Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanks to all my Readers! Free Wallpaper Download

I am so happy that my Blog is being read by more and more people. I would like to offer my readers a free Wallpaper download as a bonus for being my fan and following my writings. This image and others from the same park, St. John's Nature Conservation Area, can be viewed at my Imagekind site in the "Autumn Forest" gallery.

I'm also celebrating some sales in my Zazzle store!*

Just e-mail me, and I'll send you the file. I tried to make it downloadable, but the image was too small. What can I say? Technically, I'm an idiot!


- Ariana

Friday, November 27, 2009

Life is Funny

As all my regular readers know, I am very fond of feeding the birds and squirrels that frequent my generous back yard. Every morning, I take out seeds and peanuts, and they eagerly anticipate my arrival. In fact, if I'm later than usual, they post a lookout to spread the news as soon as I show my face!

On nice days, when I have the time, I sit outside and watch them, and throw extra peanuts to the blue jays and squirrels. I usually have my camera with me, and occasionally get some pretty good shots, but mostly I like to just watch them. It's always amusing!
It's not easy to photograph the quick little visitors. I get plenty of pictures of fuzzy squirrel tails and empty branches where a bird was a moment before, but sometimes I get lucky.

Here are a few photos of the birds I have seen. See if you can identify them, and match them with the list of species. These are all birds I have seen in my backyard, although some of the photos were taken elsewhere.
And you're going to love the video!
I have listed the species here in alphabetical order. They're pretty common, so I'm sure you'll recognize at least some.
Blue Jay
House Finch
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Trees Weep Leaves

The trees weep leaves
In mourning for the passing season.
Yellowing pages from their summer scrapbook
gather at their feet like memories
And scatter before the wind.

Like the spring petals, born to die
But in that dying, giving birth
To something new, something beautiful
That cannot be without that willingness
To release what was, and grasp what can be.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The First Leaves of Autumn

I went for a walk in the woods today. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I was glad to be out. It was a little cool, and the air tasted of autumn. As I walked, yellow leaves were falling here and there around me, and starting to gather by fences and at the feet of the trees. The grass has lost its sparkling green, and is starting to turn to brown. The year is drawing to a close.

But all is not dying. On the contrary! The seed pods are full and ripe, bursting with the promise of next summer's flowers. Berries and wild grapes are glowing in the bushes, and the trees seem to tremble in anticipation of the glory that is to come. There are still a few wildflowers, and squirrels are busily gathering and storing away whatever they can find. The air is full of birds, as this year's young, now full grown, prepare for their first winter, or their first migration. They too carry the promise of the future.

The leaves of autumn fall like the pages of a book being turned. Slowly at first, but soon falling thick and fast, we cannot stop it or slow it down. We cannot go back to the soft warm days of summer, but neither can we skip ahead to the bright bite of winter's cold. We can only embrace this one day, today, and allow tomorrow to be tomorrow. Each day is a gift, each dawn is a promise. Carpe diem.
Old leaves lie ignored
Frozen in a small puddle
A book none have read.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Morning Friends

How cheerfully the little birds

Greet me every morn.

Patiently they wait for me

To scatter seeds and corn.

How gladly does their happy song

Rise up to the sky.

Though gratefully they sing to me

It's not they who rise, but I.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Delights

How softly does the gentle flower

Stand against the wind and rain

Grateful for the summer shower

And Nature's sweet refrain.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feasts of Summer

Ah, summer. The earth blossoms into its full ripeness, and lazes in the sun. The sound of bees buzzing and a myriad of birds twittering in the trees is the soundtrack, underscored by the sonorous buzz of a distant lawnmower.
The smell of the flowers fills the air, and the scent of fresh-cut grass wafts over the fence. Evenings bring the rich aroma of burning wood, as backyard fireplaces are lit and families prepare for some time around a campfire - a tradition as ancient as humanity. No wonder the smell of woodsmoke is so evocative. Even a whiff can bring back happy childhood memories of campfires gone by, with the shadows of my brothers and sisters as children, now all grown men and women with children and grandchildren of their own, gathered around the fire with me.

I love to cook over a real fire. The smell of the meat sizzling, dripping juices into the coals, the scent of corn wrapped in its leaves and baking on the edge of the firepit, a veggie pack steaming on the other side, all are a calming influence on my heart and mind. No rush and hurry and zap in the microwave. Cooking over a fire requires time, and patience, and the careful management of the coals to keep a constant temperature, in order to bring forth not just a meal, but a work of art, an act of creation as much as any painting or symphony.
I stare into the fire, watching the play of the waves of light and dark on the coal bed. To me, it looks like the the sheets of colour that undulate across the sky in the summer Aurora Borealis displays. Sky and earth, speaking to each other, perhaps taking pleasure in the beauty they see across the gulf of air between.
The summer dawn is so beautiful, each one a unique and original work of art spread across a canvas as large as the sky. The wisps of cloud and infinite shades of blue are contrasted against the silhouettes of the trees in full leaf, the cool dawn breeze making the foliage whisper of a perfect summer day ahead. The flowers, closed up like furled umbrellas through the night, now open to drink in the touch of golden sun and the morning dew. The colours wake up too as the light grows stronger, the brilliant yellows and oranges and pinks a reflection of the glory of the rising sun. The birds twitter in appreciation of the magnificent display, and joyfully sing the praises of the day. Each morning is a gift, every dawn is a fresh promise of new possibilities. It is up to us to make of it what we will.

