Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Nick and I decided to have an adventure today.  He's not quite back from his holiday in his heart, and I'm always ready to skive off.  So we decided to go owl stalking in Owl Woods on Amherst Island.  There was lots of wildlife about.  As we turned south we saw a large fisher lolloping through the scrub by the side of the highway, a real treat!  Rafts of ducks were in the open water, and lining the ice on Lake Ontario.

We arrived at the ferry dock, just in time for the boat.  We could hear it grinding through the ice as we rode over to the island, and watched the channel close right back up as we passed.  It had been a long time since we'd been there, but not much had changed apart from a little gentrification here and there.  Things are changing though, as the sign attests.

 As we set out to walk on the un-maintained road to the woods, we were following a coyote's trail.  A deer crossed the path and bounded into the field.  Once in the woods, we were swarmed by chickadees, habituated to human presence by feeders.  I was really surprised to see a mouse pop out of the path under Nick's foot.  By the time I'd got the camera out he'd popped right back in again, and all I got was a picture of the hole.  We saw a rough legged hawk, beautiful in its dark phase, with a gorgeous speckled white band crossing its wings from below.  Not one owl.

We drove along the south shore of the island, flat and barely rising above the level of the lake, but beautiful in a spare, minimalist way.  We kept scanning the trees and fence posts for our prey, still not one owl in a place which is often crawling with them.

But how can I complain?  On the way back I thought  that this must be one of  the very few places where one can ride the ferry all winter long, sailing among the ice cubes.  There were gulls following the boat, and swooping down to balance on the ice floes, pecking amongst them for something (who knows what?) good to eat.

Perhaps I will dig Jane Yolen's Owl Moon from one of the boxes of children's books in the basement, and read that.  The beauty of her writing always makes me choke up.  Not an owl, but the echo of one at least.

Monday, March 11, 2013


Everywhere the ditches are running.  The forest paths have turned from ice and snow to slush. Every time I open the door I can hear the geese.  The cardinals in the yards and forests are announcing their presence and availabillity with incessant whistles.  Today, I heard my favourite spring song.  The red winged blackbirds are back!  They're more assertive than melodic but their strident Geh BLEEEEEEEEEEE! means that spring really is here.  I took a photo of a group of them screeching their hearts out in a neighbour's birch tree.  Then I looked down to see my first robin of the year.  That's it, winter.  Your work here is done.  Off you go, now....there's a good season.  Byeeeeeee.... Don't let the screen door hit you on your way out.


I'm going through our thirty plus years of pictures; muddy prints I took as a child, blurry instamatic shots with low quality lenses; polaroids; slides, some of which have developed mold or lost all their colours but red; vast numbers of prints taken when the kids were small, and even vaster stores of digital images.

 I'm scanning all the good ones and sorting them by years (a mammoth task in itself).  Amongst all of these shots is a large number of photos of the natural world, the garden, the odd flower I passed in my travels.  These don't really fit into the theme of the long, unwinding family slide show, so I gave them a folder of their own.

The contents of that folder now play as a slide show on my desktop background.  No matter which picture comes up, it gives me a chance to be gobsmacked anew by the intricacy, elegance, and beauty of the world around us.  I'm seeing things I didn't see when I took the picture.  I'm pretty sure that the contemplation of nature is a powerful cure for whatever ails us.

Monday, March 4, 2013


The dog and I took a different route on our daily adventure today.  We walked down the road to the boat launch, where the footing was better than in the bush.  The snow gets softer every day and it's hard going on the knees.

There were a couple of ice huts down there, one on the water and one on the shore. Part of loving winter is learning how to use it for fun and fish.

   As we mooched around, smelling the smells and rolling in the snow (her, not me), I got to thinking about the huge amount of extra space that is created every winter in Canada when the lakes and rivers freeze over.  We must be almost twice as big as usual!

P.S. The dogwoods think it might be spring!