A beautiful little mid-day hike at Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area nicely preceded yet another afternoon rainstorm. Thank you, Val, Oliver and Cathy. It was a beautiful exploration of fescue, aspens, wild flowers, powerful skies, butterflies and conversation.
We started off with a little visit inside of the tipi.
Photo Credit: Kath and Oliver taken by Val Vine
Off to the open spaces…heading for Mountain views through the natural grasses. The wild Lupines were electric blue.
Photo Credit: Close Ups of Lupines by Cathy Szata
Then through the Aspen Grove we went. Butterflies and more wild flowers and Oliver hiding in the tall grass.
Photo Credit for the next three images: Cathy Szata I really do appreciate getting into the photographs somehow, Cath. Thank you.
Nothing like clicking the camera and having this message come up. I suppose, in some ways, a person should walk through life without space on their memory card, in order to be fully present. So, I walked the rest of the crispy morning, without snapping and clicking and containing the magic of the landscape. Instead, I considered the beauty of the Pileated Woodpecker and the bright flash of red through the hoarfrost to be a gift to me. The morning was heavenly, on my side of the river.
I saw our adult Bald Eagle pretty quickly and snapped some shots as the fog off the river was quickly making its way toward me. The sound of geese and ducks rose up out of the icy Bow River. All else was silent. These are the photos that I grabbed before my lens withdrew into my camera and my camera shut down.
The White Breasted Nuthatch was the best that I could get yesterday, when I left Max at home and did my walk by myself.
Weather and nature contribute to struggles…constantly, I’m reminded that life contains brutality as well as beauty.
Always trying for a good shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch, but never quite getting it.
In all of that blue, above, one can see a Juvenile flying over. It’s wonderful that recently another birder-friend, Julie has sighted one of the Juveniles close, on our side of the river. At least one of them has thrived thus far, through the wintry weather.
As I poured over my archives last evening, On December 15, 2018 I observed an adult Bald Eagle on the nest. At the end of my walk this morning, I noticed that an adult had landed on the nest and was doing some shifting of the snow on its surface. So many beautiful miracles at this nest the past six years! It’s all so intuitive and spectacular to watch unfold. Already, I’ve been given a promise of spring.
I am a single woman, in the last decades of my life, and sometimes I lay my head down on my pillow at the end of a busy day and wonder about being solitary in the world. My life plays through my mind like a thin thread of film, projected on the dark wall across from me. I am both in awe and fearful. My life, alone, is a peaceful one. Perhaps this is what was always meant to be. But that acceptance and peace does not necessarily keep me from looking at the connection that others have in their partnered lives.
Autumn often causes this rerun, the movie of over sixty autumns that I can remember. In every other autumn I would not have written the previous paragraph down, especially not in this format, perhaps in a private journal. But, now, how does it really matter?
I remember a moment in a single engine Cessna, somewhere over Wisconsin. We were flying north into Duluth when we got into difficulty and with time, our cloud ceiling was at 200 and then 100 and our pilot was requesting permission to land on a highway, the only visual reference we had. Knowing that there were towers in the area and knowing that our pilot only had visual rating was frightening. I clung to my then-partner’s hands, both of them. Averting the first option, the wings bowed deeply sideways into the white cloud as we banked to go south and out of the fog/cloud. When we came around, the tree tops were an arm’s length from the plane’s belly. I remember them as though it was yesterday. They were conifers. I kept saying, “The trees. The trees.” Not yelling and not particularly panicked. This was a nightmare. I had time to think, “I wonder how Mom and Dad will find me.” I let go of my partner’s hand. Instinctively I knew, ‘in the end I face this all alone.’
And I do.
