Days on the River

Early mornings on the river now reveal just how circular my own journey is and how natural death is to life. All life blooms, but also fades.  In youth, I ran toward the next Christmas and to the next Halloween and to the next grade and the next teacher and to a boyfriend and to a husband. Never would I suffer divorce. Never, in my imagination, would my mother die.  My brother would not die.  My life long friends would remain at my side always. The abundance of living well, seemed endless.

In reality, the magic that perches at the edge of the river demonstrates again and again that life transforms.  I look down at my own hands at this keyboard this morning and see this transformation in my self. I have no choice but to accept it, while at the same time, I have the opportunity to create magic in others and to watch life unfold in my children and in my grandson.  I also have the choice to embrace the beauty of another fading summer.

My circular walks at the river have healed me throughout this lush green often-wet summer.  I have watched closely as the adult Bald Eagles tended two eggs at their nest, saw them through the biting cold of spring when at last those eggs hatched and almost two months later two beautiful fledglings found their place in a brutal world.

Having watched this mating pair over several seasons, it was sad to watch the disappearance of Mrs., a week after the second youngster fledged.  She was such an inspiring raptor and was vigilant with the two young eagles, demonstrating fiercely, the skills that were intuitive and essential for their start in life.  She may have been evicted or killed and within days, a sub adult began to dominate the territory, eventually captivating Mr. who diligently fed and raised up his two progeny.

These days those same juveniles soar high above me, carving huge circles into a deep blue sky, utterly celebrating what it means to be Bald Eagles.  I sometimes find myself weeping at the enormous beauty of this passage of time as manifested in one little family at the river.

I no longer hear the sounds of the Red-Winged Blackbirds.  Theirs is the first song of spring.  And now, they are gone.  Where only a month ago the Yellow Warblers’ very particular song filled the woods, there is only the occasional flash of bright yellow in the low brush.  Mating and fledging behind them now, where do they disappear?  The sounds of geese returns after a month of silence.  The adult Mallards begin to separate from the juveniles now, after so many weeks of being alert and startling so easily.  The American Pelicans no longer rest in great numbers in the quiet eddies of the Bow.  The changes happen in subtle ways.  One beauty is replaced by another.

Now, the Cedar Waxwing juveniles are practicing flight in great numbers and every evening they are making loops out over the water and back, out and back, lighting in bare branches.  Adults remain vigilant.  Yellow Rumped Warblers have increased in numbers, likely just passing through, and Downy Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Northern Flickers take up residence.  Many of them will winter here.

Wild Asters are in bloom for a second time and the Thistles are in seed.  Small water bugs fly thick and hover above the racing water.  The fish jump. Conversations with the fishermen include stories of Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Pike.  They pull out their phones and scroll through their photographs, proudly telling me their fishing narratives.  They  humour me with observations of the eagles.

The native grasses are now beyond my shoulders and the closeness creates that feeling of being watched, a mystical feeling of not being alone.  Sometimes, I look to the left and deer are perfectly still and their eyes meet mine.  Their eyes are pools of dark liquid, staring.  They do not move. We are captivated by one another.  If I move at all they flinch or huff and spook into the trees. The coyotes sulk into the tall growth and disappear.  It is in this stillness where I discover life, abundantly.  I look up and a juvenile eagle is peering at me.  The Grey Catbirds, now gone, would remain absolutely still as I slipped by.  The Eastern Kingbirds, showmen as they are, perform their antics with seemingly no fear.  Their numbers are also dwindling at the river’s edge.

Once, the stillness was broken by the loud slap of a beaver in the quiet eddy to the south.  Another time, with my back to the water, I heard a powerful bang and quickly pivoted around to see an Osprey lift up and out of the water, huge fish clutched in its talons.  The sounds at the river are mesmerizing…and now, with the tall grasses turning gold, those sounds can be very soft and comforting.

 

Tansy is changing from brilliant yellow to brown.  Leaves drift silently to the ground from the highest canopy.  I am in awe that summer is at an end.

Over the coming weeks, the Bald Eagles will eek out their place on the river.  Mr. will no longer provide the two youngsters with food.  He will evict them and they will begin their struggle to survive through another bitterly cold winter.  I don’t have any idea how to end this post because life at the river has no real end.  It is a place of beginnings.

