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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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Deafening by Frances Itani

On the recommendation of a friend back here in Calgary, one of the books I read while visiting my father in Belleville, Ontario was Deafening by Frances Itani.  With a regional setting of Deseronto, Belleville, the railway and the surrounding area, upon completing the book, of course, I had to go and visit the places.  Itani’s novel, placed during World War I, is exquisite.  A Winner of a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, I was captivated and motored through this one at warp speed.

Grania, the protagonist, emerges from a bout of scarlet fever as a child, deaf.  The novel evokes a real sense of what language means.  As stated in the Goodread’s summary,

“A magnificent tale of love and war, Deafening is finally an ode to language-how it can console, imprison, and liberate, and how it alone can bridge vast chasms of geography and experience.”

In published reviews, it appears that a lot of readers lost interest as Grania becomes involved with Jim. I think the author is successful in steering clear of sentimentality and introduces Jim as a device to talk to the reader about war, its impact on the small community and how the concepts of lost communication express a similarity with loss of hearing.

At the conclusion of this book, I thought this was my favourite book of all time…but, you know and I know, this is just until the next one!

My father humoured me and visited the grounds of Belleville’s Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf with me and I went, on another day, to Deseronto in order to document some of the places mentioned in the book. Why?  Just because I could.

The school for the deaf has a beautiful campus including several stately brick buildings and wonderfully groomed grounds.

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Deseronto…

The places of Canada…driving driving driving…remind me of the blessings of our common narratives.  Everywhere, windows are boarded up, mostly in small towns and names are written, as are profanities on the baked painted surfaces of what used to be animated corner stores and bakeries and churches…places where people gathered, all working to get through hard winters and humid summers.

Deseronto captures all of it.  The tea rooms and antiques, the post office, the docks…

I am grateful to have seemed to step into a book.

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Post Office Deseronto

Post Office Deseronto

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St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church Deseronto

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church Deseronto

I strongly recommend Deafening by Frances Itani.

 

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: Chapter 21

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.

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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.

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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!

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Photo Credit: Michael Colette

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.

The sandpiper…

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Michael’s photograph….from this location…truly captured the magic!

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Photo Credit: Michael Collette

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.

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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.

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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.

Slow down

 

Writing Poems With Cup of Coffee to my Left

Our Park

 

Tree,
seeming to grow
out of air.

I am 
seeing the park
this morning
through autumn eyes.

A thin coat
of ice over each individual
grass blade.
Many leaves
drop through
white air.

Autumn ears, also. 
Chatter of magpies,
louder than usual.
A dog barks.

Pant legs shuffle.

Then silence.

I snap a photograph
of a
tree in fog.