The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

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I didn’t buy the book at Wordfest 2015.  I was short on money at the time.  So, what’s new?

I was pretty excited as I drove out to Mount Royal University that day!  I was going to be meeting up with my sister-in-law, Karen.  She had driven into town to enjoy some of the Wordfest events and because of her extensive time in the north, she was more than familiar with the topics of this particular book.  She had worked with our neighbours to the north.  She had lived with our neighbours to the north.  She held a wealth of knowledge within her, but stuff that we had never really made opportunity to speak about.  I, on the other hand, was dumber than door nails about the challenges of the north.  Like most Canadians, living in the south, we don’t know about what we don’t see.  Out of sight-out of mind.  It’s shameful, really.  I feel shame.

Today, however, as part and parcel of my own journey of truth, I feel I have had a very generous introduction to the topic through the book, The Right to be Cold, and can now build upon knowledge that exists within me, however scant that knowledge might be. If the Globe and Mail can refer to this book as ‘revelatory’, so can I!  And it was! To gain any insights about the wrongs of the past and sadly, the present, is to liberate ones self.  It is only in educating myself about these mistakes that I can go forward to make change happen within me and in the outside world.

Mount Royal always stumps me, in terms of locating absolutely anything.  It isn’t as simple as the posted maps convey.  I wandered for quite some time before coming upon the theater where Sheila Watt-Cloutier would be speaking.  The people who gathered seemed casual and friendly, calling out to one another.  It turns out that some people were connected through the story and through the north.  I felt like a blank slate…pretty excited.  When Karen settled in next to me, she quietly told me about some of the people in the room.  Embraces were shared.

I want my readers to read this book.  There are chapters within these pages that overwhelm the reader with unfamiliar acronyms (NGO, POP, ICC, KSB, INC, CAIPAP, UNEP and so on…), but if possible,  move beyond these to understand the huge complexities faced by our northern neighbours as they work tirelessly to advocate for safety and health for their families and future generations. Also, pay close attention to the work that has been happening in the past…the voices that have reached out desperately on behalf of human beings, voices that, like the author’s, spoke always from the heart and out of concern for the other.

I can not imagine what it would be like to be so impacted by colonization, industry, and ignorance that my identity, culture and even the health of the foods I ate were at risk.  There is a dark history in our country.  And while it seems too late to be educated and make a difference, we have no choice.  For the Inuit people to lose their way of life is for us to lose what is distinct about our Nation.  I grieve.  I grieve because while I am typing these sentences, years have gone by since the writing of Watt-Cloutier’s book…and the exponential loss of the ice is going on at this very moment.

The Right to be Cold is written in the memoir genre, a form of writing that consistently appeals to me.  I found the narratives about Sheila’s early years very powerful.  As my readers know me fairly well, there were tears in many places.  Yes, at times, I had to put the book down.  The writer does not, however, write from a place of victim.  In fact, I think it is important to her that we not place the story of the north in the context of a victimized people.  Instead, she speaks from a place of strength and hard work and strong belief.

I was blessed, a short while ago, to attend an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum titled North of Ordinary: The Arctic Photographs of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie.  Those photographs did for me what Sheila Watt-Cloutier did with words.  We have sacrificed much by not caring for the north…the ice and snow…and the animals and people who needed to be heard.  In fact, sometimes I think that we, as people of the south, cared more for the animals of the north than the people.  And…isn’t that just crazy?

There was a bench where I could sit down.  I felt the breath knocked out of me.  I felt the truth, like a blow to my gut.  I compared the images captured by the Moodies with the current news stories published about the north…suicides among the youth, housing crisis and melting ice.  It wasn’t many years ago that I heard a teacher who had worked up at Cross Lake, Manitoba say something like…”I don’t get why, when there is fresh fish to be caught, that the people would go pay such huge prices and buy processed fish sticks from the store?”  Read this book!

When I was a little girl sitting in a DND school, I learned about the ‘Eskimos’.  I drew pictures of igloos and harpooning.  But, I was given no context.  Along the way, I was given nothing.  I guess the most magical truth that I received was from my father who had a thirteen month long period away from home.  We lived in Ste. Sylvestre, in Quebec, at the time.  It was in the late 1950s.  My father brought us stories and experiences.  Apart from that, I knew nothing about the north.

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Studio portraits, above, taken by the Moodies.

We have stolen a pristine and health-filled life from the people of the north.  We have tried to take away all of their traditions, culture and ways of being.

