Category Archives: Nature

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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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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He Might See A Tiger Now

My husband Dave had his heart set on seeing a wild tiger when we visited India in 2008, so we planned a safari in Ranthambore National Park. The temperature was a chilly four degrees as we clambered into our open-air jeep at six in the morning to begin our tiger hunt. I was happy to be wedged in tightly between Dave and a banker from London named Sidney. The two men on either side of me blocked the wind and helped keep me warm.
When we visited in 2008 it wasn’t easy to see a tiger in the wild in India. There were only about 1000 left in the whole country. That’s because even in protected areas poachers continued to kill tigers and sell them to Chinese vendors. Their clients used tiger organs for making traditional medicines.  The tiger population was also dwindling because people were cutting down trees for fuel, destroying the tiger’s forest habitat.  
Despite this, everyone said Ranthambore was the place where we had the best chance of seeing a tiger. We spent three and a half hours looking for one. Our jeep stopped several times so our driver could talk to tiger-trackers who roam Ranthambore looking for the elusive beasts. Despite their best advice, the closest we came to seeing a tiger was to see the paw prints of one in the sand. 
When we were in India over a decade ago a new initiative had just been started to increase the tiger population. I was so happy to read this week that it has been successful. India now has nearly 3000 tigers triple that of the 2008 numbers when we visited. By 2022 they hope to have nearly doubled the current population. Increased forest cover and stricter enforcement of conservation laws have made a huge difference.  

I am not sure if I am ready for another pre-dawn freezing tiger safari, so if you’d like to volunteer to accompany my husband on his next, hopefully, more successful hunt for a tiger in India, I’d be glad to give you my seat in the jeep. 

Other posts………..

India Assaults the Senses

Beggars Everywhere

The Heroes Walk

 

 

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The Harte Trail- Getting Ready For Croatia

On Monday I did another training ride for my Croatia bike trip.  I shared the middle section of a 35 km. ride with my friend Gabe.  She is training for a bike trip of her own in the Baltic at the end of August.  Gabe introduced me to the beautiful Harte Trail. I wondered how the trail, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail got its name.  I discovered the Harte Line was the first section of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway built in western Canada in 1894.  The Harte Trail runs through the forest on the old railway bed. We had the perfect day for cycling, sunny but with a steady breeze to keep us cool. The trail is gorgeous and there is wildlife to enjoy. Gabe and I ended our time on the trail with a picnic in Assiniboine Park. Besides training runs, I am preparing for our bike trip by reading books set in Croatia. The book I am currently reading is  Girl at War by Sara Novic.  I am also continuing to learn new facts about the country each week.  I have learned that………The iris is the national flower of Croatia. Croatia is famous for its strudel called savijaca. It has apples, curd cheese and other delicious things inside. Croatia holds the record for the longest strudel ever baked in the world.

Photo by Andrej Šalov from Wiki Commons

In the city of Zadar which is along the route we will drive before starting our bike trip there is a sea organ. It is an architectural sound object, a kind of experimental instrument that creates music using sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps.  This was part of a project by architect Nikola Basic to reconstruct the broken concrete wall along the sea after it was damaged during World War II.

Other posts…..

 Gearing Up For Croatia

Lots of Cyclists

 

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The Overstory- I Know It Won a Pulitzer Prize But………….

The Overstory by Richard Powers is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel but truth be told I wouldn’t have awarded it any kind of  literary prize. The book is about a group of nine characters who all come to care deeply about understanding and saving the world’s trees.  

The book reminded me a bit of The Goldfinch another Pulitzer Prize winner. Both books start out wonderfully by setting up intriguing plot possibilities with interesting characters. I was completely drawn in. Then both descend into a kind of reading black hole where the characters do crazy things that are often completely unrealistic and frankly leave you frustrated when they go on and on and on. In both books I found myself plowing through the middle section. And finally, the conclusion of each book fails to satisfy. After sticking doggedly with your characters through all that trauma and mythical mess surely there will be some sort of happiness or hopefulness for them in the end. Sorry. No such luck.

Certainly, I learned a whole lot of fascinating stuff about trees from reading The Overstory but some of the information was delivered lecture-style when there would have been, in my opinion at least, more interesting ways of giving us the same information.

The book is a bit like Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, another novel about the importance of saving the environment,  where you are also introduced to a group of seemingly disparate characters at the beginning of the book and then you wonder how they will all weave their way into one story. Barbara, however, has only three main characters in Prodigal Summer.  Richard Powers might have stuck to fewer characters as well.  The storylines of three of Richard’s nine main protagonists never really merge with the story of the other six.

I wanted to like this book.  A friend had recommended it. I had heard a glowing review on the radio. It won the Pulitzer Prize. I love trees and that is what this book is all about. 

Hugging a redwood tree in Yalta Ukraine. I love trees but I didn’t love The Overstory a Pulitzer Prize winning book about trees. 

But honestly, I didn’t like The Overstory.  I’d love to hear from other people who have read the book.  What did you think? 

Other posts……..

The Religion of Trees

Up in the Trees With A Man Who Knew it All

Edge of the Trees

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