Thursday night — an observation

Florence +the Machine; this generation’s Kate Bush.

Both of these artists — Florence Welch and Kate Bush — are true artists.  Their lyrics and musicality transcends into theatre and myth.

I was obsessed with Kate Bush over 30 years ago; now along comes this amazing talent and I find myself becoming obsessed again.

It’s a wonderful feeling.


The weekend is over. . .

. . . and what a beautiful weekend it was!

Tim and I took off to Miette for our anniversary.  This trip has become something of a tradition with us.  This is year 3.  The weather was gorgeous and the hot springs just the thing we needed to soak our cares away.

We got in around 7:30 Friday night and immediately headed up to the hot springs.  We sat and relaxed til they kicked everyone out at 9.  Then we went back and I made us a late snack.  We sat outside enjoying the cool mountain air and had a glass of wine (me) and a beer (him).  Lovely.

Saturday we slept in a bit then had a hearty breakfast I cooked in a hurry.  Then, we packed up a light lunch and headed off to Mount Edith Cavell and the Angel Wings Glacier.  We took a short trip down to Lake Edith where I took a few pictures of the lake and some fungi.  A very beautiful spot.  Have driven by there numerous times, am glad we took the time to explore it.

Up at the parking lot I was surprised to see a crowded lot.  Apparently many others had the same idea we did to enjoy what could be the last nice weekend in the mountains.  We donned our hiking boots, I slung my camera over my neck and Tim packed along his book, some writing paper and a bottle of water.  I told him he wouldn’t have an opportunity to read or make notes, but he insisted.  (Didn’t turn a page or scribble one single note — hah!)

We decided to just to the glacier loop trail, rather than try going up to the meadows.  Good thing.  The way we dawdled along we’d have been up there in the dark.  We had a great time scrabbling over rock and getting close to the glacier pond’s edge.  Very beautiful, but very cold.  Then we decided to head up to the ice cave, which is hollowed out at the toe of what used to be the tail end of the angel’s body.  Over time the glacier has separated so that now the wings hover far above the ‘body’ or toe.

It’s quite spectacular to get up close to the cave and I had wanted to get some interior shots, but when we heard cracking and rocks falling inside we thought we’d better get the hell out of there.  Others actually went inside, but I think that’s tempting fate just a little too much.  Adventurous I am, fool-hardy I am not.

We spent a lovely afternoon there at the glacier, taking pictures, talking, just hanging out together.  We don’t often get to do that.  Yes, we spend lots of time together, but never just relaxing time.  Later, when we meandered back down to the parking lot, we drove a short distance to where there were some picnic tables in a stream bed.  It was very chilly, but a lovely spot.  We opened our cooler and had a hearty meal of ham sausage, cheese bread and raw veggies.  All washed down with a nice cold beer.  I could have sat there until the sun went down, but we had plans to go soak our weary feet in the hot springs again.

This morning, we were up at 5:30 because I wanted to see if I could get some mountain sunrise shots.  This is when I discovered I’d forgotten my tripod.  Doh!  Decided to go anyway.  So off we set in the pitch dark to find the spot I’d pegged as being a good bet for some morning pictures.  We got there about 6 a.m. only to find a camper parked on the side.  Well, tough, I said.  It’s a free country and they shouldn’t be there, anyway.

We marvelled at the beauty of the sky and the unbelievable multitude of stars overhead.  With all the light pollution in and around Edmonton, we never get to see the kind of sky we saw this morning.  Gradually, very gradually the horizon began to lighten.  I was beginning to despair that, in the mountains, sunrise would not be the glorious spectacle that it is on the prairie, and to some degree, I was right.  But, when the sky began to turn pink and the opposing mountains to glow warm in the emerging sun’s fiery light, I smiled deeply and was glad I was there to see it.

It’s an embarrassing admission on my part to say that in all the years I’ve been going to the mountains I have never once been up early enough to see the sun rise.  Isn’t that sad?  But, then, I think, at least I’ve made the effort now.  And, now that I’ve seen how glorious it is, I will be sure to do it again.

By the time I got my few shots of Ashlar Ridge (most of them blurry) Tim and I were thoroughly chilled.  He had wrapped himself in a blanket and was standing behind me trying to keep me as warm as he could.  I had thin gloves on to keep my fingers from freezing, but, by the time I had decided it wasn’t going to get any better I was shivering through and through.  We hopped in the car and cranked up the heat.  We had been up and out for two hours.  Tim turned the car back towards the resort.  As we drove along I noticed through the trees that the sky had turned to fire.  I pointed out a small pull out on the east side of the road and Tim obliged.

