Category Archives: Nature

Nature’s Artwork

There’s a patch on the Seine River where we often walk that is under a bridge so the ice isn’t snow covered and you can look way down to see beneath it. There are all these really cool patterns and designs that have been created as the river froze.

Sometimes nature makes the most intriguing artwork.

I am reminded of these foam patterns created by waves on a black sand beach where we went for a walk in Vik, Iceland.

I was intrigued by the rainbow bubbles that the foam left on the rocks.

The roots of a tree in Lisbon Portugal created an artwork that human hands would have been hard-pressed to fashion

Look at this beautiful print. It is as if a spray of seaweed had left its mark on this beach in Costa Rica.

See how nature has bent this tree to form a perfect arch in Sedona Arizona?

Or how a shell has left a lasting imprint on this rock on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail in Portugal’s Algarve region

I love the way the leaves of this tree in Zion National Park in Utah create a shadowy design on the ground.

Notice how the bright colours of this plant pushing its way through the rocks at The Arches site in Newfoundland contrast with the tones of the rocks around it.

In much the same way this mushroom I photographed in Croatia provides a burst of colour to the sombre tones of the leaves around it.

Check out the way little insects crawling just beneath the surface of the sand on a beach in Tamarindo in Costa Rica created intricate artwork.

Nature has shaped this rotting tree trunk to look like an iguana on the Virgin Trail in Utah

And circling back to Winnipeg what artist could have handcrafted the beauty of these icicles hanging from the rooftop of the Royal Albert Hotel near my home?

Other posts………….

Nature’s Artwork in Portugal

Merida By Design

A Rainbow in My Mouth

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Lessons From Trees

Lynda Toews is the talented artist in residence at my church. During the months of January and February, her beautiful paintings will be adding an element of visual wonder to our series of online worship services on the theme of trees.

Yellow Cedar by Lynda Toews

Did you know that there is a yellow cedar tree in British Columbia that is 1835 years old? It is Canada’s oldest tree. Indeed trees are the oldest living things on earth. “As the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people” Isaiah 65:22.

Trees give us a good idea of where our short life spans fit into the vast scale of time. Trees grow slowly and remind us of what we can accomplish when we have patience and perseverance. Trees also are a prime example of what great things God makes from a very small seed or pinecone.

Trees Clapping by Lynda Toews

The title of this painting Trees Clapping makes reference to the Scripture passage in Isaiah 55:12. “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills, shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Lynda went out to photograph trees in her neighbourhood to use as models for this piece. She wanted the trees to have riotous colour and energy and show movement. We may not think of trees as being emotional like humans but poets have often given them human qualities. Think of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem where the trees lift their leafy arms to pray.

Trees can remind us how important it is to express and share our emotions as we worship and work together.

Moonlight Sonata by Lynda Toews

Lynda illustrates the relationship between trees in Moonlight Sonata. Look at how the two trees are bent towards each other and how their roots intertwine.

Scientists tell us trees share food with one another. By working together trees create an ecosystem that moderates the temperature and stores water. If you look at the forest canopy you can see that trees respect one another’s space leaving openings between their crowns.

Trees even communicate through electronic impulses that emanate from their root tips. Studies show that one tree can be connected to as many as 50 others in this way. Their communication helps them grow in healthy and safe ways.

The communication and community found in trees can be an example to humans as we strive to communicate and live together in community.

The Bible tells us we are to be like trees planted by streams of water bearing fruit. Psalm 1:3

Lynda Toews
  • The tree paintings in this post are all by Lynda Toews. You can see more of her work here and here.
  • The ideas in this blog post come from essays and other documents Lynda prepared in conjunction with her visual pieces.
  • I have used her artwork and her ideas with her permission.

Other posts……….

The Tree of Life- Poems by Sarah Klassen

Two Trees and a Marriage

Dad’s Sacred Trees

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Walking on The Seine

We have been going for some lovely walks on the Seine River following its winding course for kilometre after kilometre. Apparently the river’s name comes from a Cree word Tchimâhâgânisipi which describes a certain kind of fishing net.

You can make your way down onto the river from plenty of different spots. The ice is thick and safe almost everywhere and lots of people are enjoying the river walk. We see runners and dog walkers, bikers, and snowshoers. We pass cross country skiers and skaters. There are parents of young children pushing strollers and pulling sleds.

