Category Archives: Nature

The Consolation of Water Lilies

Clouds reflected in the water in a pond full of water lilies in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg

In her beautifully written book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer has a chapter about water lilies. Kimmerer is a botany professor but she is also a poignant writer and has this incredibly wise and wonderful way of linking our lives to those of the plant world.

She tells the story of her two daughters leaving home.  She has just visited the older one who is attending university in a distant state and now she is driving the youngest daughter to the college she will attend.  Robin recalls all the responsibilities she had as a mother keeping a household running for her two daughters and supporting them in their various endeavours. There were constant demands on her to give and give and give.  Yet she is grieving deeply as she drives away after dropping off her daughter at her dormitory.  Robin decides to go canoeing and the time she spends in nature feeds her and restores her. Just as she has been giving to her daughters for so many years now nature is giving to her.

Water lily in a cenote in Mexico where I went swimming

Robin talks in particular about the water lilies she encounters canoeing and how they look so beautiful. She knows as a botanist that water lilies get their air and light on the surface of the water but they are anchored below by a rhizome as thick as your wrist and so strong it is almost impossible to break. Robin also describes in delicate and lovely language how the old leaves of a water lily and the new ones are inextricably linked and how they help one another survive. 

Robin is wise enough to let her readers come to their own conclusions but her words reminded me so much of my parenting experience.  How we hope when our children leave home we have given them a strong enough anchor as they seek the things that will bring air and light to their own lives.  How we hope that the bond we have with our children will keep us linked together albeit in constantly new and changing ways and that as our lives move forward we will continue to help one another survive and thrive in this world.  

This chapter in Robin’s book is entitled The Consolation of Water Lilies.  She named it perfectly. 

Other posts………….

Grateful for Mom’s Support

Captain Fantastic

Plants That Talked to Me

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I Don’t Want to Outlive the Trees

On Sunday afternoon I went to hear the boys choir my daughter-in-law conducts perform in a concert called Autumn Kaleidoscope. One of the pieces they sang was The Sun is Mine by Laura Hawley.  The words come from a poem by Robert Hogg and Robert Priest.  It is a lovely piece of poetry but it has a sad message.  Children are acknowledging their worry that the trees of the forest may die before they do. They are hoping the trees will go on for generations but they aren’t sure they will.  They sing, “I don’t want to outlive the trees.”

The song reminded me that in the last few weeks it has been teenagers and children who have been protesting and demanding our attention about the need for climate change in the world. We need to listen to their voices.

The Sun is Mine by Robert Hogg and Robert Priest

The sun is mine
and the trees are mine
the light breeze is mine
and the birds that inhabit the air are mine
their voices on the wind are in my ear
I am young and I want to live to be old
and I don’t want to outlive these trees – this forest

When my last song is gone
I want these same trees to be singing on – newer green songs
for generations to come
So let me be old, grow to be ancient
to come as an elder before these same temple-green sentinels
with my aged limbs
and still, know a wonder
that will outlast me.

Other posts………..

The Religion of Trees

Trees

Imitating Emily

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Filed under Music, Nature

I Kissed An Owl

I buried my nose in the feathers of a Eurasian Eagle Owl! We spent a fascinating morning at the Dubrava Falconry Centre in a thick pine forest just outside of Sibenik, Croatia. Here Emillio Mendusic and his staff rehabilitate injured birds of prey, breed birds of prey, and train birds to do demonstrations in order to educate the public about birds of prey.  They have treated hundreds of injured birds and been able to save almost 80% of them.  Whenever someone calls the emergency number in Croatia to report an injured bird of prey the operators immediately refer them to the Falconry Centre to see if they can help. 

Falconer Stipe with Mordecai one of the owls who live at the centre

Emillo who started the Falconry Centre was busy doing a demonstration for a big group of junior high students so the four of us were left in the hands of another falconer Stipe who has worked at the centre for eleven years and absolutely loves his job. He taught us so much. 70% of an owl’s head is her eyes and she can turn her head 270 degrees. She can spot a small rodent up to 8 km away. Stipe told us most Eurasian Eagle owls mate for life and for the first 24 weeks of their babies’ lives males and females look after their offspring together.

