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Now what?

Post #4, I think. Another about Ireland, or rather, life beyond Ireland.

It only took me nearly my whole life to get to Ireland. Let’s say 35 years of dreaming and planning then disappointment after disappointment when plans fell through and finally success at 42.

I accomplished the goal but now I’m in a strange limbo because I don’t have anything on the “must do / see / experience” list that’s burning a hole of desire in my heart like I had when trying to get to Ireland for all those years.

I made a conscious decision to live presently while in Ireland and it ended up being remarkably easy to do. I didn’t spend time daydreaming or worrying, and while I periodically thought of the people and pets I love, I wasn’t concerned about them or missing them terribly.

And work never crossed my mind from the second I drove away from home. I didn’t give it another thought until I was driving back from the airport. The I had the “Oi, geez,” gulp when I remembered the workload I was returning to.

This will sound odd perhaps but I feel a similar sensation to what I did when my dog Scout died suddenly a few years ago. After the initial shock and grief, I was absolutely content, calm and ready to move on. I had loved Scout so well that I was free to love well again. Anyone who’s been reading this blog knows, that has now translated into my having three dogs and two cats!

Moments of sadness that the trip had come to a close already felt deeply, I departed Ireland ready to carry on. The entire experience sits comfortably in the centre of my being like a home-coming. It is now a knowing that I kind of always had about the place and have now confirmed. Like my Scout, Ireland will never go anywhere and I can call on it in my mind’s eye and be right back in the bog or on a mountain top or by the sea just as effortlessly as I can close my eyes and feel Scout’s chin resting in the palm of my hand.

But the question that’s been niggling its way from the back of my brain to the forefront is, “Now what?”

I don’t know what to aim for. There are tons of interesting things to do and go see but I think I’ll save my money for now. It’s just so odd to not have a goal on the horizon that I’m striving toward; refusing to let challenge, strife or obstacle keep me from it.

Now what … hmmmmm …

Maybe this calm and quiet in my heart and mind is the room I need for a new dream to germinate. I thought it was worth acknowledging simply because it feels so strange and is surprising to feel.

I will keep my heart open and listen for opportunities and ideas that strike my fancy. In the meantime, I’ll love the life right in front of me because I have much to be grateful for. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth surrounded by more nature than most people can even dream of seeing or experiencing.

Although … it was suggested that I could put a canoe in at Limerick and paddle inland on the Shannon for several days and I could fly fish and hike and explore that way …

HA! Okay, maybe the dreaming has already begun, quietly.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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SNOW WAY!!!

It totally snowed after I wrote my last post. I love it! It didn’t snow much. Not like last year when we got walloped and sunk for the next 6 months under feet of it, but a nice covering of it that has lasted in most areas through today with more on the way this weekend.

My glum-bum attitude is gone!

It smells crisper, sweeter, fresher and more lively.

The trees are accented and stand out texturized in spite of their inky green darkness.

Wildlife is more active and observable too. Elk bulls have been hanging out together as the rut finishes up and though they still spar, it’s half-hearted. They’re more concerned with eating and regaining their strength for winter. Wolves are being seen along roadways and paths. Today an entire pack crossed the road in front of me. So thrilling!

Even my dogs are spunkier. They get right goofy in the snow and my old guy actually does better in cool weather than he does in the heat of summer so he’s been tearing it up in the yard playing too.

I did nearly break my neck stepping out onto the walkway yesterday morning in the blue light of dawn. In my excitement to get outside with the dogs – still in PJs with rubber boots and toque to finish out my fashion statement – I hadn’t considered that it had rained before it snowed and the concrete was covered in black ice. WOOO HOOOO!

I’ve scraped snow and ice off my windshield twice now but it hasn’t gotten old yet. That sound of ice being chipped and scraped off the glass makes a sound that is to my ears like comfort food is to my belly. In a weird way, it’s almost soothing.

The waiting is over. Welcome Winter.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Glum Gray Days

We’ve hit that time of year when I find the seasonal transition a bit tough. The sun is mostly gone by 6 pm and the trees are devoid of leaves, the air is biting cold and there’s hardly anyone around town.

Glum. I feel like a glum-bum.

On Friday I had to go to town and I came home via highway 263, which I usually really like. I often see wildlife and it’s quite pretty because the trees are tighter together and lanes narrower. But holy smokes. I was getting glummer by the mile as I drove. I didn’t see a single critter and the drive felt so gray and lonely. The wind was howling and every time I passed a lake the waves were crashing angry on shore and the water is freezing cold. Nothing pleasant or inviting about the park the last couple of days.