Photos taken by my father’s old camera…

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I’ve poured myself another coffee…never really got writing about Sheila’s talk that morning at Mount Royal.  She was inspiring.  She was light-hearted.  She was serious.  Sheila has impacted me and opened up my heart, with the writing of this book.  As an author, she has connected me to the narrative that is our north country and to the fine citizens that have made the north their home over time and forever.

I was grateful to Wordfest for hosting Sheila and I was grateful to have my sister-friend, Karen, sitting next to me.  Here is a little capture of Karen alongside her longtime friend, Sally Luttmer.

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….okay, well, I just had a long Skype session with Karen and thank goodness because the writing of this post had become very difficult.  I’ve settled…deciding to conclude this post with a quote and a short thought of my own.

“Everything is connected. Connectivity is going to be the key to addressing these issues, like contaminants and climate change. They’re not just about contaminants on your plate. They’re not just about the ice depleting. They’re about the issue of humanity. What we do every day – whether you live in Mexico, the United States, Russia, China … can have a very negative impact on an entire way of life for an entire people far away from that source.” Sheila Watt-Cloutier

I’m going to end with an image.

On August 26, 2017 my grandson, Steven, came into this world.  It is a powerful and natural thing that he breast feeds and that his Mommy, for now, is his whole world.  It should be that this is the very safest place for my grandson to be, and it is.  Imagine, then, the sad fact that in the north, this generous and natural relationship should be, in fact, dangerous to the infant population, in that country foods have, over generations, been tainted with POPs at a level far greater than we can know or understand.  The peoples living in the north are struggling for their children and their children’s children.  We must contribute to their hope and to their futures.  We must be a strong force, where we can, in their right to be cold!

Book discussion happened with Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI Chapters and Chat.  Photographs below credited to Michelle Robinson…woman who has opened my eyes to more than you know!

 

 

The Boy and Me: Nature-ing

*ALERT:  This post ended up much longer than I anticipated…but, beautiful places, so make sure that you scroll down to the photographs!

This summer, I stayed around town.  There are still so many places I haven’t been…and, there are also beautiful places that I want to return to again and again.  I know that there are a lot of people who put up their noses about Calgary.  But, for me, Calgary is home and the access we have to genuinely wonderful experiences is right at our fingertips, should we wish to partake.  Because of the circumstances of early summer, I had opportunity to do a little bit of exploring with my son.  Before they disappear into the dark hole that is my desktop photo archive, I’m going to bring these snippets up to the surface.  And then, I’m heading out to the pond with Max.

McKinnon Flats.

“Archaeologists of Lifeways of Canada Limited have been contracted by Alberta Culture and Tourism to find out about early settlement at McKinnon Flats.  They’re part of Culture and Tourism’s three-year Post-Flood Investigation Program, which was initiated to record the effects of the June 2013 southern Alberta flood on archaeological and palaeontological sites along rivers such as the Bow, Highwood, Sheep and Kananaskis.  As a result of the program, 100 new archaeological sites were identified and additional information was gathered at 87 sites that had been recorded prior to the flood.  Many of these sites were found eroding from the riverbanks, with some in need of investigation before they disappeared entirely.

The McKinnon Flats site is one of these locations. Although it had been previously recorded in 1971, no-one realized that it contained deeply buried cultural deposits.  As a result of the 2013 flood, however, a ten metre strip from the front of the site’s river terrace was removed, leaving a 400 metre exposure in the river bank that contained cultural evidence. This evidence included broken bison bone, large stone choppers and rock that had been heated and cracked in a fire. Among the eroding finds were the remains of a boiling pit that had probably been used to cook meat and process bone marrow in a skin-lined pit dug in the ground.  Evidence of the pit was found in the form of almost 100 heated “fire-broken” rocks that were eroding from one of the riverbank exposures. Between the time the pit was observed in 2014 and the site was excavated in 2016, however, all evidence has been completely eroded.”

It was at this location that my son and I did a beautiful-weather-day hike and shared in a Spoloumbo’s picnic sandwich on the river bank.  A spectacular day!

Frank Lake

Frank Lake is located in the foothills fescue prairie ecoregion. The lake is a hemi-marsh, which means it roughly has the same area of open water as there is emergent vegetation. Vegetation includes mostly hardstem bulrushsago pondweedRichardson’s pondweed, and northern waterfmilfoil. The lake and its surrounding upland areas attracts many species of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds and other birds use the lake for staging during migration, and nesting. Some birds that can be seen here include: tundra swantrumpeter swanCanada goosenorthern pintailFranklin’s gullring-billed gullCalifornia gullcommon ternshort-eared owleared grebemarbled godwitlong-billed dowitcherblack-crowned night-heron, and black-necked stiltBirdwatching is a popular activity.

