Firsts

This morning, I enjoyed a first…first walk along the river shared with Max, my grandson and my daughter.  It was a beautiful experience for me, so have to quickly archive.

The day began with a coffee on the red couch. Max stared longingly outside…but I wasn’t up for a rush, given that I’m struggling with a really bad cold right now and feel quite the ache all over.

Maxman April 26, 2018

I took a look at the male House Sparrow who also seemed despairing, perched for two full days on my back fence, looking at the vent where he once made a home.

And yes!  That sign does read Be Aware of The Dog, as opposed to Beware of Dog…a gift from my dear friend, Pat.  It makes perfect sense if you one day meet Max.

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At the base of the vent, all of the wee items of bric-a-brac collected over the years have been emptied out.

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No sign of Northern Flicker this morning.

All this aside, once out of my pajamas and into my sloppy clothes, I did a little bit of texting with my buddy, Wendy and headed to the river.

Near the Magpie Tree and saying ‘hi’ to Max.

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Mother Bald Eagle across the river from us…we should have hatching this week.

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Stopping at the Chickadee Wood.

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Stopping quite a bit to watch the fast moving water…the river is different from lake water or the swimming pool water…it makes noise.  Steven was enthralled.

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And the male Bald Eagle gave us a real surprise!  He rarely perches on this side of the river and I noticed him just as we were stepping toward this tree.  I quickly grabbed a couple of photographs, but directed Erin to follow me, away from the location…so as not to crowd him.  Sadly, before I could set up to take a well-focused photograph, he lifted off right in front of us and flew across the river.

I told Erin that it was a real blessing for Steven that this gentleman was waiting for us…a very unusual and amazing experience.

When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight.

History

The indigenous peoples saw the Eagle as a symbol for great strength, leadership and vision. As if to seemingly mirror this, the eagle has been used as a ‘banner’ by many of the great empires throughout history, from Babylon to Egypt, through to Rome and even the United States. In early Christianity the eagle was seen as a symbol of hope and strength, representing salvation. The eagle appears twice in the book of Revelation; both times in a context that suggests it is on the side of God. In Islam, the eagle represents warlike ferocity, nobility and dominion.

In ancient Aztec tradition, the chief god told people to settle at a place where they find an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. This place is now Mexico City. Zeus changed into the form of the sacred eagle to help himself control thunder and lightning. The eagle was a strong emblem in the Roman Empire. The Hittites drew upon a double-headed eagle so that they would never be surprised. The Pueblo Indians associated the eagle with the energies of the sun – physical and spiritual – as well as symbols of greater sight and perception.

It may not be coincidence that such different cultures across thousands of years have adopted the same symbol.

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It was a magical morning, being with these two!

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Home building and insect eating.

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After our walk and as we returned to the parking lot, I looked up from the edge of the river, and saw Mr. perched nearer the nest and directly across from me.  I stooped and found a river stone to give to my grandson…a moment of today’s first.   In the water, the stone was golden smooth.  I love this little boy with my whole heart and my heart sings that I had  this opportunity.

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Painting With Kids Outdoors on a Windy Day!

As I continue with my “My Life Falls Out of Order” series of posts…I still find little nuggets in my archives about teaching, music, nature and art moments that I wish to put in some form of reflection.

Not much to say about this one that the photographs won’t explain, but, it all began with good intentions.  When the weather is nice and the year is grinding to a close, it’s nice to get students outdoors as much as is possible.  These experiences can be based on curriculum; you just need to think it through.

So, of course, I head outside to paint.  There is a tradition of painting landscape called en plein air…if good for the Impressionists, why not for children?  Any grade…

When painting a mural, it is the teacher’s greatest responsibility to share with students the idea behind collaboration and elevation of the group’s efforts over the familiar experience of elevating the self.  Well before a project such as a group mural, lessons need to focus on the personality of line quality and the very specialization of mark making.  In a group mural, it is explained, it is important to share your marks in a variety of locations.  This will lead to a more successful piece, in that Unity will be accomplished through the weaving of many personal approaches to colour, design and line.

And…when the wind blows, just revise the initial plan.  Don’t get sad about a splatter, enjoy the impact of elements upon the collective result.

Reflecting on Andy Goldsworthy With Grade Three

Back in June, I had the opportunity to teach grade three for Deb.  I created an experience that combined viewing, planning, and sculpting in nature and writing.  The students were over the moon with excitement and expressed some brilliant ideas.  I think I’ve written about a number of different ways that Andy Goldsworthy’s work has inspired my teaching…here’s one.

Grade Sevens built Goldsworthy-inspired sculpture over Easter holidays, documented their work and then wrote haiku poetry based on their sculptures in nature.