Winter is coming. A family of bald eagles has taught me much these past months but for several weeks, the juveniles have been distant, sent out of this territory to hunt, fish and find their own way. The female came to some demise and is now gone. The male has sheltered and fed the young. A new sub adult has made herself known and has done multiple demonstrations for the juveniles. She is a beautiful strong huntress. The male has been close to her, but it seems that they are always in some wild discussion, resistant and yet set on a path. Who knows what spring will bring. It was only in the first snowfall that the youngsters returned to their nesting territory, bleating to the cold wind, about their fears and their challenges. It was the day before yesterday’s snow that both the male and female arrived and consoled me with their familiar roosts in their favourite tree branches. These beautiful raptors act as a unit, but live deeply their singular lives…it is what they must do to survive and for the species to survive.
These photographs were taken over these few weeks of Autumn..in no particular order. They capture the prayers and the beauty and the journey of a single woman in a very beautiful world.
My feet are still cold. But, now I’m dry and in a minute, I’m going to pour a glass of wine.
I started my day by posting a whole number of paintings I’ve done over the last years, some of them exhibited in a beautiful little gallery in Lethbridge by my cousin, Jo, and her then-partner. I threw images out to Bookface Land (coined by my friend, Doug M) in order to cause people to think…not about the art, but about our planet and I sort of hoped they would think about the planet in terms of the subjects being vulnerable pieces of that planet.
I called this work, A Covenant Series, and for those of you who are not ‘into’ religion, I think it is obvious by that title, that I am. At the very least, I’d have to say that my life is rooted in scripture. The painting, above, is titled Genesis and at the base of all of the pieces in this body of work, I have submerged actual passages from scripture. You see, I’m not afraid to admit that I am religious. In today’s world, religious people can even be a little refreshing. It’s way more acceptable, however, today, to say that you are spiritual. In that way, a lot of hard stuff can be avoided, like the horrific actions of people on other people, often in the name of religion. Let’s start with residential schools!
Back to the subject of this post…
Human beings, as a species, have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth, water and air, as well as every living creature on/in them, and that includes caring for one another. If you’re NOT religious, I think that this makes sense as well. Don’t you think?
Long story/short, I have, along the way, painted some of my own fears down onto panels…fears of losing beautiful parts of our world. Sometimes these paintings expressed themselves as landscapes. Sometimes, particular species were investigated. Most recently, I’ve been focused on a single bush through a year.
And as several readers know, I have been very caught up in the life of a family of Bald Eagles at the edge of the Bow River. We are so very blessed.
In the novel, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Morag, the protagonist is sitting and conversing with her young daughter, Piquette. Piquette, a Metis, turns to her writer-mother and asks what a buffalo is. The conversation between the two of them has always impacted me, as has the connection that Morag has with her river. The fact that this child had lost connection with such an iconic animal and that she looked to her mother to describe it, caused me to think that I must begin documenting…the landscape…the river…animals. I became a crazy lady, visiting places like Maycroft Crossing in order to see the Old Man River before the dam. It seemed I needed to be able to collect and document life as it was for the sake of my children.
Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand delivered a powerful Land Acknowledgement and then offered a very few words. His words created the one point in the afternoon of speeches that made me cry. No, there was one other young female University student who also caused me to cry, speaking of the things that make her afraid. Curtis talked about us being Treaty people. In the context of this entire day, for me, it was exceptional.
Treaty and Covenant. The one thing I know for sure anymore is that I am hell bent on protecting my grandson. And, as I explore what this means, I feel like I can’t make very many promises. I can’t promise him that he will have a beautiful world full of the magic of so many species of animals and birds and insects once he is a man, the age of his father. I can’t make promises because the world isn’t sustainable. Destructive fires are burning. Children, the world over, are starving. Traumatic climate events are more frequent. Consumption is unreasonable. And human beings are in a denial stew (something that I believe rises up out of fear).
What I am empowered to do, however, is to have my grandson see me as a Treaty person. I want him to know that I will do everything in my power to care for the planet and the people in it. I will be an exemplar for him. I will stand up to injustice. I will speak the truth.
I’m proud of those Calgarians who showed up today. I’m proud of those participants in our great nation, Canada, who are listening to young people as they demand action. I am grateful to people the world over who have a concern for the health of our world.
The weather today in Calgary was crappy. And tonight we get snow. But, my heart is warm and I am determined in my walk, more so tonight than any other time on my journey.
