Finding Thanksgiving

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this coming Monday, and we’ve plenty, personally, to be thankful for. Oh, Canada! Far from perfect, a work in progress, and thank goodness we are trying. Having said that, recent events in the news leave one feeling a touch guilty about feeling thankful. Honestly, you don’t have to look too hard for evidence to encourage the belief that the world is on a slippery slope right now.

DSCF5958
Thankful for places like this

Do you find yourself mentally exhausted each time you read about the latest crisis? The events themselves are terrible, and awful for the innocent people caught up in them. I know I lead a privileged and comfortable existence compared with many, so my complaining here is trivial. Here I go anyway. I’m dejected and appalled by the other noise that follows, or masquerades as, the news.

DSCF5968The disillusion and despair is felt most particularly when “leadership” responses appear to be all about changing (ignoring) the facts or focus of discussion. To be this disingenuous about serving in government is a disgrace. When they did this, it really means that! I’m right, and don’t anybody ask what this is actually about! You must agree with me. If you dare to express otherwise, then it proves you are that! 

DSCF5956There are statements (speeches, or rather, rants, and tweets – tweets?! – how is that “statesmanlike” or seemly?!) appealing to base notions, or simplifying complicated issues so that pointing fingers and assigning blame overshadows the issue instead of finding solutions. Let’s just control or falsify the narrative to ensure we look good. Any humility? An admission mistakes can be/have been made? Can we allow for another point of view? Nope! Noise, shouting, more noise, and more shouting. I’m in charge and I know best. Oh dear. Common decency and common sense appear to be more and more uncommon these days. Calm things down? No, that won’t make me look strong! Let me threaten instead! It’s so much easier to spread fear and blame than it is to provide hope and help, especially if the needy aren’t your narrow-minded supporters…

DSCF5984
I should try to focus…

I’d better stop writing this. I’m not going to stop reading the news, or cease having an opinion – if we all did, no doubt that would make certain parties only too happy. I will aim for being positive, and that personal positivity will be found most readily in natural settings. I do understand that nature, or the environment, is social/economic/political, but when you’re on the trail, or under canvas, or splashing about in the water, the immediacy of what you’re doing takes over, energizes you, and some of the other concerns fall away, if only for a while.

DSCF5996
Enjoy the bigger picture

Well, we might be at the bottom of the barrel – it can’t get any worse, can it? – but you’ve got to try and be glass half full. I’ve a feeling we’re all going to need as much energy as possible as we attempt to look forward. Has it really been less than a year? Aiming for the positive, I’m thankful for all the voices that acknowledge and value our wonderful diversity and common humanity. I’m thankful for all the beautiful places still left on our amazing planet. I’m thankful it’s still possible to agree to disagree and not raise fists.

IMG_20170713_121115
Glass half full

Hmm. Struggling for coherence here. I think I’ve vented enough – thanks for your patience, and maybe your understanding – and have a wonderful weekend!

The photographs were taken late September at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, AB

Green, gold and red

Last week was silver, this week, gold. (Might be time to stop with the treasure titles…) Anyway, for this week, a few fall thoughts and pictures, and not much structure.

DSCF5943I’ve never really had the time before to wander around Sunnyside during the week, when most are at work or school. It feels slightly illicit. I strolled around the neighbourhood the other day on a beautiful autumnal morning. Ah, what an excellent day it was for displacement activity! I like to have a short list of tasks to do each day, so that at the end of the day I can beat myself up about not achieving them. (I don’t actually feel bad about it – I use unfinished or untackled tasks to make the list for the next day – now isn’t that productive?)

DSCF5925Fall has arrived, and in the foothills and the city, temperatures have been anywhere between early summer and early winter. As I sit and write this, (ooh, check that off the list for today) cold rain is falling and we’ll be in single digits with a slight chance of snow the next couple of days. Then warm sunshine once more. I love weather forecasts and the fall seesaw.

DSCF5929I was breaking in a new pair of boots (check), readying them for a hike we’ve got planned for the coming weekend. The new boots were long overdue. It is time for new ones when the old ones are held together with mud, and they walk by themselves to the nearest garbage can, begging to be put out of their misery. The aroma was distinct, but surely not unpleasant? I thought they had a few more miles left in them, but the refusal of friends and family to walk with me said otherwise.

