Dang! I wanted to document each and every monthly angel, with its creator, Alvise Doglioni Majer. This time I forgot.
We had lots of creativity to talk about, though, and the minute I saw her, I was smitten by July! Thank you, Alvise. She has now officially joined the other ladies in the Journey Around the Sun series. The summer critter to be represented is the honey bee. Alvise has two hives on his property now and will expand to four next year. I particularly enjoy the face, halo and wings on this angel. She has a bit of a summer tan.
I’m enjoying a bowl of beef barley soup on this rainy chill of an afternoon. I’m glad I got out to the pond this morning…so sad, however, to find that pesticides were being sprayed in an area where young geese were feeding and the other birds were still busily harvesting worms surfaced after yesterday’s rain. I just don’t understand why we are not more invested in caring for delicate ecosystems. Why would the pristine turf of a sports field take priority? The city of Calgary website explains that the presence of broadleaf weeds is a tripping and safely hazard. But…I digress. I’m praying for the conversion of the human heart, in so many ways.
My children are warm-hearted and inclusive. Last night I was very excited to have been invited, very spontaneously, by Cayley, to the viewing of the documentary, The Peel, in the intimacy of The Blank Page studio.
It was Cayley who, 27 years ago, picked purple flowers for me, while surrounded by wolf willow, at the edge of the Oldman River at Maycroft Crossing.
I had missed the huge public viewings of the film the night before. So, as I look back on last evening, I’m very grateful that I was able to curl up on a sofa and enjoy such remarkable vistas coming out of the Peel Watershed documentary and to enjoy, in part, the narratives of the participants on this wondrous adventure. I could not help but connect with the narratives, struggles and histories in the documentary, given my close connection with the Oldman Watershed in southern Alberta in the mid 1970s through the 1980s.
First, to describe the Peel project, directly from the website, this…
There is something very interesting about aging…one collects a whole bunch of experiences that later, become reference points for others. I’ve always treasured the words and stories of my elders…now, very slowly, I become the elder. It makes me smile. Life marches forward. We are left with the photographs and the archives and the documentaries.
Surprisingly, as I sat down this morning and did a search of the internet for the steps that we took in defiance of the building of the Oldman River Dam, there was very little in the way of an ideological footprint (there have been a couple of books written, one newspaper archive and the mention of the Oldman River Expedition appears sparsely on a whole number of artists’ Curriculum Vitaes) and so I decided to dig up my own archives coming from the late 1980s.
First of all, SAAG in Lethbridge celebrated the works of the following artists in an exhibit, as a response to a shorter but similar journey down the Oldman River.
I continue to admire the work of several of these artists and have followed their careers and work with great interest.
While painting could not be my sole focus through this precise period of time, I had been painting the Oldman River as a subject for a number of years. Nestled on the edge of the river, the University of Lethbridge had already been my home for four years at this point. The river became an obsession with me for many years and I had spent countless days/hours exploring and dreaming in the coulees and at the river bottom. When the politics became heated over all aspects of irrigation and development of a Dam on the Oldman, I was consumed and soon became a contributing member to the “Friends of the Oldman”. My own grandfather, the owner of Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill, had taken a position on the Oldman Planning Committee.
The number of connections I made and conversations I shared around the river, grew. I remember meeting and speaking with Joane Cardinal Schubert at the time. It was an image of hers that became the poster for our legal and artistic struggle.
I began painting a series titled Oldman on the Edge and continued to paint the river right into the 1990s.
I snapped some photographs from my albums this morning…as our family, like many others, headed out very early in the morning and drove from Calgary to Maycroft Crossing for a musical festival to raise funds and to voice opposition of the dam that was already in the works. That day, I met Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Andy Russell and Chief Crowshoe.
