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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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May the Blue Bird of Happiness…

Recently, I’ve been feeling as though nature is brutal!  I heard yesterday that our weather hasn’t been like this since 1940.  I’m not going to research to see if this is fact, but, I would have no difficulty believing it is true.  Weather impacts my feelings about almost everything.  Since the light has changed, it has given hope of spring and certainly makes the day feel more beautiful…but this cold!  And the snow!  YIKES!

At the river, I’m wondering about the natural cycles of all of these returning birds…how they will possibly sustain their populations, given this week’s temperatures of -14 and more snow and more snow.  The habitat just doesn’t seem to be available for nesting.  What are the pregnant does to do? The coyotes that have begun to den?  So…every evening and morning, as I walk at the Bow River, I contemplate nature and its ability to rise above such brutality.  When I return home, I have heat and electricity and unlike some countries and continents, I am not in fear (at the moment) of the flood, or horrid drought and raging fires.  I am so blessed.  I am safe.

I’m discovering wildlife in unusual places.  Geese are nesting, only meters away from Deerfoot Trail and a huge distance from the river.  I noticed them yesterday, huddled together, where the tall grasses emerge out of the cold snow.  This afternoon, no fewer than thirty American Wigeons were voraciously struggling for sustenance well above the river and in close proximity to human activity.  This was a first for me.

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The most remarkable thing, however, was to see at least five Mountain Bluebirds, flitting about in a mating dance and feeding on berries that remained clinging sadly to a winter shrub…

This sighting was a deeply personal experience for me…I felt as though these lovely birds were placed into this settling, just for me.  In fact, I tried waving down some other hikers to point them out and they waved and moved on, not taking a moment’s notice.  Have I lost it completely? (I’d like to thank Doug Newman for letting me know that they were hanging about…this was my first encounter and I was thrilled to learn that they are absolutely NOT shy.  Their antics were more than entertaining!)

I wrote about the Crucifixion a little bit on Friday morning…I look at this post as being about Resurrection.  The males were more than impressing the two females present…such charmers.  I am grateful for those species that will find renewal over the coming months.  We must be ever-vigilant in our care of our world, for the people living in it, and for these sentient beings that share the planet with us.  Probably more bluebird photographs than any of you might wish to see…but, I am experiencing such joy that I have no choice but to include them here.

I captured a female (much more shy) only twice, both times out of focus.  She was stunning in her beauty.

 

 

 

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On April 3, I returned and captured Mrs.  Happy 51st birthday to my sister, Valerie Jean.

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The Struggle is Real

Winter is oppressive this year.  I consider myself to be fond of all seasons, including winter, but as the snowbanks grow, I am in awe of the challenges this weather brings.  I have begun my journey of Lenten observances, but my Nativity display is still parked on the front yard, with no hope of being wedged out of the snow until some of it disappears.  I would guess that the accumulation is somewhere around the three foot mark at this point.

I came upstairs this morning, put on the coffee and then decided to sit and finish reading I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism by Lee Maracle.  Outside, the snow was coming down steadily and there was evidence that it had been piling up all night long.  Maxman was okay to chill out with me and we both eased into morning, without any attachment to screens at all.

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By 10:30, the book was finished and I felt completely depleted.  Interesting that in the very last section, titled, Last Words, Maracle stated that most readers would have stopped by that point.  I had hung in…decompressing at times, but certainly interested in the honest approach to dealing with the topics that other writers might easily skirt around.  It was a difficult book, heart-breaking in so many ways…only 140 pages, compact, intense but, most important for understanding.

I continue to be very moved by the journey and history of my indigenous brothers and sisters.  With this reading, I received new revelations to the struggles…for women, especially.

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This morning, the snow became a wall for me, insurmountable, while carrying the weight of the contents of this book.  I thought that getting down to the Bow River might create respite from my own thoughts.  Instead, I encountered the desperation of hungry animals.

