It has been a cool and wet few days in Calgary, even to the point where we received a skiff of snow in September! I was cautioned that I had no room remaining on my cell phone, so yesterday I downloaded from my album onto my desktop hard drive. The thing about downloaded photographs is that I was, once again, reminded that life has sped by, filled to the brim, even in the most simple or dark circumstances. There is so much that I haven’t written about or recorded.
I’ve read several books since spring and would really like to update my reviews, even if they are sparse. So, that will likely still happen. But, for today, I feel my thoughts are incredibly influenced by the book I am presently reading, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. It is my new favourite book. I am profoundly moved by it and I’m hanging on every word.
As a result of this reading, I want to post a few photographs from recent walks at the Bow River. Yesterday, Max and I headed out in the rain.
When the earth is wet, there is such a rich and beautiful aroma that surrounds me while passing through the woods and beside the river. I am at a loss for words to describe this because any description would not do the experience justice. Also, there is a hush, apart from the drops of rain coming down from the tree canopy…it is a mystical silence…peaceful, even though I know that the entire landscape is vibrating with life in hiding.
Yesterday, stepping about in tall overgrowth, Max and I took pause…listened. I heard a hollow clomping sound on round river stone, just to our right. Uncertain, we remained still. I held my breath and listened. Max was alert. I was alert. A few more steps. Stop. A few more. Stop. When once we began again, with a great explosion, a young deer sprung out and wildly flew deep into the trees. Max erupted into a fit of barking and it felt like everything around us woke up!
I watched the juvenile Bald Eagle, an Osprey, a Hawk, Cormorants and Pelicans all struggle to find sustenance. It was so amazing to watch the dynamic and to appreciate the effort involved. At a point, the Bald Eagle, displaying his remarkable wingspan, swooped down upon an American Pelican. He is not yet adept at his hunting and is frequently cutting corners by having others do his work for him. Similarly, he dove into a gathering of Cormorants, investigating the possibility that there might be food among the opportunists.
The Osprey, tucked secretly in the dark shadows of trees, swooped out aggressively, in order to give chase to the Hawk…crying out desperately as he flew so fast that I couldn’t identify him. He had shared the east side of the river with me for a while, tearing into the hedges and thick shrubs and sage, likely in pursuit of rabbits and other small animals. There was never a chance to get a good photograph.
The Bald Eagle juvenile was looking intently from his low perch, at these Killdeer…there were scores of them across the river from me. If you’ve heard a single Killdeer, you may understand why the Bald Eagle is drawn to a location where twenty…maybe thirty…are calling out.
Can you spot two in the photograph below?
Can you spot the Osprey here?
I have watched the eagles for a little over a year now…given Michael’s prompting to leave the pond during the rip and tear of the Southwest Ring Road development. I am so grateful for the life I have been able to observe at this location and for the healing experience this daily walk has begun in me. As I write this post, I am feeling very blessed for a whole lot of reasons. I hope that if my readers feel sometimes that life, like a sweater, is unraveling, one source of divine life and love can be found in an intimate relationship with nature. I know that it’s helped me. Here are a few other moments with the raptors this year.
I have been blessed by my walks at the river this weekend…I keep saying to myself, through winter, I don’t want to forget the purple. I don’t want to forget the gold and red. I will carry it with me.
All I could think about was getting over that border and getting to my treasured friend, Ramona. The morning light was heavenly. I left the little town of Raymond, drove east and then at the intersection, turned south for the Sweetgrass Hills.
To the right, I passed wetlands and identified American Advocets and a large group of Black-necked Stilts. On road trips, one can not possibly stop often enough to capture all of the wonder as it slips past. I was happy to see many winged friends and to see the vast beauty that is southern Alberta. The past ten years or so I’ve made my life all about the fleeting moments and the tremendous beauty that reveals itself in familiar places. I’m not big into world travel…but, I’m big into deepening my relationship with what is close up, if that makes any sense at all. We all do life in our own particular way.
At the border, I was met by a very stern border service officer. Oh my goodness…a 63 year old lady approaches and ‘you have the need to be miserable’. Mayhaps I was bringing some sort of bias to the experience. “Pull around and park in the back. An officer will meet you there.” Sure…okay.