So…was it any wonder that I felt deeply about the documentary, The Peel, last evening? I’m glad I had opportunity to talk with both Katie Green and Daniel J. Dirk for a short while. I admire their attempts to integrate the power of the journey, their artistic practice and their strong desire to preserve, for future generations, this last remaining watershed in North America. It’s crazy what has happened to our rivers, in the name of progress and in support of industry. I understand their efforts to articulate what their journey on a portion of the Peel has come to mean to them. I know that, given my own physical/emotional/psychological efforts on a 31 day Outward Bound experience (white water and mountain climbing), what it means to try to ‘be an artist’ on a journey and how it must have been challenging for the artists on the Peel Project.
Reflecting back, again, on ‘my’ river…take a look at this…the land use…the cut lines.
I’m publishing a few pages that come out of a 2010 report on the Oldman Watershed…I think it touches on the history of a river and might give my readers something to think about. I guess something that really touched my heart last night were Daniel’s words to me…and I paraphrase…
I guess even if our voices aren’t heard and we are unsuccessful in our efforts to create sustainability, where the watershed is concerned, we will have been defiant and stood in opposition. Maybe that’s the best we can do sometimes.
Aldo Leopold’s words ring true…
“We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the 20th century; our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history; to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”
Congratulations on the North American premiere The Peel, a free Art!Flicks documentary directed by Calder Cheverie and Anthony Wallace. Congratulations to six artists; Aurora Darwin, Carleigh Baker, Anthony Wallace, Katie Green, Daniel J. Kirk and Callan Field.
The sky is growing very dark. It is a bit past noon on Friday. The long weekend looms ahead of me. I’ve got lists of arts events on my calendar, ones that I began skipping last night and will probably continue to skip through the weekend. I have no idea why, apart from the fact that I feel so content…since the broken foot, the forced recovery period, the slower Max walks, the stopping and looking at birds, the filling of the bird feeder, the moving out of clutter. The process has made me peaceful, but I’m not sleeping.
Today, Frank’s Flats looks like this.
Autumn is definitely moving in…my favourite season. I even delight in the chill of the air, the kind that leaves your nose dripping.
I think the papa osprey is pushing his kids out of the nest. (I just learned recently that the female leaves the nest experience first, so it must be papa who has been teaching the kids to fish). This morning, one of the kids (female) was crying on this side of the highway, from atop a pole…no sibs at the nest as I passed by, on the other side of the highway….no sibs fishing the neighbour hood pond. I think Dad’s saying, “Adios”. Now what’s a kid to do?
It’s an unbelievable thing that this family will begin an epic migration and that the monogamous couple will reunite again, barring any tragic events. This map illustrates known migration routes…so for those of you who grew weary of my amazement by these raptors this past season, know that these lives are miracles…one couple, three juveniles. I can only wish them well. It looks like they are heading for South America.
For the past two weeks I’ve been given many opportunities and moments to observe the Great Blue Herons and it seems that this would be every where I would go, even a siting while visiting my dear friend out in Chestermere.
I thought that I was in amaze-butts-ville because one lone heron was hanging out at Frank’s Flats, that is until two days ago. I observed at least five in a marshland area that I could only catch from the highway. I’d have to do a hike down into that space, probably next year.
The truly remarkable thing is that in a single day, I saw hawks soaring and learning to fly, ducks, mergansers and coots running on water for their experiments in flying (circling the pond at low level as though they were playing) and then seeing them take flight, fourteen pelicans, flashing white black white black in a triangle overhead…and then finally, observing the spectacle of two great blue herons, dodging one another in the wind, flying…weaving…playing…skimming water…reaching up…I’d never seen anything like it. The camera just sat against my chest. I love moments when, in today’s archive-focused-world, the camera is put on the shelf because the world ‘is your oyster’.
I’m going to post the crazy bad photo that I DID take…because I wanted to have an image that said, September 3, this happened. “Two great and fragile giants with huge wing spans were given to me to watch and enjoy.”
September 3, 2015, I watched two herons in flight for approximately five minutes…dodging one another…staying in flight…a wonder!
It’s not that I know anything about totemic animals apart from the fact that a huge number of cultures listen to, speak to and are impacted by the creatures that share this planet with us…whether they fly or creep or roam or swim…but I do know that all of this and them, are grace…holy…
We have not taken very good care of any of this and these.