The drive to Frank Lake was very relaxing, as was the walk on well-worn pathways.  Along the way, we only met two other people, so it really did give me the sense of getting away from the city and relaxing into nature.  Highly recommend!  Not to be confused with my daily pond walking at Frank’s Flats.

Nose Hill Park

I really want to get out to hike all of the pathways from all directions to the top of Nose Hill Park.  It is such a spiritually charged place!  It’s always been on my bucket list, but, living in the deep south of the city, I had to drive there, with intention and finally it happened!

The Leighton Center...I always take friends and family here.  Most of all, because of the huge dramatic view.  I feel the best of everything that is foothills living, when I visit the Leighton Center.  On this visit, I enjoyed the appearance of several Mountain Blue Birds.  I felt really excited about that.  The smoke from the growing forest fires to the west began to cloak the mountains in the distance.

Ptarmigan Cirque

Pretty much an annual hike…breathtaking for its pretty immediate views…a place to take visitors to Calgary because of the expedient pleasure in the mountains, with very little exertion.

Custom Woolen Mills

On this particular day, I had convinced my young adult children to drive out to the Dancing Goats farm, just a short distance from the Woolen Mills.  I thought that we would be able to visit the goat farm, but, was mistaken.  In fact, the owners were in the city dropping off product to a number of retail locations.  I spoke with one of them on the telephone, from the small town of Acme.

Instead, we ended up taking country roads to go to the Custom Woolen Mills.  I was happy that Ruthie was in the gift shop, so I got a wee visit with her and had a chance to take my daughter and son into the mill.  I feel so connected to the place.  I love it more and more every time I make the drive.

I also met the Artist in Residency…an amazing artist and knitter…I’ll just have to go back into my writing and figure out her name.

 

It appears that I had some amazing experiences this past summer, most of them shared with Cayley and James.  I realize that in this process of “Falling Out of Order”, there was an awful lot going on.  But, for this lovely Thanksgiving afternoon, and with a pond walk and a large plate of turkey leftovers under my belt, I realize that it is time that I settle down to mark some narrative writings by grade four and five students.

Whenever I go through the process of archiving the experiences I enjoy in surrounding areas of Calgary, I realize how blessed I am. Yes.  It’s possible to travel the world over.  But, sometime it’s a blessing to realize what treasures lie very close to you, treasures to be uncovered.  Today, I feel grateful.

Today’s Birds: May 10, 2017

I took my camera to my birthday brunch, thinking I would snap some family photographs, but once there, I didn’t really think about taking photographs.  So, for today’s post, I won’t have any accompanying images.  Well, I can share this one.

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Today’s a good day.

Instead of going to Frank’s Flats, this morning, I decided to take Max over to Sikome Lake and check on the status of the female goose on the Osprey Platform.

She finally broke her brooding silence and was honking away and very active on her nest, after about four weeks of stoic waiting.  This could only mean one thing.  And, sure enough, before leaving, I witnessed the tiny bobbing heads of some of her offspring.  As a result, my own motherly defenses surfaced and I got on the phone as soon as I got home, feeling very powerless and somehow, invested.

First, the Fish Creek Park Conservation Officer (didn’t get his name) returned my call and answered all of my questions, patiently, but also, firmly.  I felt huge confidence after he made two things clear to me, 1. it is a criminal offence to mess with nesting birds or wildlife under Provincial jurisdiction and 2. Mother Goose is doing what is natural to her, or she wouldn’t be there.   So, after saying good-bye, I decided that I was going to let go of my fears and upset over the potential loss of life and to accept that all is happening as it was/is meant to be.

Second to this interaction, I received a lovely and informative letter via e mail from Alison Anaka, the Environmental Specialist for Enmax, the company that is responsible for the maintenance and establishment of almost twenty platforms around the city. Alison has given me permission to share her information with my readers…communication that might be appreciated by my friends living, here, in the deep south.

Today’s Birds: April 14, 2017

Anyone watching me make my way around the pond today would say, “There’s a weary woman!”  Honestly, I’m so tired.  I’m not used to working every single day.  Most times I wonder how human beings carve out a life when they work so hard, raise families and try to stay healthy, all at the same time.  Are we enticed by the promise of something that, in the end, doesn’t really come to us?  Food for thought, this Good Friday.