The officer who joined me a short while later was much more pleasant. She covered an agricultural survey with me and shuffled through my belongings in the vehicle…most concerned with plant matter, foods…yes, I get it. And then I was on my way after sharing with her some pleasantries about high school years in Great Falls.
Continuing on to Shelby, I thought about the lack of gun controls…the shift in thinking. I remembered how grateful I was to be a Canadian. I looked forward to making Great Falls. Once there, I contemplated taking time to visit special places and special people that remain. I sat in the parking lot of the Flying J and felt so close to the memories of home that my family built in this place…thought of my friends and the house on Fox Farm Road. I decided that this wouldn’t be the trip for packing in too much. I needed to sip on my lemonade and enjoy the landscape. I would have to make another opportunity to do all of the rest of it.
I love the landscape just south of Great Falls…Holter…and Prickly Pear. There is only one place to stop and so it’s a chore to be overcome with the extreme beauty and at the same time, in a photo-crazy world like ours, not to be able to archive it. I pulled over at the only stop on my side of the I-15.
I thought about my Dad and wondered why the heck he wasn’t on this road trip with me. I love to drive with my father. These are places he knows and loves far better than I!
In Helena, I had my first learning about roaming data charges. Sigh. Enough said. Bob and Dan, I tried to track you down. I thought I had an hour to play with in Helena. Sorry. I left your deets at home in my address book. (roaming, YOU SUCK!)
I had no recollection of the places I saw south of Helena, although I’ve traveled that road…a couple of times with a long-haul trucker, a few times traveling to see my parents in Colorado Springs, Colorado and likely before that, travels to various speech team competitions. What I haven’t done is turned off into la la land at the Divide exit, west…Wise River…Wisdom…and all of that. There were zero opportunities to take photographs of the wondrous landscape that unfolded after that turn off from the I-15 and my mind set to wondering as I saw such beauty reveal itself. I thought about my new-found cousin, Charlene, who lives in Idaho Falls and a bit of a remote feeling took over me, that likely I wouldn’t be able to meet her on this trip. All of a sudden, I heard the words escape my mouth…
“This is all for you, Kath.” And yes…there were some tears. The crystal blue waters weaving through verdant miles were beyond description. The rugged rock reached vertical to either side of me. I was overcome with beauty.
As I pulled to the right into the Big Hole National Battlefield, I felt exhausted, but so grateful. Swallows seemed to beckon me. I knew that Ramona would be working her shift in the visitor’s center, but decided to spend a few quiet moments looking over the valley. Again, time just for me. I knew that this place held huge spiritual energy and that the history for the Nez Perce peoples on this land held such provision and at the same time, horror, that I wanted to be present to the moment. And then…Ramona.
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.
My favourite image captured today was a simple one of three geese. They seemed to be suspended or floating on perfectly calm pond water. Obviously just as curious about me, we spent about five minutes exchanging gazes, alternating with times looking at the environment that surrounded us.
I spent a great deal of time enjoying the antics of the Goldeneyes, also, but, at their preferred distance from me, very little again, in the way of successful capture.
Likely 50 male Goldeneyes at Frank’s Flats today and a continued effort at capturing their ridiculous courting rituals.
I think this little girl is a female Wigeon. (Thank you, Miles…I’ve had a ‘real birder’ let me know that this is, in fact, a Gadwell.) I had seen a male at the pond on April 11.Today, I also spotted a single male Bufflehead. He was unobtrusively wandering through the Goldeneye chaos.
A very fuzzy image to document his presence…
OH! To have had an audio tape! I used to make my own tapes. I read aloud late at night, staying slightly ahead of the students. Dandelion Wine is my favourite book. Take a listen, if you have 9 hours to spend, just sitting still, or while you’re working in your studio, just listen. You will learn to take pause, if you let this book’s lessons sink through the tough shell that has become your busy life and settle on your heart.
This post is about Chapter 21 and Douglas’s loss of his dear friend, John Huff. I guess if you are the daughter of a military man, this might even mean more.
Taking your time and noticing is what this post is all about. As one pours on the years, one realizes that in order to slow things down, one needs to start noticing.
I was hot and sweaty and cleaning out the paint buckets that I had used with grade ones, painting that day, when I heard my cell phone ding.