DSCF5949Sunnyside and the Bow river looked splendid in the bright sunshine. Determined joggers, vigorous dog walkers, wagging dogs, slightly frazzled parents with babies and toddlers, speedy cyclists, and a late middle-aged time-waster were using the pathways along the river, enjoying themselves and the day.

DSCF5934Autumn is one time of year when I think about our old life back in Europe. I think it is the colours and the smells of fallen leaves, the faint scent of decay. It seems to prompt nostalgia and reflection. Calgary is a lively and well-resourced city if you need to be in an urban area, lacking little, but it doesn’t have a wide variety of deciduous trees providing fall colour. I think of the London oaks, planes and chestnuts, and the sweet chestnuts, walnuts, and alders of Bordeaux and Perigueux. We lived near the Foret de la Double, and it was a fine place to wander in the fall. But that was back then, and in the here and now we can enjoy the green and gold.

DSCF5918Walt, over at Rivertop Rambles (Rivertop Rambles – Double Focus), recently wrote about being home after a period away, and the slightly schizophrenic nature of our thoughts as we exist in one physical place and think about another. I often find myself doing that, even when I’m happy enough where we are. Aren’t we complicated creatures, sometimes? 

Bringing myself into the present, my main thought in all this written meandering and on those pleasant riverside paths, is that I’m grateful to have lived in and visited so many places, and currently very happy to find myself in Western Canada. Looking back is good, living in the present is good, and looking forward is good. It’s all good – aren’t we fortunate?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Plains, a train, and an automobile…

Hmm. A messy borrowed – sort of – title, and a short post.

We’re staggering towards the end of this academic year – I can’t remember it being this busy in other years, so I guess early middle age must be catching up with me. We did find time to take a short trip out onto the prairies and plains. We passed through grasslands and ranch lands, tracking the Red Deer river, and stopping in the small (very small) town of Big Valley. Friendly small towns and big spaces – that calls for Paul Brandt on the radio:

Small Towns and Big Dreams

Big Valley is nestled in knob and kettle country, and what lovely scenery that is. Plus, you know, knob and kettle. The childish delight I have in writing that…Almost every kettle had ducks on the water – it was a waterfowl wonderland, and a very pretty habitat. And yet I don’t have a duck in any of the photos? To be honest, each little family of ducks looked so content, I couldn’t bring myself to stop and take a picture in case we disturbed them. The kettle lakes are close to the road, and although they were visible in all directions, we would have been too close.

Old train cars and trucks aren’t sensitive, and parked, they can’t escape. Yup, here comes another old truck photograph. This one, parked up in Big Valley, is the oldest we’ve seen recently, and a beauty:


The railway used to run through here, and enthusiasts keep part of the line open and run trains between Stettler and Big Valley. Maybe we’ll make time to take that short trip one afternoon, for the fun of it. We were happy enough to sit in the sun, and then wander around the train cars and old farm machinery. A couple of pleasant Big Valley hours, and then back through knob and kettle (can’t help it) country, heading home, with a little more Paul Brandt. He is Mr. Alberta summer soundtrack!

Alberta Bound

A brief post, as promised. I hope you enjoyed the music, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend – thanks for reading!

River Song

A very short post this week – I’m being swamped by report cards. (To be honest, I do quite enjoy writing them, and exploring my ability to stretch the truth without falling into fiction…)

DSCF4992
“Shouldn’t that guy on the other bank be working?”
Instead of spending a Sunday working on report cards, and demonstrating my dedication to education, we decided to take a short drive out east. Tough decision, howls of protest, but in the end I went with it. Meaning to take a short hike up and down the river banks in Wyndham-Carseland Provincial Park, our hike turned out to be very brief. The scene was so captivating, and the sun was so high! We ended up sitting by the flowing Bow, in a shady spot on a warm afternoon. The river was up after recent rainfall, and the sound of the rushing water was soothing to an old fellow dozing in his camp chair.DSCF4979

I didn’t fall asleep completely. The wind in the trees added an extra layer of sound that was very pleasant. The breeze was enough to take the edge off the heat in the valley bottom. The best sounds of all? Bird song! Tree swallows, warblers, red winged blackbirds, robins, cormorants, ducks and geese. Those were the ones I did recognize, although my lack of bird knowledge has left me with generic rather than precise recognition. Need to work on that! Pretty sure we saw a yellow warbler – it was pretty for sure. Far in the distance, a hawk wheeled and climbed until out of sight. Ducks splashed on take off and landing, and geese flapped by, honking along the river.

