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Just When You Think You Know Someone – Mosquito Hawk

I’d mowed the lawn. I’d played with the dogs using the garden hose and paddling pool. It was hotter than Hades so I parked myself in a lawn chair to enjoy a few minutes of rest when I noticed a some things going on in the domesticity of my backyard.

Charlie in the pool  Piper chillaxing  

True and Charlie

The lawn was iridescent. Smallish dragonflies – bigger than the wee skinny blue ones but half the size of the giant blue helicopters. Half of them were tangerine in colour and the other half ruby red and they were covering the grass. Their wings made the yard shimmer and they seem to only fly about a foot or two off of the ground. Really beautiful. I was able to photograph a few when they rested on the broad leaves of the raspberry bushes.

Tangerine Dragonfly Ruby Red Dragonfly

 

I’ve been lamenting that we’ve had very few dragonflies this summer and those that have arrived seem late. I know different species hatch at different times of the summer but there was a distinct absence of all of them until just recently.

I should say that I had the incredible opportunity last summer to tag along with several international enthusiasts from the Dragonfly Society of the Americas. I learned so many interesting things about dragonflies from them in the couple of hours I spent watching them net dragons out of the air like they had apprenticed under master Obi-Wan Kenobi. I was even able to pass along a couple of bits of information I’d learned from them to a young “learn to camp” girl who is a recent immigrant to Canada and had caught one in her pond dipping net quite by accident. She ran off excitedly with the dragon clasped gently between her fingers to show her parents and so the passion for mosquito hawks goes on!

Anyway, back in my yard … The mosquitoes are torrential again this year and so I love dragonflies and was so happy to see my lawn covered in them. And then, just when you think you know someone …

MURDER! Murder and carnage in my peaceful oasis!

A giant blue dragon came out of nowhere and smashed into a smaller one on the grass. At first I laughed and was like OMG, interbreeding. What is THAT going to look like next year?

Kind of like my poor Charlie who has the full sized body of a golden retriever and short little basset hound legs – sigh! Cute but not great for him overall.

Charlies Day 2014-06-14 034

Would this dragonfly concoction have a gigantic ruby body with stunted wings?

But then something seemed kind of odd so I got up to go and take a closer look and HOLY TOLEDO! It was on top of a mating orange and red pair and had eaten the head off of the orange one.

Is that the definition of #Frienamies? I mean, I suppose there’s some competition for prey and I know dragonflies are carnivores but REALLY?! A dragonfly eating a cohort? I was having trouble stomaching the sight. I even felt some anger toward Big Blue like, c’mon man! That’s two less dragonflies in the War on Mozzies! What’s your deal?

Such is life in Nature. I reminded myself that that’s how things roll in the great wide wilderness and I went back to my lawn chair while Big Blue gathered up what was left of the mating pair and flew onto my neighbour’s shed to finish its feast. Rub-a-dub-dub. Thanks for the grub. YAYYYYYYY Mother Nature!

Now, gory image aside, I carried on with my relaxing afternoon but twice more in less than an hour I was witness to a similar act of violence, er, suppertime carried out by a Big Blue preying on Ruby or Tangerine. Yes, I’m naming them which screams anthropomorphism of critters but at least I am aware that I’m doing it.

There are very few Big Blues around and tons of Rubys and Tangerines but still. To be 41 years old and never have seen this behaviour before and then see it THREE times in a row was a bit stunning. So you know I got photos.

The third time I had to do it. The Big Blue was like a hawk picking off an unsuspecting mouse in a field. BAM! Big Blue dive bombed out of the sky and plucked Tangerine off the lawn and flew straight into a tree with its prize. I ran under the tree and realized I could reach up and pull down the branch just far enough that I was able to blindly hold up my smartphone and take photos. (click on the images to enlarge)

Carnage  Big Blue eats Tangerine

And that’s life and death in the Dragonfly world. A harsh reality and creepy but awesome in a strange way too. I’ve loved dragonflies since I can remember and that hasn’t changed in spite of learning about this gruesome detail. I still rescued two Tangerines from the dog pool later that day and set them on a fence post in the sun to dry off. Hopefully they didn’t get picked off by the Big Blue that I rescued from the roadway earlier before their wings had a chance to dry and they could fly away.