My friend, Michael, had sent a text that he’d like to drop by. I thought immediately that we might go to the pond, with Max, and enjoy what was left of the beautiful day. I rushed, swirling the pink water out of brushes and buckets, returned my tools to the storage closet and was out and on my way.
Mike was sitting on the steps when I arrived and Max’s nose was lifted, sniffing against the window.
A quick change into play clothes and we were off to the pond! Michael patiently observed the life and light of the water, the clouds and the life surrounding this special place. It was so nice to have a witness to Frank’s Flats and the place that I know so well.
Michael is always taking amazing photographs, but rarely appears in any of them. I like that he looks out at the world! No selfies for this guy! So, on this outing, I would be witness to his life!
We enjoyed the explorations of baby coots. I took my photo of the bush. And then we were on our way for the next adventure. Some time ago, I had seen one remarkable photograph on Michael’s social media archive. He told me that it was taken at McKinnon’s Flats. I asked if ever he went back, would I be able to join him? This was the day. Here’s the photograph that inspired the request!
I didn’t stay left on 22X and so we ended up going north on Stoney Trail. That was okay! Meant to be! We began our slow enjoyable zig zag across the rural landscape, making our way, with ease, back south to McKinnon’s Flats. I saw a bird I had never seen! And the light and wonder of it all was very enjoyable.
Michael’s photograph….from this location…truly captured the magic!
The panorama view that opened up as we began our descent into the valley, at river’s edge, was spectacular. Next time, I will document that. It took my breath away.
Once at the river’s edge, Michael pulled out our picnic food. A refreshing potato salad filled with the flavours of fresh veg and lovely dressing…and an icy cold hibiscus drink, so refreshing! Max observed, but was hungry to be free of his leash and to explore the water’s edge. It wasn’t long until I did just that.
The stretch of walk we took, saw zillions of little moths lighting up the already-electric air. We chatted about photography and light and the sky the entire way. Out of nowhere about 75 striking white pelicans, hung on the air just above our heads. I grabbed my camera and snapped this wee instant as a documentation of the memory, that in no way, captures the intensity of the moment. We decided, standing still above the river, that this moment was meant just for the two of us…two good friends enjoying evening light.
In order to really gather up my life, I need to do this. Slow down. Watch light. Treasure friendship, my children, my family. Listen to music. Make art. Write.
I am grateful for the inspired invitation to go for a Sunday drive on Friday. Everything that I had planned for the evening, went out the window. And it was exactly as it should be. My life is a blessed life.
The female eaglet, #1, has left the nest. She’s done a couple of flybys at the Duke Farm’s eagle nest and parents have been diligent about continuing to bring food to the nest, but our little guy, #2, is looking lonely. I first discovered #1 was going into the realm of fledging on Thursday at lunch. I had a preparation period and saw this all on my own. I actually had a tear because of the wonderful memories the grade threes and I have shared, watching the adults birth, hatch and raise their two young ones.
The student observations have been so beautiful, I’ve taken a selection of photos of some of their illustrations and recorded observations. These warm my heart…absolutely precious.
Hmmm…as I’ve been downloading the student observations, little lady has been back to the nest to feast on a fish that her mama just brought. Presently, she and her sibling are cuddling on a branch and clicking their beaks together. The biologists have indicated that she’s been doing a lot of flying today and might just hang out at the nest for the time being. Now, for the student observations…read their entries…they are beautiful.
We’ve made it a part of our late spring rituals to share in a wild flower walk out at Many Springs Trail in the Bow Valley Parkway. My dear Ya Yas and I shared a delicious pot-luck picnic after enjoying the beautiful blooms along the trail. The water wasn’t as high along the boardwalk as I had expected and it was a day of extraordinary beauty. Summer is here.
You haven’t heard from me lately. I wish that you had more insight into what I’ve been up to. It’s as though I’ve dropped off of the map.
I’m teaching grade one…but, you knew that. What you maybe don’t know is how a grade one world surrounds you and gobbles you up. And when you arrive at your front door at the end of each day, it seems there is a buzz in your ears and everything outside of the classroom where you’ve submersed (and yes, I meant to type submersed and not immersed) yourself all day, seems to be going slow motion…and you are still going way too fast; in the grocery store, in your kitchen, in a coffee shop.
Today we talked about Pablo Picasso.
Alright…it really isn’t that simple.