When I step into landscape of any variety, I am always hyper aware of the textures, light and the impact of one element upon another.  It really drives me as an individual in relationship with my natural world.  Andy Goldsworthy sculpture is very beautiful in its complexity and its consideration of natural contexts.  The manipulation of found materials is inspiring…the challenges seem impossible, but he finds solutions.

You may wish to try this type of project with your students, either in the spring or autumn, no matter the grade. Nice weather days are best.

I began by sharing a movie with the students.  There are several on YouTube.  Select something that is age appropriate, so, take the time to screen for yourself.  It is a good thing to learn about the artist so that you can support ideas/concepts and philosophy with the children, appropriate to age.

I asked each child to select a partner before we left the classroom. The students and I went out into the school yard and very automatically, they began their search for materials.  It was a lovely experience.  I photographed each sculpture as they completed it and once all were documented, we returned to the classroom.  There, I taught them the structure for a Cinquain and then they went to work responding to their sculptures, using words.  It is a magical experience when learning takes place despite anything you say as a teacher.  Inspire them.  Give them the tools and materials.  Then, watch that magic happen!  Congratulations, Grade threes!

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Ptarmigan Cirque

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.

Views…heavenly.

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.

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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.

Ptarmigan Cirque Michael Collett 2016

Also, Michael’s photograph…an opening view from the trees…stops and starts of rain by this point.

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My two little Instagram shots…Cathy ahead of me on the shale traverse.

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The meadow…rich green always awes me.

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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!

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As per usual, I am the least attractive woman at the trail!  Yesterday, wearing a Pitch-In bag.  lol

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This photograph speaks for itself.  We’re in mountain bliss at this point.Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 7Ptarmigan Cirque Cath 6

My friend…

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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!

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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.

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This one shows the glory of it all.Doug's Artistry

Proud of my son-in-law, Douglas…a great way to celebrate Canada Day weekend!

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Awe!  There’s Mike!Doug's Ptarmigan Mike

We made it to the parking lot…a tad wet, but very satisfied!

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And then…the tailgate party.

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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.

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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.

 

Finding Blake

I was thinking about why I title these sorts of posts, “Finding_________”, instead of “Meeting _________”.  At first, I wondered if it had been influenced by the movie title, Finding Forrester, one of my favourites. But, no, I have come up with another answer while hiking Frank’s Flats today, enjoying the sunshine and the melt.

?????????? Since I’ve retired from full time teaching, there is not a single day goes by where I do not seek out new knowledge, revelations or relationships.

Today, I found Blake.  I’ve seen him before…tucked between trees on the ridge that surrounds the flats, but today I decided to introduce myself.  This afternoon, he had his easel set up on the north slope.  The sunshine was exceptional and his colours danced, even as I hiked some distance away, edging the pond.

“Hi, there.  Do you mind me grabbing a photograph of your work?”

“No problem…sure…go ahead.” (broad smile…warmth in his voice)

DSC_2496“It’s meant to be viewed the other way…a pyramid…pizza.”

I asked him if he would turn the canvas for me…we step back together.  The conversation opens up so that I forget to snap the second photograph.

I notice, “It looks as though there is a hole through the pizza that leads somewhere else.”

“That’s cool.  I didn’t notice that.”

“Where do you pick up your stretched canvases?”

“45% off at Michaels.”

DSC_2497“Have you heard of the Gorilla House? Rumble House?”

From there we talk about connections…art…street art versus destructive painting…youth.

“How did you get started painting?”

“I used to be a skateboarder…snowboarder…until I was found to have an inherited liver disease.  I had to say good-bye to all of that.  I paint now.  For the most part, I give my paintings away to friends.  I’m forever indebted to my uncle who gave me a big chunk of his liver.  That’s why I’m alive today.”

“Come down to paint with us.  Get connected with like-minded people.”

I hope Blake fires me off a note by e mail so that I can share some locations/links with him.  It was a great thing to find Blake.  Once again, I marvel at what people do and the reasons they do the things they do.

?????????? DSC_2499 I walked on from there…stooped…a piece of litter continuing the colour story.

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Plein Air With Great Peeps Sooths The Pain of Loss

Recently, the world lost a great painter and a great person, Robert Genn. He is featured in the small clip above. For some reason recently, I’ve been blasted with loss over and over again and have almost been knocked out of my socks with sad news. My son-in-law aptly announces, “Let not the reality of today deter you. But the image of tomorrow spur you.” Sometimes a person has no choice but to be grateful for another day of love and life and go forward with tremendous courage, being light to and with the people that give connection…always being patient…always forgiving…always being light.

