Exploring a Small Corner of Northern Alberta

Strange, isn’t it, that you can live somewhere for a long time and never get to know all of it? Upon returning to the Peace River country last week to where I was born and raised, I discovered some history new to me and spent some time revisiting familiar places in a region that still feels like home.

George Lake Cemetery sign. This sign marks the head of the short trail that leads to the cemetery site.
George Lake Cemetery Monument

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Tecumseh
Trees at cemetery site

I’m going home the old way with a light hand on the reins making the long approach.

Maxine Kumin

Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose we came from the woods originally.

John Muir

This beautiful little lake, George Lake, is located south of Hines Creek on Highway 64. There are serviced camping stalls here, a boat launch, and picnic areas. During the late summer, a music festival is hosted here on its shores.

The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started.

T. S. Eliot

Bees at Work

Hello! Here are some photos and a video I took this morning of the bees at work in our garden. I planted these flowers exactly for this reason. Have a great day! – Lori

And here are our finally-ripe apples – here because of the bees! We planted these trees four years ago and this spring they blossomed. THEN, for two nights, the temperatures dipped down below zero. Knowing that the cool temperatures would freeze those delicate blossoms, we wrapped the tall, narrow trees in burlap and sheets to protect the flowers. It looked really strange and it worked!

The Cat Came Back

Hi there! This is a re-post about my neighbour’s cat, George, who disappeared a couple years ago and then returned, not unscathed but alive. Nowadays, George and his other feline housemate sleep contentedly under our full hazelnut bush. They’re both so happy to be there until I water the wildflowers in front of the bush without checking first to see if they’re napping. Water to napping cats is quite upsetting. I hope you have a really nice week. – Lori

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Ever since I returned home from a trip to Puerto Vallarta last May, I’ve been a little blue. Before we left on our vacation, my feline friend, George, was helping me in the garden. I really enjoyed his company. In fact, I enjoyed him even more than when he came to assist me the spring before. That’s when George first came to live in our neighbourhood. Since his arrival I’ve grown quite attached to that cat.

How did he get to my neck of the woods? I suspect he was born locally as so many cats are. We don’t need to import them. There are an abundance of cats produced right here. Then, when he was sick and still only a few weeks old, someone left him on my neighbour’s back step, thin and wrapped in a blanket.

My neighbour has a really soft heart for animals. I think the dropper-off-er knew this and that’s why she was selected as the lucky winner of the Who Wants a Cat? draw.

Compassionately, my neighbour drove the cat to the veterinarian clinic where he was hooked up to an IV for a couple of days to ward off dehydration and infection. That fluffy kitten survived, was christened “George”, and then, when he was old enough, George came to my backyard to get to know me.

A Stealthy Hunter

George is a stealthy hunter of birds and a clever remover of belled collars. The afternoon I saw George up in the next door neighbour’s tree and lying on the roof of the birdhouse mounted there and waiting patiently for a feathered head to emerge, I called George’s owner.

“George is quite a hunter,” I told her and gently suggested, “Maybe he needs a bell on his collar to give the birds a fighting chance.”

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The next day, George strolled into my yard sporting a collar with a bell. By suppertime, George had rubbed that collar right off.

But, the following day, he wore a brand new collar, a blue one with a larger bell. This, too, soon disappeared.

And in May, when I returned from Mexico, George had disappeared, as well. The backyard was a lonely place all summer and on into the fall. My heart felt heavy every time George crossed my mind.

Good News

The other day, my husband and I were working in our backyard. George’s owner swung into the  back alley, jumped out of her car, and told us, “George came back!”

“When? How?” I wanted to know.

My neighbour explained that as she was doing dishes that Saturday evening, suddenly something started ramming her locked cat door, pushing on it hard from the outside. She undid the latch (something I might not have done as we have muskrats and skunks in the neighbourhood, and sometimes feral cats, too) and in came George!

The poor little guy was worse for wear. He had been shot several times with BB pellets and he was starving. Before my neighbour began removing the pellets she could get at, she fed George. He gobbled the food and then began eating the plastic dish before my neighbour took it away.  Then he threw up what he’d eaten.