The agenda message first thing this morning was something about practicing reading at home and finding groups of things at home…counting by twos…counting by fives. And don’t forget to return the yellow form to the school by Wednesday! While the children were hard at this, I played Pete Seeger’s later-in-life version of “Where Have All the Flower’s Gone?” The children, by second verse, were singing along. (Apparently, and I just learned this, the grade ones had done a version for the Remembrance Day observance this past year.) I told them that I had flowers on my mind.
The day continued with library book deliveries, observations of lima beans tucked carefully in wet paper towel and sealed in Zip Lock bags on the window sills. (Thank goodness for Zip Lock bags!)
“There are roots! Look at my roots! Awe…I didn’t get roots! Mine are cracked! Come over here and look at these. I have three roots!”
Note your observations… a drawing…don’t forget the date. I see_______________. What? Now, let’s wrap them in another paper towel and we’ll see them on Day 8. You are the scientists! Make sure that you’ve sealed your Zip Lock bags!
We had better check the eaglets…”OH, LOOK! Another turtle shell! They’re growing big! They are walking so tall now and they are getting black like their Mom and Dad!”
Spring in grade one is overflowing with butterflies, eaglets, seeds and talk of weather. Having already completed a reflection on Picasso and his elegant drawing of a bouquet of flowers, these students created a depiction. (I will include photographs of these on a later date.) We did the drawings early last week and talked about hands that go over things and hands that go under things. I explained, after the obvious suggestion, that no, we wouldn’t be tracing our hands. I thought that it was possible to draw the hands, without tracing. (Secretly, I wondered if this was possible.)
So today, out came the chalk, the permanent markers and left over paints from previous painting projects of weeks ago, today, seeming months ago.
Ideas like… lines that are smooth-like-butter…lines that are choppy…shapes around stems and placing a paper towel under a painted edge and moving it along…stems that squeeze in to a middle point where hands will be circling…and then the stems releasing out again. It went on and on, really. Art always does…go on and on. We will be colouring our bouquets tomorrow…more photos will follow.
Teaching grade one is like that place where magic and crazy converge. When a light goes on for a grade one child, it is like the most amazing thing because you know that what has just been made sense of is a very basic concept that will be at the base of absolutely everything for the rest of that child’s life. As I think about this tonight, I’m in awe.
When I spend time in gardens (reflecting and pulling weeds), I learn something. Last night, as I revisited, in my heart, the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, I also expected to learn something new. I’m consistently blessed that way on Holy Thursday and so grateful for the time of meditation and adoration with our Lord.
First of all, as happens each year, a former student slipped into the seat next to me. He is a man in his fourth year of University now, but at the time that he was my student, he was in grade seven. Every Holy Thursday since that year, we’ve taken pause together, with gratitude for the Son of Man. Last year we missed one another because I had slipped out to go home and return in my track pants and comfie clothes…but, apart from that, we’ve connected each year to pray that ‘one hour’ in the garden with our Lord.
All of that wonder aside, what did I learn in the garden? I was really focused on how I felt, sitting and kneeling and sitting again. I mean, I was exploring how my head was hurting and my eyes were weary. I knew that when I knelt, my knees were sore and when I slumped, my back was sore. I just couldn’t get comfortable…but I remained, struggling to be with our Lord. I contemplated his passion. I had tears at times. I wrote a little, in order not to lose focus. My mind wandered about my children…the loss of my mother…the sounds of people entering into and leaving the space.
And then I entered into my lesson. I moved away from thinking about the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus, but really focused on his time in the garden. I know that he likely experienced the same sort of physical discomfort in his body as I did. As well as experiencing huge fear and anxiety around the events that were to come, I know that he must have felt so weary! I know that before the first kiss of betrayal…the humiliation…the abandonment by his friends, he would have ALREADY felt exhausted. So much more ahead for him…all the way to the cross, but without rest, refreshment or shelter of any kind. I guess I learned about the humanity of Jesus even more last night. I felt sad for him and truly wondered how he endured so much for the sake of people like me…for all of us.
I know. I know. Most of my readers may not be on the same page as me on any of this…but, this afternoon, as I head over for the observance of Good Friday, I claim the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I spill over with humble gratitude for all of his discomfort for the sake of our salvation. I claim his love.