Category Archives: Nature

Kids and the Flood of the Century

This May marks the 20th anniversary of the height of the great flood of 1997. It was dubbed the Flood of the Century. It caused more than $500 million in damage and resulted in the evacuation of tens of thousands of Manitoba folks from their homes. News of the rising Red River dominated the media. Children saw images of it constantly on their television screens and heard adults discussing the rising waters. In a newspaper column in May of 1997 I wrote about what I was observing in the children and young people I knew as they reacted to all that flood information.

At Mitchell School where I was teaching at the time I watched two girls playing with a doll  house and moving all their miniature people and furniture to the second floor. “A flood is coming,” they told me as they fashioned a boat out of clay to rescue their stranded doll family.                                                                                                    

At recess time I noticed kids digging rivers and building cities in the sandbox and then drowning them with water from nearby puddles.  

The journal entries of my grade four students alerted me to how concerned they were. One girl wrote, “I heard the water would have to touch the Golden Boy’s toes before Mitchell would be flooded. I hope that’s true.” Another girl described the day her family spent sandbagging to try to save a relative’s hog barns in Rosenort. One boy wrote about a horse he had seen on television that had nearly drowned in the rising waters.

Each morning I gave the kids a chance to talk about the flood. They were clearly apprehensive about how the flood might impact them. I had to reassure them adults were handling the situation and they shouldn’t worry.

My older son was eighteen at the time of the flood and just finishing his final year of high school. It was interesting to observe how the natural disaster gave him and his friends such a sense of purpose and importance. For many days in a row they’d report to school in the morning and then be sent out in work groups to flood threatened areas. The teens would put in long hours of hard physical labor sandbagging, coming home wet, muddy, sunburned and bone-tired only to wake up the next morning and head back out again to another threatened site. My son talked about how grateful people were to them and how homeowners thanked them profusely.It was a great character builder for the kids. They were making a difference. People were counting on them. I think probably that week or so of sandbagging was one of the most important learning experiences of my son’s senior year of high school.

I am glad there has been no repeat of Flood of the Century here in Manitoba. But as I have listened to news of the flooding that has caused such havoc in the province of Quebec in recent weeks, I have been thinking about how the children there are being impacted by the rising waters, and how they might be reacting. I hope there are people listening to their concerns, reassuring them and providing positive ways for them to respond.

Other posts…….

Flooding at Birch Point

Noah – A Violent Movie About a Violent Story

Dave Bends Over Backward

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Filed under Childhood, Education, Nature

A Moment To Remember

“But Mom you promised!”  One summer evening in 1992 when my sons were thirteen and six I arrived home much later than I’d expected from a meeting with a curriculum publisher in Pittsburgh.  I had told the boys we’d leave for a week at our family’s Moose Lake cottage as soon as I got back.  After my plane landed and I’d driven home we spent several hectic hours doing laundry, grocery shopping and packing up the car.  It was nearly 10 pm when we were finally ready.  

“Let’s go to bed and head out to the lake in the morning,” I said.  The boys insisted, “but Mom you promised we would go tonight. ”  

“Okay,” I agreed, “but you will have to keep me awake while I drive.”  My six year old took his responsibility seriously and chattered incessantly on the trip filling me in on everything that had happened at home during my five days in Pittsburgh. 

We arrived at the cottage around midnight and the boys suggested we sit on the dock for a bit before going to bed.  The air was soft and warm and the water absolutely still.  A full moon cast a pathway of dancing light on the lake. My younger son was on my lap and my thirteen year old leaned against my shoulder. 

We sat all still and quiet like that for about ten minutes and then my older son whispered, “Just listen to the silence Mom.” 

moose lake I am so thankful to my parents for maintaining a family cottage, a place where my sons could experience the wonder of the natural world…… the slap of a beaver’s tail, the brilliant color of a wild flower patch, the call of the loon, the stalwart beauty of a stand of birch, the graceful flight of a heron and………… the absolute quiet of a moonlit night.  