Let’s part with a hopeful image. I also managed to get a courting flight of a Tangerine and Ruby.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Travel Well – When are you at your best?

Where and what are you doing when time ceases to exist because every cell in your body is vibrating and every neuron in your brain is firing? What awaits you on those days that you leap out of bed ahead of the alarm clock ringing?

I’ve identified a couple of things that have that effect on me and I’ve realized that if I can immerse myself in that which ignites and motivates me then life is 100% richer. I think it feels like a wealthier life, not because of the salary figure attached but because of the internal well that fills and overflows. The challenge, sense of accomplishment and even failure inspire me in the right circumstances.

I think one good measure of knowing whether or not you’re on the right path is how you feel when you fail at something. If I feel demoralized or even apathetic about a poor outcome, chances are pretty clear that I’m on the wrong path. If a failure makes me hungry to try again, do better or use my creativity to envision a different way, I’m travelling well.

1 Footprints 2014-07-23

Isn’t it interesting that as children we so easily migrate to those things that we are naturally inclined but as adults we tend to choose what we think we should be doing or need to improve upon? Why don’t we embrace and follow our strengths rather than beat ourselves senseless trying to perform the stuff that’s on a grown up version of a report card that we hold ourselves accountable to internally?

It’s important to learn new skills and to try new activities, to push ourselves in fresh directions that might open doors of opportunity, but forcing ourselves into boxes that staunch our growth can’t be helpful or healthful.

It sounds so Oprah to say (because she said it) but… here’s what I know for sure.

I AM… an adventurer, a story teller and a seeker of information in order to more deeply understand the world about me.

THRILLS

I’ve always loved the excitement of an adventure, taking calculated risks and I’m incredibly curious. That said I was never the kid who took the scariest jump off the highest piece of playground equipment but was possibly the second to leap if I could determine with assurance that it wouldn’t kill me. I liked the thrill of scaring myself and feeling just a bit tougher than others who wouldn’t even entertain the thought of tossing themselves from a height, but only if it was on my own terms. If anyone tried to push me into doing something that made me nervous, I shut down. I concluded early on that people bullied and pushed their intent on me only if they were hiding some fact or had an ulterior motive that didn’t have my best interest at heart. There is no satisfaction in fulfilling someone else’s goal, especially if it strips you of your confidence and self-determination in the process.

I loved exploring and rejoicing in the feat of the bravest and most athletic. At times I have berated myself for sitting on the sidelines but the truth is I’m simply not as determined or as reckless in the pursuit of pushing boundaries as some people are. But I’m pretty courageous, question everything and I love to record what those living closer to the edge do – through story telling or photography. I want to be in the thick of things observing the risk takers and change makers so that I can retell the tales of their actions to those who will never be part of that world but who wonder about it.

Shady Lake 2013 049

[An aside: This attribute also makes me an interesting party-goer. I don’t like to drink but rather bartend. The view from my side of the mickey affords me some excellent fodder for teasing in the days following!]

I love being part of a team where excellence is aspired to. Within that team I need a certain amount of freedom and it’s important to me to have a distinct role that contributes to the end result. I hate being told what to do and need to be trusted to do my part well. I take responsibility and deadlines seriously. I will ask for help if I need it but if controlling, commanding and condescension are in your vocabulary and not collaboration, you can do it yourself smarty pants.

One of These Tents is Not Like the Others

I love being able to reflect on a day and know I accomplished something tangible or contributed to the team accomplishing a greater goal. I don’t want to be the centre of attention but I do like the publicity that my work receives.

I love knowing people intensely through situations where we live large and loud and actively and we’ve had to rely on one another to get the best result. I love knowing a few people really well and being comfortable with them having seen me at my worst or my weakest. I don’t doubt that they have my back because they know I have theirs after seeing them at their lowest.

I like a world where judgement is left at the door; communication is clear and mission-based so as not to be taken as a personal attack when a decision is questioned; each person on the team lifts the others up with their words and actions; and everyone is working towards a common goal that has a clear end in sight.

A success then, is something to savour because everyone on the team knows what it took for each member to do their best whether it was through physical or mental courage and prowess. The entire team has a loyalty and respect for one another that runs as hot as the blood in their veins. It’s vital to the result.

The key element in making all of this come alive for me… the mission must be in the wilderness.