I didn’t put in a whole lot of effort taking photographs today, but did quietly observe the birds, their comings and goings, and their efforts to also eek out a living on a pond that is obviously suffering the impact of a progressive-aggressive species, humanity.

While we all experience personal struggles, I also spent a bit of time meditating on the state of a world where weapons/bombs/chemical warfare are viewed as a solution to terrorism and unrest.  I just don’t understand how human beings continue to go forward, ignoring the mistakes of our history and believing, somehow, that ‘this time it will be different’.  So many layers of unrest in the human heart.  It is discouraging.

Today, I’ve made a choice to let go of fear and anger and frustration.  I’m choosing love.

Max and I stopped at our local park and watched the Merlins this morning.  Both female and male were in the vicinity.  Both came and went and hung nearer the nest.

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Nest taken over by Merlins three springtimes ago.

Only one male Bufflehead on the pond…shy guy…who hung around a pair of Goldeneyes…sort of forcing himself on them.  He spent a lot of time stretching out on his back.  And, of course, remained, as much as he could, out of range.

 

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.

Cutting Myself Some Slack

I have to admit, I’m not at the top of my game lately.  A person can be confronted by and, possibly, absorb a lot of gut-wrenching stuff via the media, daily. (the state of Syria, regional economics, pipelines, the American debates and election, unemployment and the economy, involvement of Russia in global agitation, the status of North Korea regarding armaments, the state of our environment and the care for dwindling species…these are just a few concerning factors that spewed out the tips of my fingers at the keyboard…free flow)  If that ‘removed’ material isn’t enough, then there are also the daily stressors that one must face, sometimes alone, and these can really nail a person down, both in body and spirit.  The important thing is to do something about it by changing patterns and practices.

This past weekend was one of those weekends for me.  Not really ‘into’ any interactions with my wider circle, I focused on ‘being’ with smaller groups, staying closer to home and eating good food.  Quality time with my daughter and my ‘real life’ friends was very healing.  I am grateful for that sense that the rest of the world can motor on at warp speed while I take a little vacation from the nonsense that becomes my whirling life.  What we’re trying to prove, I don’t exactly know.  What I’ve been doing, I do.

The weekend began with a gathering of my hiking YaYas and our ritual gathering photo op with prop.  Thanks to Cathy for hosting.  What a relief it is to talk and talk and talk and laugh.  And wow…those hugs at the end of an evening!

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Walking the circle of the pond at Frank’s Flats…always calms me and makes me live more deliberately or consciously.  Walking, itself, causes the lungs to fill up and with ‘real’ air.  The light filters in and replaces worry or dischord.

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Contemplating my closest companion…our friendship…activity.  There are many funny moments created by my Max-Man.  This weekend, I was grateful for my fur-boys, both dogs, Laurie-Dog and Max-Man and cats, Piper, Edgar and Peanut.

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On our Saturday afternoon walk, a flock of fourteen Trumpeter swans flew overhead. There is nothing like their sound pulling out of a blue sky.  I didn’t care about zooming or panning, obviously, but I can not look at this patch of blue, without remembering what that was like.  I always consider these events to be Holy events and I have been graced with the blessing of many such moments.img_2378

On Sunday morning, I went to early Mass.  For me, the peace that comes with this celebration can’t be replaced with anything else.  I was also very grateful to be embraced by the MacDonalds in the parking lot, afterwards. Such good people.

Off to the grocery store, I filled my basket with cheeses, beautiful squash, vegetables and fruit and some Kaslo sourdough pasta.  I had selected a lovely Cannelloni recipe to prepare for dinner.

Sunday offers the opportunity for people to recline and have a little snooze, or as my Dad calls them, a Sizz under the Fuzzy.  I had one of those and then…

I drove to Hull’s Wood…a part of my life, here, in Calgary’s fringe.  Jess has begun her teaching of this semester’s Pow Wow dancing.  I highly recommend this practice to all of my readers.  We began with the peacefulness of a smudge ceremony and the blessing of sweetgrass and sage.  Then…cardio…then practice.  This week, some basics in handling a single hoop.

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I had missed a few openings on the weekend.  I especially wanted to see the exhibit, For You and Me hosted by the Paul Kuhn Gallery, curated by artist, Ashleigh Bartlett.  As well, I had wished to offer my support of Mark Vasquez-Mackay and Rich Theroux for their opening, Mindfulness at the Rumble House.