Other posts…….

Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore

Two Trees

Once in a Blue Moon

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Filed under Family, Nature

Plants That Talked to Me

in the greenhouse plugged in gallery“How are you? Are you having a good day?  What have you been up to?  What kind of personality do you have?  Are you a plant person? Do you think you can talk with plants? 

a greenhouse. eveningThose are some of the questions I was asked as I  sat inside an art installation in Winnipeg’s Plug In Gallery that looked like a greenhouse.  inside the greenhouse plug in galleryAs I settled into a wooden chair a voice started speaking to me.  It was kind of eerie.  I think it was a recorded voice but it seemed to be responding to what I was saying, so after a  few minutes I wasn’t sure. It was as if the plants were listening to me and  talking to me. 

animated roof of the greenhouseThe greenhouse had a roof with an animated film playing on it. Plants were growing and dying and growing again. animated roof of greenhouse 2

I am not really a plant person.  I’ve given up having house plants because eventually they all die. I do have a father and a sister with very green thumbs.  My parents had a greenhouse on their property where each spring they started all the plants for their many flowerbeds.  My mother-in-law grew beautiful roses and my father-in-law was a greenhouse farmer. I told the plants in the greenhouse at the Plug In all about my family plant connections. They seemed very interested and understanding.  

The greenhouse installation will be at the Plug In until June 4.  If you’d like to talk to some plants I’d highly recommend it. 

Other posts……

He Hasn’t Lost His Green Thumb

Dorothy Garden

Art in Bloom

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Filed under Art, Nature, Winnipeg

Art in Bloom- Women in Bloom

raeburn portrait of a ladyThe Winnipeg Art Gallery is awash with flowers this weekend. A special event called Art in Bloom has paired floral designers and their creations with works of art. I attended yesterday and there was almost too much beauty to take in so I decided to focus on artwork featuring women. What kind of floral art had been created to accompany their portraits?
raeburn portratit of a lady

Scottish artist Henry Raeburn’s  Portrait of a Woman is a painting I often stop at when I am giving art gallery tours and together with my visitors we try to figure out everything we can about the lovely woman pictured.  Who is she? What kind of family does she come from? What is she thinking and feeling? Why did she have her portrait painted?floral design for portrait of a lady

Floral designer Heather Page created this arrangement as a tribute to Henry Raeburn’s lovely lady. She decided a traditional bouquet would best compliment the classic style of the portrait. st. cecilia

This 1630 painting of  St. Cecilia the patron saint of music by Giuseppe Puglia shows a cherub interrupting St. Cecilia’s violin playing and pointing out something in a sheaf of music. Did the beloved saint who inspired so many composers miss a note or play a certain passage with exquisite beauty? Exquisite beauty probably best describes the arrangement of delicate pink roses Saint Cecilia inspired floral designer Mari Loewen to create. farmers daughter prudence heyward

The Farmer’s Daughter is by Prudence Heward a Canadian artist who sometimes exhibited with The Group of Seven. Floral designer Michele Pitre tried to imagine what the girl in the portrait was looking at and decided she might be staring off into a cool forest. So Michele created this natural arrangement complete with birch bark and woodland flowers and grasses. 

friends rejoicing daphne odjig

Daphne Odjig’s Friends Rejoicing is a recent gallery acquisition and I love its vibrant, joyful colors. The happy women in the painting are celebrating the birth of a child.  Floral interpreters Paul Jordan and Jordan Maegher are both in management positions at The Forks in Winnipeg. The Forks is a place of friendship, connection and the bright diversity of the prairies. They felt Daphne Odjig’s painting reflected those values as well. woman and interior by ivan eyre

I was delighted to discover this floral arrangement by Bernice Klassen. Bernice and I attended the same church  for many years and our sons were the same age. Bernice was drawn to the orange hues in Ivan Eyre’s Women and Interior because orange is the color of courage.  Elements in Bernice’s bold arrangement also echo the vase of flowers in the painting. in he orchardOne of my favorite combinations was this arrangement by floral designer Dorothy Vannan created for English artist Dorothea Sharp’s impressionist work  In the Orchard that features a woman picking fruit. 