Waskesiu Lake     IMG_20140629_174936 Elbow River Alberta 2014-06-29      IMG_20140629_174701 Colder   IMG_20140629_175200 Shady Lake 2013 041   Birch in Autumn

There is no greater equalizer than Nature. There is no other force that can so swiftly knock a person to their knees, humble them to the core and then raise them up with gifts of fleeting grace and beauty as Nature.

Ice  Weathered Wood Dewdrops 1  Puzzle Rock

 

 

Bow Lake 2014-07-20  Indian Paintbrush Mountains 2014 Height of Land Tower  Paignton Beach 2014

Working with the elements is about adaptation, not winning or beating an enemy, for Nature is not an adversary. It just is, and the challenge is whether or not (and sometimes how quickly) you can puzzle out how to harness Nature’s power to resolve the issue at hand in a way that mitigates irreversible (versus perceived) damage and destruction and heals the earth while protecting those living nearby. Achieving that delicate balance is a grand experience that will leave the entire team buoyed for weeks afterward and striving to repeat the high through increased excellence.

Fire, flood, electrical storms, blizzards, canoe trips, working with wildlife; these are all areas in which I’ve experienced feeling that I am not just connected to but part of every aspect of the natural world about me. There is no separation between Nature and my body and that which I perceive to be “me.” When I can get in that groove and do it with a team of people who are as equally present; body sweating, muscles pumping, sight sharp, ears tuned in, mind keen and lungs so full of air it feels like you might take flight, that is when I am fired up and closest to being the best of what I have the potential to be.

Hope

But the very best part is knowing that I still have room to grow which makes getting out of bed tomorrow as exciting as it was today.

Dreaming

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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The Soloist Sojourner

Elbow River Alberta 2014-06-29

I am the Soloist Sojourner. I am not journeying alone because I’ve lost love, but because I’ve never discovered it. Lovers and bubblehead boyfriends don’t count!

I was walking along the Elbow River on Sunday when a stone caught my eye. It was unlike any of the others. Instead of black or blue or slate gray, it was a myriad of greens and yellows. In fact, at first glance I thought it was petrified wood because of the layers and striations but it was a rock. I picked it up and walked for a long time working it through my fingers and then stopped to look at it again.

It had a face blurred into it on one side and when I flipped it over it had a perfect yellow heart on the other side. An omen! I thought maybe I should take it home and add it to my stone collection.

But you know what? I’m sick of omens and palm readers and messages from relatives who have passed over telling me there’s hope on the horizon. In case no one else ever noticed, the horizon always stays just out of reach as does, apparently, the guy who I’m supposed to meet and spend the journey with.

I chucked that F’ing rock as far as I could down the shoreline, just mad all of the sudden.

Elbow River above falls

It would seem that I have to remind myself every now and again that my life is full and fulfilling regardless of whether or not I ever meet someone to share it with. There’s something so sneaky and cruel about television and movies and pop music that make a person think they’re “less than” if they don’t have some sort of earth-shattering love affair going at all times and if they haven’t found THE ONE!!!

Anyway, after I threw the rock I felt a bit silly and went in search of a better attitude, which I found quickly and enjoyed the rest of my day with Piper exploring the Elbow post-2013 flood havoc.

Start of the falls

It was unnerving how different everything still looks one year on and yet Nature is never wrong so it was equally as impressive and beautiful. It will be interesting to see how Alberta parks decides to set up the picnic sites again with the new shape of the river and shorelines.

Allen Bill Pond is now simply Allen Bill [giant white box placed over top of the word "pond"] because the river has changed course entirely.

 IMG_20140629_165134  Allen Bill [pond]

I tried hard to get an “USie” with Piper to capture our lovely day but

1. she was NOT co-operating and

2. my arm is NOT long enough to get both of our faces in the shot properly.

I started to get frustrated and then it got silly and THEN I realized she had spotted a woodpecker on a tree in front of her and she kept ducking her head from the camera this way and that NOT because she was purposefully being obstinate but because she was intensely intrigued by the bird. And then it was hilarious just trying to get the photo at all!