Not every morning will be bright and beautiful, not every day will be happy. But every morning has potential to be so, and can be eagerly embraced. Carpe diem! Sieze the day! It is only by experiencing the cloudy days, the days of storm and wind and drenching rain, that we can fully appreciate the warm sunny days, the beautiful days, the perfect days. The rain is as necessary as the sun to the earth, and to us, and one cannot exist without the other.

This is the secret of life - balance. All parts of existence has its counterpart, and both halves of the whole must be recognized and acknowledged to find our place in the universe, to find that perfect point of balance where there is no conflict, no pushing and pulling and struggling for dominance or attention. By finding our perfect centre, and safeguarding it within ourselves, we can find peace of mind and soul.
So take the time, pause in your regular routine, and reflect on the beauty that is summer. Consider the fire and the sky, perfectly complementing each other, so different and yet somehow having the same quality of inspiring peaceful introspection within the human soul. Each day is a gift, so enjoy it. Stop to smell the flowers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mountain Haiku

Great gleaming raven
What marvels of ancient stone
Have your cold eyes seen?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mountain Haiku

Sighing of the wind
Sharp over the edge of stones
As the mountain breathes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mountain Haiku

No man’s foot has trod
Where only the sun can walk
Pristine mountain tops.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mountain Haiku

This month, I would like to share a few of my Haiku, and the photos that inspired them. These photos were all taken on my "Mountain Journey" last August, in a solo drive from Jasper National Park, west of Edmonton, Alberta, to Banff National Park west of Calgary. For high-res images of the whole gallery and more in-depth descriptions, go to my on-line gallery

Mountain symphony
The only music I hear
Is the sighing wind.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Home Again

I have been home a week now, and have settled back into my normal routine. I have picked up the reins of my life, clicked my tongue and hollered "Giddyap!" and off I go. I am so glad to be back home with my own family, to be in my own home and sleep in my own bed. But it wasn't easy to leave Alberta and the people there that I love.

With such a big family, there are a lot of good-byes. Thankfully, the internet has made the world smaller, and even in an enormous country like Canada, my brothers and sisters are as close as my computer. Ah, but Mom and Dad are a different story. A phone hug is not the same as a real hug.

Thankfully, my flight was early in the day. My sister Judy picked me up for the short drive to the airport, and with a few tears and plenty of hugs, we left my parents' home, loaded down with much more luggage than what I came with. Judy and I marvelled over the thick ice fog, an unusual atmospheric condition in this part of the world. It was very beautiful, and with a little time to spare, I was eager to try a few photos.

I was hoping to get a good shot of the oil pump that I knew was near the highway. I had managed a shot of a grain elevator, and the oil pump is the other great icon of my home province. Alas, the fog was so thick, I couldn't see the pump from the highway, and had to leave it for next time.

We drove slowly through the muffling cloak of white, with visibility only about fifteen or twenty yards. A pair of horses grazed unconcerned, pawing through the snow to the grass below. Ice rimed everything, turning ordinary things into crystal beauty. Judy, being a good sport, was happy to stop for me to capture the ethereal images.

The fog opened before us and closed behind. I pondered the metaphor. I wanted to be able to look ahead, to reassure myself that my parents would continue to be healthy and safe, to see my own life, home and family in order and progressing as I would like, that my siblings would continue to be happy and prosperous. I wanted to look back and see if I had made all the right choices, if I had really done my best by my family, my parents and myself. But the fog is thick, and no one can really see very far. They can only guess at the general shape of things, and do their best to choose the right thing at the right time.

Leaving Alberta made me a little sad, especially knowing that we would not be able to afford another trip for quite some time. My flight was delayed because of the fog, and I had plenty of time to sit and look out the window, consciously turning my thoughts from the sadness of leaving to the joy of returning. I missed my husband so much; his solid presence in my life is like a rock no matter where I am, and I longed for the comfort of his strong arms around me. I would be very glad to be back home soon.

Toronto was clear and beautiful from the air. We banked over the city, and the lights were laid out below us like a carpet of jewels. I was eager to land so I could get the drive back to Niagara out of the way and run into the arms of my waiting family. It was clear and cold, all the snow melted away from a recent rain. I looked out the window of the car at the landscape rushing by, just as the years rush by, and I am glad of my sanctuary at home, where there is peace and stability.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fond Farewell

I am coming to the end of my visit, and have already said my good-byes to most of my family. Today, my last full day in Alberta, I am in a neighbouring town, where my sister Judy lives, for a walk in the woods.