Neighbours have created toboggan slides that coast down hills and out onto the river.

Families have set up all kinds of unique visiting spots on their yards that back onto the river like this little protected enclosure rimmed with pines. A perfect place for a fire, a beverage of choice, and some conversation.

Many folks have built skating rinks on the river.

Running along one section of the Seine is a beautifully groomed skating trail that must extend for over a kilometre.

People on the river are in a friendly mood and say hello and comment on the weather. One man engaged us in conversation by beginning with, “Can you believe we are in Winnipeg in January?” We discovered we were both snowbirds who for years had traveled to warmer climes during our province’s colder months. Enjoying such a marvelous day in the great outdoors in Winnipeg had us both wondering why we had fled south in years past.

Lots of families are usually out walking on the river and it is fun to listen to bits and pieces of their conversation. I heard one little boy ask, “are we going to walk along this river till it empties into the ocean Mom?”

We see artwork too.

Ice sculptures

and lots of Where’s Waldo markers almost as if they’ve been put at various spots along the river as part of treasure hunt of some sort.

Someone on a mission has made a special sign for dog owners who take their pets for walks on the river.

One day we made a short detour going up the steep bank and onto the St. Boniface Golf Course so we could trek down its fairways that run along the river. On one we saw a sign that was just a little scary.

It seems like by now we must have walked almost the entire twisted and meandering Winnipeg section of the river, accessing it in different spots each time. Walking on the Seine is great and something we’ve never done before. This article calls the Seine River ‘Winnipeg’s Hidden Gem’ and I’d have to agree.

I am constantly amazed at how the pandemic is providing an opportunity for us to explore our city in all kinds of new ways.

Other posts……….

Driedger Winnipeg Walking Adventures

Hiking the Virgin

Walking the Skerwink Trail

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Among the Birch and Pine

Dave and I have a good friend who owns a large country property in southern Manitoba. He was kind enough to let us go for a walk in the forested area around his home this week.

His beautiful house is nestled in a huge stand of pine.

Our friend has created an art gallery of sorts in the trees by fastening many different kinds of bicycles to the trunks of the pines.

You have to look way up to see some of the bicycles, and in doing so you get a marvellous view of the tree tops.

Leaving the stand of pine around our friend’s home we walked some six kilometres on paths in his thirty acre birch forest. Our friend has spent hours grooming and clearing the trails.

As we hiked we saw grouse and chickadees. We heard crows and jays.

Our friend is a World War II aficionado and we discovered all kinds of military memorabilia and reminders of the war tucked into the trees.

When we returned from our ninety minute trek our friend had a roaring fire going for us to sit around.

We drank wine and ate chocolate and just soaked in the beauty of nature around us.

The enjoyment of the day will sustain us during the coming additional two weeks of CODE RED lockdown that have been announced for the province.

Other posts………

Two Pines and a Marriage

There’s A Bicycle in Our Shower

Flooding At Birch Point

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Solstice-A Time for Comfort, Gratitude, Creativity and Generosity

Henteleff Park Winnipeg

Today is the winter solstice. We will have the longest night of the year, the longest period of darkness. And this year that darkness is particularly deep and daunting as the death toll from COVID-19 rises around the world and as the economic and social impacts of the pandemic take a dark toll on people and families and communities.

Bois-des-Esprits  Trail Winnipeg

I think the perfect song to mark this day is The Solstice Carol by the Winnipeg group The Wyrd Sisters. The lyrics of The Solstice Carol remind us that during the longest night of the year we are to comfort one another, think about our blessings, remember to dance and share what we have with others. That is the true spirit of the solstice and it will get us through to the spring when there will once again be more light than darkness.

A fire is burning

The long night draws near

All who need comfort

Are welcome by here

We’ll dance ‘neath the stars

And toast the past year

For the spirit of solstice

Is still living here

We’ll count all our blessings

While the Mother lays down

With snow as her blanket

Covering the ground

Thanks to the Mother

For the life that she brings

She’ll waken to warm us

Again in the spring

The poor and the hungry 

The sick and the lost

These are our children

No matter the cost

Come by the fire

The harvest to share

For the spirit of solstice

Is still living here

Comfort one another, think about your blessings, remember to dance, and share what you have. A mantra to get us through perhaps one of the darkest winter solstices we have ever experienced.

