I just returned from the river and had five minutes alone with Mr…one other lady was walking into the park at that time and took out her phone to capture the magnificence. She had just happened to turn into the park and off of her usual walk, so it was fun, at a distance, to explain to her what was happening when he leapt from the perch and made his way to the ridge. It’s remarkable that this family of eagles follows the same course. While, again, the photos are not exceptionally clear, I was excited to see the male return to the nest where the female was sitting and then to see an egg roll (based on movement) and a shift change. What a stunningly beautiful time at the river.
Wouldn’t you love to live in one of those homes…or on a single floor…or in a single room of one of those homes and see nature every day all day long?
Early morning, before my walk at the river and after a phone call with my friend, Joan, Max and I attempted a selfie session, with a variety of results. He began by turning his back to the camera. Here are a few of his very personalized expressions. I was just so relieved in the morning because the afternoon before saw Maxman downing a half a large fruit cake while I was wandering about watching coyotes. As a result he had to visit the vet and, gratefully, Dr. Justine, averted any more drama.
In the afternoon, I headed for Trinity Lodge. I had an opportunity to enjoy a performance with Joan in her new residence. Joan has made a recent move to the Lodge and I was pleased to find her in terrific humour and to have a beautiful friend in Sophie.
Together, we watched a Robert Burns tribute delivered by St. Andrew Caledonia Society of Calgary, in preparation for today’s official anniversary.
First a wee pipe, then a brief history was given by Ian, followed by a recitation of this poem. Well, it’s longish and so that I don’t lose my readers, I’ll post it at the end. The title is To a Mouse: On Turning her up in her Nest, with a Plough, written in 1785.
I really enjoyed that the residents to the left and right of me were able to, in part, recite the poems and songs that were shared in the afternoon.
I feel very grateful that Joan is making adjustments to her new residence. I see myself enjoying many wonderful times with her. Sophie, Joan and I went to the Bistro and sipped our Lattes while sharing many fun stories. Once home, I took Max out for his neighbourhood walk and anticipated my evening attendance at the Katie Ohe retrospective at the Esker Foundation. Overall, it was a beautiful day.
On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
Thy wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
Little, cunning, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering paddle!
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing,
Both bitter and piercing!
You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.
That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.
But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
I wasn’t going to write today, but here I am, a glass of Malbec to my right, and so much to think about.
Today would have been my brother’s 66th birthday. I turn 65 in May. He and I were so very close. It pains me that we didn’t share as much in our later years. He became a private man. Still, we made time to share good meals with friends. We enjoyed live music together. We were both very proud of our city. I love all of the growing-up memories of John. He was sometimes rebellious. He was robust. He was quite a live wire. I like the memories of him grilling steaks and burgers. He knew what he was doing there.
I have been thinking about John all week. Birthdays celebrated with families are so special. He should be here to celebrate with us. Now, he is ‘with us in spirit’. That’s something people say…but words like that just crack open my heart and cause it to bleed, all over again. I feel bad for people who try to make just the right remarks when you’ve lost someone you deeply love. I’ve often been one of those people. Let’s face it, there are no really helpful words. Best to just say ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t blame or judge people for things that they’ve tried to say. I know that their intentions are good. Grief does weird unbelievable things to a person. There’s no real understanding it. I miss John, though, every day…just as I miss my mother.
Family went out for lunch together. I liked being with John’s son. We were ‘hospice buddies’ and call ourselves that to this day. There’s no way that one can know what that experience is like until one might find themselves living it. I take a moment as I’m typing and lift a prayer for families who are in the midst of all of this. I take a moment and pray for the beautiful hearts who give palliative and then hospice care…and the nurses…the doctors. A tear drops.
Our family was the very best through the pain of losing John. If family does work. We did our best work through that time.
My grandson broke out into a lively version of happy birthday when he received his vanilla ice cream on dry ice. He even got the part about ‘Uncle Johnny’. His timing was impeccable. A Moxie’s lunch to celebrate my brother was the perfect choice.
From the lunch and our good-byes, I had to head right for the river. For one thing, the temperature was steadily moving up and was -11 when I pulled up in front of the house. I can clear my head at the river. Through John’s last months, I always felt uplifted while at the river’s edge, even on particularly difficult days.