Whether in July, you notice and think about the Dragonflies that hover at your feet or in August you are looking at the Great Blue Herons, it all has a significance to your life, your heart and your mind. Nature has taught me much these past two months and I am filled with gratitude for her lessons. God is manifest and all is Holy.
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
Photo Credit: D’Arcy Norman 2009 Spy Hill Landfill
There is no judgment in writing this piece because I contribute generously, as well, to the dump (now, politically-labeled the landfill), it’s just that every spring, I seem to churn the soil and dig our communal secrets up again. They present themselves on the surface in the form of litter. The story of winter refuse surrounds us. We drive by it, step over it, complain about it and then wait for someone else to pick it up.
I met a homeless gentleman named Frank, three years ago, when I started picking up litter at a location where I walked my dog, Max, daily (still do). Frank was one of five people who thanked me during that period of time. I had been picking up a full heaping bag of litter every day for three months and he would sit and drink a beer, roosting on one of the slopes, gazing over the whole of the pond at the center of the flats. He would place his beer can in a a plastic grocery bag and tuck it under a tree and after the sixth day, his neatly tied package would be offered up for pennies, nickles and dimes. He said good-bye to me on his last day, after months of watching me pick. He was heading for Vancouver for the winter and he thanked me for ‘making the place look good’. I told him that the place was going to be named after him, Frank’s Flats. The name has stuck.
A jogger thanked me. She put down her plastic water bottle while doing her laps around the pond and asked if I would please not throw it away. She told me that she would be picking it up after her run. She said that the place looked great, because of me.
A man, getting up in years, thanked me. He was walking his old pooch on the trail. He asked, “You’re not from the city, are you?” I said…”I live here. I’m a teacher.” He thanked me.
A high school student thanked me. A couple had been sitting on a bench that over looks the pond. It was after school and they were curled up and smooching. As I approached, they reorganized themselves and while I picked up plastic slurpee cups and chip bags and straws and fast food packages, they observed. As I stepped past their bench, the boy called out, “Heh, thank you.”
Debbie thanked me. She even told me that when she walked her dog, Rosie, she was going to start bringing a little bag with her and do the same. This was such a warm and wonderful offering, one of the best things that happened to me that first spring and summer.
And so it went…for three months; I was observed by many and because I was observed so closely, I became interested in reactions and fascinated by the isolation that became my experience. User group members of the facilities above the flats and my encounters with them became a social experiment. I became fascinated in the huge chasm that came between me and ‘the others’, more than the distance between two complete strangers…bigger than that!
To this day, when I pick garbage, it’s as though I become invisible. I am, all of a sudden, from a different social status. If I was a city worker, I would be given higher status. But, I am not a city worker. That’s why I began thinking that the ‘garbage man’ must fit into one of Carl Jung’s archetypes, most likely a part of ‘the Shadow’.
There are all kinds of volunteers operating in the City of Calgary, picking up that packaging and advertisement that we unleash on to the wind, not giving a care about where it all blows, as long as it’s out of our sight. If my readers are familiar with Christie in Laurence’s The Diviners or Mr. Jonas, the junkman in Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, you will realize the greater archetype that lives with the ‘garbage man’ or even the ‘janitor’, now labeled a caretaker. Below, a spark note excerpt about Mr. Jonas, Chapter 35, Dandelion Wine.
“Mr. Jonas, the junkman, comes into town with his horse Ned and his wagon. He sings as he rides, and people line the streets to look at his goods. No ordinary junkman, Mr. Jonas had lived as a businessman in Chicago but decided to spend the rest of his life making sure that one area of town got a chance to take what the other side considered junk. He traveled through the town and only asked that people took something that they truly wanted, something they would use. Then the adults of children would put something of their own that they no longer had any use for in the wagon, and Mr. Jonas would be on his way, singing.”