I know this.  I know that we must challenge everything in the world that does not steward the land and the earth and the air.  Life is a brutal thing.  Death is brutal.  We must protect the little ones.  We must leave my grandson this beauty…I can not imagine him not knowing what a world of abundance we were given.

July 1, 2019 Family Reunion

I feel sorry that I didn’t spend my usual time grabbing some formal family portraits on the 1st of July, but I have some sweet photographs, regardless.  I took some at the elders’ table, but ladies, none of you would want me to post the photos capturing you chowing down on all of that great food.  Right?

Thanks and blessings to my wonderful family.  Margy you provided such a beautiful space for us to celebrate and Barb, the food was remarkable, as is always!  Now I know that our traditional pasta salad is called Dill Pickle salad.  How did I miss that all of these years?

Barbara, TJ and Sadie Witbeck

This post will be heavy on the images and sketchy on the reflections.  However, let it be known that yet another reunion weekend has left me feeling super nostalgic and grateful.

June 30th meant the highway drive on roads lined with Canola fields and big blue sky.  We set up our tent and relished an evening of magic, song and love, catching the early arriving family and those who live in Raymond, Alberta already.

Navy, or as others call her, Bean…daughter to Mack and Kecia…grand daughter to Margy Witbeck. New sketchbook. New markers.

Cousins, Sutton and Maverick.

Went to check out the beautiful home that Jess and Penny have been building…and met these two along the way.

Beautiful Maisey Witbeck and her gorgeous daughter, Bowie.

After hanging out and loving the beautiful space, we decided to go up to the Lodge and see Auntie Eleanor.  No photographs of her, but we hung out, looked out a family album and then left the family room, for her bedroom so that we could pour over old mementos.  Among them, these treasures.  The problem with taking photos of photos is the glaring and reflection.  But, these are nice to have.

Eleanor Moors and Ted Witbeck, on their wedding day.

Little baby, Laura Lee. I hope that I will receive corrections in spelling where I make mistakes.

My little cousin, Teddy (Thump) with a baby goat.

Laura Lee is in the middle and that would be cousin, Barbara on the right. Is that Cecil on the left? Help me, peeps.

Laura Lee, Jo, Barbara and Cecil.

Auntie Eleanor said that these birds were drawn by her Dad for her, so art done by my Grandfather John Moors.

I loved our little visit.  Back at Margy’s, the tent photo, a wonderful family dinner of pulled pork and potato salad and then, the big bonfire, with great music and lots of singing.

My photo of beautiful baby Bowie on the trampoline.

I will include our playlist of songs as soon as Heidi sends them on to me.  I don’t think it was until about 1:00 in the morning that we all made our way to bed for the night.  What an exceptional day!!  I loved being with my cousin, Margy, again!  Loved sharing her grand babies with her and really was grateful to share this day with my son.

Photograph credit here, Maisey.

Photo Credit: Maisey Hicken campfire snuggles

Next day = Parade Day.

Got ice.  Taped red and white checker table clothes to tables.  Grabbed some coffee from the gas station.  Ready to roll!  Erin, Doug, Linda and Steven joined the family on the parade route and the fun began.

Parade opening…four Mounties and the colour guard. It’s the same every year!

John (my nephew), Douglas (son-in-law) and James (son)

Steven (Kath’s grandson) and Erin (Kath’s daughter)

Cecil (my cousin) little Lily (Cecil and Dianne’s grand daughter) and Dianne

Auntie Ruth and Danny

 

Auntie Jackie and Auntie Ruth

Nephews Levi and Greg are in this photo. (Recently learned that we refer to our cousins’ children as Nieces and Nephews.) WHOOP! Congratulations on your entry in this year’s parade.

Back to the house for our meal sharing and then the program and candy toss.

Dinner: Traditional Pulled Pork, home cooked beans, dill pickle salad, coleslaw and Caesar salad. No close ups of plates this year as I was too busy taking photos of my grand son.

Chalk activity as designed by Eva.

Chalk drawing, thanks to Eva.