I first walked along the bank in a north west direction. Across from me, the beauty and tranquility of deer and geese. After five days of -30 to -40 temperatures and a bad wind chill, it seemed that all of nature was breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out. Such a lovely thing. Interestingly enough, in the icy times of winter, I always notice that the deer consume the geese droppings. Such was the case today. Vegetation must be minimal by now and what better way to consume some nutrition! Nature cares for itself in so many different ways.
Once heading south on the path, I experienced the most remarkable moment! In a flash, a coyote rushed out of the tall grass and a deer bound into the frozen river. The coyote lurched to a stop on the very edge of the ice. I was frozen…couldn’t move…didn’t even think about capturing the moment on my camera. Too late, I recorded the deer’s challenging swim and its exit from the cold water. I watched until it found its way, some distance, up onto the bank. It wobbled on the ice and then bolted for the cover of the brush.
I was relieved but remember pausing to wonder how all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the river valley manage to eek out a living.
Continuing on my hike, I was mindful that the coyotes are hungry. I figured that if one coyote came out of the brush, there were others. They work diligently together in order to eat, especially in these circumstances of frigid temperatures. Above me, to the left, I saw two. Do you want to observe a coyote? Listen for the Corvids (Magpies, Crows and Ravens) because all follow close behind the predators.
I was pleased to observe this young beauty consuming something. It was either a rabbit or a pheasant. I could hear the pheasants articulating in the high brush as I made my way south. Looking closer, a Raven decided to peck away at the carcass.
Around this time, I bumped into Lloyd. I really can’t believe the distance he walks down in this same spot, in fact, he goes so far as to cross the ice to the island almost every day. He asked, in his jovial way, ‘Why he hadn’t seen me lately?’ And I told him that apart from one day during the deep freeze I came down to make my typical observations. He walked with me as far as the beaver dam. Together, we looked at the reflections on the smooth pond ice. He told me a story of skating ponds in his childhood….such magic! Walking, I told him about the incident with the deer. We parted ways. As he left, he said, “I hope you spot your eagles”.
The remainder of the walk was very peaceful. I thought that I might discover more deer, given that the stressed white tail flew out from this side of the river, but no sightings. Several beautifully large and articulating Ravens flew amongst the bare branches. All was magical. Then, as if from nowhere, the young Eagle appeared. I haven’t captured any really clear photographs, but I would guess that it was either one of the one year olds from last summer’s nest, or a two year old. Its colouring is getting to be mottled. One thing for certain, it wasn’t the Huntress, one that I expected to see. A Raven flew in and gave this youngster some company for a short while. Dad was no where to be seen.
This day was a beautiful day. Again, it reinforced the fact that life is filled to the brim with both beauty and brutality. We have no choice but to take it all and in whatever ways it makes its way to us. We can control the ways that we respond, but apart from that, we should always keep a Plan B in our back pockets.
Here at home, safe and warm, a friend from the river, fired off a message to me. I was eating from a hot bowl of stew at the time. The message was about a deer that was wounded and down, just beneath 130th Ave. She met Lloyd while out on her hike (love my network of river friends) and thought that this deer was possibly the character from my narrative. I will never know. Initially, I thought, by description, the deer was above the bank, but as the information became more clear, I learned that this deer is wounded and is out on the ice tonight. It would be an impossible thing for anyone to assist it tonight, impossible to keep it from its suffering. While this is upsetting to me and to my friends, we have sometimes no choice but to accept what we can’t control. I’m hoping that the coyotes/eagles are able to make good use of its sacrifice.
This, it turns out, was quite a day. Blessings to those of you who have sent wishes today. Blessings on my father.
Nothing like clicking the camera and having this message come up. I suppose, in some ways, a person should walk through life without space on their memory card, in order to be fully present. So, I walked the rest of the crispy morning, without snapping and clicking and containing the magic of the landscape. Instead, I considered the beauty of the Pileated Woodpecker and the bright flash of red through the hoarfrost to be a gift to me. The morning was heavenly, on my side of the river.
