Canada Day

As I write this, it’s Canada Day. We’re 155 years old.

I think I had 155 photos to choose from . . . You’ll be glad to know I didn’t use them all.

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What Goes Around

What goes around comes around, they say, and that’s at least as true on social media as anywhere else in life.

Two weeks ago I replied to a photo of a Newfoundland puffin with one of my own from the Shetlands — and just thinking about being able to “reply” to a photo with another photo makes me smile — and suddenly my Twitter feed was full of puffin photos (even a Welsh one) posted in response to mine. And that made me smile, too.

Last week I cited James Garner as an example of an actor who seemed to wear a role as a second skin, and suddenly my Twitter feed was full of nostalgic posts/photos by Garner’s daughter and his fans. OK, OK, I smiled again.

Contrariwise, when I retweeted a cranky-but-fair op-ed assessment of a given politician’s failings, the blasts came from both sides. Apparently my retweet of a thoughtful and carefully worded critique was UNACCEPTABLE for, simultaneously, going WAY too far and not going ANYWHERE NEAR far enough. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I admit that I can’t recover my exact state of mind when I hit “retweet” on the political commentary, but I know my current state of mind exactly and it is this: The world has a surfeit of anger. I likely can’t keep it from coming around, but I can refuse to send it out in the first place.

If cranky generates outrage, and cute puffins generate . . . more cuteness, then I’m in. Like, with the puffins I mean.

And James Garner. He was pretty cute, too.

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Some find it in a church, some in meditation. Some find it in listening to music, some in making same. Some find it in a relationship, some in solitude.

What “it”? Sank-chew-airy. (This phonetic pronunciation note is my unofficial attempt at an easier format than the official one — /saNGk(t)SHəˌwerē/ — and I stand by my results.)

sanctuary (noun):

      • a place of refuge or safety
      • a nature reserve

That’s the Oxford Language take on the word’s meaning and it seems OK to me. Some dictionaries add “sacred/holy/consecrated” places to these two basic meanings.

Without trying to make the whole world a “safe space,” I think we all need at least one place of safety; one place of refuge from our troubles and from the world’s troubles. In addition to the sources already noted, some find sanctuary-in-the-first-sense in a sanctuary-in-the-second-sense: a nature reserve.

I am among those some. On my recent trip West I visited two nature reserves: one near Edmonton and one in Calgary, where I saw magpies, a northern flicker, a goldeneye duck with her babies, a downy woodpecker (niftly dodging my lens), mallards, common mergansers (male and female), and a female wood duck with seven babies.

There is an argument to be made that once you’ve seen one duckling, you’ve seen ’em all. I wouldn’t argue the point. What strikes me about baby ducks is not that they’re different, but just that they’re babies. What strikes me about sanctuary-in-any-sense is that it’s easier to show than to tell.

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The Cover of Trees Seek Not, My Precious

OK, so we didn’t actually get a big storm in Ottawa on Thursday, although there was some loose talk of same.

The family flutter started with that little red-and-white cloud icon.


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I Sink, Therefore I Am

My heart sinks. It’s been so long since I could sink a putt or a jump shot or into my studies or even since I had something to really sink my teeth into . . . where was I? oh yes, it’s been so long without sinking that I’m getting that old sinking feeling. You know the one: That feeling that you could sink through the floor, or into despair/depression/oblivion, or without a trace.

As I sink simultaneously into the couch and deep thought (athlete that I am), I wonder whether I should take my sink-or-swim chances. After all, even a small leak will sink a great ship. Without exactly sinking to a rat’s level, is it yet time to abandon what might well be a sinking ship?

Fussing about the inevitability of things is a well-known time sink.  I guess I’ll just have to accept the world as it is: Some things sink into others; some don’t.

Let that sink in for a while.

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One Summer Day

As I push the grocery cart to the car, a warm gusty wind caresses my bare arms, brings the scent of lilacs to my nose, and warns of much-hotter days to come. At least two months after the last application of grit on icy parking spots, little stones still kick up and lodge in my sandals. Strong mid-afternoon light somehow winkles in behind my sunny-day glasses. I turn my head.

What’s that? Almost catching sight of something that is somehow familiar, I turn my head again. Even with squinting I can’t get a good look at this target that moves with me, but I know what it is. Seventy years’ worth of summer days are lined up just beyond the edge of my peripheral vision.

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Gibsons are not cat people.

There, I said it. And yet, while it’s true it’s also not true. Maybe I should say that most Gibsons are not cat people.