The hostess with the most-est up on the platform, Margy. My beautiful Auntie Eleanor checking out the swaths of people.

Sadie playing the ukelele during the family program. Somewhere Over the Rainbow Cousin Clayton, holding the Mic.

Father and son playing a bit in the sand.

My family in the family program…singing Jackson. So good. I had a tear here.


The candy toss for children ages 0-4.  Thanks, Penny!
The candy toss, ages 4 to adult…much smaller crowd this year allowed for different age categories from usual.  No photos of adult category because I was filling my shirt at the time.

I have unbelievable love for my family and feel very nostalgic after a weekend in southern Alberta.  I’m posting a few family reunion memories here.  Please, family, if you see photographs that you don’t have, just right click and save them to your archives.  I love you all!

Be safe this summer!

 

 

Download

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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The Little Watchmaker’s Shop on John Street

©Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

©Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

The following article appeared in the Hamilton Spec in October of 2007 and was written by P. Wilson.  This is one of the locations along John Street that really spoke to me about the passage of time.

Watchmaker’s shop defies time.

For the first time in 120 years, no one named Edwin Pass will be fixing clocks and watches on John Street South.

“I’m tired,” says Edwin J. Pass, 77, who has worked at the shop on John near Jackson since the summer of 1946.

His grandfather, Edwin K. Pass, was first. He arrived from Coventry, England, at 21, having just finished a seven-year watchmaker’s apprenticeship. In 1887, he set up his shop, right where it is today.

There were no cars then. No electricity. Even the wristwatch was not yet born.

The first Pass begat a second, Edwin S. The two worked side by side at a desk of solid cherry by the front window. Two apprentices toiled at the back.

At the end of the Second World War, young Edwin J. Pass joined his father and grandfather in the shop. All wore shirts, ties and vests, no matter how hot the day.

Grandfather died in 1955, and father 20 years later. Edwin J. has been on his own these past several decades.

The mechanical way of watches, with mosquito-sized axles and tiny balance wheels, changed when the Swiss introduced quartz precision. Now you can buy a $20 electronic watch — with no moving parts.

But Edwin J. became the man to whom Hamilton turned to fix the old mechanical marvels.

On this morning, Joe Mancinelli’s pieces are going home. The well-known union leader has a serious clock addiction. He has old clocks in the hall, in the kitchen, in the bathroom. He’s just had two 1830s English grandfather clocks overhauled at the Pass shop and will now have to find another master craftsman.

“I might have been able to coax out another few years,” Edwin says, “but I would start to shake. The quality would be gone.

“This is physically demanding work. You need a grip of steel. You need wonderful eyesight. You need very good hearing to listen to how the clock’s behaving. You need a keen sense of smell to know what kind of chemical somebody used to gum up the works. You need all your faculties.”

Edwin and wife Barbara have a daughter. She is not Edwina, but Anne, and has a good career in construction management.

So Edwin J. would be the last. He decided it should happen this year.

Back in the 1970s, urban renewal ruled. In the core, they were knocking down old theatres and stores and putting in Jackson Square.

Someone in the city hall ranks paid Edwin a visit back then and said, “You know, it’s old stores like yours that are holding this city back.”

But Edwin would not rip out the past. Not the pressed-copper ceiling. Not the front display window, with showcase mirror on lead-weighted pulleys. Not the big wood-and-glass doors. Not the fancy tiled floor.

And he left that one-ton, bank-quality, century-old Taylor safe right by the front door. It was customized at the factory by in-house artists who painted on special-request landscapes and the Pass name.

So prospective purchasers saw all this when agents brought them through. “A lot of the people were just investors,” Edwin says. “The history didn’t matter.”

Then along came Robin McKee. He is 55, has been an audio man with CHCH for some 30 years and operates a company called Historical Perceptions, which does cemetery tours, research, writing, photography.

He is not a rich man, but decided that he must make this time capsule his. He remortgaged his house near Gage Park and has bought the Pass premises for $145,000.

He plans to change nothing. He’ll sell Hamilton history exotica and, beside the old safe, he’s creating a little Pass shrine. He’s applying right away to designate the building, which makes it harder for anyone to ever tear it down.