Hours spent by the river are the best hours. I hope and pray that my grandson will love and respect nature as much as I do. I will do my very best to instill that in him by sharing my joy and delight in the textures, colours, sights, smells and sounds of natural environments.
Snake! Gramma touch.
What a pleasure to make observations of the juveniles. Dad is watching closely.
It was when Steven’s Great Grampa and Auntie Val made a trip out to Calgary to say good-bye to his Uncle John that our family gathered at Fish Creek on a very rainy day, to take family photographs. This is something that daughter, Erin, really wanted for her birthday. It was important to her. I think that most of us whined about it, but in the end, it was really very fun! Many laughs as we shivered and got wet, taking our turns hiding in the entrance to the visitor center, closed at this particular time. We did press our noses against the glass, however, and it was then that Steven spotted the buffalo!
There is only one thing that delights Steven almost as much as trucks and emergency vehicles and that is buffalo!!
So, this morning, Nanny, Steven and I headed to the same location in the hopes of finding the buffalo and we saw him…and so much more! A beautiful morning…a beautiful place, one of the most wonderful spaces in south Calgary.
In Tee Pee.
Poet Tree Benches
What? A goldfinch and NO CAMERA!! Lifer with Nanny and Steven
Looking for Trout in the river. “Hold on, Steven!”
Well, Mr. and Mrs. lost the first clutch to Northern Flickers competing for the nest early in the season. This is the second year this has happened.
But, determined, the Sparrows laid down new nesting for a second clutch. On Sunday, when I left town, I collected some documentation of the three little chumps that were voraciously eating and the determination of the adults that flew until sunset, feeding these little ones.
I returned Monday evening and couldn’t help but being hit with the complete silence at the kitchen window. The little guys were in no way ready, with enough secondary feathers, to fledge, so their demise was likely due to the Corvid family that successfully fledged two juveniles just four days earlier. The two juveniles have been so vocal and so needy. The adult crows have been determined, vigilant and doting parents (if crows can be parents). In the end, I’m reminded of how brutal nature can be. I also know clearly that life ends on a dime. While we wait nine months for the birth of a child, we have no idea the time or the place when that life will end. I don’t mean to be so ‘dark’ this morning, but I am very much aware of the immediacy of loss. And, there is no way that we can prepare ourselves.
I am also very impacted by how the instinct of the Sparrows tells them how hard to work for the life of their youngsters. I’m amazed by parents and their love. While I never saw it in myself, I now know how hard I worked to keep my children well, even though my resources were always meager. It can be unnerving when one witnesses parents who are failing their children. Even in nature, this happens, but instinct tells the adults to nurture and tend, feed and water. As detached as House Sparrows are from any emotional bond (I imagine) with the eggs and hatchlings, they certainly demonstrate commitment. Today, I am sad for the empty nest. I am also very mindful of lessons that the nest teaches me.
This morning, my prayers are specifically for those mothers and fathers who have lost children, through miscarriage or at birth, through illness or through tragic accident. There is nothing that can be said about this but again and again, “I’m sorry”. I can not imagine or know. I was speaking to my Auntie Eleanor, yesterday. Now in her nineties, still, when she speaks of my cousin Laura Lee who died as a child, she tears up. When my Auntie Ruth speaks of her daughter, Linda, who passed as a young adult, she also wells up with tears.
Glad to see that Mama was feeding her little ones ants from my garden.
Dad fought so hard. Every time he went to the nest, he turned his back on the youngsters and was vigilant to protect them.
A beautiful walk and picnic today at Many Springs with my dear friends and family. Throughout the hike, I was thinking about our sister-friend, Wendy, who died this past year. I also thought deeply about my brother, John. His son was able to join us on this Father’s Day and I felt such heart ache for him. I didn’t talk about anything that was going through my head though, and instead, made a real effort to frame my thoughts around internal monologues such as,
Wendy would say…
“This day is incredible.”
She would say…
“This picnic is fabulous.”
My brother would say…
“Thank you, Sis.”
