Category Archives: Nature

On the Boardwalk and Walking to the Tip of Canada

During our time in Ontario I spent an afternoon at Point Pelee National Park.  In honor of Canada’s 150th birthday the park is free to all visitors throughout the year. I was accompained by my daughter-in-law and sister-in-law as we walked the entire length of a board walk that takes you out across a large marsh. We heard many birds, saw beautiful water flowers and my daughter-in-law spied a painted turtle resting on a lily pad. I learned from the signage along the boardwalk that wetlands like the Pelee Marsh help to prevent water shortages and curb global warming.  Canada is home to 25% of the world’s wetlands. 

I also learned the marsh’s stands of cat tails, are like nature’s supermarket providing nourishment and shelter for many different kinds of creatures.  Insects hibernate in the cat tails’ hollow stems in winter and the cat tails’ roots, shoots and seeds provide muskrats, ducks and geese with food. From the top of the tall tower at the end of the marsh you can get a beautiful birds-eye view of the wetland. One of the flowers we saw blooming profusely in the marsh was the swamp rose. Later we hiked down to the tip of Point Pelee, the southern most point on Canada’s mainland. I had a relaxing and energizing afternoon in a beautiful setting with two women it’s great to spend time with. What could be better? 

Other posts……..

Treking to the Tip of Canada

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A Little Gem on the River

marylou benjaminson parkWe were invited to the new home of friends who recently moved to the St. James area of the city. The only bus I could take arrived a good forty minutes before our dinner date time.  Walking  towards our friends’ home from the bus stop I came upon a lovely little park I didn’t even know existed.  benjaminson parkAs I wandered into Benjaminson Park I came upon a sign that explained the park had been named after Skuli Benjaminson (1879-1970) a pioneer who had owned one of the first homes in the area.  He helped chop down trees so Portage Avenue could be built and was instrumental in bringing power lines into the area. memorial stone benjaminson parkHe was the only owner of a car and telephone in the neighborhood’s early days and he generously provided communication and transportation services to his neighbors. 

bench benjaminson parkBenjaminson Park is lovely.  There’s a bench under a tree which is the perfect place to read. down by the riverYou have a lovely view of the river. purple flowersI sat reading my book for a good half hour enjoying the beautiful purple flowers around me, the birds swooping down to the river and the leafy greenery.  I was almost sorry to leave but a fabulous meal with great friends awaited me.

river view benjaminson parkWinnipeg is full of little parks like the Benjaminson.  It would be neat someday to do a pilgrimage and try to visit them all. 

Other posts…….

The Grand Canyon For Free

Exploring Gros Morne National Park

Walking in A Haunted Forest


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Filed under Nature, Winnipeg

Go outside, go often…….

Hug a tree.  A friend told me about a doctor who prescribed ‘hugging trees’ as a way to treat mental illness and anxiety. His patients really did feel better after going on walks and literally hugging trees.  In a recent article in The Atlantic called  How to Harness Nature’s Healing Power Florence Williams the author of a new book called The Nature Fix says there is a growing body of scientific research to show just how good spending time in nature is for your brain and your body. It comes at a time however when people are spending less and less time outside.

My sister and I having a tea party outside at our grandparents house

According to Williams children of my generation  spent 70% of our play time outdoors.  Now most children spend 70% of their play time indoors and most adults spend 87% of their waking hours indoors. Williams urges everyone to get outside into nature as often as we can.  An article in Business Insider gives scientific reasons why this is so important. 

Enjoying nature in Akaka Falls State Park Hawaii

Research shows being out in nature sharpens your short-term memory, improves your vision, reduces stress and restores mental energy. It can help you think more creatively. 

Hiking in Arizona

Spending time in nature will make you live longer, boost your immune system, reduce your chance of getting cancer and improve your mental health and powers of concentration.

Wilderness hiking with my Hong Kong students

Many cities are realizing the importance of people spending time in nature and are being deliberate about creating and maintaining green spaces in urban environments.  This is necessary because otherwise spending time in nature will only be available to people wealthy enough to leave the cities in which they live and get out into nature.  One of the things that really surprised us when we lived in Hong Kong was how much government protected green space there was for people to enjoy. 

Prairie grasses in the park at the end of my street

I live in the heart of downtown Winnipeg but there is a beautiful park right at the end of my street which runs along the river.  I have no excuse not to go outside and go often!

Other posts……..

The Blueberries Slowed Him Down


Flowers of Costa Rica


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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


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