My sister Kaaren up close and personal with Mordecai

If you try to pet an owl with your hand it will feel threatened but you can rub your face in its soft feathers and it won’t mind. Stipe did say that each owl has its own temperament and might not like people approaching at all but Stipe knows Mordecai well and he doesn’t mind.

Stipe told us they maintain a huge bank of feathers at the rehabilitation centre all labelled and catalogued. They collect these feathers when the birds moult. When a new bird is brought to them that is injured and has lost key feathers it needs to fly, the veterinarians who work at the centre are able to take a matching feather from the feather bank and insert it in the empty hole in the bird’s wing structure with super glue and then the bird is able to fly. Stipe gave Mordecai a little chick to eat but she wasn’t very hungry. He said owls like Mordecai are killing machines and although they mostly eat small prey like mice and rats and other birds they will also eat bigger animals like young deer, antelope, goats and hedgehogs. Stipe told us the owls only eat fresh meat but if they kill a larger animal they will eat as much of it as they can and then leave the carcass and come back later to hunt the animals who come to feed on the carrion. The talons of a Eurasian Eagle Owl are the largest of almost any nocturnal raptor and provide one of the strongest grips ever measured in a bird.

My brother-in-law Ken with a Harris’s Hawk.

Next Stipe introduced us to a Harris’s Hawk named  Becks. He and Stipe are good friends and often go hunting together with Stipe’s dog. If Stipe unties Becks he still follows right after Stipe. Stipe handmade the glove I am wearing to use when he trains the birds and does demonstrations with them. The female Harris’ hawk is about 35% bigger than the male. Stipe also told us that in medieval times women were excellent falconers.

My sister Kaaren with Becks

Stipe says that the educational piece of their rehabilitation centre is so important. They try to have as many student guests as possible.  They think the future of the animal and bird species in our world is in the hands of young people and they want them to know just how special and unique birds of prey are.  Stip talked about how much humans have to learn from birds. Zippers were modelled after a bird’s feathers.  Birds can tell environmentalists a great deal about pollution levels. Birds tolerance for certain otherwise harmful microorganisms can help scientists develop medicines. The inventors of planes studied birds. Stipe wants all young people to become Greta Thunberg’s- passionate about saving the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it.  He described her as a new Don Quixote tilting at windmills and hopes the young people who visit their centre will be similarly inspired to save animal and bird species. There were many different birds of prey at the Dubrava Falconry Centre like this beautiful peregrine falcon Dave photographed. Our time at the centre was fascinating and certainly a highlight of our visit to Croatia so far. 

Other posts………

A Top Ten List About the Storks of Portugal

Seeing the Elusive Quetzal

Dave Driedger- Nature Photographer

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Go To The Park!

With my parents and my sister in Assiniboine Park in the 1950s

The Washington Post reported this week that researchers at the University of Vermont have discovered visiting a park can improve your mood and give you a jolt of happiness much like the one kids receive on Christmas morning. Cranky folks who live in the city will be cheered by spending time in a public park.

With my husband Dave in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

That increased positivity will stay with them for several hours after the visit.  The larger and/or greener the park the greater its benefits.

With my daughter-in-law in Point Pelee National Park in Ontario

One of the authors of the research findings says it is definitely true that there is something restorative about being out in nature.

In a park in Taiwan with my cousin Dirk

The great outdoors has something you can’t buy at a store or download onto your screen.  

In Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland

In the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Park in Costa Rica

In Sai Kung County Park in Hong Kong

Looking for tigers in Ranthambore National Park in India

With the guide who took us on a tour in the Whiteshell Provincial Park

Skiing with my family in Banff National Park Albert

With my friends in Assiniboine Park Winnipeg

On a park bench in Savannah Georgia

At the Winnipeg Folk Festival in Birds Hill Park

Other posts………

Living Beings Just Like Us?