But today, I found my better attitude and got a good start. I took all three dogs for a walk on their own. It’s chilly outside for sure but the sun made an appearance and the fresh air and silence felt like a blanket of solitude rather than that terrible feeling you get when you’ve had an argument with a good friend and you haven’t made amends yet.

I took each dog a different direction and onto trails and the beaches. All three went in the water to varying degrees and played and ran about and had fun.Seeing them have fun and knowing I’m fulfilling their little doggie desires makes me happy. It occurred to me that this could be the last day they swim. Snow is imminent. I can feel it in the air.

And being honest, I’m looking forward to the white stuff now because these glum gray days are a drag. I’d rather jump into winter now with its spectacular beauty that makes each morning exciting to wake up and look out the window at.

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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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Ravens

This is the third post related to my trip to Ireland. Ravens played a big part of what I will remember about the country. Thank you to artists and photographers whose work I am re-posting here to show the strength and beauty of raven.

I’d have never chosen a bird for a totem or guardian animal. I appreciate birds but I was never drawn to them in any special way. Then, in the last four years I started to notice birds of every size. I love to watch for bald eagles, white pelicans, blue herons, sandhill cranes and more recently, ravens.

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Their sheer size, intense blue-black plumage and intelligence intrigue me. They are one of very few birds that stays in this northern region year-round and so I suppose I notice them more here in my remote surroundings because friends are few and far between but wildlife is constant. A raven in a snowscape that can last seven months of the year is hard to miss!

Jasper Fall Wildlife Workshop with John Marriott

At least one or two love to fly by low over the backyard and tease my dogs. I can trick my Dane into racing around if I imitate a raven call, which is pretty funny to see.

I often see them gliding in perfect synchronicity in the sky above the house, hardly having to flap. They grab hold of an unseen wind current and steer on it much the same way I can guide myself on a wave in a canoe.

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In the west of Ireland while hiking, they were everywhere and very active. For the first time I saw them rolling in air, grabbing at each others talons and playing with one another. In one case, six ravens engaged in a remarkable, aerial acrobatic display.

Flying Common Ravens, Corvus corax

While descending Brother O’Shea’s Gully on Carrauntoohil, I had an ethereal experience that involved six ravens in a mystical setting that I have yet to be able to articulate in any way that remotely expresses the fullness of the event. For the first time in my life I am seriously considering getting a tattoo as a way to honour the memory because words are failing me.

I have been researching myths and legends, symbolism and natural history of the corvid known as the common raven. The more I read the greater respect and intrigue I have for the Trickster, Thought, Memory, Distance Healer, Courier of Magic, the colour of the void where all Creativity exists.

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Raven is held in high esteem in several cultures including Celtic, Norse and West Coast First Nations.

Huggin and Munnin

I have included some of the images from tattoos that already exist related to raven in those traditions as a place to start dreaming from for my own potential body art piece. One example is simply geometric design which I also really like and would like to incorporate somehow in order to “hide” other symbols in the art. I have often doodled similar style designs on scraps of paper with pen since I was a kid. Somehow it will all evolve into a piece of art that I might want to ink somewhere on my skin.

 

 

4d0c4fd0cf9d8f270a16efb81e17dfecRaven Feather Tattoos Meaning 1

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Raven 2

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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I ‘Heart’ Hags

This is the second post about my trip to Ireland and a bit about awesome women. We visited the Hag’s Head and walked the Hag’s Ladder. I kind of love the word and think I won’t mind reclaiming it so I can be called one! It sounds kind of rugged and tough.

Side note – I can’t figure out where to put my apostrophe on the word women’s, womens’, womens so forgive the creative use of punctuation.

So I sign up for activities all the time – sports leagues, workshops, trips – where, in addition to trying something that interests me, I figure I’ll

  • meet potential new friends my age and
  • maybe even meet “him,” the guy I might spend the rest of my journey with.

And yet, without fail, I somehow end up on teams and in groups full of married fathers and elder women. It’s the strangest thing!

So I actually had a good laugh when I met my tour group in Ireland and the guide was a married father of three and the participants were three women between the ages of 65 and 80. OF COURSE that’s who my group was!!

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But you know, I wasn’t disappointed and I love them all. I figure there’s something I must be needing to learn from all of these spoken-for men and great mentor-women who I’ve been meeting over the years. If the only lesson is to have fun and live in the moment, mission accomplished!