I held a lot in today, but that’s alright.
In past years, whenever one of us would pop our heads out of the shade of some bush, asking, “What is this one?”, Wendy would come back quickly with the name of the flower, or would look it up in her reference information.” We are always going to miss this and so much more.
I’m grateful for the rituals that we share and for the many memories we have collected, as friends and family. While I didn’t allow the emotions to surface, I felt them all and that too, is very special.
Some of the brilliance of this day is captured in these photographs, but not all. We all missed our friend, Darlene, today. She was also in our hearts.
In 2013, the great flood occurred and my mother died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. I went home in June in order to stay with my father through the following months. I watched the news of the flood from Belleville, Ontario.
We didn’t spot any Western Wood Lilies today or Bracted Bog Orchids.
Yellow Lady’s Slippers
Dodecatheon pulchellum, commonly known as pretty shooting star, few-flowered shooting star, dark throat shooting star and prairie shooting star, is a species of flowering plant in the primula family Primulaceae.
I’m skirting around the subject for now. I sit at my brand new computer, feeling like I’m recreating everything. In my vulnerability, I’m going forward, after a long period of sitting in what felt like dampness.
I had booked myself in to be with Steven that week. My body felt nothing but exhaustion, but when I had the chance to hold him in my arms and then watch him, giddy, ‘running running running’, I felt as though I had levitated somewhat into another world, some place above. The mire of wet mud that had been pulling my legs downward, suddenly let go and I was connected to other aspects of life and living. Most importantly, I was connected with my grandson, a personality who has more than once, shared with me the powerful innate sense of ‘being’, fully being, apart from everything but the sensory core of wonder. In a strange way, this is the exact same wonder I had been present to with my brother.
After breakfast and teeth-brushing, we loaded up the stroller with the big yellow truck and headed out on our adventure. It was with an openness to the world that we examined a pile of old leaves pressed up against the protection of a stair well, felt sand under our feet, threw sand into the water (stoop, back over head, release, stoop, back over head, release, a rhythm again and again…a series of new mechanical actions, each time followed with a laugh) and made observations of geese. While Steven wasn’t aware, Gramma was also silently moaning that she didn’t bring her Canon, as a male loon drifted by on the silky smooth lake water.
My own drifting movement through the muted spring background kept me present, concerned and in keen observation. “These are important times,” I thought to myself. “This grandson of yours is learning and practicing and discovering all of these moments and making new connections. You had better not miss out on any of it.” Morning was a gift.
Yesterday morning, there was a nip in the air and by the time afternoon arrived beautiful large snowflakes were dropping from a springtime sky. To look at them was somewhat mesmerizing as they drifted so slowly to the wet ground.
9:30 saw my Grandson and me heading north to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Gramma was going in search of Wood Ducks…a lifer in her long bird wish list.
The Bird Sanctuary is yet one more jewel in this city that I treasure so much. I want to, over the years, share at least once, each of these places that I’ve grown to love.
With his little bowl of rice chex in tow and his toy car, Uncle, in his drink cup, off we headed, arriving slightly before opening. We let ourselves in through the side gate and having agreed to walk and not use a stroller, we were off. My grandson was looking for Wode Guks and I was looking for Wood Ducks, but of no surprise, the Canada Geese became the main event with their flirting and honking, landings and take offs and other shenanigans. We even experienced the close-up hissing and big tongue of one dude along the way.
Wofe! Wofe! Sceery!
Walk. Train. Sky. Walk.
He carried that piece of wood along for most of the first half of the walk. I was mindful…continually scanning for predatory birds and canines, even skunks, porcupines and such. This was a very busy field trip for Gramma!
Bidge (I love this photograph, by the way)
Wode Guk! (please click on photos to enjoy larger images) Lifers, for me!
Wok. Wok. Goose.
C￼an you believe this kid?
Other birds… Redtail Hawk, Mergansers, Goldeneyes
Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck
Warming up in the center… In in in!
Another beautiful experience, shared with my remarkable, funny, interested, cheerful, resilient boy!