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.

IMG_4332Kath's Canon, February 8 2016 Franks and Sparrows 019

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.

Alberta Wildfire 20160508

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.

IMG_6352

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.

IMG_3490

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.

IMG_3482

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.

IMG_3942

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.

IMG_6671

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.

IMG_5758

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!

IMG_5556

IMG_5646IMG_5437IMG_5415

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.

Jess, Kath and Eileen

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.

Jess 2Jess

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.

 

 

 

Shredding and the Story of My Life

A way to rid myself of a preoccupation with accountability and keeping records is experiencing a big shred.  For about five years I had to be accountable with my records for reasons outside of my control. (and no, it was NOT the tax man) During this period of time, I did not throw away a single receipt and I became an expert at storing, organizing and archiving every financial record that came in or out of my life.

Once I had established these routines, I had the most difficult time letting go of this responsibility or unlearning the ridiculous habit of recording/filing and storing all of this paper baggage.  In fact, it took me about ten years to heal enough to relax and let go and now, just recently, to shred.

As I emptied the binders/notebooks and stacked the records in front of me, I experienced a great sadness that I had felt such a responsibility to account for my spending to this degree.  Unlike regular budgeting and tax preparation, this stack of paper was something more.  And recently,  as I shred each paper, I remember that, at this same time, I was mothering three children, working full time, actively participating in church ministries and trying to make a go as a professional artist.  How ridiculous that likely late at night, I was taking such pains to keep meticulous records.

My advice to others… be cautious of demands that might be made on you by ‘the other’.  Did these records assist me or benefit me in any way?  I’ll leave you to ponder this.  A scriptural passage from last week’s readings comes to mind…Mark 12:17.

??????????Three bags full later, I have half a stack left. (and yes, I wish I had a fire pit…is it legal to burn documents in a fire pit?) Regardless, my heart feels lighter and one entire file drawer is empty.  I will always have an impeccable method of storing my records and I will keep items for the suggested period of time.  However, they will have their purpose and NOT carry excess weight.

DSC_0866  On a lighter note…shredding has another meaning, one I was not familiar with.  I never said that in popular culture, I was astute.

Recently, I came upon an article on line about shreds…as in musical shreds.

From International Business Times January 24, 2014, this.

You would believe your eyes but not believe your ears if you watch this version of One Direction’s “Story of My Life.” The hit song by the most popular boy band has not sounded as awful as it does in this video. The musical chords are all out of place and the vocals are just too bad to listen to even for a few seconds. But before you start making your opinion about your favorite boy band; let’s tell you that the boys of One Direction are the latest victims of a “shred” video! Let’s find out what this new term “shredding” is.

When a famous musician/boy band gets their popular music video dubbed in by really bad singer, it’s called “shredding.”
Here’s a shred…

I’m smiling as I shred…

It was 2008!

In 2008, I left behind a drawing/message a day on a piece of fabric.  My friend, Cathy, then quilted it all together in love.  Today I am thinking about that friendship and in going over the bits of writing, I am considering just how rich our lives are, particularly if we have the reminders of a snapshot each day, left behind.  Yes, life is a struggle at times!  And although life does not promise to be easy, it is a many-layered, magical memoir.  I am putting MY 2008 out there, as a healing sentiment for all.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Photo Credit: Jenn Hall

Photo Credit: Jenn Hall

P1150171 P1150173 P1150174 P1150175 P1150176 P1150178 P1150179 P1150180 P1150181 P1150182 P1150183 P1150184 P1150185 P1150186 P1150187 P1150188 P1150189 P1150190 P1150191 P1150192 P1150193 P1150194 P1150195

Portraits of Self

There is no long trail of documentation that precedes me…no hard drive containing a vast record of digital photographs…who I was…who I am…appearance-wise.  I fear though, that I have left a huge trail of ephemera.  My children likely wish that my footprint was less in this regard.  I have a stack of concert t-shirts, for example…each one worn one time only…I hope everyone will select their favourite and take it, when I’m gone.  The same goes for my ‘vinyl’…each record played once in order to make a cassette tape and then filed in a box.  Why do I hold on to such as this?  Does anyone really know Three Dog Night anymore?

My mother found two photographs in a box taken with a borrowed camera and she swears that they are photographs of me.  Why do I have my doubts?  Here is one of these official baby photos…the only one of two.

I  treasured the paint-by-number of The Last Supper that my father did while stationed up north, so much so that I purchased its contemporary on E-Bay for $9.98…apparently done by someone’s grandmother circa 1953.  I’m glad I have an archive of the original.  (see below)

I’ve always been a pet-lover.  This has been documented also.

Next…proof that I studied ballet, until the teacher explained to my mother that perhaps this wasn’t the style for me.  In retrospect, I could have told her that and saved us both the trouble.

Family…most times one parent was missing from the photograph, depending on who was holding the camera.

School photographs are the best, aren’t they?

Two other portraits were brought to mind by a photographer of my youth, Lorraine.  The first one portrays my ‘earth mother’ days very well.  I made lots of whole wheat and rye bread back then, some loaves more successful than others.  These, always partnered by the community pot of soup.  Mm-mmm!  Lorraine captured my young-woman-walk-through-the-coulees-self exquisitely, me thinks!

The second sitting was with Lorraine when I was about seven months pregnant for my first baby.  I like the ethereal sensibility created with the lighting and the curtain in the window.  I don’t mind publishing the photo here.  Photos in our contemporary world have become far more provocative and revealing.  I think this one is subtle and captures, I think, my sense of anticipation, if not acceptance.  Thank you, Lorraine, for reminding me of these!

Based on this visual legacy, I decided to have my portrait done professionally and it was both entertaining, creative and fun!  Thank you, Jen of Jen Hall Photography!  A great experience and a record of my presence to my life.  Thanks also to Cathy Larsen who built a quilt out of 2006, a year where I documented magic every day for 365 days on fabric.  You are a master at your craft, Cathy, and I continue to this day, to treasure our friendship and your artistry!

Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe. Truman Capote

Archives:Converting Slides to Digital

One of the very practical things that I’m doing right now is converting my 1990s slides to digital.  Not everyone is as concerned with archiving as I am.  In fact, I think that some people would think that I’m a bit on the obsessive end of the spectrum when it comes to behaviours.  I deny this, given that things are not entirely in order around here. 

I first became interested in archiving some years ago and it had to do with records related to the commercial art galleries.  In order to be considered for a juried exhibit, it was necessary to submit correctly-labeled slides.  It was a part of the professional portfolio, to keep some sort of accounting of the works accomplished and the works sold.  As I convert these slides, I am only too aware of the poor quality of the images, as compared to 2012’s digital potential.  I am going forward with gusto, however, given that these are simply the only records I have of the body of my life’s work.

Studying my family history and researching for documents that support and verify my family members as far back as ten generations is something of great interest to me.  This also leaves me determined to pass on to my children an inheritance of history and connection.  Needless to say, the art is part of that story.  So…I continue.