I saw our adult Bald Eagle pretty quickly and snapped some shots as the fog off the river was quickly making its way toward me. The sound of geese and ducks rose up out of the icy Bow River. All else was silent. These are the photos that I grabbed before my lens withdrew into my camera and my camera shut down.
The White Breasted Nuthatch was the best that I could get yesterday, when I left Max at home and did my walk by myself.
Weather and nature contribute to struggles…constantly, I’m reminded that life contains brutality as well as beauty.
Always trying for a good shot of a White Breasted Nuthatch, but never quite getting it.
In all of that blue, above, one can see a Juvenile flying over. It’s wonderful that recently another birder-friend, Julie has sighted one of the Juveniles close, on our side of the river. At least one of them has thrived thus far, through the wintry weather.
As I poured over my archives last evening, On December 15, 2018 I observed an adult Bald Eagle on the nest. At the end of my walk this morning, I noticed that an adult had landed on the nest and was doing some shifting of the snow on its surface. So many beautiful miracles at this nest the past six years! It’s all so intuitive and spectacular to watch unfold. Already, I’ve been given a promise of spring.
Almost soothing, the piece, Kablusiak: Qiniqtuaq located in the project space is best-seen in the night time as it becomes animated by the warm light of the projection and its complexities are more successfully captured.
On Friday evening, Jeffrey Gibson generously moved through a brief history of major bodies of work, beginning with the Punching Bag series and continuing to talk about abstraction, collaboration and garments. It was very kind of Jeffrey to take the time to chat with us beyond question period, given that the garments and drums were being de-installed for the next day’s performance. From Esker, Karen and I drove to cSPACE via a random path selected by Google Maps. (another story) We were able to enjoy the work of artist and friend, Louise Lacey-Rokosh. I met Louise some years ago at Gorilla House and I have enjoyed following her work.
I was blessed to have the opportunity to also enjoy Jeffrey Gibson’s performance piece, To Name Another, a piece that left me in tears three different times. Did I take note of the words that most moved me? No… I think that the complete engagement in the sound/movement experience took all of us to a deeper place. And while this might sound a little strange, that’s okay.
I continue to have a sense of wonder about the work that is on display and am looking forward to learning more about Nep Sidhu’s work and process.
Thanks to my sister-friends, Karen and Linda, for sharing in parts of this immersive journey with me this past weekend. I enjoyed the yummy Ruben sandwich on the Spolumbos patio with you, Karen, on a perfect autumn day. And Linda, I’m so happy that we had a chance to share deep fried dill pickles and a terrific Blues Jam and the Can.
A few images follow…I regret that I am missing the titles of the works below. I will backtrack and complete the information as I collect it. Initially, I have posted photos of some of the titles available that are linked to the subjects or interests of the artists presently on exhibit. I really appreciate how the Esker always provides a reading list.
Autumn means chasing this guy around, trying to grab a focused photograph. Some people play football. This is my sport. I could spend hours listening for him and then high-tailing it to his next location. He plays catch-me-if-you-can and I can be heard in the woods, laughing out loud. If anyone else was around they would wonder. First, readers, take note of the Belted Kingfisher’s interesting sound.
Twice in the past two days, the Kingfisher has taken a place of importance, the high Y branch of the Bald Eagle family’s favourite tree. First time, both Juveniles went at him. I think that perhaps the Kingfisher was consuming a meal and the young eagles get pretty scrappy with the food of other river hunters. Next time, the Sub Adult flew in, I suppose just to claim her dominance.
My visuals are all very unfocused, but I’m logging these here as a part of my birder journals. This morning, in the fog, I also watched an Osprey dive, almost vertically, off of a tree and pounce upon a young Cormorant as he fished. Life on the river is a bit of a dog-eat-dog world. When I returned home, I saw that I got an unfocused capture of the Osprey leaving the tree.
The two juvenile Bald Eagles swooped into the scene, evicting the Kingfisher from prime territory.
He arrived at my side of the river, for only moments and I snapped this photograph, directly into the light.
Another visit to the river, and again, he chose prime branches. Are you kidding?
In she swooped…and look, where the little guy ended up!
This morning, in the fog.