DSCF4996
“Why is he taking our picture? Shouldn’t he be working?”
Those swallows are acrobats! A few wing beats to get above the water, and then a steep or shallow dive to snag a bug, over and over, up and down. I swear one did a ninety degree left turn on a dime. What a display, all speed and grace, and an occasional flash of iridescent green. A joy to watch.IMG_20170528_140250Sometimes the best way to tackle report cards is to leave them at home and go take a nap. Rest your eyes, stare off into the distance, empty your head, or fill it with something else. Be lulled by the river song, rest and recharge, and then head back for an early evening beer. A beer? But what about those – never mind. I can’t write under the influence. Have to finish them another day.

DSCF4997
“You down there? Get back to work!”
A short post this week. Did I mention I seem to be swamped by report cards? It’s all about time management and priorities. Fortunately, I am a professional with focus. Hold on! What’s that sound? I think I hear the call of the river…

IMG_20170519_181010
Distraction…
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS I finished the report cards earlier today. I know you were wondering…

Prairie promise

Less of a promise and more of a hint? Of spring, that is.

DSCF4599
Prairie promise…
I was sitting at the top of Dry Island Buffalo Jump earlier this week. The evidence for spring was all around. Prairie dogs were out in the bright sun, squabbling and tussling with each other. I didn’t know they scampered with a skipping jump. I’m more used to seeing them scurry for their holes. The jumping was fun to see. Maybe it was a spring thing?

DSCF4544
Spring? Where?
It was human noise and nonsense free up there. A spring break Monday, I was in desperate need of space, wanting to be out of the city, and finding some quiet. Figuring the mountains might be busy, I headed east instead of west, and once off the highways and onto dirt roads, I could feel the tensions of a long term start to fade.DSCF4508

Some small ponds had a layer of ice, but like the banks of snow in ditches and sheltered spots, it seemed winter was receding. Empty ridge roads, bright sunshine, bare trees, brown fields with a glint of gold, and washed out blue skies were all sights to see.DSCF4589

When I stopped to take a photo of some old shacks (couldn’t resist), the racing shadow of a bird caught my eye. Spinning and scanning, I saw a hawk glide overhead, searching for a meal. At first I thought it was a red-tailed hawk, although the colouring seemed muted, so perhaps it was a rough legged hawk instead? Either way, it was a wonderful moment, and so positive. Unless you’re a prairie dog…

DSCF4492
A hide out from hawks
I was hoping to spot another hawk from the buffalo jump but it wasn’t to be. Instead, a wheeling raven soared over the badlands – I could hear the wings beating as it passed. All the sounds were soothing. Birds singing in the bare trees behind me, the grass being torn by the ground squirrels, the buzz of a bee (in March!) and the sound of the Red Deer river, in thaw and flow far below. The last might have been my imagination, or the sound of a light breeze, but I fancied it to be the river.

DSCF4517
Red Deer River thaw
All the promise of spring! And a promise to myself to lighten up, and take the negative human constructs of our world less seriously. As I get older, I find the world harder to understand. It can’t always be ignored, but I aim to deflect some of the 21st century madness that appears to be on us. It seems far less pressing when you’re atop a prairie buffalo jump!DSCF4591

It was hard to drag myself away, so I didn’t, not immediately. I sat and wrote much of this piece, and hung out a little more with my prairie dog buddies. It was fun simply to hang with the buffalo jump gang.

DSCF4553
I love the view from up here!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

DSCF4555
Yeah, I am cute.

On the banks of the Bow

Marching towards spring? Perhaps, but there’s no rush. Still time to find some winter.

DSCF4448We went looking for winter last weekend, out on the banks of the Bow. We found a chill wind blowing. Deep snow, and no sign of any fellow humans out and about. Previously made snowshoe tracks were well buried under a fresh blanket of snow. To be fair, there were fresh snowshoe tracks – those of a snowshoe hare. A deer or two had evidently passed through shortly before we did, so we weren’t entirely alone.