CuriosityWhen Thanksgiving weekend was over, my neighbour took George to the vet’s. He stayed there again on an IV drip to sustain him and the veterinarian dug out the remaining shotgun pellets from George’s skinny body.

“He doesn’t want to go outside now,” the neighbour confided. “He sleeps in his carrier and hasn’t moved around much. My husband’s going to build an outdoor run for him.”

I thought that was a really good idea. My heart is glad that George is back and, at the same time, it is sorrowful that the world is so darn hard on the creatures who roam it.

Thanks for reading! Drop by my site anytime. It’s nice having you here with me. ~ Lori

“The Cat Came Back” is a comic song written by Harry S. Miller in 1893. This short film is from Canada’s own National Film Board. It’s pretty dark! Give it a view.

Hummingbirds, Flowers, and History: A Photo Blog of My Recent Trip

Photography is such a great creative outlet! I swear I pay more attention to my surroundings when I’m looking for photograph subjects. Any other camera-clickers feel this way? Also, I love editing my photos and sharing them here. It’s a nice change from writing (which I do for work). Don’t get me wrong; I love writing! But photography is a really fun hobby.

Last week, we went to visit my Dad. Along the way we saw hummingbirds and flowers, visited a winery and the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Here’s a visual record of those adventures.

Last week, I spent a lot of time sitting on Dad’s deck looking at the mountains and watching the birds, including this little fellow.

Whenever I visit southern BC in the summer, I can’t help but feel a little jealous of the variety of flowers in my dad’s yard.

We enjoyed a glass of wine on the sun-drenched patio in the shade of a maple tree at the Skimmerhorn winery.

There’s lots to see in the Crowsnest Pass. The mining history there is very interesting and tragic in many cases. Here’s some of what we saw at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre back on the Alberta side of the border.

This is the slope of Turtle Mountain down which the boulders from the peak that broke lose from the mountain slid. At its base is a green area. That’s where (I believe) Gold Creek used to run. And beyond that, just behind the trees and to the left, is the pile of rocks. The rock slide lasted 90 seconds. The huge rocks filling and flooding Gold Creek started a mudslide that buried several miners’ dwellings. One of the last shacks it struck was simply pushed off its foundation. The structure remained intact and so did the family inside. Others weren’t as lucky.
Under these massive chunks of limestone, an estimated 70-90 people are buried. Visitors to this site are quiet, solemn. The place and its history command respect like the mountain itself did in April of 1903.
The trail outside the interpretive centre looking towards the landslide slope.
Delicate wildflowers from along the trail.

Thanks for visiting today! Have a really nice week. – Lori

Growing Resentment

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Sunflower

This is a piece I wrote while I was still teaching full time. Now I work part time as a writer and editor. My days are luxurious, full of new learning and pleasant activities interspersed with pleasant inactivity.

With time to enjoy the yard, I put in a garden again this year. Pretty much every year I say I won’t do it again. And then, with every spring, I’m back out there, battling the bugs and the chickweed. My latest post (prior to this re-post) reminded me of my less-than-positive feelings about gardening. It’s called Amid the Chickweed and Dust.

Listen to me read this post:

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Pink cosmos.

For two months I’ve been saying it. “I’m not going to grow a garden this year. I’m too busy.”

Probably this is true. The garden needs to be planted and tended just when I’m preparing report cards and going on field trips. It needs to be harvested when I’m planning for the upcoming school year and getting to know my new students. Late spring and early fall are busy in classrooms and busy in gardens.

But then, yesterday, I went shopping and ended up at a greenhouse. It was then, with the temptation to plant so close and with the plants so plentiful, that I struck a compromise with myself.

“Self,” I said. “Instead of planting seeds this year, why don’t you purchase bedding plants? Vegetables and flowers that have been started will be easier. Put those into the warm earth, water, and fertilize them and – poof! – you’ll have an instant garden.”