WAG LOBBYThe weather is going to be cold and wintry this weekend but you can escape at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  There’s coffee in the lobby to warm your body and in the galleries you will find lots of lovely flowers and beautiful art to warm your soul. 

Other posts………..

Flowers of Costa Rica

Flowers of Jamaica

Trilliums- Food For the Soul

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Filed under Art, Nature, WInnipeg Art Gallery

I Was Stuck!

Yesterday morning it was incredibly icy here in Winnipeg!  My husband Dave left for work a couple of hours before I did and called to warn me the sidewalks were treacherous.  Was he ever right!  

I only had to walk two blocks from my house before I reached an indoor walkway that would take me almost right to my job at the art gallery.  I almost didn’t make those two initial blocks.  I had to shuffle along one foot at a time on the slick surface.  Then I reached a slanted driveway. I inched my way onto it but it had a slight incline and every time I gingerly put a foot forward I slid right back. I was stuck!  I was so scared I’d fall if I took a bigger stride forward so I just stood there.

There were some workers across the street cleaning up tree branches that had snapped off with the weight of the ice. One of the workers saw my predicament, crossed the street and offered me his arm. He walked me to the cobblestone sidewalk ahead and stood with me till I had stabilized myself by hanging onto the building beside me. I thanked him and told him what a kind gentleman he was.  

 I managed to make it to work on time only to discover one of my young colleagues hadn’t arrived because she had slipped on the ice on her way to the art gallery, had broken her ankle and was now in a hospital emergency room. I felt so sorry for her! Apparently it wasn’t only seniors like me who’d had trouble on the icy sidewalks. 

Thank goodness for that kind and courteous city worker who came to my rescue!  

Other posts…………

Will Spring Come?

Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring

Brrr It’s Cold

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Filed under Nature, People

Can You Help?

bird-puzzle-one“If there was a blah option on Facebook I’d be pressing it,” said one of my blog readers after my recent post about the puzzle my sister and I started during her visit. For some reason that post drew a fair bit of feedback from my readers. Some people agreed with the ‘blah’ comment while others offered to help finish the puzzle and told me they enjoy puzzling and find it relaxing. A couple of readers said they suffer from a kind of dyslexia when it comes to puzzling.
bird-jigsawWell as it turns out the puzzle is done. My husband Dave stepped in to take my sisters’ place and together we got it finished.
labeled-bird-puzzleYesterday Dave started another project. He wants to label all the birds on the puzzle.  So he’s been trolling bird websites looking for names. I was hoping the company that made the puzzle would have the names listed on their site but they don’t. We think we’ve already pinned down fourteen of the birds. Can any of our birdwatcher friends out there help us with the rest? Here’s a link that lets you look at the birds closely. 

Other posts…….

Dave Driedger Bird Detective

Dave Driedger Nature Photographer

Dave Driedger Wildlife Photographer

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Filed under Art, Nature

Sunset Walk in America The Beautiful

Dave and Hans ready for the hike.

Dave and Hans ready for the walk.

At the invitation of our friend Hans, who lives not far from us here in the San Tan Valley we went on a photography walk to see the Arizona sunset.  The walk was in Lost Dutchman State Park an Arizona park we had never visited before.

Hans gets ready to take a photo beside a saguaro cactus that we learned weighs 10 tons. We hoped it wouldn't fall on him!

Hans gets ready to take a photo beside a saguaro cactus that we learned weighs 10 tons. We hoped it wouldn’t fall on him!

