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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Can you spot the Osprey here?

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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.

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Digging Through Archives

My daughter (now, a teacher) and I were sitting together while she was still cozy in her kitty jammies this morning…me, at the dining table, she, on the stairs…she was telling me about a very inspiring Convention session that she attended on Thursday of this past week.  It turns out that the presenter was Ron Wigglesworth.  As soon as I started exploring his posts on the internet, I realized how his contributions to education and to students has been exceptional.  Anyone who has encouraged a connection between drawing and biology is great in my eyes…in fact, I’d have to say that he has done a lot of connecting between diverse disciplines.

I got thinking about archives of various projects and things that my students have explored in the past and I just thought I’d write a post that featured those.  I had fun teaching and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that I saw the students’ hands, hearts and minds as extensions of my own.  I’m grateful for their hard work, their talents and their commitment.  For me, it was never about the marks.  A sampling…digital…there’s a load of stuff in my photo albums.  And, today, I’m celebrating it all.

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Spring!

Spring means…

organizing photographs
dropping items to the Women in Need shop
Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow nesting in the vent across from my kitchen window
sprouts in the garden beds
return of water birds and the songs of red winged blackbirds, crows, geese, frogs, robins
crisp morning air
picking litter at Frank’s Flats
painting with children
keeping a close eye on live cams…eagles…wolves
walking lots

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Insert George Bowering poem here…living, breathing, birthing, protecting, growing, dying.

??????????Spring…a time of tremendous courage as new life needs so much protecting.

Such a true blessing to watch children paint spring.  I marvel at it.  Concepts…overlapping…large-forward, small-back.

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A Matter of Time

The weather is changing…in fifteen minutes, I had collected up my bag of litter and Max and I were off to enjoy the shift in temperature and remarkable scenery.  A woman stood on the ridge looking, I suppose, wondering what I was up to.  Two pigeons strutted about the east side of the glassy pool of open water, two muskrats slid, slippery, into the dark water on the west rim.  I never cease to be in love with this small bit of the world.  A jet black crow dipped, unbalanced, with nesting material already spilling out of its beak.  Spring is just around the corner.

Always company, no matter the weather.

Always company, no matter the weather.

February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015

A shift in the weather.

A shift in the weather.

Shifts in Perspective

One gets used to multiple horizon lines, gazing out to that distant line to the west, where the sky reaches down behind the mountains like a silken blanket.  There are the foothills, layers of cityscape, residential sprawls, the river and everything else that seems to tuck up close.  Autumn’s landscape often seems endless and forever-deep.

All of that can change. With the change of weather and atmosphere, perspective shifts. This morning when Max and I headed out for Frank’s Flats, it seemed the world was two-dimensional.  White crystals in the air, mixed with foggy patches and a sky that was a warm white…all of this spilled over and covered those horizon lines that define and create depth.  Driving, I became mostly captivated by a sense of texture and acutely aware of how close everything was to me.  As I moved into the landscape, it seemed as though I was being swallowed up.

Out on the slopes, my perspective of things opened up again.  While very small, in comparison to the larger landscape, this part of the world was like coming home and my breathing opened up. Max bounded down to the frozen pond with the same enthusiasm that I felt.  Above us, flock after flock of geese called out to the cold air, arriving and then disappearing to the west and to the south.  I was reminded again of Stanley Kunitz’s poem, End of Summer.  It has been, for years, my September poem in the classroom.  I miss some things about having my own classes.

I relished the time with Max in this earthy, frozen, sleeping landscape.  I felt inspired to write a children’s story about how every winter, somehow the pond becomes spotted with heavy round rocks.  I created a character who systematically places them there on the ice. Each spring the pond becomes more and more shallow until all at once, there is no pond water left, but a huge field of rounded stones.

When perspectives shift, we create and think creatively.

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Cell November Bronwyn, Trea, Cold Landscapes, Remembrance D 080I returned home to hot coffee, Turkey a la King (add pimento, celery and onion to this recipe) on puffed pastry, and a dish of chocolate ice cream and suited myself up for my teaching duties.

I arrived to teach social studies a full hour early this afternoon, so I signed in and then headed for Fish Creek Park to the east.  It was interesting being on the west side of the Bow River.  My perspective and experience of the river is typically from the east side.  While the air was biting by this time, I was in heaven.  I felt alone.  But, it wasn’t so.

