What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein

This was another one for the throne room…this does not mean that books in the bathroom are any less interesting than ones on my bedside table or ones next to the red couch, it just means that I choose a different genre and always something a little less cerebral than my preferred reading, fiction or non-fiction.

Another second-hand-book-find, What Elephants Know ended up next to my other books about elephants.  I liked that Jane Goodall wrote a quick recommendation.  “You will be fascinated, angered, and charmed in turn by this beautifully written story.”

Dr. Eric Dinerstein is the Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE and so I was very interested in the fact that he wrote a novel and I anticipated that the book would be written from a unique and knowledgeable perspective.

This was a lovely book that I’d recommend for students grade five to grade seven.  It was a quick read that left me thinking about the vulnerability of our wildlife and ecosystems.  The protagonist, Nandu, is a beautiful character who, through his young life, teaches about the numerous impacts made upon these, while exposing the reader to the vulnerability of humanity, as well.

I think this would be a wonderful book to read aloud to students.  It is refreshing to find a book that is culturally diverse and can open eyes and hearts to a different human experience.  Grade three students, in their study of India, may really benefit from this story.  Nandu’s relationships with his female elephant, Devi Kali and with the plants and other animals of the Borderlands are described beautifully.

This is a two evening (10 potty visits) read for an adult.  I recommend doing a quick review of the book before sharing with your students/children so that you know the sensitive topics that will come along.  Give it a go.

What Elephants Know

 

 

It’s Been This Kind of Day

I have to thank my new birder-friend, Bob, for his share of the story of Mrs. Shoveler on the Bird’s Calgary site, today.

I began writing on-line in 2005. In writing to an ‘imagined’ public, I discovered a public voice.  I learned to write about events that took place in my rather simple life in a way that could be explored and shared with any reader. There was a line that I refused to cross, a line that delved into the realm of the very personal.  I’ve enjoyed learning to narrate my life, while reigning in my voice to a degree.  In my head, I always remarked, “Only write what you feel anyone could read.”  I suppose the closest I ever came to crossing that line was at the loss of my mother.

I was in my father’s office, at the computer desk, the summer of her passing.  It was so bloody humid.  Dad tried to keep me from opening the windows because we had to have air conditioning or we were going to melt!  Whenever I would sit to write at the computer, I would secretly slide the window open to the right of me…in the night time, there was such stillness…not a breeze.  I remember writing this.

A lot of bloggers get weary of the process of writing after a while, but for some reason, I find the flow of evening-writing,  a wonderfully relaxing practice.  My initial story of Mrs. Shoveler and my effort to retrieve her from a small piece of open water achieved over 400 hits in an hour after publication.  I know.  I know.  I don’t really have a swollen head over this.  It’s not what the on-line crowd would call ‘going viral’, but, I was deeply touched that so many readers care about wildlife enough and in this case, a hen Northern Shoveler, that they would peruse the events that took place in the bitterly cold days of last December.  The follow-up story, involving the re-appearance of this dear bird, sent the numbers soaring yet again.

Well, today, with gratitude to Birds Calgary, more readers have visited and I’ve really enjoyed comments and messages and reactions.  So, readers, thank you for all of that.

This was my day…while Max and I played in snow and I met Abir again, after so long, and I made and enjoyed such a beautiful stew…while every thing was happening in my life, this is what was going on in the hum of the background.

blog-january-14-2017

 

A Matter of Time

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

Always company, no matter the weather.

Always company, no matter the weather.

February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015

A shift in the weather.

A shift in the weather.

Morning Sketching: Rien Poortvliet

The last book I purchased at the second hand shop before leaving Belleville, Ontario was the dutch version of Rien Poortvliet’s Noah’s Ark.  It was an absolute treasure at $10.00. As I perused this comprehensive collection of animal and bird illustrations, I thought about how much I could learn by imitating the works contained, as a way of practicing.  It is a controversial thing…using another artist’s work as reference, but I think the important thing is to identify the intention and to be upfront about the practice.  Appropriation in art is a notion that needs to always be given great consideration.