“This is not a noble thing,” McKee says. “I’m just putting my money where my mouth is and riding the wave of downtown rejuvenation.”

The deal closes Wednesday morning. The clockmaker will head for home at noon, a quiet end to the Edwin era.

StreetBeat appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

pwilson@thespec.com 905-526-3391

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©Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

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© Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

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© Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

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© Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors

Time After Time

I have thought of nothing but my mother and father all morning, from the time at six in the morning, when my alarm rang…through my blogging efforts to distract…into the second cup of coffee and then onto the fields of the off leash park.  The sun is shining here and the dry grass carries old smells of winter.  Listening to CKUA on the way home in the van, this duet played and there began the howling…the gut-crying and all spilled out.  After what my beautiful sister has written, “He has given all he can to care for his “Katy” at home, and is to be commended for his herculean efforts.”

 

After all of this…we, as a family, are growing more and more to accept that Mom’s Alzheimer’s disease is bit by bit, claiming her…and we are grieving and frustrated and sad.  If I was watching my best friend being sucked into an abyss of quicksand, I would feel the same.  It is an impossible thing to see parts of your mother, father, husband, wife and friend disappear over time.  It is something impossible to fully grasp unless you are standing beside that dark hole, watching.

 

Readers, you fill your lives with art and music, writing and travel, friendships and celebrations.  The world is filled up to the brim with everything that is lovely.  I only wish to say and I know I say it often…appreciate that loveliness, family, friendships, faith to the limits.  Today is ours.  This moment is ours.  It is all we have.  As I listened to this song…I thought of my mother.

 

“After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows you’re wondering
If I’m OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time.”

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Before my recent trip east, I had finished another book by Margaret Atwood…so, before I place it on the bookshelf, I thought I’d make a few notes.  This book, Moral Disorder, is a collection of interconnected narratives that span a number of decades.  Having heard Margaret Atwood speak at this year’s teacher’s convention, I feel that, again, some of the settings and characters are influenced by the writer’s own childhood and family.

It seems that I am writing on particular themes as I post today, among them, the idea of life snapshots.  This book, similarly, captures and sustains the experiences of childhood, parenting, celebration and grief through the development of various voices around Tig and Nell.  The context for me, demanded empathy, given a sense of the same collective nostalgia and life landmarks apparent in The History of Love.  The following excerpt, found here.

Dealing with her aging mother, watching her look at her photographs for the last time as she sinks into blindness, trying to tease her into remembering pieces of her past, Nell seems to be pre-visioning her own future. Though there is nothing overtly supernatural in this collection, the author has the art of weaving the teller into the tale and blending the characters into one another’s lives so that the end result is something magical.”

A.S. Byatt, in 2006, writes for the Washington Post, Times of Her Life.

“We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on,” says Prospero, “And our little life/ Is rounded with a sleep.” Moral Disorder is cunningly constructed of the vagaries of memory and is rounded by Alzheimer’s and forgetting. Nell, Tig and Nell’s sister test themselves for failing memory as they ruefully allow for failing knees. There is a moving, evocative story of Nell’s father, after a stroke, inhabiting a story Nell reads to him, of three explorers disastrously astray in Labrador. There is a plain and very sad tale of Nell’s mother, reduced to immobility, her memories slipping away, though living on, briefly, in a different form, in Nell’s own memories. The mother dreams a repeating dream of being lost, and no one, no thing, being there, only the empty sky and a logjam she tries to climb. This tale, like all these tales, is both grim and delightful, because it is triumphantly understood and excellently written. ·

 

A.S. Byatt is a writer of novels and stories. Her latest book is “Little Black Book Of Stories.”

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May

May Day Tree May 2012

This morning everything dazzled.  I enjoyed sitting for a time on the back deck and pleasured in the way that the plants and shrubs have matured and the perennials have established themselves over these past ten years.

The Sound of May is Bee-Buzzing

 I treasure times, sitting still and observing the seasons change.  The passage of time is both sad and beautiful. 

