Category Archives: Nature

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


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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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



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.

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

Lessons From Gray Mountain

gray-mountainDave and I listened to John Grisham’s Gray Mountain on our first full day of driving to Arizona. The story revolves around a young lawyer Samantha who takes on a new job at a legal aid clinic in Virginia where she deals with cases that have their source in the environmental and health crisis brought about by the coal mining industry.  I discovered so much from the novel about coal mining and its impact.   Here are just two of the things I learned about. 


Mountain top removal mining

Cancer clusters–  A cancer cluster is when there are a greater than expected number of cancer cases among people in a defined geographic area. In the novel Gray Mountain there is a cancer cluster in the Appalachian counties where they are practicing a kind of strip mining called mountaintop removal.   I wondered if this was really true and after doing a little searching found this in an Appalachia newspaper

In 2011, a peer-reviewed study found that cancer rates in counties where mountaintop removal occurs are nearly double the rates in nearby counties with no mountaintop removal. The study concludes that among the 1.2 million Americans living in counties where mountaintop removal occurs, as many as 60,000 additional cases of cancer can be linked to the practice . 


Slurry pond photograph by Bill Henderson from Wiki Commons

Slurry Ponds–  Slurry is the waste that is left over once coal has been washed. Coal companies dispose of slurry by damning it in large ponds.  There are nearly 600 of these waste ponds in the United States. According to a character in the novel Gray Mountain these ponds are not always well fortified and break. When one slurry pond in Appalachia broke through its barriers it caused ten times more environmental damage than the famed Exxon Valdez spill. Fish and other wildlife died in droves and water supplies were contaminated.  I wondered if this was really true and found this in an article in the Washington Post

In 2000, slurry gushed out of holding pond owned by Massey Energy in Martin County, Kentucky. That accident contaminated the water supply of more than a dozen communities and killed all aquatic life in local waterways.

After we listened to the novel Gray Mountain I found out it didn’t get very good reviews from critics. It may not be a great work of literature but it taught us plenty about coal mining and presented a very convincing case for why it is important to find alternate sources of energy that are less damaging to people and the environment.

Other posts…….

The Litagators and Left Neglected

Streets of Gold

Musical Walk in a Bamboo Forest

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Filed under Books, Nature


Just took this photo off the deck of our friends' cottage at Jessica Lake. I slept for the first time last night since the election.

Just took this photo off the deck of our friends’ cottage at Jessica Lake. In this quiet place I was able to sleep for the first time last night since the election.

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope. Bernard Williams

Other posts……..

Rise Again

And That Led Me

Just to….


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Filed under Nature

When They Look Back

You know how we look back now at how we treated aboriginal children by sending them to residental schools and think, “How could people of faith do that?”  

You know how we look back now at how African Americans were brought as slaves to North America and think, “How could people of faith do that?”

You know how we look back at the Holocaust and think, “How could people of faith let that happen?”

You know how we look at ourselves now and think about all the hungry and homeless in our world and think, “How are we people of faith allowing this to still happen?”

Sometimes I think future generations will look back and say, “How could people of faith not recognize the souls of all created things?”

Some Questions You Might Ask

by Mary Oliver

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Other posts……….


Trillums Food For the Soul

The Dawn Chorus

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Filed under Nature, Reflections