An Ancient Sacred Site

Thin Places

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Does Your City Need A Butt Blitz?

Did you know that cigarette butts are responsible for around 40% of the litter in the Canadian cities? A recent CBC story describes a campaign the city of Hamilton has started to try to encourage smokers to discard their cigarette butts properly. New garbage receptacles with eye-catching designs placed in many strategic spots will hopefully mean more cigarettes get tossed into them rather than tossed onto roadways, sidewalks, and flowerbeds. Hamilton also hosted a ‘butt blitz’ this past April where volunteers combed the city picking up discarded cigarette butts. I think we might need a butt blitz here in Winnipeg too. Yesterday morning we went to a friendly coffee shop we like to frequent. Just before going inside I noticed all these cigarette butts near the curb in the coffee shop parking lot.  Yuck!  Not exactly the thing to whet your appetite for the tasty baking inside the coffee shop. When we got back home I photographed a couple of reminders like this in the flower beds outside our condo. The beds are planted and lovingly tended by a volunteer gardener in our building. She has had to pick endless cigarette butts out of the flower beds so each one is now adorned with one of these signs she has made.  

Not only are the butts unsightly they contain plastics that are not biodegradable and their chemicals can be harmful to birds who pick them up and ingest them, and also to marine life when the chemicals from the cigarettes seep into waterways. 

When I visited Lisbon a couple of years ago I thought it was terrible the way cigarette butts lined the beautiful cobblestone designs of the streets.  But we have a cigarette littering problem right here in Canada too and right here in Winnipeg.  There are laws against littering but they don’t seem to be working when it comes to cigarette butts. Perhaps Winnipeg can follow Hamilton’s lead and find ways to get cigarette litter out of our public places. 

Other posts………

Too Much Smoking

Cleaning Up My Neighborhood

Sitting is the New Smoking

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Filed under Health, Nature, Winnipeg

Good News- Part 7

Orca whale photographed on our kayaking trip in Johnstone Strait British Columbia

Did you know that it is no longer legal to keep whales and dolphins in captivity in Canada?
It’s true.

All Good News Posts

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Living Beings Just Like Us?

Ceiba tree I photographed near the house we rented in Mexico

Peter Wohlleben, author of the book The Hidden Life of Trees describes how trees cooperate and communicate with one another, have memories, make decisions, have distinct personalities, support their sick neighbors, nurture their children, make friends, and fight off predators.  

Two hundred-year-old fern tree I photographed in Costa Rica

Wohlleben wants us to start thinking about trees as living sentient beings. He believes if people can do that they may become more passionate about preserving our forests.  There are so many ways in which trees enrich our lives and indeed make human life possible on earth.  Trees, Wohlleben contends, deserve our respect and protection. 

A lone tree I photographed on Lake Winnipeg

Free Press columnist Niigaan Sinclair makes much the same argument in his recent column about Lake Winnipeg.  He believes if we can officially recognize the lake as a living being in need of protection and respect, it may be possible to overcome the many political barriers in place that are currently stymying efforts to save the lake from an algae problem threatening to destroy it. Sinclair points to other countries like India, New Zealand and Ecuador who have given ‘right to live’ and ‘personhood’  status to items in the natural world. 

In the woods in Akaka Falls Park in Hawaii which features an arboretum of the state’s native trees

Both Sinclair and Wohlleben have critics who say their ideas aren’t scientific enough and more practical solutions are needed to protect nature.  There may be truth to that, but I think if their efforts can draw attention to an environmental problem and make people understand and properly appreciate the value of trees and lakes and other living things then I’m all for it.

Lake Winnipeg in winter-photographed by my talented cousin Al Loeppky

Other posts…………

Trees

Where I’m From- Moose Lake

Go Outside…Go Often

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