The Bunn’s Creek Trail Winnipeg

Unfortunately, The Solstice Carol was only released on a cassette tape and there is no way to get a hard copy or even download it now. Believe me, I have tried. But someone has put a copy of the song on YouTube so you can hear it there.

There is also an interesting version of the song by Winnipeg Group Antiphony. It was arranged by Scott Reimer and can be heard here.

Other posts…….

A Time to be Slow

Sun Dogs and Steam

 

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More Driedger Winnipeg Walking Adventures

Dave by the Red River on the Macbeth Trail.

Tromping through a monastery, discovering an old mansion and finding a unique refrigerator are just a few adventures Dave and I had as we explored two Winnipeg walking trails that were new to us.

The stately Macbeth Mansion is at the head of the Macbeth Park Walking Trail.  The house which was built in 1912 for Robert Macbeth is located on land his family first received title to in 1817.   There are some other grand mansions, albeit more modern ones, visible through the trees as you hike along the river trail. We saw one enormous tree that had fallen across the path and had been cut in two.

Inside the split tree on the Macbeth Trail

To walk the Rivière Sale Trail we parked in the lot for the St. Norbert Provincial Heritage Park.The park is the site of some old homes that have been preserved for summer visitors.  They are reminders of the history of the Metis community and Quebec immigrant settlement in the area. The trail is gorgeous. It is well marked with signs that explain the Indigenous history of the area where you are walking. We definitely saw signs that some enterprising beavers had been at work along the trail. The trail ends in the provincial park again and goes right by this building which is really a fridge often seen on pioneer farmsteads. It was called an ice house.  In winter huge blocks of ice were cut from the La Salle river and using pulleys were raised to the second storey of this building and packed with insulation like straw and sawdust.  The ice would remain frozen all summer and that way food could be stored on the bottom floor and kept cold. 

The Rivière Sale Trail was too short for us to get in our 10,000 daily steps so we headed over to the nearby Trappist Monastery Provincial Park. Of course we had been here many times to watch Shakespeare in the Ruins performances in summer but we had never visited the site in winter so we tromped all over the grounds considerably upping our step totals. 

Other posts………

There’s More to the Shakespeare in the Ruins Site Than I Thought

Throughly Enjoying Henry V at Shakespeare in the Ruins

Soaking Up the Last Days of Warm Weather

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A Winnipeg Island Full of History

Did you know Winnipeg is home to an island where ancient hunters roamed and Victorian-era citizens picnicked? Dave and I hiked Pollock Island this last week. It is located at the end of Rue St. Pierre in St. Norbert.

Donated to the city by the Pollock family in 2006 the island is a 16-acre woodland plot. The Red River flows on one side and the LaSalle River on the other. In spring when the waters rise, road access is often cut off by floods, making the forested acres an island. Hence the name Pollock Island.

I don’t think many people know about Pollock Island. The day we hiked it we were all alone.

But a plaque at the site lets you know that in the past it’s been a busy place. 6000 years ago woodland hunters stalked deer here and in 780 traders came to broker deals with treasures from as far away as the Gulf of Mexico. The Assiniboin, Cree and Ojibwa did battle with the Dakota Sioux here from 1600 to 1800 and fur traders began regular visits in the late 1700s. Metis families farmed along the rivers and Selkirk Settlers rested nearby when they first arrived in 1812.

The Selkirk Settlers stopped at the nearby house of Baptiste Charet in 1812 on their way to Pembina to wait out their first winter

Buffalo hunters used to rendezvous on the island before a hunt and in the 1800s picnickers from Winnipeg came out to Pollock Island in their horse and buggies.

Learning about the rich history of the Pollock Island area made us feel like we were walking back through time as we did our hike.

An information board introduced us to the flora and fauna and wildlife on Pollock Island. Even in winter, the island has plenty of natural beauty for walkers to appreciate.

There are many cottonwood and basswood trees on Pollock Island.
You can see the Red River Floodway gates in the distance

The trail on Pollock Island is only about a kilometre loop so you might choose to hike it twice or do what we did and visit a couple of other walking trails nearby. I’ll write about them in future posts.

A great cycle, walk and paddle we’ve had in Winnipeg …….