From Christie, in The Diviners,
“By their garbage shall ye know them,”…The ones who have to wrap the rye bottles in old newspapers to try to hide the fact that there are so goddamn many of them. The ones who have fourteen thousand pill bottles the week, now. The ones who will be chucking out the family albums the moment the grandmother goes to her ancestors. The ones who’re afraid to flush the safes down the john, them with flush johns, in case it plugs the plumbing and Melrose Maclaren has to come and get it unstuck and might see, as if Mel would give the hundredth part of a damn. I tell you, girl, they’re close as clams and twice as brainless. I see what they throw out, and I don’t care a shit, but they think I do, so that’s why they cannot look at me….”
Similarly, Father Kevin Tumback used to tell a story on Ash Wednesday about a Rag Man…a metaphor for Jesus who traded parts of himself for the wounded parts of others.
I was just thinking, as another season of litter-picking faces the volunteers in our Calgary communities, it would be an awesome thing if we all became a bit more conscious…aware of our communications with those who are picking up our communal waste. It would be a wondrous thing if the ‘garbage men’ were valued and appreciated. It would also be a spectacular thing if we elevated ourselves as a collective, more conscious consumers, more attentive stewards.
You are welcome to join me at Frank’s Flats. You only need to bring gloves. Be in touch.
May 10, 2014 Frank’s Flats
May 16, 2014
Amazed about the orange bag filled with litter…someone else picked today!
I saw this Legend perform ‘back in the day’, when I was a bit of an activist as a member of the Friends to the Oldman River Society. A beautiful artist and friend, Joane Cardinal Schubert, created the image used on the poster advertising a great musical and political event at the edge of Maycroft Crossing back in 1989. Ian Tyson, along with people like Andy Russell and the Chiefs of the surrounding Nations, gathered along with thousands of Albertans to persuade the Government of Canada that construction of a dam would be of great environmental impact on this river. From The Art Gallery of Calgary’s catalogue for the Calgary Collects Exhibit in the Fall of 2011, this…
“Russell also sometimes confronted environmental issues in the field, directly on the front lines. In 1977, for example, he was successful in persuading officials in British Columbia to reconsider plans to grant timber harvesting licences in the Akamina-Kishenina region, an area with which Russell was intimately familiar as a result of the decades he spent guiding and outfitting in the area. While wilderness landscapes like the Akamina-Kishenina region were central to Russell’s writing and film making endeavours, he also directed some of his environmental advocacy to the rural working landscape he shared with his neighbours. For example, when Shell Canada in 1970 put forward an application to divert additional water from Drywood Creek, Russell monitored the proceedings to ensure than no more water was taken than necessary, and that the resulting effluent was properly treated. In another instance, to draw attention to problems with the Government of Alberta’s use of sodium fluoroacetate as a predator control compound, he joined two of his ranching colleagues and assisted to gather ten poisoned and rotting coyote carcasses; these were then left on the grounds of the municipal office in Pincher Creek, Alberta, as part of a plan that drew public attention to the issue through prearranged media involvement. Russell also involved himself in larger projects, including in the politically charged opposition to the construction of the Oldman River Dam in southwestern Alberta. He was a founding member of the Friends of the Oldman River and he participated in actions to oppose the dam project, most prominently as a speaker at musician Ian Tyson’s benefit concert held at Maycroft Crossing on June 12, 1989.”
“Active resistance on the Oldman River Dam came from a group of Peigan Natives, the Peigan Lonefighters Society, who in August 1990 began to divert the river using an excavator to render the multi-million dollar dam useless. The claim was simple, the government of Canada was intruding on sacred Native land, land owned by the Blackfoot Nations. According to Milton Born with a Tooth, “the Oldman River is located in Blackfoot Nation’s territory, something we have always taken as being within our own domain. We all grew up by the river, and that’s how the river has a personal attachment to myself and the people. So that’s what drove us to do what we did on August 3, to let the people know we still had this connection to the river.” Though resistance to the Oldman River Dam has been pacified in the past few years, Peigans still claim that reservior land is their own.