My eyes seem to be wide open when I am at the river’s edge.  I feel blessed that way.

The first thing I noticed was the gobble gobble sound of a male pheasant as he valiantly took flight, gliding quite a distance from the hill across from me.  A scattering of snow and a coyote bounded from that same location, toward me and Max.  I hadn’t even left the parking lot, at this point, and already  spotted the female pheasant in a neighbouring shrub.  She was going no where!

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I was pretty certain that this coyote was one that I’ve been observing lately, easily identified by an evident limp and a mangy coat. As the weeks of bitter cold continue, a generous food source, in the way of mice, voles and such is becoming very challenging.  The predators are looking gaunt.

Stepping onto the trail, into the deep woods, and along the dark turquoise river, I noticed canine tracks in the fresh snow, unaccompanied by any human presence.  I looked down at Max and told him, “Let’s go another route today, Max.”  As I took pause and looked up, there, only a few meters away, stood one of the juvenile Bald Eagles about half way up a tree.  His back was hunched and covered in a transparent blanket of snow.  As Max and I moved to go around his territory, he took flight, his huge wings opening up directly above us.  Having taken the more traveled route, it wasn’t far and we met two of our friends, both intensely engaged in something else.

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It took Max a short while to respond.  I think he was curious, more than anything.  But, out of nowhere, he let out a wild and crazy barking-frenzy and in response, nine deer took flight and bounded across the landscape.  It all happened so fast that I didn’t have opportunity to react.  The coyotes followed the deer, without hesitation.

A moment’s pause and then, slowly and methodically, three other deer appeared.  I have a sense that these are the younger three and that the adults had reacted to Max’s barking.  Is that possible?  Dunno…  Tentatively, these guys carried on in the direction of the action.  Max and I headed north on the river.

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I wondered about there even being a possibility that coyotes might feed on deer during the winter.  I suppose if one were to fall ill or if the coyotes worked together, their clever approach to community-hunting might provide for a meal of venison.  I just know that in the cold and the snow, I felt compassion for all…the pheasant, the eagle, the deer and the coyotes.

For years, I’ve logged on to a Live Eagle Cam at Duke Farms.  I’ve just recently seen that a second egg has been laid at the nest.  Last year, surprisingly, no eagles nested in that location.  Tonight, the camera is capturing an adult sitting on the nest in a horrible snow storm…

The Struggle is Real.  Please take a moment and check in.

The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

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I didn’t buy the book at Wordfest 2015.  I was short on money at the time.  So, what’s new?

I was pretty excited as I drove out to Mount Royal University that day!  I was going to be meeting up with my sister-in-law, Karen.  She had driven into town to enjoy some of the Wordfest events and because of her extensive time in the north, she was more than familiar with the topics of this particular book.  She had worked with our neighbours to the north.  She had lived with our neighbours to the north.  She held a wealth of knowledge within her, but stuff that we had never really made opportunity to speak about.  I, on the other hand, was dumber than door nails about the challenges of the north.  Like most Canadians, living in the south, we don’t know about what we don’t see.  Out of sight-out of mind.  It’s shameful, really.  I feel shame.

Today, however, as part and parcel of my own journey of truth, I feel I have had a very generous introduction to the topic through the book, The Right to be Cold, and can now build upon knowledge that exists within me, however scant that knowledge might be. If the Globe and Mail can refer to this book as ‘revelatory’, so can I!  And it was! To gain any insights about the wrongs of the past and sadly, the present, is to liberate ones self.  It is only in educating myself about these mistakes that I can go forward to make change happen within me and in the outside world.

Mount Royal always stumps me, in terms of locating absolutely anything.  It isn’t as simple as the posted maps convey.  I wandered for quite some time before coming upon the theater where Sheila Watt-Cloutier would be speaking.  The people who gathered seemed casual and friendly, calling out to one another.  It turns out that some people were connected through the story and through the north.  I felt like a blank slate…pretty excited.  When Karen settled in next to me, she quietly told me about some of the people in the room.  Embraces were shared.