There at the base of the ancient river elms, were three men, filming hair brushes.  Yes.  You read that correctly.

I carried on walking north along the river, for quite some time and then thought it best to head back.

Returning to my waiting car, I had opportunity to speak with one of the three men, a crew member for Bruce McCullock’s new work, Young Drunk Punk. I deliberately took time to look at his props. We spoke, as we walked along, about our own father’s hair brushes and the lasting scent of Brylcreem.  We talked about black pocket combs and all of the nostalgia associated with these objects.  I explained that from a distance I had imagined that the three of them were releasing a beaver and photographing the event.  When we parted, one of us said, “Go home and check your hair brushes.”  The other said, “Beware of the beaver.”  How fun was that?  What perspective we gain by putting ourselves into the world and making observations.  One never knows.

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The Seasons Spinning ’round Again

After 59 years of life,  I decide to write about the seasons.  In doing so, I face the inevitable possibility that this post will be passed by for the seeming cliche of the colours, sounds and weather of it.  Do human beings ever get tired of the seasons?  The rituals and festivals that each season offers?

I spend a lot of time making observations of a single pond, the flats and the slopes that move onto those flats.  It’s not a large space in area, but it is just perfect for getting up close and noticing the life of it. Given the blessing of this repetitive experience, I am able to see the changes in the wildlife, water fowl, the plant life and the water.  The weather imposes its own impact on everything on the space, including my choice of dress, footwear and feeling about it.

With years passing, I’ve got to admit that a person DOES slow down and notice more and mayhaps appreciate the ‘beauty in the simple things’.

I remember requiring my students to keep ‘magic’ journals and it was evident that some of them despised the activity, maybe all of them despised the activity…but I told them to hold on to those journals…shove them in a drawer somewhere…pull them out years later and treasure them. I held onto any pages that some left behind as they bounced out the classroom, tearing toward summer vacation with wild abandon.  They wrote about the ‘stuff of life’…times that REALLY mattered.

DSC_1179 DSC_1178 DSC_1177 DSC_1176 ?????????? DSC_1174 DSC_1173 ?????????? DSC_1171Just like a friend can not insist and succeed at having their buddy quit smoking, there is no way that an adult can convince youth to slow down and take things in. (in truth, there is no way that an adult can convince other adults to slow down)  Life seems to be a rush.  Life seems to be about accomplishing more, making more, getting rich, becoming powerful, accumulating wealth and consuming.  This is all an illusion.  STOP.  Literally, smell the flowers.  If you STOP long enough to complete that gesture, the time it takes to smell a flower, you will have had time enough to utter, “A Huh” or to connect with something that truly counts…a connection with a memory or a connection with gratitude.

Taking pause is a gift.

I’m including a couple of photographs of the pond at Frank’s Flats that capture the seasons.  If I gaze out my kitchen window, I observe the very same story at a single sparrow’s nest.  In fact, just before the cold weather blew in for 2014, a male and female fledgling returned to their nest, Mr. and Mrs. long gone.  One does not have to travel far, in order to watch the seasons change.  This post is written as a dedication to my Uncle Bob, my father’s young brother who ,yesterday, passed from this earthly life, grew wings, and journeyed into the beauty of forever.  May his soul rest perpetually, in peace.

DSC_1162 DSC_1091 DSC_1043 ??????????Max and Dandelions 2I encourage my readers to find one place and return to it again and again.  Here you will find time to meditate/pray and to connect with what is really essential to a healthy spirit, body and life.

Circle by Harry Chapin

“All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.

No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

Chorus:
I found you a thousand times;
I guess you done the same;
But then we lose each other;
It’s like a children’s game;

As I find you here again;
A thought runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Let’s go ’round one more time.

Mr. & Mrs. : Sparrows of 2014

Mr. was singing out from the same location today and I captured his first photo of the season.  Mrs. was more elusive, although I had made a siting before finding my camera.  She is looking tiny, after a rather rough winter season.

2014

2014

2014 Male Sparrow

2014 Male Sparrow

I wrote about helplessness last year as one of the nestlings had to be scooped up by me and placed gently back into the nest after the vent that had provided a barricade had broken off in weather.  I used duct tape to create a weaker barrier, but held out hope that the nestling would be nurtured to good health by attentive parents.  In the end, I knew that it had died because Mr. & Mrs. abandoned the nest for the remainder of the season.