DSCN7434Winter had a pretty good grip on the landscape. Thin patches of filmy ice drifted down river. We stood still and silent, hoping to catch sight of the little dipper we often encounter along this particular stretch. A sudden splash alerted us to the presence of something larger, and a minute later we spotted a beaver swimming in front of the far bank.

DSCF4431
Not impressed

Unimpressed with us, back view only, it hunched over and chewed on a branch in the shallows opposite. We waited for a few moments more, hoping it would turn and permit us a photograph. No, nothing doing. We began to sidle away, a slow exit stage left, when the beaver hopped up, flipped, and dove into the water. Up it popped, and off it swam, upstream. What a wonderful sight! We plodded on, cold on the outside, but warmed on the inside after the brief encounter.

DSCF4434Two Steller’s jays appeared, emerging from a heavily branched pine, chattering and scolding us as we passed by. Our winged escort for quite a way, flitting from tree to tree, and branch to branch, they were sometimes hard to spot, but little puffs of snow and a flash of blue revealed them each time they took off. Eventually we left their territory, but they were a welcome sight for a while.

DSCF4458
A jay could make a nest in this…

We half expected the jays to reappear when we stopped to eat our lunch, knowing them to be cheeky and opportune enough to dive for a crumb or two. Didn’t happen, and that was ok. Safely out of jay territory, we perched on a log in the shelter of trees, no wind, and in sight and sound of the river. Out of the wind, our break was pleasant enough.

DSCF4446
Lunch stop

We’d found winter, and it was in fine form. A burbling river, light snow falling, signs of life all around, and the sun beginning to emerge through breaks in the grey, this was as good a late winter March morning one could have wished for.

DSCF4453Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Saddleback

Sounds painful, but it really wasn’t. This piece includes a Western (Canada) tale about a man who is tall in the saddle. Or a man telling tall tales. And there’s a saddle.

dscf4309We were on the Saddleback trail a little while ago, and it is a fine place to be. Searching for some outdoor peace on a crowded January weekend near Lake Louise, we watched where most folks were heading from the parking lot, and then went in the opposite direction. We are wily PlaidCampers…

That was a good decision. The Saddleback is a bridle trail in warmer months, and they can sometimes be very muddy and rutted for hikers. In the winter though, they are often wonderful snowshoe trails, and so it proved to be along the Saddleback. The snow was deep on either side of the path, but previous snowshoers had created an easy enough set of tracks to follow – I know, we are contrary PlaidCampers, wanting a quiet trail but happy enough to benefit from previous users. Contrary? Or wily?

dscn7413With the narrow track winding through tall trees, there was an almost tunnel like effect at times, with branches overhanging the trail and dumping clumps of heavy snow if we disturbed the dangling limbs. Dump clump? Well, alright! Ahem. The heavy blanket muffled most noise, so there was a real stillness and quiet to the forest.

dscn7388Plodding along and enjoying the walk, I got to thinking about taking a trail ride in the summer. Would I enjoy it? The few horses I’ve ever ridden always appear to have a tremendous time. They’ll take a route under the lowest boughs, and close to rough trunks simply to see if I can hang on. I can. Last time out, I slipped just a little in the saddle. Or from the saddle. My butt was lower than my knees but I think that’s a riding style. A slight twist on side saddle? Definitely didn’t fall off. It’s not falling off if you don’t touch the ground.

dscn7399Maybe I’ll stick to hiking. Supposing I’m out riding on a narrow mountain path and we meet a bear? The horse would rear up, I’d fall off – the last couple of feet or so, being close to the ground already – and then there’d be headlines. Nope, sticking to hiking. I’m a wily (and news shy) old PlaidCamper.

dscf4306We enjoyed the Saddleback, and would take it again. It’s a quiet spot in a sometimes crowded part of Banff National Park. Recommended, certainly in winter, and if you’re a brave soul, perhaps you’d enjoy it on a horse in the summer?

Thanks for reading this tall (short?) tale from the trail. As always, please feel free to share a story or comment, and have a wonderful weekend!