Another part of the controversy has to due with the environmentalists. The environmentalists call themselves, “Friends of the Oldman River Society.” They formed in the early 1990’s, over the environmental concerns in the construction of the large scale Oldman River Dam. They note that the construction of the Oldman River Dam required an environmental assessment impact, and this was not conducted at all, by Ralph Klein’s government. An environmental assessment impact is a neccessity according to the “Navigable Waters Protection Act”, where it would be determined if its construction would have any notable environmental impacts on this region. The Friends of the Oldman River strongly felt that the construction of the Oldman River Dam, would severely alter and damage local riparian biomes, wildlife habitat, and aquatic life in down stream from the dam. A environmental impact assessment was later conducted by the government, and found the dam to have no significant environmental impact; but the Friends of the Oldman River Society amongst others regard it with much suspect.”
I had studied at the University of Lethbridge, perched on the edge of the Oldman River, and lived in residence there, so for four years, I had a huge relationship with the river. Everything that Ian Tyson and Andy Russell stand/stood for, I felt deeply about. And I guess that’s just never changed. While I am faulted often for being a bit of a ‘bleeding heart’ in my family, I care very much for our environment and see, this many years later, what impact our choices as consumers have upon this wealth of land, water and air that we, as Canadians, often take for granted.
I’ve danced to this song many times over the years and to hear it on the night of the Flood Relief was a surprise. Thank you, Ian, for your work on behalf of Albertans over all of these years.
It’s just after eight in the morning and I’m sipping coffee, wrapped in my warmest pyjamas. Outside, it spits rain, sometimes pours, and generally looks grey. I haven’t posted photographs of Mr. and Mrs. this year. Each year, across from my kitchen window, sparrows build a nest in my neighbour’s vent. I’ve seen many a tragedy at the base of this location, but, I’ve also seen babes take flight. It’s a challenging world out there; the world of cats and crows, cowbirds and magpies…the world of people!
Here is a photo of the new Mrs., on guard after madly preparing nesting materials and tripping back and forth to the feeder. The original couple to this nest this season was found dead on the ground, mayhaps attacked by other birds. It is a ‘man-eat-man’ out there in nature! Not certain, but I DID solicit the help of someone else to remove their tiny bodies. It wasn’t 24 hours later and the new family had moved in.
This year’s Mrs.
Yesterday I taught for Mary and it just happened to be that Calgary Birdman, Andrew Stiles, was building bird boxes with several classes of grade three students. The last group to go through was working with a class of grade nine helpers and these seemed to be as swept up in the action as the younger students. I don’t think any of us get tired of being stewards or with creating things with our hands and a collection of tools. For a short time I helped at the pre-drilling holes station. Children are excited, just as adults are, to use power tools! It was a wonderful morning watching children delight in this process. I wish children would spend more time outdoors. I think they would be amazed!
Erin, of the City of Calgary, came to my place on Wednesday and dropped off some supplies, as well as officially registered me as crew leader for my volunteer position at Frank’s Flats. I will be receiving support now, from the city, where the maintenance of this park land is concerned. Since the city crew came out, I’ve been able to keep the park in good shape, one bag full of litter every single day. It will never be pristine, given the public’s casual disregard for the environment, but at the very least, I am able to keep most of the garbage from making its way to the pond. One area I am unable to maintain edges on the slope from the sports fields and Bishop O’Byrne high school. There are huge ant’s nests in that section and I’m sporting bites again after trying to pick litter in that area. I told Erin that I’m unable to go in there, even with my rubber boots on.
A few words to the wind…
“To those of you who play football and soccer on the fields and those of you who are spectators: you need to learn that there is a consequence for the world when you pitch your plastic slurpee cups and straws and your Tim Horton’s latte cups down onto the ground. What do you suppose is happening with those? Do you even think? This has been a week of Lucky Beer at the pond. Tin cans have been pitched the entire perimeter. But don’t fret guys…I’ve got your backs! I wish that you might observe the animal and bird life that makes its home in this very same environment. I wish you could see the number of different species that depend on this particular wetlands area. When you look into my eyes as you walk past me, do not look at me as though I am a marginalized person. Know that I am educated. Know that I am a steward. Know that my mission is NOT hopeless, but hopeful.