Her house overlooks the beautiful North Saskatchewan River valley, and in the summer it is a green paradise of tall pines, birch and poplars, with the rush of the river far below creating sweet music in counterpoint to the singing of the birds. Now, in the middle of winter, the snow is still thick in most spots, the river is mostly frozen, and there is a soft silence wrapping us in stillness as we walk the well-packed path.

Judy and I, and her yellow lab Hawkeye, wander the woods, enjoying the peace, the clean chilly air, and the enthusiastic romping of the dog. We chat about inconsequentials, enjoying the view and pausing often so I can take a few photos. A dormant hornet's nest hangs like a great grey fruit, waiting for spring to resume its busy life.

It seems we are there only a few minutes, but it's almost an hour before we are back at the house for a cup of tea. We drink, we talk, we laugh, as sisters do, picking up where we left off at my last visit so long ago. I am glad we'll have a few minutes longer tomorrow, when she gives me a lift to the airport.

There never seems to be enough time to say all I want to say to my family. I wish I could visit more often, and stay longer, but I miss my own family and my home when I am away. Really, no matter how long I am here, will I ever have the right words to say? To tell my parents how grateful I am for the sacrifices they made for me and my brothers and sisters? To tell my sisters how much I admire them, am inspired by them? To tell my brothers how I count on their strength and friendship? Words are not enough. I can only hug each one, and tell them I love them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Prairie Dawn

It’s a beautiful, clear morning. The setting moon, just a couple of days past full, is so bright as it shines in my bedroom window that it wakes me up a little before dawn. The stars are still sparkling like jewels as I climb out of bed, eager to be out.

I am going in search of a prairie icon – the grain elevator. These enormous structures were once seen next to the railroad tracks in almost every small town and village. Their main function was to store grain until it could be shipped by rail, but they also served as signposts visible for great distances, with the name of the town emblazoned on the side. Sadly, these once-important structures have mostly disappeared, and the rural landscape just isn’t the same without them.

I know the elevator in my home town is long gone, but I am hopeful that perhaps some of the nearby villages may still have them. I head out of town, dressed as warmly as possible on this frosty -20 degree C morning, in the predawn dark.

South of town, with the eastern sky just starting to get rosy, I pause to admire the simple beauty of the dawn. Wide expanses of empty farmers’ fields with a frozen blanket of snow stretch before me as I watch the sun come up. A few wispy clouds above welcome the rising sun, as behind me, the moon grows large before it fades to pale blue and disappears among the pastel clouds in the west.

Off to the left, I can see an unusual sight. A layer of fog, only a couple of feet thick, hangs about six feet off the ground, creating a horizontal streak of white against the background of a line of tall evergreens.

I wait here in this peaceful spot to watch the sun rise. There is no traffic, not one vehicle passes me and no sound breaks the stillness. I keep ducking back into the nice warm van, as my camera doesn’t like these -20 temperatures, and I think I'm getting frostbite on my fingertip where I press the shutter button.

The sun rises with spectacular beauty. The rosy glow intensifies, the clouds above turn pink underneath, and soon I can see a tiny edge of brilliant orange. Swiftly it becomes a crescent, and the Sun leaps into the sky, announcing her presence with a symphony of subtle colours in the east. The brilliance is reflected in the snow, and the pinks and yellows roll out before our home star like a welcome mat, the crystal blanket sparkling like tiny stars bowing before their queen.

With my heart singing gladly at the privilege of witnessing this offering of Nature’s best, I stop in to grab a coffee before I head out to the next town down the highway, hoping they still have their elevator. No, I’m told. They too had their elevator torn down a couple of years ago, but perhaps the next town after that.

By now, I am enjoying my rustic ramblings so much that finding the elevator has become secondary. I head out west of town, sipping my hot coffee gratefully, and turn south off the highway just a couple of miles out of town. I am heading generally west and south, taking random turns and driving slow, just enjoying the country landscapes and wide open spaces of rural Alberta.

I pull over to stop often to take some pictures. The open beauty of the farmers’ fields and small woodlots touches my heart, and I am smiling to myself as I drive slowly along the gravel roads. Only twice did another vehicle pass me by, farmers in their pickup trucks, and each time they nod and wave to the stranger in their country.

On my way home now, I see a sight that’s too good to pass by. A paddock full of cows, including some calves, is right next to the road. I get out of the van and cross the narrow strip of snow to stand by the fence, breaking through the icy crust and sinking up to my knees in one spot. One cow notices me and looks at me intently, perhaps hoping for food, or perhaps just aware of a stranger nearby. Soon other cows stop what they’re doing to turn and look, and in a moment the hundred cows or so are all milling around, agitated and starting to moo. Louder and louder they bawl, with a sound that I’m sure is carrying for miles in the clear, cold air. More of the shaggy beasts pick up the cry, until I retreat hastily back to the van to let them go back to their peaceful morning.

I am pleased with my day’s photos, and I head back home to warm up and have some breakfast. I still haven’t seen any elevators, but I know that there is one left at least. It stands in Leduc, Alberta, a small city about fifteen miles down the road, preserved as an historic building. I hope I will be able to get there before I have to leave.