O’ Canada Photograph
Chain Link Fence and Wigeon
Gadwells and Gull
Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout
One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Also, Michael’s photograph…an opening view from the trees…stops and starts of rain by this point.
My two little Instagram shots…Cathy ahead of me on the shale traverse.
The meadow…rich green always awes me.
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!
As per usual, I am the least attractive woman at the trail! Yesterday, wearing a Pitch-In bag. lol
This photograph speaks for itself. We’re in mountain bliss at this point.
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!
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.
This one shows the glory of it all.
Proud of my son-in-law, Douglas…a great way to celebrate Canada Day weekend!
Awe! There’s Mike!
We made it to the parking lot…a tad wet, but very satisfied!
And then…the tailgate party.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Autumn 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.
For 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.”
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.