P1120606 P1120607 P1120608 P1120609 P1120610I’ve decided that sharing my morning coffee with an art board is likely a healthy thing and will get me into the discipline of seeing…analyzing…exploring technique…and painting.  I will think of these as quick visual responses to Poortvliet’s works and in no way intend to create accurate renderings.  Beginning with the inside front cover, this morning I looked at these two elephants heading for the ark.  I’ve decided not to go beyond two hours and began this sketch at 6:00 a.m.  I don’t know if I will be able to sustain this practice, but I’m giving it a go.

I would love to hear from other artists about their thoughts on this exercise.  To learn more about Rien Poortvliet, known best for his Gnome illustrations, there are several bloggers who have collected various references about his life.  Look here and here, as a start.  I may just begin another page under the menu heading, ARTIST, where I will publish Poortvliet’s paintings followed by my sketches, but first I’ll see if I can make this a ritual.

A ritual “is a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and interests.

Changing the Landscape, One Bag at a Time: Meeting Erin

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.

P1100961A 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.”

P1100963

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

Frank's FlatsIt’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.

 

What I Do When I’m Not Searching For P. Mason OR Writing About Searching For Him

I came home from a day of teaching grade eight social studies (Yes…sometimes I am a guest teacher!  Yesterday I watched, four times over, a late 90s film on Latitude and Longitude.  I feel now that I’ve learned a lot that I hadn’t previously learned in my own schooling.  I often feel that way about teaching.  I’m going to have to remember to ask my brother who is in the Canadian Navy more about a sextant though.  In fact, I’d like to hold a sextant in my hands because then I truly think it will make more sense.  I’m amazed really, thinking about the early nautical travelers, setting out onto the ocean, not REALLY able to sort out where they were.  Huge risk, I say!  But…this has been a digression, yet again!) 

When I arrived home from teaching yesterday, my entire front yard was covered in a fresh blanket of snow.  Clearly, there was a footprint-story to be told in the crisp white surface.  There were no people-prints adjacent, so I excluded the possibility of these being those of a domesticated canine; however,  I am open to the possibility that they were left by a run-away dog. James R. Page does a far more professional job of taking photos of tracks in winter-snow!  I noticed that the footprints circled the place where my birdfeeder used to lose much seed to the ground. (The seed does not fall to the ground here anymore because I have attached a beautiful tray so as to not attract predators.  Now,  the birds do not even feed here anymore!  I jest…there are two neighbourhood chickadees and a couple of finches that are brave enough to tackle the new physical dynamic.   The sparrows line the branches of my front-yard tree and look down, longingly, at the mother-load.)

The footprints.  I have left the autumn vegetation in my gardens as protective structure for the jack rabbits that hang about all winter.  It may be that my visitor to the front yard was looking for sustenance (bunny) on the wintry day.  So, here are my suspicions.  I think that Wiley is still out there!  Yes, our neighbourhood has its own coyote, a male that comes up from the Fish Creek and hangs out in our neighbourhood park.  Recently, I believed that we had lost Wiley.  He has, at least three times, stalked Max and I back to my front doorstep.  In fact, one morning at about 4:00 a.m. Max made a huge commotion and charged up the stairs to the front window.  I followed, alarmed.  There, on my front doorstep, was Wiley, munching enthusiastically into some sort of flesh.  At Max’s reaction, the coyote, nonchalantly, made his way down the street, with ears and body of his prey dangling out of either side of his face.  The last time I made a visual siting though, Wiley was sporting some sort of facial wound.  He looked emaciated and generally, not well.  It’s been a couple of months and still, no Wiley.  Until yesterday?

Winged Migration: The Movie

Recently, I curled up under cozy blankets and felt myself calm as I watched this beautiful film.  I highly recommend it.  Mesmerized by the beauty of nature every day,  I am so blessed to enjoy the ‘magic’ of the Bow River and the wildlife that surrounds me.