Into the Wild in Winnipeg

Looking in the Woods for Spirits

The Great Assiniboine River Canoeing Adventure

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Looking For The Spirit of the Woods

One of our walking adventures this week was exploring the Bois -de-esprits trail which begins at 650 Shorehill Drive in Winnipeg.   The trail is named for the wooded area it winds through. Translated its name means Woods Where the Spirits Dwell. According to the Save our Seine website Bois-de-esprits is one of the largest pristine urban forests in Canada. I learned that two decades ago this forest was scheduled to become part of a housing development but concerned citizens stepped up to save 117 acres of it.  The trails were created in a way that required as few trees as possible to be taken down. The woods are full of wildlife and we must have seen more than twenty deer during our 5-kilometre walk. The Bois de espirts trail is well known for this sculpture in a tree trunk. The tree had died from Dutch Elm disease.  It was carved by Walter Mirosh and Robert Leclair from Les Gens de Bois Woodcarving Club. The sculpture was given its name Woody in English or Mhitik in Ojibway at a special Indigenous feast and ceremony in 2006.

There were carvings on both sides of the tree but unfortunately, arsonists have damaged the one side. 

There are several lovely paths to follow, one that runs through the heart of the forest and another along the Seine River. We walked both. I just loved the colours of the golden grasses against the stark brown branches. Besides Woody, there are all kinds of other sculptures in tree trunks in the woods made by various artists.  I don’t think we found them all but we discovered quite a few.

I’d love to go back sometime and find more carvings. We won’t be getting together with our grandchildren this year for Christmas but another year I think it would be lots of fun to go looking for the ‘spirits’ in the woods on this trail with them. 

Other posts………..

A Bird On My Hand

Living Beings Just Like Us?

The Stranger in the Woods

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A Bird on the Hand

We went for a long hike in the Assiniboine Forest on Sunday afternoon. Dave as always was on the lookout for birds to photograph. He was shelling peanuts and eating them as we walked. A little chickadee kept landing on the trees along the trail right beside us.

“I think that bird is interested in my peanuts,” Dave said. “I bet it can smell them.”

Dave told me to crack a peanut and hold it in my hand. He figured the chickadee might land on my hand to eat the peanut. And it did!

I kept putting new peanuts on my glove and the chickadee kept flying in, landing on my hand and diligently pecking at the peanut bits until it had managed to pick one up. Then it flew away to eat its tasty treasure. Later I found out this is typical behaviour for chickadees. If they visit a bird feeder for example they will take a seed and then fly away to eat it. How delightful to feel the chickadee’s delicate little feet on my fingers and its sharp tiny bill tickling my palm. The bird was truly light as a feather. I was amazed that this little chickadee would trust a stranger and sit on my hand as if it were nothing more than another twig on a tree. Up close I could see the chickadee’s white cheeks and sporty black bib. Its black cap seemed to be pulled down over its eyes.  

According to Jennifer Ackerman author of The Genius of Birds, “Chickadees are generally unfazed by people… they possess a deep-rooted self-confidence, and will investigate everything inside their home territory.”  

Oh to have the confidence and curiosity of a chickadee.  

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. – William Shakespeare from Troilus and Cressida

Other posts……..

Lessons From Birds

Birding is Big

Happy Earth Day

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Lessons From Birds

But ask the animals and they will teach you or the birds in the sky and they will tell you. Job 12:7

Flamingos photographed near Merida Mexico

Spend time with your flock and enjoy their company.

Storks on a church photographed in Faro, Portugal

Put effort love and care into creating your home

A pine grosbeak photographed on Bunn’s Creek Trail Winnipeg

Adapt to the seasons.

A peacock photographed in Sienna Italy

Don’t be afraid to display what’s beautiful about you

Rock ptarmigan photographed in Selfoss Iceland

Stop for a moment and take a break when you need to

A crested pigeon photographed in the Blue Mountains of Australia

If you want to move on you will have to let go of that branch you are clinging to

Swan photographed on Lake Konstanz in Germany

Spread your wings

Rooster photographed on a farmyard in Fiji

Let your voice be heard

 Owl photographed at the Dubrava Falconry Rehabilitation Centre just outside of Sibenik, Croatia.

It is wise to be observant and prepared for anything

Morning flight of pelicans photographed at Isle De Capitan in Costa Rica

Enjoy the journey and try to land gracefully.

Other posts………

Ten Things About the White Storks of Portugal

I Kissed an Owl

Finding The Elusive Quetzal

Note: Most of the photos in this post were taken by my husband Dave. 

 

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