To those parents who have tail gate parties on the south end of South Fish Creek Recreational Center, while your kids are playing games and practicing inside, please walk the twenty meters to the garbage dispenser to ditch your chip bags, your Tim Horton’s coffee cups and your beer cans.
To those dog owners who run to your car with your dog when I ask if you will pick up your own dog poop, why not walk down the hill instead, to pick up?
If you wish to join me in this mission, please take a small container when you go for your walk and stoop down to pick up the plastics and packaging that you find along the way, even if it is just a small bit, it will make a difference. Find a place in your own neighbourhood and become a steward of that place. Make it your own.”
It’s official. The City of Calgary has determined that Frank’s Flats, this year, is city parkland and I now have their support with the crud that mounts up at the location due to the user groups that are just a little irresponsible! Yeah! Justin Brown assured me that I would have help with the spring clean-up and he followed through, sending out a team that scoured the slopes, much quicker than I could possibly do ONE BAG AT A TIME. So, now it is for me to maintain the park and hopefully solicit some support from other like-minded individuals in the area.
Nature is at its finest in this area, even when it is filthy. The ground squirrels pull the plastics into their nests, not comprehending that this is human waste; but they adapt to the function of such plastics and paper. Even on the nesting platform being used by Osprey, there is a huge piece of plastic that bats in the wind. I am amused watching the activity on this platform and watched the grand predator try for over an hour to chase a Canadian goose off of the platform. When I left the park that evening, the goose was continuing to fight for the nest in the sky, neck outstretched at each nose dive from the beautiful falcon. This went well into the next day, but finally two days later, the goose had succumbed to the stubborn bird. Please see fantastic images capturing this event on the Birds Calgary blog. Now it is fun to watch the male bringing home the catch of the day routinely.
As sun was setting one evening, I watched six white swans fly overhead. The muskrats are back and ducks of every variety are nesting. A coyote who was guarding a spot under the evergreens has finally disappeared, likely pressured out by all of the human presence and back onto the wilderness corridor on the other side of the fence.
Frank’s Flats is a beautiful spot for nature lovers to watch wildlife at its best. I want this place to be safe and solicit the continued support of the City of Calgary, Bishop O’Byrne high school, South Fish Creek Recreational Center, Shawnessy Library and the various retail stores (Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, Jugo Juice) in the stewardship of this land.
I encourage my readers to take some responsibility for stewardship of your own surroundings. Teach your children by being a living example of how to care for other species.
Corey, paid by the City of Calgary to pick up other people’s garbage.
This area has been cleaned up from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
There’s always some interesting trash fanning out on the flats.
Thanks to my cousin-sister-friend, I have Haida Gwaii rubber boots!
One Bag: May 1, 2013
Arch, of the City of Calgary crew.
Justin, responsible for city parks on the south end of the city, sent a crew out to work at Frank’s Flats and so I met them there. Winter has left a mountain of litter down at the Flat’s, a very sad thing after all of the work I did to maintain the situation last year. It was a joy to listen to the crew members talking about their concerns about plastics and those sorts of topics, while they worked. I feel strongly that if citizens do not wish to take any responsibility for the sort of mess that is accumulating EVERYWHERE, then their taxes need to pay other people to take care of the clean-up. I don’t believe that working a limited number of volunteers in a limited number of situations is the answer. This changes NOTHING about the consciousness of the individuals who are routinely irresponsible.
I watched a dog owner stand in the parking lot today and watch his brown lab go down into the Flats to do its business. When I asked him if he was going to go down and pick it up, he called his dog, put him in his vehicle and drove off. This is what I’m talking about. In fact, here is a photograph from one big clean-up at the Southland dog park. This is despicable! The sad thing is that by the time this clean-up is done at Frank’s Flats, there will be the same amount of human waste piled high…only it will be primarily plastics and paper products. What variables have contributed to the creation of such an ‘entitled’ society?