I bought this argument and bought a wide variety of flowers and vegetables, and planned to fill my garden plot today, Sunday. Today, the weather was sunny and warm, perfect for planting. So I put on my gardening clothes, including hat and insect repellent, and out I went armed with a hoe, a tiny bottle of potent fertilizer, and a metal watering can.

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Orange sunflowers in my metal watering can.

The first half-an-hour was just fine. Then, slowly, a bad, bitter taste began to fill my mouth. I recognized it immediately as sour resentment. The sun was too hot even in the mid-morning and, having not bothered to eat breakfast, I was hungry and thirsty.

I resented the wilting plants who were appreciating the sun’s intensity as much as I was. I resented the little weeds that were popping up here and there in the recently-tilled soil. I resented even the dirt itself and the buzzing bees as they dutifully pollinated the raspberries. I resented the laughter of neighbours and the singing of the birds. In short, I resented putting in a garden when I had told myself that I wouldn’t this year.

I relearned a valuable lesson today: Don’t do anything you know you don’t want to do. I suppose that I’m satisfied now that the garden is in, but it took 4 hours to do the work, the same as it does when I plant my garden from seed. Do I resent this time spent? You bet I do! So very much.

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Flowering shrub in my backyard.

As life speeds up and demands compete with one another for my limited time and energy resources, some things need to fall away. Not forever, in a lot of cases, but for now. I’m pretty good at discerning which things can be set aside and which require my focus. I’m pretty adept at prioritizing.

That’s why, when I knew that I didn’t want to plant a garden, I’m surprised that I did it anyway, only to swallow mouthfuls of resentment along with the dust from the dirt I hoed. Today’s gardening experience served as a reminder that the heart knows what it wants and that my heart wasn’t wanting to plant a garden. Next late spring I vow to listen to my heart and steer clear of greenhouses.

Charming Gardeners

Amid the Chickweed and Dust

I used to think I liked gardening. Now I’m not so sure.

Last night, I was weeding the garden. I’d recently re-sowed some reluctant cucumber seeds and a couple of them had bravely sprouted – finally! But they were under siege, those shy little sprouts, from all sorts of chickweed and other unnamed weeds. (Well, someone named them, obviously. But I don’t know their names, nor do I care to get too familiar.)

As I tore the stubborn chickweed from the powder-dry soil, I felt my mind searching for unpleasant past events to remind me of. I knew what was coming after the memory: the accusation. You should have handled that situation differently. Then people wouldn’t do and say the things they do. Thank you, mind, for your encouragement.

My mind had a point, of course. If I behaved differently, people would react differently. But it would never be perfect. I will never be perfect.

That’s another thing that dawned on me recently. It’s impossible for me to become perfect. I never realized that I held personal perfection as a goal, never realized that I’d convinced myself I could achieve perfection.

In fact, I think I’m still easing myself out of that belief, clawing my way up its slippery walls and out into the light of understanding. Holy crow, I will never be perfect. Now that’s something to process.

While I was gardening and thinking oh, so negatively, I took a deep breath and tried to come back to the present moment, out of my head and into the garden. When I did, I saw a beautiful thing I’d overlooked before. This lone, orange poppy grew against the fence, perfect in that single moment. And maybe that’s the best any one of us can aim for, moments of perfection amid the dust and chickweed.

Take care and stay safe!

Lori

Roses – A Photo Blog

When I took some rose photos this morning, I realized just how many rose photos I have! I thought they’d make a cheerful photo blog. Roses are another beautiful reminder of the brevity of all life and of the importance of living in the moment. I tried to remember that today as I am feeling impatient as I wait for the days to come. Take care and enjoy!

Lori

From the rosebush in our yard.
Bee on a rose.
Pretty much perfect.
Lonely yellow rose out by the barn.
Wild roses growing against a fence.
A single rosebud.
One and a half.
A rose in my auntie’s garden.
A rose in my dad’s flowerbed.
A rose opening in my dad’s flowerbed.