Closer

A Memory Of Youth

THE moments passed as at a play;
I had the wisdom love brings forth;
I had my share of mother-wit,
And yet for all that I could say,
And though I had her praise for it,
A cloud blown from the cut-throat North
Suddenly hid Love’s moon away.
Believing every word I said,
I praised her body and her mind
Till pride had made her eyes grow bright,
And pleasure made her cheeks grow red,
And vanity her footfall light,
Yet we, for all that praise, could find
Nothing but darkness overhead.
We sat as silent as a stone,
We knew, though she’d not said a word,
That even the best of love must die,
And had been savagely undone
Were it not that Love upon the cry
Of a most ridiculous little bird
Tore from the clouds his marvellous moon.
ALTHOUGH crowds gathered once if she but showed her face,
And even old men’s eyes grew dim, this hand alone,
Like some last courtier at a gypsy camping-place
Babbling of fallen majesty, records what’s gone.
These lineaments, a heart that laughter has made sweet,
These, these remain, but I record what-s gone. A crowd
Will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud

William Butler Yeats
 

May…the night I planted her…lit by lamplight! 2002.

 

Coffee and Wittgenstein

Wittgenstein

The nice thing about beginning here is that you can land here and subsequently here!  That’s what a link to Sartre will do!  And that’s also what will happen when one has TIME to enjoy a coffee in the morning; a luxury for people on a Friday morning, unless of course, you are retired OR unemployed.

I became wrapped up in this response by Toby Simmons.

Wittgenstein wrote a book called ‘Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus’ in which he attempted to show how language can correspond to, or ‘map’, the world.

He tries to lay the ground for the construction of a “logically perfect” language which is capable of corresponding to facts (and the sum total of all facts is the world).

Basically, this project has, as its result, a view of scientific language as a kind of layer over the top of the facts.

He says this:

“Let us imagine a white surface with irregular black spots on it. We then say that whatever kind of picture these make, I can always approximate as closely as I wish to the description of it by covering the surface with a sufficiently fine square mesh, and then saying of every square whether it is black or white. In this way I shall have imposed a uniform form on the description of the surface. The form is optional, since I could have achieved the same result by using a net with a triangular or hexagonal mesh. Possibly the use of a triangular mesh would have made the description simpler: that is to say, it might be that we could describe the surface more accurately with a coarse triangular mesh than with a fine square mesh . . . The different nets correspond to different systems for describing the world.”

So, for Wittgenstein, a scientific ‘law’ is merely a linguistic construction that has been ‘pinned’ to the world. An equally adequate but different arrangement of words could describe the world just as well.

In the quote, he is contending with the prevailing view of scientific ‘laws’ as the ultimate explanations of events within the natural world, or as the all-embracing answers to the question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Science, he maintains, is just a ‘mesh’ of language corresponding to the world. In this sense, it is fairly trivial, and not explanatory at all.

Does this explain it?

(It is worth mentioning that Wittgenstein did go on to repudiate most of what he wrote in the Tractatus in his later work, ‘Philosophical Investigations’ — but his attitude towards science was something that he maintain throughout his whole life.)

Wittgenstein is a fascinating philosopher, and definitely worth exploring!

In keeping with this reply written by Toby from http://apieceofcoffee.wordpress.com

I suggest a wonderful and mind-bending experience, a Canadian artist, David Clark, creates the ambitious online art piece 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (to be played with the Left Hand).

I also came upon this wonderful reading list while looking at a number of related sites and it may be of interest to some readers that land HERE quite by chance.  Image borrowed from  This blogger has written of Lake Superior…and I can’t help but include the link here to this beautiful poem.

River
by Janet Lewis

Remember for me the river,
Flowing wide and cold, from beyond Sugar Island,
Still and smooth, breathing sweetness
Into still air, moving under its surface
With all the power of creation.

Remember for me the scent of sweet-grass
In Ojibway baskets,
Of meadow turf, alive with insects.

Remember for me
Who will not be able to remember.
Remember the river.

The Selected Poems of Janet Lewis, edited by R. L. Barth (2000).  According to Mr. Barth, the river of the poem is the St. Mary’s River, which “flows generally from Lake Superior to Lake Huron, for a space forming the international boundary between the U.S. and Canada.”