I grew up with a dog in the house. Was I a teenager before I heard the whispered reports of a time before my consciousness when a cat had lived in our house? Before I noticed that my father was a cat-whisperer, making friends with them wherever he went, while my mother stood at a safe distance? Maybe.

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The work of Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, has shown time and time again that experiencing awe—watching a beautiful sunset, listening to moving music, witnessing a master at their craft—leads to self-transcendence and feelings of spiritual connection.
Brad Stulberg

Well, there you have it: the science is settled or, at least, replicated. Experiencing awe leads to self-transcendence and feelings of spiritual connection.

What does that have to do with this blog? Well, for goodness sake. Go back and look at the list of things that prompt awe: watching a beautiful sunset, listening to moving music, witnessing a master at their craft (cough, cough).

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Trip Report

Post-Covid as we are (the country, more or less, and us, certainly), our usual May/June Western swing (not to be confused with Western Swing) has been reinstated this year. That means stops for me in Calgary, and in Edmonton and environs, and a taste of places that will always be home at some level, whether I ever live there again or not.

Picking up the various threads of my life is different this time and yet also like every other time: A remembrance of what was, a celebration of what is, and an anticipation of what is yet to be.


On days ranging from decent (sunny but windy) to truly awful for late May (overcast and blustery winds reminiscent of sleet in November), I wandered a bit. On the awful days, truly only a bit. (Cold. Wind.)

Calgary’s compact downtown and adjacent river offer numerous vistas and perspectives, all worth exploring. Next time, for example, I want a step ladder to try different angles/elevations for the right-hand shot. And I want a warmer and bluer-sky day, which I’m just mentioning now.

In passing, the City also offered old and new versions of mind-and-or-mood-altering substances, none of which are recommended to be combined with ladders, step or otherwise.

Edmonton & Environs

Edmonton was sunny and windy but never felt as if sleet were imminent. That encouraged me to drive out to Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park.

Pro tip: Unless you want a seemingly endless (Turn left, turn left, turn left, turn left. Repeat.) and ultimately fruitless tour of Alberta’s range roads, get driving directions from the website, not from Google, which has some weird location information in its database for this location. Or Google “Lois Hole boardwalk” not the park itself.

Having visited the boardwalk last September in a sleeveless top, shin-length leggings, cute little sweater, and sandals while everyone else had broken out the ski jackets, tuques/toques/touques, and gloves, I went prepared this time with many layers, most of which were not needed. This seems often to be the way it is with preparation.

But my mind was soon not on what I was wearing or carrying. In contrast to the slim pickings last fall, this visit was a natural bonanza.

In the field beside the parking lot there was one coyote, padding along with his eyes closed or mostly so, I swear. Maybe he left his sunny-day glasses in his other coat?

Is he just squinting or are his eyes *completely* shut? Perhaps he’s visualizing his next pounce, as the golfers and curlers do with their next shot.

When I got to the boardwalk over the swamp, one muskrat appeared and then disappeared too fast for an artistic portrait.

A great blue heron took off just before I got to the viewing platform: I snapped a shot without much hope.

Tens of black terns swoop-chased airborne insects above the swamp (presumably successfully), changing direction too quickly for any portrait. I snapped a few tens of shots, trying just to keep these acrobatic aerialists in the frame, and got one shot at quite a distance.

The one in the water is the muskrat.

There were the unmistakable and unforgettable male red-winged blackbirds all over the place, and presumably corresponding numbers of the much-less-obvious females.

The one on the upper left is the female.

There were birds I may well have seen before but forgotten: a blue-winged teal and a gray catbird.

The one on the right is the mysteriously named gray catbird.

There were two kinds of swallows: barn and tree.

The one on the right is the tree swallow.

And the highlight of my day? Another look at a spectacular bird I’d only seen once or twice before and that in Arizona, despite it being common in Alberta during the breeding season: the yellow-headed blackbird. As near as I could tell this was a single individual going back and forth from the boardwalk to dried bulrushes about 30 or 40 yards away (a nesting area?), well out of my range at maximum zoom.

I’m not sure if destiny is all (as Uhtred, son of Uhtred, avers), but patience is close to all for bird photography. What isn’t patience is luck. If someone else hadn’t scattered that popping corn there, this guy might never even have poked his head up out of the swamp.

The one.


Posted in Appreciating Deeply, Photos of Built Stuff, Photos of Fauna, Photos of Landscapes, Through Canada | Tagged , , | 15 Comments