Compassion for a Magpie

I thought of this post today because I am in charge of feeding the juvenile magpie that my neighbour rescued. The little guy is moving around a lot more today and is eating very well. Soon he’ll be old enough to survive on his own. Here’s a video of the rescued magpie singing its melodious song:

And here’s a re-post of Compassion for a Magpie:

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A magpie up on my garage’s eaves trough.

As you may or may not know, depending on where you live, a [black-billed] magpie is a black and white bird with long tail feathers which looks a bit like a crow. When the sun shines on the magpie, its dark feathers are iridescent, appearing to be blue, purple and green all at once. The magpie doesn’t have a sweet, musical voice. It screeches and chases songbirds, even eating other birds’ eggs when the opportunity comes along. It flies behind cats, cawing loudly and snipping at their tails.

Listen to me read this post:

Around here, anyway, magpies are not well-liked. We have a few in our yard for a couple of reasons. They enjoy the suet I put out for other birds, and they are extremely fond of the eggshells they find in the compost bin. Both the suet and the shells are valuable sources of protein. There are also quite a few tall trees in our neighbourhood which provide excellent shelter and nesting habitat. And so, for now, the magpies are here to stay.

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A sunflower in my backyard – a memory of warmer days.

Just yesterday, one magpie of a mating pair was injured. It lay in the grass struggling to lift its head while the other circled about, cawing and seemingly urging the other to stand or to fly.

I could feel the uninjured bird’s distress at the situation of its mate. The healthy bird was clearly agitated, quite frantic, and I thought “Not so different than us.”

There’s no feeling more frustrating than that feeling of helplessness and useless restlessness in the face of suffering – especially the suffering of someone we love. As I watched the magpies in this difficult circumstance, I recognized and understood their suffering as no different from my own.

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A magpie perched strategically over the compost bins below.

I couldn’t watch nature take its course, and I don’t know for sure if the injured magpie went on to live or to die. I looked away and closed the curtains in response to the stab of pain in my heart. It was silly, after all, to feel so deeply the pain of another – especially one so despised and at times so despicable. What did I need that for when I already have enough sorrow of my own?

It’s true that we cannot easily take on all the sorrows of the world, nor can we single-handedly cure all the injustices, illnesses, and injuries. But the magpies made me consider that perhaps if I could just open my heart a bit wider to see and hold the suffering of others that I may be better equipped to deal with my own. If I can accept the magpies’ suffering – both the injury and the distress – then perhaps I can also better accept my own suffering and that of all living creatures. With a more open heart, perhaps next time I won’t need to look away.

Hughenden Sky

A Rainy Thursday on the Prairies

I took this short video while standing within our covered deck. It’s a beautiful place from which to listen to the rain and stay (mostly) dry while listening. I don’t remember the last time we got a deluge like this, but there was likely a good rainfall or two last summer. The rain is calming and makes my cooped-up feelings roost and relax a bit. Wherever you are, I hope you have a chance to enjoy the rain, to breathe in deeply, and to notice you’re alive.

No one can claim the name of Pedro,

nobody is Rosa or Maria,

all of us are dust or sand,

all of us are rain under rain.

They have spoken to me of Venezuelas,

of Chiles and Paraguays;

I have no idea what they are saying.

I know only the skin of the earth

and I know it has no name.

Pablo neruda
https://libquotes.com/pablo-neruda/quotes/rain

Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.

Billie Holiday
www.brainyquote.com/authors/billie-holiday-quotes

Buzzing Mountain Ash Trees

The mountain ash trees in our front yard are blooming and the blossoms fill the air with thick perfume, and every evening there’s a layer of yellow pollen on our patio table’s glass! There are so many bees pollinating the blossoms out front that the trees were humming last night. I took a few 10-second recordings trying to capture the sound. Turn up your volume and you’ll hear a steady hum. That’s the bees!

You’ll also hear an attention-seeking robin in the background trying to steal the show with his melodic singing voice. And in one of the videos, a mourning dove chimes in. Her mother told her she can sing. (She can’t.)

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.

Hal Borland
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