Tuesday, March 27, 2012

As part of my job the last few years I am required to travel
to our other location. Nothing onerous I travel by bus and
spend on average of one night a month in a commercial hotel.
I did learn that a lot of the people staying there seem to spend
part of each week away from home so I am quite lucky. It did
however focus my attention on the area around the hotel. All
cities seem to secrete these rings of car lots, train tracks,
outlet malls, lots full of satellite dishes, sandwiched between
fast food restaurants, propane tanks and of course hotels
and motels for the weary traveller.  I have not seen them
celebrated a lot in literature but I have not looked
Alain de Botton mentions these areas in some of
his books like "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" and
"The Art of Travel" but his books leave me unsatisfied.
J.G.Ballard whose early science fiction themed work I love
wrote a number of later dystopian novels set in high rises,
traffic islands, malls etc. and despite the fact I rarely finished
these novels I often think of them when I confront this landscape.
It is hard to take any great stand against these areas they are
part of every city and a necessity it seems to a way of life that
allows many of us to enjoy a greatly expanded life expectancy,
modern medicine, ample food, great leisure activities travel,
security etc.

However their growth strikes me as predicated only on
expediency, economy and convenience. They owe nothing
to grace or charm or beauty or the human spirit. No one
sleeps there but the displaced.

While on the trip I mentioned in my earlier post
we got up early to take the dogs out and I
photographed the area around our perfectly nice hotel. 
At least there was one familiar face and having the
whole family there made it much friendlier.

"I knew I'd have to face my aging
and my death, but not
the death of forests, not of oceans, not the air:"

Mountain Ash without Cedar Waxwings
Robert Pack

"I feel as empty as my mountain ash
without the cedar waxwing here,
I feel the loss, wide as out universe,
of everything that I hold dear?"

Mountain Ash without Cedar Waxwings
Robert Pack

"I believe in my own obsessions, in the beauty of the car crash,
in the peace of the submerged forest, in the excitements of
the deserted holiday beach, in the elegance of automobile
graveyards, in the mystery of multi-storey car parks,
in the poetry of abandoned hotels."

                     What I believe
                               J.G. Ballard

Perhaps some balance would be nice.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday I had to visit one of our locations in
central Alberta so we decided that the entire family
minus the cat would drive up Friday ( mostly Helen )
stay in a hotel overnight and wander home Saturday
visiting a couple of birding spots on the way. This
would give us an idea of how the dogs travel. This trip
 is about 4.5 hours the trip to the cabin about 8 hours.
The dogs were not happy about hours in their new
kennel and Shaun was paranoid about a night
in the hotel, he gets that from me but they did fine.
However it is still winter here so birding consisted
of magpies, crows and skeins of returning geese.
Out first stop was Beaverhill Lake. We never found the
actual observatory but we did find the lake.

"This natural area is internationally recognized for its wetlands
& diverse bird populations - more than 270 bird species have
been reported, with 145 known to breed locally. Beaverhill Lake
was designated a RAMSAR site (wetland of international significance)
 in 1987. The two-day Beaverhill Lake Snow Goose Festival attracts
6000 people to the site annually."

Government of Alberta

Beaverhill Lake has dried over the years and is now more
wetland than  lake. As such these photos are pretty
typically of a prairie wetland in the winter.

Next we decided to stop at the
Miquelon Lake Provincial Park
"Miquelon Lake is at the south end
of the Cooking Lake Moraine. The park is
dominated by trembling aspen, balsam poplar
& white spruce forests."

Government of Alberta

Despite numerous maps and mapbooks
we did not find that either. We did find a
nice spot to stop (dogs) along a gravel
road. There was still a fair bit of snow once
you got off the highway into the trees and no
visible birds. It is still winter here. Then

"Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;"
Mother Goose

"Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

Monday, March 12, 2012

We have been busy around the house,
moving furniture so we can paint, visiting
hardware stores and painting so I have not
taken many pictures. I took these shots of
the streetlight in front of the house March 3rd
when we got a bit of snow over night.

"Are you sleeping now?
It's midnight in Missoula
Where the Black Hills know your name
Is the snow piled high around your window frame?
Is there enough frost left to write our names upon the pane?"

Midnight in Missoula
Lyrics as performed by Nanci Griffith

"Oh my fair North Star
I have held to you dearly
I have asked you to steer me
Til one cloud scattered night
I got lost in my travels
I met Leo the Lion
Met a king and met a giant, with their errant knight"

Lyrics Mercy of the Fallen
as performed by Dar Williams

The next day I managed a few shots in the
backyard. The snow was mostly gone today.

"So I rode my one-eyed mare across the tundra
As soon as I was old enough to go
There were dangers that befell the ones who wandered
But the fern moss just looked pretty in the snow"

Lyrics New Siberia
As performed by Antje Duvekot

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Earlier I posted photos of my wife's family farm
in Saskatchewan and also photos of the cabin we
have been building on 80 acres we purchased to use
during our retirement. One thing we had planned to do
was set up trail cameras to observe the wildlife.
Brian my wife's younger brother, (who with her older
brother Ralph did most of the work on the cabin often
under unpleasant conditions, building a tin roof during a heat
wave  while sick comes to mind, Thanks Guys), set up some trail
cameras this year and was kind enough to share the fruits of his
labour. I am not sure which part of the farm the cameras were
stationed on but all the land on the farm including ours is
fairly similar, Aspen Parkland, a northern extension of the
Great Plains prairie ecosystem which forms a large part
of western Canada and the United States. I really recommend
Candace Savage's  Prairie: A Natural History for an
introduction to the topic.

My wife and I met while working in archaeology. One of
the most challenging but also one of the most rewarding
aspects of this was you spent a lot of the summer outside in tents
often in isolated rural areas. The exposure to nature, through
the weather, the plants and the animals reinforced our desire
to be able to spend time outside the city gardening, watching
the seasons, getting to know the birds, the insects and reptiles (me)
watching the stars ( Helen and me ) and generally enjoying the
wildlife. The farm is perfect for this because the types of wildlife
actually appear to be increasing the usual deer, beaver, coyotes,
porcupine,skunks and occasional elk  now share their habitat with
wolves and moose which had not been seen for years. It appears that
mountain lions have also moved into the area in the last few years.

While retirement is some years away we had been consulting with
a financial planner and she mentioned that many people had trouble
with boredom. We looked at her and said we did not think that will
be a problem. And I don't think it will, be but if it is we can always
take a few minutes and talk to the neighbours.

"But the moon carved unknown totems
out of the lakeshore
owls in the beardusky woods derided him
moosehorned cedars circled his swamps and tossed
their antlers up to the stars"
                             Earle Birney

                                          "How long did those
       three deer stand pondering, the dark, bowing to taste
the least brown grasses, the cold-burnt rosehips"
                                                                  The Deer
                                                                       David Baker

" Now do U understand what heaven is
it is the surround of the living"

                                             The Changing Light at Sandover
                                                          James Merrill

Thanks Again Brian