What I Didn’t Photograph in an Hour

Max and I walked at the Bow River when the light was flat.  The sky was cool white-grey on warm white-grey and I thought that it was interesting that I could see one thick layer on top of the other and that there was no part of white that seemed transparent.  The sky was a panel of two colours, layered.  In front of the panel, brilliant white snowflakes fell, angled, to the ground.  The wind was bitter.  I pulled my hoodie up over my ears and hair and soon after, also the hood to my coat.  My cheeks were cold, but the wind was to my back, definitely pushing us from the north.  We were walking in a blizzard.  The landscape was softened in a white fog and the river was umber/ultramarine dark.

I stood still beside Lauren’s bench and looked at my phone.  A string of little bells had set off earlier and I knew that it was my daughter.  Some people write about things in very lengthy threads.  Some break their ideas into little bits and send them like jewels across time and space and through this abstract world of possibility and connection.  My daughter’s loving messages came to me…I typed, in return…

“Teachers earn their wage.”

“I’m worried about my eagles, especially the youngsters.”

“I’m booking off tomorrow.”

“I love you.”

She replied, “Love you too”

At her ‘love you too’  (and you likely won’t believe this), one of the juveniles, deepest umber and back etched in a layer of snow, flew directly in front of and past me, over the churning river, heading south on the cold wind, his wing span, forgotten.  Yesterday, in autumn, I saw both Dad and his new woman and that had given me a lot of peace.  I know that everything is natural to these raptors, but in my depth of gratitude for what pleasure they have brought to me, I am concerned, in the same way as a person is concerned for any creature that faces such a brutal winter.

Max spooked.  He and I saw the white-tail at the same time.  She thought she needed to bolt, but I assured her very quickly by moving Max and I the opposite direction and instantaneously averted my eyes and forced my excited dog to submit to me.  We walked closer to the water.

I found it interesting that the gulls were so active, weaving in and out of one another and skimming the surface of the water.  These gulls have a huge wing span.  And they seem very hardy, performing every sort of maneuver, often directly into the wind.  I stood still, very close to the river’s edge, and watched them.  Max nuzzled his snout deep into the cold snow, now and then, eating a bit.

While foot falls seemed swallowed by the snow and sounds were muffled, airplanes overhead were loud and interfered with the great mystery that is always lurking around each bend, the unknown, the hidden…waiting through every season, especially when a woman and her dog are alone, unremarkable, quiet.

My Canon was warm next to my chest and zipped under my winter jacket.  My phone rested in my right hand pocket.  I grabbed it and snapped three photographs of the distinctive textures of shrubs, still fully leaved, having lost the sense of autumn far too quickly.

A cacophony erupted from the east and over our heads, flew, in perfect formation and with winged concavity in synchronized motion, a huge number of Canada geese.  I would have snapped a photograph.  Such a beautiful pattern against the backdrop of our second big snow.  They strategically came to rest in the shallow channel of water that separates the small island from me.  A loud bit of sorting, their voices raised havoc on the river, the gulls, now, engaged in the mix up.

Once stepping into the deep woods, I turned my eyes upward in order to look for the dark form of the juvenile, but he did not reappear, so he must have gone beyond.  The snow pelted my face, not as much flakes as crystals.  I naturally opened my mouth.  I brought my face down, in gratitude, for having seen him at all.  The sky was turning a darker shade of grey and so I continued through the tall grass, now weighted down with snow and fallen across the worn path of summer.

Eastern starlings, many of them, lifted up and out of the golden brown canopy in unison, seeming alarmed but uncertain of where to alight.  It was as though they were of one mind…but, what part of that machine would decide/move/land and why would all of the others follow?  They disappeared.  I wondered if I had actually witnessed this.

Heading back on the groomed pathway and then once again, cutting through the trees, I saw her surrounded in the shrubs and wearing an aura or a crown of golden leaves.  Her eyes were deep black, dark pools of gentleness, her nose, just as dark.  I cautioned Max.  She stood perfectly still in an almost-grey silhouette.  I spoke assuring words for absolutely no reason until we had passed.

These are the moments at the river.

This is a culmination of an hour, not snapping photographs.  This is how people used to remember.




Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

March 23, 2012 11:30 a.m. Weather: 1 degree and snowing.

It was a lovely thing to have the chance to visit with a good friend before going out into the weather to pick up some of the litter that remains at Frank’s Flats.  I’m going to collect her scone recipe and post it here for my readers.  Awesome stuff!  So then, out we headed for our walk around the pond, a good chat and another clean-up.