I want my readers to read this book.  There are chapters within these pages that overwhelm the reader with unfamiliar acronyms (NGO, POP, ICC, KSB, INC, CAIPAP, UNEP and so on…), but if possible,  move beyond these to understand the huge complexities faced by our northern neighbours as they work tirelessly to advocate for safety and health for their families and future generations. Also, pay close attention to the work that has been happening in the past…the voices that have reached out desperately on behalf of human beings, voices that, like the author’s, spoke always from the heart and out of concern for the other.

I can not imagine what it would be like to be so impacted by colonization, industry, and ignorance that my identity, culture and even the health of the foods I ate were at risk.  There is a dark history in our country.  And while it seems too late to be educated and make a difference, we have no choice.  For the Inuit people to lose their way of life is for us to lose what is distinct about our Nation.  I grieve.  I grieve because while I am typing these sentences, years have gone by since the writing of Watt-Cloutier’s book…and the exponential loss of the ice is going on at this very moment.

The Right to be Cold is written in the memoir genre, a form of writing that consistently appeals to me.  I found the narratives about Sheila’s early years very powerful.  As my readers know me fairly well, there were tears in many places.  Yes, at times, I had to put the book down.  The writer does not, however, write from a place of victim.  In fact, I think it is important to her that we not place the story of the north in the context of a victimized people.  Instead, she speaks from a place of strength and hard work and strong belief.

I was blessed, a short while ago, to attend an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum titled North of Ordinary: The Arctic Photographs of Geraldine and Douglas Moodie.  Those photographs did for me what Sheila Watt-Cloutier did with words.  We have sacrificed much by not caring for the north…the ice and snow…and the animals and people who needed to be heard.  In fact, sometimes I think that we, as people of the south, cared more for the animals of the north than the people.  And…isn’t that just crazy?

There was a bench where I could sit down.  I felt the breath knocked out of me.  I felt the truth, like a blow to my gut.  I compared the images captured by the Moodies with the current news stories published about the north…suicides among the youth, housing crisis and melting ice.  It wasn’t many years ago that I heard a teacher who had worked up at Cross Lake, Manitoba say something like…”I don’t get why, when there is fresh fish to be caught, that the people would go pay such huge prices and buy processed fish sticks from the store?”  Read this book!

When I was a little girl sitting in a DND school, I learned about the ‘Eskimos’.  I drew pictures of igloos and harpooning.  But, I was given no context.  Along the way, I was given nothing.  I guess the most magical truth that I received was from my father who had a thirteen month long period away from home.  We lived in Ste. Sylvestre, in Quebec, at the time.  It was in the late 1950s.  My father brought us stories and experiences.  Apart from that, I knew nothing about the north.

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Studio portraits, above, taken by the Moodies.

We have stolen a pristine and health-filled life from the people of the north.  We have tried to take away all of their traditions, culture and ways of being.

Photos taken by my father’s old camera…

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I’ve poured myself another coffee…never really got writing about Sheila’s talk that morning at Mount Royal.  She was inspiring.  She was light-hearted.  She was serious.  Sheila has impacted me and opened up my heart, with the writing of this book.  As an author, she has connected me to the narrative that is our north country and to the fine citizens that have made the north their home over time and forever.

I was grateful to Wordfest for hosting Sheila and I was grateful to have my sister-friend, Karen, sitting next to me.  Here is a little capture of Karen alongside her longtime friend, Sally Luttmer.

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….okay, well, I just had a long Skype session with Karen and thank goodness because the writing of this post had become very difficult.  I’ve settled…deciding to conclude this post with a quote and a short thought of my own.