The USie The USie try again The irritated USie

Ohhhh it's a woodpecker  Interesting woodpecker

Back to the USie No I'm not punching her Ridiculous i give up

We topped off the afternoon by stopping in at an off-leash hill near my parents’ house. They have all of these urban wildland corridors in Calgary that are worth their weight in gold. Even though there were police sirens and traffic on Stoney Trail and houses all around, it felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.

On Saturday, I walked Piper there and there were bucks with velvet antlers munching grass in the valley and the hill was covered in wildflowers, too many varieties to count! Then the rain stopped, the clouds began to burn off and one of the brightest rainbows I’ve ever seen stretched across the entire community. Magical! So I went back to take some photos of the flowers even though it wasn’t quite as magnificent as it had been on Saturday.

IMG_20140629_175200  IMG_20140629_174701

   IMG_20140629_175116

I even captured some daisies dancing in the wind.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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The River Just Is

How does a year fly by and life carry on

after the river carves a new path across the landscape,

permanently alters the course of its flow and determines its own future in a moment of torrential rage?

 

Didn’t the river know that we were in control

like ants ever working and building on our wealth

like beavers never resting but improving, blocking, shaping and shifting

the world to fit our view of it?

 

Didn’t the river know that we love waterfront property and believe we have the right to lounge at its edge feeling safe and secure?

Didn’t the river know that we thought we could turn its power on and off like the faucet in our sink?

Didn’t the river know that most of us have become so disconnected from what its true nature is that we only acknowledged it when

denied access to it or

we didn’t like its aesthetics or

we had to share it with others?

 

A year has come and gone

and like pebbles funneled through the torrent, power-washed raw,

we have been flung far and wide, deposited here and there,

glacial erratics stumbling blindly through the chaos left in the river’s recession.

 

The river just is.

It knows not, it thinks not, it judges not,

it neither loathes nor loves anyone.

It will rise and it will fall again.

The river just is.

 

And we are humbled.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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A Guilt Ridden Psychopath, maybe

Tonight I fed an injured mosquito to a spider. Was that evil?

I was looking for a pen when I came home after work and when I picked it up off the top of the fridge, I noticed a spider web attached to it. I looked up and there was a lizardy looking small spider in the centre of the web near the ceiling. Live and let live, is my motto for the most part. I was a big fan of Charlotte’s Web as a kid!

Well, enter the mosquito and my other motto – kill and cause death.

It had bit me or one of the dogs or cats and was full of blood. I tried to kill it but only managed to knock it to the ground.

And then I had a dark thought.

I grabbed a kitchen chair and clambered on top of it, reached up and set the biter in the web.

But nothing! I was disappointed. I blew on the web to make it wiggle thinking that would make the spider go finish off its prey but nope. I gave up and carried on with my day. A couple of minutes later I glanced up and I thought it looked like the mosquito was closer to the spider but figured that it must be an optical illusion. I looked up again a few seconds later and sure enough, that spider was reeling the mosquito in like a fish hooked on the end of a line.

OMG!!!! It was thrilling yet I felt a bit ill.

And then I watched the spider devour it and spin it around and in no time finished it off for supper. When sated, the spider removed itself from the web and went and hung out on the ceiling a foot or so away.

‘You could be one well fed, happy spider if you continue to live there,’ I thought.

The mosquito season has only just begun and it’s all out war around this house with three dogs and me coming and going from outside. It’s a real disgusting blood bath some days. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation could film an episode here and spend hours doing blood spatter pattern analysis. Why not keep a semi-feral resident spider and feed it mozzies?

But then I felt like a real potential mass murderer, a serial killer in the making, a conscienceless psychopath and I felt a pang of guilt…

Then tweeted the photo I took of the spider eating the mosquito.

Spidey eats Mozzie 2014-06-17  [insert evil laughter here]

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Enjoying the Dog Days of Summer

I took my own advice from the blog poem I wrote on Friday and I spent the better part of yesterday outdoors. My work life is a bit wild these days and yesterday was my one chance to kick back until about July 8.

Paignton Beach 2014

My old dog Charlie had to get sutures taken out in the morning at the vet’s and then I got called out for an emergency water rescue but everyone was pulled out by a good Samaritan before we got there so I was home again from that in an hour.

Nothing centres me more quickly than being outside and eliminating all distractions. I have the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful places on earth so I took advantage of the possibilities, packed up my gear and told the girls that they had to stay home.