Some of these nests are so precarious as they are built and perch under roofing material and in the most odd ball places.  I was happy to see Mr. belting out his mating tune.  He’s ready to go, again!  Such resolve, given the falls that his babes have made these last couple of years.

2012 Mr. & Mrs.

2013 Mr. & Mrs.

Birds!  It’s a Big World!

Life and Death

Livin’ ‘er Up at the Ritz!

Stanley Kunitz Comes to Mind

There is another fresh blanket of snow on the ground.  I have some regret that I chose not to struggle across the city streets to the last of Lawrence Hill’s sessions offered through One Book/One Calgary, but on the other hand, as I stepped out into the grey-white of today with Max, I was and am also grateful for the cozy secure feeling I have about staying home…and writing.

Above us, v after huge V formation, another and another and yet another of geese surged forward and south to some instinctual winter homeland.  I stopped dead in my tracks, so in awe of the sound of it.

And then I remembered the Stanley Kunitz poem I used to share with my students in September…a particular line about the perturbation of the light…I felt every zinging line of the poem as I looked over head.  Given my blessed proximity to the river, I will never get over the powerful movement to and from the water’s edge at certain times of the day and evening.

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End of Summer By Stanley Kunitz

An agitation of the air,

A perturbation of the light

Admonished me the unloved year

Would turn on its hinge that night.

 

I stood in the disenchanted field

Amid the stubble and the stones,

Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me

The song of my marrow-bones.

 

Blue poured into summer blue,

A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,

The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew

That part of my life was over.

 

Already the iron door of the north

Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows

Order their populations forth,

And a cruel wind blows.

Taking Notice

So, I had left the Jarvis Hall Fine Art Gallery and was walking back to my van parked some distance away.  The walk took me along some side streets.  That’s when I landed myself into the middle of one of those amazing moments…the kind when you say to yourself…”Wow…am I ever blessed!”  Autumn leaves were crunching under my feet.  Arms of giant trees reached up to a blue sky.  The air was filled up with the season.  I paused and took this picture.

P1130870I hope that when I look at this photograph, I will remember the magic of that moment of realization.

This morning, still dressed in my flannel nightgown, I looked out the windows and had the same experience, but over entirely different weather and situation.  I had slept in.  My head was filled with thoughts of what I ‘should’ be doing. Everything seemed to have been transformed over night.

I was profoundly touched, remembering the hours of pleasure I’ve enjoyed, watching the birds filling up ravenously at the feeder these past weeks.  Now, to see my little friends out in the snow, I wondered just how they manage to get through the winters.  I saw their beauty, as though for the first time.

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Some time later, Max and I headed out into the weather.  Remembering that I am living with a herding dog, I got him over to the pond for a good bit of exercise.  We were all alone. Everything was beautiful.  The ducks, dark boats on dark water…the sky white…the vegetation white…the wind, biting…the only sound, crunch of my feet on the stones and snow.  Max ran hard, playing and eating snow as we went.  I caught myself laughing out loud.

After circling the pond and heading back, I gave one big throw of his Frisbee and watched as the wind carried the thing up high, down past the tall ant hills and into the cat tails by the pond’s edge.  “Max!  Max!  No, boy…LEAVE IT!”  I saw the bull rushes moving and knew that my determined pooch was going to go into the pond, come hell or high water!  Sure enough, a very wet border collie came bounding toward me, proud as punch that he had retrieved the old and mucky toy.

We headed back to the van at lightening speed, Max carrying the muddied toy; both were icicles upon our arrival to the parking lot.  Into the kennel he flew, whining and whimpering.  I thought to myself…these are the daily occurrences that my readers rarely encounter on my blog…

I take pause and make note of that particular moment of realization.  Recently, what I’ve discovered, more than anything, is the blessing in the ordinary experiences of my days.  I am a blessed lady.

Beef Barley Soup...Always good for a wintry day.

Beef Barley Soup…Always good for a wintry day.

Afternoon in the Garden

 

Fridays spent relaxing…walking the hills that overlook the city…wandering book stores, experiencing the wind as leaves do somersaults down the road…it’s all so wonderful.  My mums…the last of the plants to bloom.  Good-bye beautiful summer…hello frosty mornings.