Ok, apparently this is a   ‘secret’  recipe for scones and so, I am posting my mother’s scone recipe here instead.  I always said that my mother made the best scones!  To this mix, add a few dried cranberries and some white chocolate chips…and you will get a great result!

 Kay’s Scones

3 C.        All purpose Flour                                            1 C      Margarine
1/4 tsp. Salt                                                                       7 tsp. Sugar
1 C.         Milk                                                                       1         Egg
3 heaping tsps. Baking Powder                                     


Mix dry ingredients as for biscuits. Cut in margarine by hand.  Beat egg and milk together. Add quickly to dry ingredients. Dough will be quite wet. Turn on to cookie sheet and pat out to a 1 ½ inch thick circle. Bake at 425-450 on center rack of oven for 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and cut onto wedges. Serve warm with butter and jam.

Some thoughts since returning home…

Most staff rooms in the business world,  include posted signs as reminders for staff members to clean up after themselves.  People on assigned clean-up duty get frustrated with others who do not pick up after themselves.  On the internet, there is a huge conversation about how to deal with mess in the work place.  Who’s responsibility?  I’m going to link this analogy with what we, as a society, do on a grander scale.

“If the break room stays clean, I’ll take down these passive-aggressive signs.”
posted by 23skidoo at 7:31 AM on September 29, 2010
This is a self-cleaning kitchen – clean it yourself!
posted by lizbunny at 7:32 AM on September 29, 2010
Abandoned coffee cups will be used for specimen collections.
Your mother doesn’t work here (and if she did, she’d tell you to clean up after yourself).posted by motsque at 7:33 AM on September 29, 2010
Once, an anonymous hyper-irritated employee put up a sign in our break room reading “The sink does NOT have a garbage disposal. The sink does NOT have a garbage disposal. The sink does NOT have a garbage disposal!
“So I left a little sign of my own beneath it which read “This is the way the sink ends. This is the way the sink ends. This is the way the sink ends. Not with a bang, but a gurgle.”Nobody thought it was funny. posted by julthumbscrew at 7:35 AM on September 29, 2010
What has been far more effective than notes and signs is the sensation of being watched. Well, that is what this psychologist did to get pple to pay their fair share for community coffee. posted by Wolfster at 7:38 AM on September 29, 2010
The answer in an art room, when a teacher asks a student to please clean up a spill of paint is, “I didn’t do it.”

Now,  I wish to make a point, with the examples of the staff room and the art room clean-ups.  Unless human beings get over the idea that they will only clean up their OWN mess, the world is going to be in rough shape.  Yes, it’s disappointing that OTHERS are not good stewards or that they are irresponsible.  (They are busy!  They will get to it later!)  However, unless someone decides to take on the responsibility, without pay and without thanks, then we will all be left with an environment that is hopelessly scourged.

We are ALL busy!  We are ALL taxed with life and the requirements of the day.  We are ALL raising funds and doing good works in order to show that our hearts are in the right place, spiritually.  We are ALL taking care of our own families and we are ALL taking care of the hurting people of the world.  We are ALL competing and building and buying and selling.  But, unless someone takes pause and takes care of the Covenant…we will ALL lose…big time.  A community needs to take care of its environment, even WHEN THE MESS IS NOT YOUR OWN.

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

March 20, 2012 3:00 p.m. Weather: 8 degrees and VERY blustery wind!  There was a huge bank of dark cloud that seemed to be moving out of the east?  It was cold, but not unpleasant.  The sun kept bursting out from behind the cloud.  I picked up all of the plastic bags that were more FLAGS, strung up in all of the tall grass, bushes and trees and finished clearing out the fence area.  There are two large cardboard boxes and something that looks like a huge aluminum fan (perhaps from the sports center construction) remaining.  I’ll have to make a couple of special trips for those pick-ups. 

Next, I tackle the school slope into the pond, again.  I haven’t heard back from the school, but DID receive a helpful call from Rick Haddow of the City of Calgary.  It appears that he has much on his plate, given the number of different communities that fall under his umbrella.  I appreciated that he has offered me 250 clear garbage bags and a pick stick for my litter.  It was an informative conversation, involving much in the way of brainstorming.  My apologies to the city, but, if I’m going to be picking up everyone else’s trash, I’m having my dog off leash.  Next, I am going to have to advocate for certain off-leash hours for that area.  In the meantime, there’s work to be done!