I receive connection while gathering with the participants of create! down in the East Village. Along with their fearless leader, Wendy Lees, the folk of the neighbouring buildings, gather to write, sculpt, paint and create! and it is a fascinating experience…fascinating, because no matter the burdens that a person carries, once together and creating, somehow the load gets lighter. The gifts that I receive as facilitator, I’m certain, must surpass what I might ever influence in such genuine and caring, such courageous participants!

I offer up the joy of today to Robert Genn, Lawrence Morin, Glenn Gangier, Maxine Morin and to my beautiful Mom…may you, through the divine Creator, be a part of our celebration of creation always.

Today, we painted joy, pain, breeze, seeds, leaves, sky, clouds, grass, air, light, dancing, rolling, bubbling, trees, light, life.

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Diamond T Loop Kananaskis

I went on a nice walk with a couple of friends out in Kananaskis Country.  There was no shortage of beautiful texture and colour in the aspen and fir forest.  A couple of nights of heavy rain and the trail has been left wet and muddy.  I enjoyed getting out into that mountain air, exerting myself enough to get a sweat-on.  There is nothing comparable!  So, a great day!  I made an effort to collect some photographs of mushrooms and surrounding vegetation.

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Berries and More Autumn-Walking and Hill-Gazing

American Silverberry/Wolf Willow, Elaeagnus commutata

YIPPEE!  HOORAH!!  The weather was holding throughout the morning and so we ditched the planned indoor projects, and headed for the hills!  This morning I tried to capture some photos of the berries that are natural to this part of Alberta.  Some of them hold stories. 

When I became interested in setting up programs for First Nations and Metis children, I learned so much about the fruits of our plains and the foothills.  One of the interesting facts was the uses for the berries of the Silver Willow.

Fruit of the Silver Willow

 

As well as removing the pulp from the Wild Willow berries and using the seeds as decorative beads, (having the appearance of tiny watermelons), I was told that in the past, these were sometimes boiled inside a tent structure as a consequence to the negative behaviours of people in the community.  Apparently, and I haven’t tried this, this caused a very powerful and repulsive odour.  In my reading, I haven’t found exact information to confirm this, but found, “The bark was used to make strong fibre baskets useful for collecting berries. Bark was also used to make cordage. Native people discovered the bush had a bad smell when burned. Those who used it for firewood were chided for being lazy.”

It’s been quite some time since I found a nice coverage of Juniper along the river’s edge, but today, up high on a hill, I found a spread measuring about twenty square feet.  The smell was amazing!  One of the times I had experienced so much Juniper in Alberta, I had traveled some distance up the Sheep River.  Another memorable time was when I was long-hauling with a friend and saw it at the Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho. 

Juniper Bushes

 Here you will see the juniper berries.  Again, there are several traditional uses for these.

Juniper Berries

 While attending the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, perched right in the coulees of southern Alberta, I harvested two different types of berries.  One type, rose-hips on the Wild Rose bushes, provided me, once dried, with a beautiful-tasting tea.  Apparently this is also very rich in Vitamins and so it was a lovely tea to have through the winter months.  The other type of berries I harvested and ate as though they were raspberries or fresh grapes, were cactus berries.  These types of cacti are not indigenous to this part of Alberta.

Rose-Hips

I’ve included photos here of the rose-hips.

Getting Wrinkles Like Me. :0)

 The Redosier Dogwood wears clusters of wee berries like this and parts of the plant were used for the smoking of the sacred pipe.

Redosier Dogwood Berries

 And finally, on today’s walk, we saw these beautiful red berries of the Silver/Thorny BuffaloberryShepherdia argentea.

Buffalo Berry

Another 'magical' morning!

 

Creating Heaven

Sister-Friend: Breath In

Sometimes we aren’t very gentle with ourselves.  We think we need to be ‘busy’ to define ourselves.  I use this term loosely because these days I realize I don’t know what ‘busy’ means, not really.  I used to think ‘busy’ was about being wound up and productive, creating something huge and important for the world. (I dragged my children around, metaphorically-speaking, as well, making them ‘busy’ too!) Now I really wished that I had been less ‘busy’ and more in the moment, present.  If I had stopped more often I would have noticed just how much I was being blessed along the way.  It’s our choice to create heaven.  We might knock at the door and find that it is opened to us.  We might seek and because we did, find.  Today, I did that.

Long Breath Outward

Space!

American Bald Eagle

Max and I were romping in the deep snow…we were the only ones outside for miles, I’m certain.  All sound was ‘different’ because of the space, the river, the snow and the tall trees.  Then….whoosh whoosh whoosh….just over the river, the wide wingspan of an eagle as he scooped downward and then up, resting on a branch of the tree only 15 feet from us.  Frozen in time, we looked at one another…and then, as Max became animated again and bounded into the next snowbank, the eagle lifted and flew across the river…I watched with tremendous respect…such a large and regal bird…an awesome experience at the river.