This is where I took the really distinct shots of the sunrise.  Again, cursing myself for forgetting the tripod, I stood and shot until my knees were knocking.  Then, back to the car, back to the resort, back to our room and a warm bed.  We had to throw on extra blankets and we huddled together as though we’d never be warm again, but eventually, we fell back asleep.

Awake again at 9:30 we packed up our belongings, loaded the car and then went for breakfast in the small restaurant attached to the resort.  This resort was built in 1938, and you can tell that not much has changed since it was first established.  It is not ‘fancy’, definitely not 5 star, but it is extremely popular.  Many of the guests who come at the time of year Tim and I have chosen to come have been coming to the Miette Resort for over 20 years.  Some, I believe, much longer than that.

It is a homey, friendly, clean and well-kept little place.  The hot springs are a mere 3-minute walk from the door of your room, and, best of all, it’s quiet.  There are no stores, no streets, no traffic — nothing but fresh air and trees and sky and mountains.  We’ve already planned our trip for next year.  Only next year, if the weather is good, we’re going up on the motorcycle.  That will be truly wonderful.

The trip home was a quiet ride.  It’s always tough to leave a fantasy and go back to the reality of home and work.  But we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the golds of the poplars and aspens, the near-black of the pines interspersed throughout.  The highway was busy — everyone heading home after what was probably their last camping trip or their weekend in the Rockies.

There is one particular mountain that I love to look at as we leave the park.  I don’t know the name of it, but it is an amazing formation.  And I always marvel that at one time what I am looking up at in wonder and awe was the bottom of an ocean floor.  In a way that I can’t explain that knowledge always puts life in to perspective for me.  What we have in this life is truly beautiful, truly blessed.  And I am grateful.

Good Friday morning

Sunrise, Sedona

Morning Has Broken

Cat Stevens’ falsetto
on a loop playing inside.
My eyes flutter, open wide.

Please, a half-hour more;
but the sun gently peeking
tempts, and I’m up seeking,

Meaning and coffee.
The latter, black and strong,  first,
because — well,  I guess I’m cursed.

There is no black bird,
no new-day song spoken;
It’s just me who’s awoken

To greet the new morn’.
Cat’s gentle refrain
now a whisper as day begins again.

© Kathy Larson 2011

It’s chilly tonight. . .

In true Alberta fashion the temperature dropped 15 degrees in 24 hours.  This morning when I went out to jump in my car it was actually snowing.  Not much, mind you, but it was snow.  The awful, styrofoam pellety kind.

Along with the colder temps has come wind.  Lovely while I was on supervision at lunch today.  The sun was shining, but the air was cold.  Still, I enjoyed being out in the fresh  air.

This province can make you crazy.  So, what I’m doing is thinking about my recent vacation to Sedona, Arizona.

Once upon a time Sedona was a little western town in the desert.  People raised cattle and horses, tried to grow peaches and apples, and generally eked out a living in desert-like conditions the best way they could.

Then, along came Hollywood and the place got famous.  Now, it’s a major tourist destination.  The town is full of hotels and shops.  In fact, you could say it’s the world’s largest outdoor mall.

But what’s really special about Sedona is the red dirt that it’s built on and the red rock formations that surround it.  It is an absolutely beautiful little spot.  We spent four days there in the warmth and sunshine, wearing shorts and sandals and swimming in the outdoor pool.  I loved telling people we met that ‘back home’ there was still four feet of snow lining our driveways and sidewalks.

Of course, because this was a holiday, we did tourist-y things.  We took a Pink Jeep tour into the canyons — what a blast!  The scenery was gorgeous and the view from on top of some of the formations was spectacular.  We checked out Boynton Canyon and the vortex there — I didn’t feel anything — my husband says he did.  All I felt was silly for thinking that when I stood where the vortex is supposedly strongest I would somehow be magically imbued with health, strength and positive-ness.  Hmmm.

We went at sunset to take pictures of Cathedral Rock; we were just four of many dozens doing the same thing.  There was a really snooty professional (?) photographer there as well.  He hogged the best spot — or, so he thought!  My intrepid husband had scouted out a great location further on up the creek and from there I was able to get some phenomenal pics.  I think they’re rather good, anyway.  Don’t know about mister-look-at-me-in-my-photographer’s hat-and-matching vest, but I don’t really care, either.

Then, the highlight of my trip — a hot-air balloon ride over the red rocks at sunrise.  It was truly wonderful.  We floated alongside the rock walls and then drifted ever higher until the rocks were quite far away beneath us.  We saw deer running through the scrub  and birds soaring on the thermals.  It was quiet — except for the occasional really bad joke from our pilot and the constant clicking and whirring of digital cameras as we tried to capture the essence of a perfect morning aloft in early morning sunshine.