Hans who belongs to a photography club carries all kinds of photography equipment along with him on these adventures. We even had to turn the car around just after setting off for the park to go back for stuff he had forgotten.  I’m sure the photos he took on our walk were stunning and I am looking forward to seeing them. people-on-hikeWe were on the walk with forty-five other people. When we introduced ourselves we found out there was one other couple from Canada. They live near Ottawa but otherwise our group had visitors from more than a dozen different American states.comb-for-cactusBarb, a park volunteer was our guide for the walk. She has a comb pick in her hand. She told us this is an essential tool for a desert walk because it helps to get unwanted cacti burrs off your clothing without hurting your hands. hedge-hog-cactusBarb stopped to point out a whole bunch of different plants and trees on the hike.  These are hedgehog cacti. four-peaks-with-desert-in-foregroundEarly in our walk we got our first view of the snow-capped Four Peaks way off in the distance. They are part of the Mazatzal Mountains.  Only one of the four peaks has an official name-Brown’s Peak so I wondered what we could call the others. 

four-peaksPerhaps one should be named the Amethyst Peak since our guide Barb told us that between the third and fourth peak is the only commercial amethyst mine in the United States. Helicopters take supplies in and minerals out. The miners hike nine miles to work and usually spend about a week at a time at the mine site which has no running water or electricity.  Hand tools are used to extract the amethyst. flat-iron-mountainBecause we were on the hike with Hans we actually got a picture of the two of us together.

dave-lost-dutchman-hikeDuring our two-hour walk it was interesting to watch the sun change Flat Iron, the rock formation behind us. Formed by volcanic activity some 25 million years ago it is a pillared mesa. marylou-lost-dutchman-hike

marylou-flat-iron-sunset

flat-iron-sunset

mistletoe-on-treesHere Barb is showing us some mistletoe growing on a tree.  Desert mistletoe will eventually kill a tree but it can take 10 to 15 years to do so. The parasite is spread from one tree to another by birds who wipe their bills on branches or deposit droppings on the tree after eating the mistletoe fruit.  Mistletoe is just a fact of life in the Sonoran Desert and there isn’t much you can do about it. 

Don't Dave and Hans look fascinated with all the facts they are learning about the mistletoe?

Don’t Dave and Hans look fascinated with all the facts they are learning about the mistletoe?

sunset-on-the-mountainAt this point in the evening Flat Iron reminded me of the red rocks you see in the Sedona area. praying-handsThis rock formation has been dubbed The Praying Hand. It is a favorite ascent for rock climbers.faces-in-the-rock-azI thought the formation on the bottom left here looked like a hand too and in the one in the centre I could see a face with eyes, nose and mouth. 

purple-mountainsLater in the evening the light on the distant mountains reminded me of that line from God Bless America about the purple mountains majesty. The song was written using the words from a poem by Katherine Lee Bates. She and her life partner Katharine Coman were fellow Wellesley professors who traveled often to the American West and were tireless advocates for America’s poor. hoodos-and-flood-flat-iron-azThe rock formation in the background of this photo figures prominently in a First Nations legend that tells the story of a group of people who escaped a flood by climbing to its peak. The white line on the rock shows how high the water came.  See the hoodos to the left? They are tall thin spires of rock also called fairy chimneys or earth pyramids. There is also a tragic modern story associated with this rock formation. On Thanksgiving in 2011 a plane crashed into it killing six people including a father and his three children. sunset-desertAs we neared the end of our walk the sun truly set and we got some colourful views. diverse-crowd-hikesThe news is just full of all this rhetoric about a divided America and so it was kind of reassuring and lovely to hike through the sunset with this huge group of people of varying ages, from varying cultural backgrounds and various geographical regions in the United States who were all so friendly and enjoying nature’s spectacular show together.
cactus-in-the-setting-sun

Other posts……….

Wine Canyon

Six Toed Cats, A Birthing Chair and His Last Penny

Better With Friends

 

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Filed under Arizona, Nature