The desperate face

There was great “woe-is-us-ing” from them but I was determined for him to have his day in the spotlight. Charlie never demands attention like the girls do so I have to make a point of making him feel special.

An old dog deserves to be spoiled now and again and I find that each of my dogs shines in a unique way when I’m with them one on one that reminds me why I chose each of them. So I packed up all the stuff a gal and her retriever could possibly need and we headed off into the woods!

Charlie's Day Out

We hit pretty well every beach in the park and hiked all over and he swam at every spot and fetched sticks. The colder the water the better! So while earlier in the day the guys who dumped their canoe nearly lost their lives, my dog with his double coat is happier than a duck in the icy lake.

Charlie at Point View 2014

We were out and about from 3 pm until 9 pm. We saw a woodchuck, a small black bear, two female elk fighting (one must have had a new calf close by), a deer with a new spotted fawn, a fox and its kit in the evening sunshine just outside the den. The kit was pouncing on her head and biting her and doing somersaults and then attacking her tail and she just sat there, eyes half closed, totally relaxed as if nothing was going on.

We also got a bit too close to a loon nest apparently. The adult pair came within about 10 feet of us and Charlie wanted to swim after them but of course I did not let him. Have you ever looked closely at a loon? They have swords on the ends of their faces!!!

Charlie spies the loons

Click on the images and they enlarge.You can see the detail of their feathers!

 Loon pair at Point View  Charlies Day 2014-06-14 068

You know when you experience that perfect stillness in the centre of your being? And how good it feels; like there’s not one other person on the planet and that’s just fine with you? I had that level of contentment most of the day and it was lovely.

Waskesiu Lake

The wind picked up so we spent more of the evening inland where it was warmer and spring is still so new that I cannot get over how green everything is. Man, I appreciate springtime this year!

Charlies Day 2014-06-14 042  New life growing from old life

I climbed the Height of Land tower for a look. It’s been about two weeks since I did it last when there was just a hint of green appearing in the trees – the promise that spring was on its way. Here’s what I saw yesterday.

Charlies Day 2014-06-14 121   Height of Land Tower

Charlies Day 2014-06-14 127   Charlies Day 2014-06-14 124

GREEN GREEN GREEN GREEN EVERYWHERE!!!!!!

Now, I suppose I’ve been spoiled in my life because camping for me always meant canoe trips in the wilderness, pulling over when you found a nice point and spending one night. We’d depart the next morning taking great care to leave no trace of the fact that any human had been there. Here, it’s all about campgrounds and they were mostly full and I couldn’t stomach having to share. Is that terrible? I like my neighbours at home but the idea of neighbours while camping … sigh.

So we went home and set the tent up in the back yard. HA!

That was my first dog day of summer and I spent it with a real gentleman. Charlie makes a fine companion. He lacks in the romance department … but that’s not his fault. Wrong species and all.

He wasn’t choosy about where we went. He let me drive. He may have farted a few times but we had the windows open all day so it worked. And he watched my back for bears while I took photos. If anyone can find me the human male equivalent, I may be convinced to give up the single life.

Charlie 11 years old

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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In Pursuit of Change

Be patient

while in pursuit of change.

 

Nature is never in a hurry and everything unfolds as it will.

Nature doesn’t agonize over the ifs and buts, the should’ves and could’ves

Because they don’t exist.

Acceptance is the only way through life.

Adaptation the greatest tool for survival.

 

Be patient

while in pursuit of change.

 

Your frenetic ways won’t change the outcome.

Your willing answers to appear out of thin air a waste of energy.

Control isn’t always in your hands.

Go outside. Look farther than the end of your nose to the horizon and beyond.

Go outside. Breathe deeply and appreciate the quiet spaces that offer rest between actions.

 

There.

In the soft lull where wildflowers bloom in the decaying body of a winter-killed animal

Is where the birth of innovation occurs.

There.

In certain uncertainty is where calm and clarity reside.

 

You will find the way through only when at last you surrender to the ebb and flow

The ebb and flow

You will renew the chapters of your life just as the ocean rolls and recedes across the land

Through lows and highs of the tides

Live your life.

Through lows and highs

Such is life.

 

To end this post, one of my favourite quotes and personal practices:

Solvitur ambulando. “It is solved by walking.”

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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