Life carries on, in all forms, at the river, but very different from only weeks ago. The Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are in greater numbers, as are the White Breasted Nuthatches. The Northern Flickers swoosh down and up onto the Elms. This afternoon, the subdued landscape was broken by a huge frenzy of vocalizations of coyotes on the island and the howls were returned in unison by the coyotes on this side of the river. It was absolutely magical!
Osprey taking a dive, not for a fish, but for the Cormorant catching the fish! (Horrible photo alert!)
Juvenile Cormorant. Doug Newman pointed out one time that some Cormorant species have bright blue eyes in this stage. This is the best that I’ve been able to capture that.
And, what exactly is this? Has this wee babe been abandoned by Mom? What is it?
The elegance of the young American Robins, at this time, fills my heart, whenever I see them.
This past week might have been impacted by bad-weather days, but nature continues to amaze me, regardless.
The female Mallard keeps her kids in line.
I will continue to attempt a good capture of the Belted Kingfisher during the coming week.
The Beltline Urban Murals Project provided several offerings over the past few days. My friend, Pat, and I participated in a tour that introduced us to the murals in east locations of the Beltline. We will have to see the murals to the west on our own. The weather was cooperative at the outset, but then we just got really hit with rain. It’s interesting though, Pat and I never really get hung up about things when we are taking in an event of interest. We just have fun.
Click on the blue links for artist biographies. This is the third annual BUMP event to be held in Calgary.
Pat can be seen jay walking in the next photograph. She is going to let me know (again) that she doesn’t like her photo taken.
This mural was a new addition to the line up and it was a really fun stop as two artists were working on this alley mural as we approached. I believe the gentleman is RUNT. It can’t be easy painting that rough stucco surface with brushes. I’m also guessing that this wall was in bad shape upon the outset!
As we left, I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the old ad. art work on the adjacent building.
This piece is going to be amazing and will cover the expanse of this wall. It is based on a study done of buffalo hides and is connected with research at Blackfoot Crossing. Typically, Guido Van Helten produces works that include large monochrome portraits, so this is a little different. I’m excited to see this one finished.
Mateusz Naperialski created a mural in close proximity to several others. This little section was absolutely beautiful and the art was like eye candy. I was really feeling for the organizers and events folks, as well as the DJs who were closing out the event. What a time to have so much rain!
Labrona’s work created a beautiful welcome into the celebration area, fixed with fire pits, strung lights and spray paint demonstrations and participation. So fun! Food trucks are down there and I’m sure that the music is still playing.
Reza Nik’s bright yellow created a brilliant conclusion to our BUMP experience. This is an event that is now on my radar and I will be attending in future. Congratulations to all participants. I’m thrilled that our city is energizing the visual. It’s so important to all of us.
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.
My son, Pat and I attended the first Thursday event on August 1st. Recently, this exhibit includes the work by the amazing Nick Cave. I’m so happy that we had opportunity to enjoy this work. Very provocative, unique and obviously born of tremendous industry. There is also such depth of meaning and I’ve tried to include some of the background here.
First Thursday was a most wonderful evening. I enjoyed the company of both Pat and James. We wandered the gift shop for a while and I found some lovely books for my grandson, things that I’m certain he will enjoy.
I loved the conversation and the company. Another great night in YYC! I’ve heard many people complain that Calgary is a tough city for making connections or sharing in community. My own experience is one where I simply don’t have enough time to take in all of the events that are absolutely accessible. While the sprawl does create a physical distance between many of my friends and myself, it is always a good idea to meet in the middle.
I still enjoyed my time at the river, but at this time, already began to suspect that something was up with the female Bald Eagle. Dad seemed to have assumed all of the duties and there was even the appearance of a sub Adult, maybe 3 or 4 years of age. I took a close up shot of Dad’s talons to confirm that it was him, although I’ve become accustomed to his handsome face.
Hours spent by the river are the best hours. I hope and pray that my grandson will love and respect nature as much as I do. I will do my very best to instill that in him by sharing my joy and delight in the textures, colours, sights, smells and sounds of natural environments.
Snake! Gramma touch.
What a pleasure to make observations of the juveniles. Dad is watching closely.