I decided, on the way home from Pow Wow dancing that I would stop off at the Queensland Community Center and spend some time with Mark’s mural on the building.  On a perfect autumn day, it was a wonderful option for viewing art and giving one of my peeps, some support.

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At home, Cayley and I made Cannelloni together.  It was fun to share the kitchen and I’d like to do that more often.  The process of cooking can be a very relaxing thing.  When I went to my room in search of my bedroom slippers, I noticed that my daughter had also folded my clothes from the dryer.  Kindness from others is likely  the best medicine out there, for anything that might ail you as an individual…it is also the best medicine for the world.

I would like my readers to share what it is that they do to relax, to find their center…to be at peace.  We don’t have to control everything all of the time.  But, how do we let go of that need to control everything?

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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May and June

This past winter was an unusual season, so mild that it was difficult to even classify it as winter.  The plows came around once.  We had two big dumps of snow.  And, that was it.  Spring came early, with many warm days in March.  As a result, everything is dry.

At my kitchen window, in the neighbour’s vent,  Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow have nested three times, all without success.  On the first go, we had babies and Mom and Dad did a marvelous job feeding and protecting their wee ones and then all at once, one morning, there was silence.  Given that the duct tape I had applied last season had fallen off (and I’m sort of glad it did because I always imagined my neighbour charging me for a repair), I believe that either a Crow or Magpie rampaged the nest.  The sparrows tried two more times, but with no successful hatch. The nest is now abandoned, apart from the occasional visit from an adult. This has made me pretty disappointed because I enjoyed my daily observations of Sparrow behaviour, while I worked at my kitchen sink.

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The Fort McMurray blaze happened and left the province in shock.  To not mention this would just be wrong. The media images of the devastation and mass exodus from the city were terrifying.  I think that this fire changed all of us in ways we could not imagine.  Our hearts are still reaching out to those impacted most.  In an economy that was already struggling with woes, this has contributed additional stress.  My prayers continue to be for those impacted and for the fire fighters who continue to make efforts to quell this blaze.  This image, from Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press.

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A giant fireball is seen as a wild fire rips through the forest 16 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

There just isn’t a transition from that!  As a result of the differing and dry climate, different insects are inhabiting our gardens.  My asparagus failed to come up this year and very few Oriental poppies.  My strawberry plants are weak, as are my lupines. I learned, one morning, while taking photographs that this is all due to the destruction of the Tarnished Plant Bug, last season and this.  I’ve spent these months trying to ethically rid my garden of the ‘damned’ things.  Sadly, this means I will likely be chasing them away to someone else’s garden.  I am thinking it will take me a couple of seasons to build up my garden again and I’m anticipating more damage next summer, given that the bugs likely produced eggs before I got on to this.  Gardening causes me to think about what it must mean to farm and to weigh my decisions around protecting beneficials such as bees and lady bugs.

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Tarnished Plant Bug presence Noted!

Different birds have settled into the pond area at Frank’s Flats.  It’s easy for me to notice because of my close relationship with this location the past five years.

Last year, at this time, I was watching the nesting practices of Osprey very closely.

Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062

In late April, this year, two nesting platforms maintained by Enmax were pulled down as a result of future infrastructure development on the Stoney Trail ring road and so things have changed. I can only keep track of a single platform from a huge distance.  There is no access at this location on Sheriff King Road, for viewing.  I think that the relocation happened just in the nick of time, however, so I am grateful for the efforts of Enmax. Presently, Mr. and Mrs. are watching over a couple of eggs, if not chicks by this time.

Mr. or Mrs. showed up right on time this year, overlooking the pond south of 22X and exactly where the platforms were located last year.  I’m not certain if this is one of the siblings born last season or if it is one of the adults, but I am really happy that we have this presence.

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No place to go, the Osprey began building on the tops of the power poles.  This photo was taken once all nesting materials had been removed, demonstrating the adult Osprey’s determination to set up camp.  I quickly contacted Enmax via Twitter and from there, same-day action ensued and a new location was selected for the erection of the platform.  Disappointed, I knew that I wouldn’t, with my Canon Power Shot, be able to monitor the nest this season.

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From a distance, I saw that the very next day, male and female had established a home, with an abundance of nesting materials.  It was a thrill to see.