“Everything is connected. Connectivity is going to be the key to addressing these issues, like contaminants and climate change. They’re not just about contaminants on your plate. They’re not just about the ice depleting. They’re about the issue of humanity. What we do every day – whether you live in Mexico, the United States, Russia, China … can have a very negative impact on an entire way of life for an entire people far away from that source.” Sheila Watt-Cloutier

I’m going to end with an image.

On August 26, 2017 my grandson, Steven, came into this world.  It is a powerful and natural thing that he breast feeds and that his Mommy, for now, is his whole world.  It should be that this is the very safest place for my grandson to be, and it is.  Imagine, then, the sad fact that in the north, this generous and natural relationship should be, in fact, dangerous to the infant population, in that country foods have, over generations, been tainted with POPs at a level far greater than we can know or understand.  The peoples living in the north are struggling for their children and their children’s children.  We must contribute to their hope and to their futures.  We must be a strong force, where we can, in their right to be cold!

Book discussion happened with Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI Chapters and Chat.  Photographs below credited to Michelle Robinson…woman who has opened my eyes to more than you know!

 

 

Take Out!

Getting out of the house is heaven…even if it is during a wind/rain storm!

Sensory overload occurs when you enter into the world, having spent many weeks in the same space in a state of frustration some days and in a state of acceptance during others.  The experience makes me think about our Calgarians who have no family members in town and who are hospitalized or unable to get out of their apartments.  It makes me think about the isolation that illness, addiction, poverty and age can cause.  It’s important that we learn who these people are and ‘take them out’.

This is one of the compelling reasons I continue to be upset about the closure of the Golden Age Club in the East Village.  While the folks in the core are resilient and will find their way through all of this, thanks to the leadership and guidance and connection of such people as Wendy Lees, the decision DID create an obstacle and I’m thinking that we can choose to be open doors through which others can pass or we can be walls that have to be climbed.

Yesterday, Val opened a door for me.  We headed out to Chestermere to visit friend, Wendy and to deliver Take-Out.  The weather created a bit of an adventure, as did our search for Thai food on International Ave.  In the end, we chose a random Vietnamese restaurant, made a selection of food and then headed east to Chestermere.

Conversation with two of my sister-friends, while the wind howled outside, was very comforting and after all, I fell into a state of sleepiness.  Sensory overload. When i got home, I curled up into a deep sleep.

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Thank you, Val, Wendy and Darren for a beautiful lunch.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 20, 2013

I began writing this post at 3:33.  Cool.

I heated up a bowl of cream of mushroom soup for lunch.  It was prepared the way Mom used to do it (apart from the addition of a can of water) when we were just wee things.  I sat at the large feast table by myself and pretty much ruminated the soup away, with thoughts of Mom and her love and care of me.

P11401590019_###After that, I spent the afternoon on my kitchen floor, working on a painting of a soldier and his daughter.  It should be finished this weekend.  Max and I took off for the off leash park and while my lashes froze during that one, I enjoyed getting up and moving after the intensity of my afternoon work-out. Painting is a huge work-out, the way I look at it.

I hesitated to go down to the Gorilla House because of the cold.  In the end, I made the trip out of commitment to myself and my friends who also attend every week.  It has something to do with the practice…the community…and the brain gym.

All of the driving concepts had to do with Mathematics… Game Theory and Deformation Theory (something to do with P).  HUH?    Math was a struggle for me in school…a struggle last night as well.  In the end, I thought simply of the relationship of a mother to her child.  Is that in any way mathematical?  Thanks to Rich for picking this one up at auction.  I was glad to see you, Angie. Be better. Thanks, Bruce, for the beverage.  Congratulations, Jess, on getting those cards done!

P1140177I finished writing this at 4:03…and that, with a consoling conversation with daughter.  I love you, Erin.

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.

Storm Gathering: Now Arrived

BOOM! Boom of thunder as I type.

