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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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Out of the stillness… dancing girls

Winter was long, cold and silent. So still and frozen that some days while standing outside, the only sound was my own heart beating. And spring has been slow to blossom but it is finally here.

Today, Sunday, I noticed in the early morning “quiet” before lawn mowers started chewing and cars started accelerating that the leaves are finally big enough to create their own symphony for the boreal chorus frogs that are singing in the pond behind the house. And in the mix of it all, with thunder heads building all around but a bluebird egg sky above, rain drops began to fall like diamonds glinting in the sunshine.

.Bluebird egg day

This was only the second time I’ve been able to hang my laundry out to dry this spring and the clothes went from hanging damp and limp to bouncing on every note of the wind like dancers on a stage; the movement rolling from the far end of the line to the clothes nearest me as I strung them. It felt like they were alive, a rowdy chorus line of girls who’d had a drink or few.

I found the whole thing quite enchanting and my imagination lit up. When the clothes would take off in the air it made me laugh. It felt like I had a party going on in my back yard.

Something I noticed about the photos once I’d downloaded them is that it looks like the dogs, who were playing a game a of tug-of-war, were partners mirroring the dance that the chorus line of clothes was doing.

Laundry dancing I

Laundry dancing II

Laundry dancing III

Laundry dancing IV

For some final fun, I added bubbles to the wind and Piper and True chased them around the yard.

Chasing bubbles

 Thunder heads building

It was just that perfect kind of Sunday.

Gratitude.

 

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Hit My 40s Running

As a kid, I had recurring dreams where all I was doing was running; far and fast outside without effort. In those dreams I ran without asthma or allergies to hold me back, slow me down or steal away my breath leaving me panicked and struggling for air. In dream time, I sped along without care and only felt the thump, thump, thump of my heart beating hard in my chest, my legs strong, arms pumping.

In reality, I’ve never been much of a runner. I played a multitude of sports but I never had the aerobic stamina to be on offence for a team or to finish in the top of a class of racers in cross-country.  Asthma sidelined me a few times with sudden and frightening onset. I never felt agile and running outside always felt daunting; the next tree, the next bend in the path too far away for me to possibly reach.

So I’m not sure why that at age 39 and 40 pounds overweight I decided consciously that I would “hit my 40s running.”

I meant it more figuratively than literally. I had a bunch of goals sitting on a wish list and in order to start achieving them I needed to resolve some health issues first. That included changing a medication that had caused the majority of the weight gain over the previous decade. I desperately and determinedly wanted to be strong again. I wanted to be healthy and athletic like I had always been growing up and to have the body I saw in the mirror reflect how I thought of myself on the inside.

How much I weighed on a scale was never a huge concern for me. Being strong and fit and knowing that sensation in my body is what I have strived for my whole life. Having a body fit enough to propel me through canoe trips and tough portages with packs, a body to take me up mountains and to be of real use during team work efforts that required lifting, shovelling and carrying in all-weather conditions was important. Having a strong body that meant I could keep up to the group and be seen as capable so that others would want me on their team mattered.

I never cared about being best or first. It was never about being “ripped” or having six-pack abs. I just wanted to belong and be useful. If I accomplished that goal then it meant I was dependable and trustworthy, not a liability.

I was active during the decade of weight gain and couldn’t figure out why I kept piling on the pounds until I finally made the medication connection. Advocating for myself with doctors and convincing them to switch it was a challenge in and of itself. It took a few before I found one who heard me. Once I was on a new med, I discovered that the old regimen had also been making me sluggish and depressed. Yes, I had been active often throughout the week but not at a high intensity.

I can literally remember the day three weeks after I had switched meds when I was sitting on the chesterfield and through the dim sadness that had been dogging me for months, I thought, “I feel like running.”

And so I did.

I had purchased a used treadmill months earlier for my dogs to use on extremely cold winter days when walking outside would be too harsh. I got on it and I could only run for about 30 seconds at a shot and walk for a couple of minutes and try again but it felt good.

I had knee issues and back and neck issues and I’d be able to treadmill a couple of times and then be sidelined for two weeks. I’d do it again and keep trying and I started doing other things like joining my friends on cross-country skiing outings. I couldn’t keep up to them because I was new to the sport and not as fit but I realized that they were just happy to have me along. I started enjoying the activity for the sake of the activity itself and the experience of being in the woods. My friends didn’t care if I came in a few minutes behind them. Catching up to them became a game and by the end of the season I was finishing seconds behind them and loving every kick and glide.

One of my friends who is an avid runner gave me a program called Couch to 5 K in two months. I think it actually took me four months in the end but I did it. I did it on the treadmill because I still didn’t trust that I could run outside even as I recognized that it must be a mental block. If I could run 5 km inside then surely I could outdoors but I still hesitated.

One day I realized the ridiculousness of having to shut my husky pup, who always has energy to burn, in another room while I ran on the treadmill to keep her from trying to jump on it with me when we could just run together outside.

For her benefit, I decided to give running outside a whirl and took the Great Dane too. It wasn’t easy and in the beginning we walked as much as we ran but it was fun with them. We had to learn to work together and having a puppy obsessively leaping after butterflies and tripping you is both irritating and endearing at the same time. It’s definitely not a memory I’d have from running her inside on the treadmill. And, being able to outlast my Great Dane once in a while made my ego swell, I won’t lie!

When the bugs and heat got to be too much I gave up running for water sports and that’s fine. I’ve always been better at playing many things than training or competing in one thing. Then winter came again and with it skiing and snowshoeing.

The day I noticed that the snow and ice were gone from the main road in the park this spring, I could hardly wait to get home and tie on my running shoes. What’s crazy is that, having not run now in many months, I was able to run almost the entire 5 km with just a few seconds walking here and there.

It was also an inspiring and hopeful inaugural run. In spite of my nerves on that first run at the thought that maybe I wouldn’t be able to get 100 metres down the road, and with the dogs pulling and jockeying a bit out of control, all three of us quickly fell into pace. I experienced a completely new frame of mind than I’ve ever felt while running outside. There was an almost meditative in-the-moment sensation that I’ve never known before, except in my dreams. I ran without care and only felt the thump, thump, thump of my heart beating hard in my chest, my legs strong, arms pumping.

I’m turning 42 this year and even I’m a bit surprised to be able to confirm that I have hit my 40s running – literally and figuratively – and I can’t wait to see what’s beyond the next tree and bend in the road.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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