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I have visited a few times, just to make certain that the beautiful raptors have had a successful experience.  Only a week ago, I checked in.  Mr. is attentive as Mrs. sits patiently.  These two are slightly behind the other nest I watch, nearing the edge of the Bow River at Sikome Lake, but they look like they are managing.

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Birds have been plentiful at the pond and I’ve nudged up closer than in the past.  Sometimes I imagine the birds saying, “Oh, it’s just her again!”  I still haven’t made the capture of a male or female Shoveler and that disappoints, given that they attended the pond in large numbers this year.  Because they are so skittish, I also haven’t a focused photo of either variety of Grebe, although I’ve captured some great out-of-focus drama!  Below, see some of my collection of species this year.  I am thrilled with the closeness I have developed with nature and seeming, all because I am present for a walk each day, since October 13, in order to take a single photograph of a bush on Instagram.  I have been blessed!

 

The garden has not disappointed and continues to give me a quiet place to sip my coffee in the warm morning sun.  I’ve always received peace in flowers and green. This was a very early photograph…I can’t believe how things have changed and I’ll have to get out there again to snap a photograph or two.

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My Auntie Ruth turned 90, as did the Queen of England.  This meant a trip to Raymond and it meant a 200.00 speeding ticket!  It was a beautiful reunion of family!

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So much in the way of art and art exhibits!  I guess compared to usual, maybe a little less. The Ivor Strong Bridge has been dealing with some repairs and so I feel, every evening, as though I am on an island and don’t wish to struggle my way out of the community.  Not so much live music.  I think I’m going to have to remedy that!  I was definitely grateful for Allan Rosale’s invitation to the University of Calgary!

I’m very interested in learning the traditions and practice of Indigenous dance.  Jess has been so helpful in this regard and is a very inspiring teacher as well as practitioner.  I hope to continue with this study more consistently throughout this coming year.  I met Jess through Eileen since we were all in attendance to the Juno Awards event that featured Indigenous Nominees and included a power house performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

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I hope that if you or your children are interested, you might contact me for information as the camps and study continue throughout the summer.  Such a positive and physical experience! Sîpihkopiwâyisîs Jess McMann-Sparvier is a powerful spokesperson for her cultural traditions and is inclusive, finding the narratives so important to share.  She is rooted in history and is constantly doing research.  She combines her delight for music, dance, tradition and teaching and is just one of those people you must meet and spend time with!

While I may not be athletic, I find this circle of beautiful people to have a very positive impact on me and the dance forms, a definite wake-up-call to my muscles!

Read Trail of Tears to Prokofiev HERE.

Find the link to Indigenous Dance Studio here.

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May and June have been full and richly lived…home repairs, teaching, paint, writing, family history.  I can’t ever imagine life not being beautiful.  I am filled up as I look at what has passed this last month and a half.

 

 

 

Road Trip and Angels

I drove out to Folk Tree Lodge this afternoon after my pond exploration with Max.  After a couple of days of rain, the world was brilliant green and blue.  It was the absolutely most perfect day for a drive west toward the mountains.

White puffs of seed playfully made their way to the ground…magic!

Artist, Alvise Doglioni Majer was there to meet me, on his bike, carrying May and June.

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May has as her vegetation, the pussy willow and as her featured animal, mother and baby moose;  June, the dandelion and the bear waking after winter’s rest.  I treasure these angels so much and I enjoy my monthly ride out to see Alvise.  It was nice to compare travel stories about the Lake Superior route and eastern Canada experiences.  It makes me hungry for a big road trip!

 

I was thinking about these angels and today’s news about Tragically Hip’s musician Gord Downie.  Driving home, CBC radio played Courage…and I thought how appropriate that I should be collecting this beautiful series of angels.

Killdeer Protective Behaviour

I am so amazed by what I learn on a daily basis because I show up at a single pond every day, no matter the weather.  Today I had opportunity to witness this little beauty being protective of her eggs.  I keep Max on leash on every walk these days because it is a very precarious time for all of the birds in this ecosystem.  Max is very co-operative and sits silently whenever I am observing or snapping photographs.  The only time he becomes super alert is when we are close to coyotes and deer.  His ears point and he stairs in the direction of the smell/movement.

He sat nicely as I watched this happening.  I am so in awe of nature and the strength of tiny creatures in the face of huge predators and insurmountable odds.

I’ll never be in that class of photographers where I am selling my images, but as a matter of respect, if you wish to use them for teaching and explaining, please credit me the documentation.  Thanks.

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