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The thing about fantabulous married men is that they’re safe because they’re off limits. I can get straight to enjoying their friendship and forget myself. There’s no fretting about trying to look good or assessing the wardrobe every morning or wasting time on trying to flirt, which I’m notoriously bad at anyway. The activity becomes about the shared event and not about the potential of the relationship.

But I want to talk about women in this post more than anything.

Women studies was brand new to the university I went to. I believe I was in the inaugural Womens’ Studies 100 course at the University of Regina in the early 1990s and a good friend of mine was the Women’s Centre co-ordinator at the University of Manitoba during our U-years. I started to learn about womens herstory and the rights movement. It felt like I was hearing our collective stories for the first time instead of only the myths, legends and heroics of white, colonial men that were taught in grade school. Who knew Laura Secord was more than a place to buy chocolates at the mall!? It was refreshing to see the world through the eyes of women who had come before me and to better understand my own context in the world via their lives.

I thoroughly enjoy talking to women older than myself because whether they realize it or not, whether they identify with having been a part of a rapidly changing culture for women and womens’ rights or not, I can see their place in it through what they tell me about how they have lived compared to how I’m able to live today.

Sharon and Shannon 2014-09-16

Women are strong. Period! Whether they were stay-at-home moms, working-outside-the-home moms, single moms, women without children due to choice or circumstance, married women, single women, divorced or widowed women, lesbian, straight or otherwise women … if you take time to talk to women and listen to the stories of their lives to date and the dreams they still have for their futures, there is such great stuff there.

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The more mentor-women I meet along the way, the prouder I am to be a gal and their courage gives me courage to continue to live my life without letting outside judgement affect the choices I make.

Sharon Cliff Top 2014-09-16

Now that I’m in my 40s, I am also discovering the wisdom and fantasticness of young women.

On the second week of my trip in Ireland our group acquired a 26-year-old Swiss woman. She reminded me a lot of the young women that I work with at home who seem so confident and comfortable in their equality with men that I think the idea that womens rights would be anything unique or distinct is foreign. For them, there are simply human rights and everyone’s story is important so the notion that they are equal to men doesn’t register as something that needs to be articulated.

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That worldview is pretty cool to consider. To think that there might be a few societies where young women don’t see a need to be considered separately because of their gender in order to protect their place in the world economically, professionally or personally is wild!

I imagine not all young women feel this way. Do young aboriginal women and women of colour feel the same way? Do immigrant women feel that way? I know not all young women the world over experience equality. I am thankful that the young women I interact with seem free of the concerns that plagued and arrested the development of the generations of women who came before them.

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I feel as though I am in the bridge generation. Gen X is the age group that directly inherited the benefits that came from the tireless work and struggle of our mothers, aunts and grandmothers and so we are keenly aware of and grateful for what we have, nor do we take those hard-earned rights and responsibilities lightly.

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However, like younger women, we live lives that are liberated because we were told that we could be and do anything we set our minds to. So technically we share much in common with young women who seem to breeze through life knowing the world is theirs to triumph.

Granted, as Gen Xers who have been in the work force for 20-odd years, we have periodically come up against old values and systems and have had to wait or are still waiting in the wings until certain someones retire and make room for change.

But young women in their 20s? Sky’s the limit! For real and that is exciting.

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Though the Swiss gal on our trip has girlfriends that are choosing what might be labeled old-fashioned roles and ways of living compared to her choice to live single, economically independent and travelling the world, the thing that seemed poignant was that they have all of the choices without any of the stigma. No judgement from their peers, their parents or their partners; at least none based on the fact that they are making those choices as women.

I made similar choices to my Swiss pal as a young adult and had to defend them. People around me still feared for my future because I walked the road less taken. We were all still learning how to embrace that hard-won equality by women past and experience the positive outcomes that were dreamed about but yet unproven.

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Thankfully, as the years go by and my girlfriends and I all succeed in the various paths we’ve chosen, and as young women carry on confidently doing the same without thinking too hard (if at all) about how their gender plays into decision making, I am only more profoundly in awe of elder women. Whether they bucked the traditional, predetermined roles society laid out before them or not, they all added to the foundation that cradled each consecutive generation of girls and boys that has led to the freer world we live in today.

But that’s enough deep thinking for one day. Let’s not forget my opening statement that if the lesson learned from great mentor-women is to live in the moment and have fun …

The gals in my group tour of Ireland never skimped on desserts after supper, napped when they were tired, laughed loudly when something struck them funny and kept the Irish whiskey flowing back in their room in the evenings.

Fun?

Mission accomplished.