It felt cozy in the studio while listening to Dave Matthew’s Band on the stereo.  It’s always wonderful to be in that space when it’s grey outside.  It just feels so warm and bright.  I noticed before I began my sanding that the birds were in a bit of a frenzy at the feeder.  I wanted to belt out a warning to them.  The neighbour across the way has an ‘outdoor cat’.  I woke this morning to watch as the cat pitched a bird up in the air over and over again, batting it viciously and then tossing it again, over and over until it lay lifeless…the cat walked away…its owner, in bathrobe, sipped from a Tim Horton’s cup and smoked a cigarette while watching.  Seems like torture to me.  She was probably saying to herself, “This is what it’s like in nature.”

I kept from talking to her about it.  I try not to razz the neighbours.  I also had to change my mindset.  I remembered Mom and Dad singing this one in the station wagon.  We all laughed about the ‘wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside ‘er’ part…guess it’s the lighter side of the predator story.

Back to the birds…they seemed to be getting a good feed before the storm!

P1120352 P1120353I heard a chickadee in the tree, but of course the little thing had to wait for the sparrows to fly off in unison at the bark of my dog and then it had its chance.

P1120356All this activity happening at the front of the house, I went out to the studio to get some stripping and sanding done.

Grey clouds were gathering, but the studio looked welcoming and the music was set to playing.

P1120359 P1120361Good physical work, music and a glass of fizzy ice water…a perfect combination for time well-spent!

Yesterday

Yesterday

Today

Today

Yesterday

Yesterday

Today

Today

Yesterday

Yesterday

Today

Today

Today

Today

I came inside to find my ‘indoor cat’ jumping off the red couch to greet me.  Life is good.

 

Write On

I’m less enthusiastic about blogging lately.  It goes like that.  However, this evening it’s spitting rain…it’s grey.  There is no looking, no matter the desire to do so, at the transit of Venus across the sun.  We can only pretend that the sun is there.  My cat is cradled in my arms, just slightly in front of the keyboard…purring.  I’ve poured a glass of red and I’m sipping.  Skype is turned on and I anticipate a call from my Mom and Dad but; presently, they are off line.  I consider the placement of the comma before the word ‘presently’, having removed it from  ‘before the word but’. And now I question the apostophes around (before the word but).  I’m in a writing/editing mood.  Writing is like a good word puzzle…great entertainment.

I’ve just eaten a pork chop and spinach and feel so contented.  The hail storms and thunder storms pounded the landscape last night and there are threats of the same tonight.  I worked in the garden, but now am pleasantly comfortable in pyjamas, with my cat.  I’ve three books on the go…but don’t want to pick one of them up right now.  So, I’m going to write.  Move-pen-move.  Much has happened recently and it is good to sandwich these moments between a keyboard and a monitor and spew the sandwich out to the universe for much of time, whatever that is.  Some days I just like to ‘chill’ with words.  Write on!  So, here we go.

I know! I paid the deposit, but I really should have returned that folk festival plate!

Changing the Landscape: One Bag at a Time

Monday, March 5, 2012 3:45 p.m. -4 degrees  Everything is white outside…swirling…cold.  My gloves got wet with the garbage I picked up today and so my fingers became stiff as I worked.  I tucked them up into the hand of the gloves.

Snow Man, No More

Max and I spent an hour picking…our findings included a blue flip flop and many bits of fast food packaging, in fact, a whole bag full!  Yesterday’s snowman had been destroyed, but the great news is that the six bags I had left at the bin previously, have been taken away!

Thank you.

A gent from the parking lot had just finished up adding oil to his vehicle…he was cold…I didn’t grab his name, but he DID agree to snap our archival photograph.

Max-Man and Moi

The thing about this project is that, looking from a distance, the garbage is hidden.  Looking close-up, the water’s edge is loaded with plastics and bits of discarded packaging.  The grass is entangled in long strips of plastic sheeting and grocery bags.  Our perceptions of things can cause us to go on ignoring the filth and the destruction of our environment.  It’s time for each person to take the time to really see.

 I try to leave out the parts that people skip. Elmore Leonard

A New Week