Joan and Margy 2014-09-16  The Burren 2014-09-20

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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The Stand Outs in our lives

This is the first entry about my trip to Ireland. I met some incredible people. I’ll start with the mountain leader – a fella who knows and loves the hills almost as much as his three children and wife.

If we’re lucky and looking out for them, a handful of people will stand out along the way and touch our lives. Like trail way-markers on the mountain, they let you know you’re on the right path and being true to who you are, or they illuminate the fact that you’re not being true to yourself and help guide you back.

A person walked into my world recently, like an inukshuk at a fork in the road, and became one of those stand outs.

I signed up for a 15-day hiking tour of Ireland in September and the mountain leader was exceptional. But it was more than that he knew every flower and plant including their historical or medicinal purposes and it was more than his knowledge of local history and folklore and it was more than his technical skill in leading us around the hills and mountains that affected me.

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I discovered a bit of a kindred spirit around whom I didn’t feel like an oddity or too quirky. I returned to the playful, unguarded, living in the now, confident person I used to be when paddling for days on end in the wilderness as a youngster. Laughter came easily and silence wasn’t a burden.

Before leading me down a mountain top goat trail that dropped off into oblivion he said, “Do you trust me?” and without fail I knew that I did. It was no big deal because it felt like we’d known each other an eternity in which he’d earned my trust a million times over.

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Why does that happen sometimes out of the blue? Is it because we’re mentally and emotionally ready for that new experience and friend in our life? Is it because we were somehow connected in a past life and really do know each other well on some spiritual level? Is it the magic that happens when taking on a challenge in the outdoors and you have no choice but to trust the person or people you’re with?

I don’t know. All of the above?

What I take away from the experience of knowing him, and what’s important moving forward, is how I share the same generosity of spirit that he shared with me with those who now come into my life. In fact, I know that to be true because he told me just that after I’d visited him one last time before heading back to Canada. I liked that. It reaffirmed that acts of kindness have no strings attached and are to be given and received with an open heart.

We’re all winding our way to the grave and those bright lights who put a spark in our days leave us with lessons and laughs that are only ours to reflect upon and put to use.

I’m choosing to live with great gusto, to have as many adventures as possible, to surround myself with inspiring, quirky people and to be generous with the people I care about, as well as travellers that I meet along the way.

I know the saying … people come into our lives “for a reason, a season or a life time” …

I don’t have many photos of him and I never thought to take one of the two of us.

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It always felt weird to pull the camera out on this trip. I was keenly aware of my surroundings on this adventure; sights, sounds, smells, textures. As if, from the mountain tops, all of Ireland was imprinting itself on my soul.

I finally saw the wind.

1 Summit Mt Brandon 2014-09-17 2 Summit Mt Brandon 2014-09-17

I conquered my insecurity about being fit enough to hike.

Shannon Mt Brandon Climb 2 2014-09-17

I laid my hands on ancient rocks

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and pocketed little ones from every summit to take home with me and he was there for every part of it. He gave me the first stone at Mount Brandon.

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Our guide for week two of the hike … how shall I say it … had a driving style that didn’t suit my sensitive inner ears and stomach. At one point it was finally too much and after having to pull over hastily where I was violently ill in a lovely cafe toilette in Leenane, I crawled into the back-back of the van to lie down and sleep while the others toured a museum in the next town. Now raining outside and shivering cold from being sick, I started reaching around in the van for something cozy to pull over myself so I could get warmed up.

My hand fell on a piece of material and I pulled. He had forgotten his jacket in the van. I pulled it over myself blocking out daylight, the scent of whatever soap he uses calming my frayed nerves.

In the moment before mercifully falling asleep, I was whisked away from my immediate physical suffering and back to the memory of a “thin place.” (a term I learned when studying work by theologian Marcus J. Borg). In that thin place on Carrauntoohil, the veil had lifted and I connected to the source of all energy; God, the Creator, whatever you want to call it.

In that moment before rest, the memory of six ravens playing on air currents in an ancient landscape settled in my mind. The only sound was air being forced through ebony feathers as they sped around and around locked in a playful, aerial display. The sensation of cool mist on my sweaty face, scent of fresh air at altitude in my nostrils and ruggedness of mountain rocks against my palms the only reality. And I recalled the voice of my friend right before he led me into that thin place…

“Do you trust me?”

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I’m so glad that I did and that he tempted me into oblivion.

For interest: When I researched Marcus J.Borg to confirm my thin place definition, the video that popped up addressed it well. Move ahead to 15:26 to hear about Thin Places  http://vimeo.com/24897053

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2014 in PonderQs

 

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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.

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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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