Our time in Sedona had to come to an end — there were jobs that two of us had to return to.  We set out back home via I15 North through Page, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

I thought Sedona’s landscape was beautiful!  Zion National Park is unbelievable in its beauty.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stay and explore, but we’re decided we’re returning.  How could we not, when we know the beauty that is there?

Another highlight of our trip was the couple of stops we made at the Grand Canyon.  The Canyon can reduce me to tears simply from the vastness of the place — it’s just so hard to grasp that such a place exists.  I can never look out upon it without thinking about the pioneers who came across this chasm in the wilderness as they searched for safety and new homes and can’t help but wonder what they thought when they saw it.  Were they awestruck by its beauty, majesty and power, or were they disheartened by loneliness or despair when confronted by the immense challenge before them?

Our other stop at the GC was along the South Rim, called the Watch Tower.  It is a replica of the towers built by native indians as lookouts for danger or wandering herds of buffalo, deer, elk.  It serves as a way station and (what else?) a gift shop, but it is a lovely structure.  Made of stone, built like a small lighthouse, it is decorated inside with Native Indian art and motifs.  There is a very narrow and steep staircase that winds up along the wall to the top.  Unfortunately, it is not open at the top you have to look out through smoky, scratched glass, so it’s a bit of let down after you manage to huff and puff yourself all the way up there.  But, the art and hand-made furniture and carvings is worth it.  Really.

Half way up there is a door that leads to a viewing platform and from there we got some amazing pictures of the canyon.  If you ever are lucky enough to get to the GC make sure you go to the Watch Tower, it’s well worth the visit.

My husband and his brother, Rick, did the ultimate tourist adventure — they took a helicopter ride over the canyon.  They both said it is something they will remember always.  One moment they were over land and trees and the next the earth just dropped away and there was nothing but canyon walls and a canyon floor far, far below them.  It took their breath away.

When I go to the GC next time, my plan is to take mule ride down to the bottom and then take a river raft ride through the canyon.

But right now, I’ve got to contend with a forecast that includes below zero temps for this weekend and possibly lots of snow.  Oh yeah, Springtime in Alberta.

Yesterday — sunrise

As I was leaving for work yesterday morning I looked out across the field adjacent to my house and this is what I saw:

I took three different exposures using my Sony Cyber-shot.  I always wish I had my Nikon on hand for these shots, but then I don’t tend to get good sunrise or sunset shots with it because I don’t know how to set it up properly, so, anyway. . .

I used what I had and this is what I got.  Perhaps not the greatest compositionally, but it was the colour I was after, anyway.  I think the middle shot is the truest.

I love the sky and want to learn to photograph it so that it comes out the way I see it.  Obviously, I’ve got lots to learn, and that’s okay.  For now I’ll just subject you to my various attempts.

Have a beautiful day!

2,781 Views — all time

Just out of curiosity I decided to check how many hits I’ve received on this blog since I started it last October.  The magic number is 2,781.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the one hand I’m immensely pleased — because that number means I’ve written stuff that people have actually read, and that’s a pretty good feeling.  On the other hand, when I play the dreaded comparison game, it means I’m not getting the amount of traffic some other blogs do.

Should I be upset about this?  Should I be trying harder to generate more traffic? Should I change what I write about to give my blog more of a mass appeal factor?

Funny thing, while I sit here typing away — I don’t think I should be or do any of those things.  I’m quite happy with my little blog space, and I have to say I am genuinely fond of the ‘regulars’ who check in on me and post their comments.  I look forward to checking in on them and seeing what is going on in their worlds and leaving my comments for them.

Some might say it’s a funny way to have a friendship, or even that it is a cop-out on friendship, but I would disagree.  I didn’t start out writing a blog to make more friends; I’ve never been one of those who gathers friends easily.  In fact, I can count the number of GOOD friends I’ve had in my life on one hand.  And for me, that is more than enough.

That said, I am so very grateful for the connections I’ve made through my writing and blogging and I value each one of them as if they were a friend.  So, I feel I owe a great big thank you to everyone who has dropped by for a visit and stuck with me throughout the past year.  Your interest has contributed to that number — 2,781 hits — and I am truly honoured.

Will I ever be featured on Freshly Pressed?  That thought has been bothering me a bit lately.  And then, I sat down to think about it, which led to me checking on my all-time hits, which led to this little rumination.  I don’t care if I’m ever ‘Freshly Pressed’, I do care that people I care about have checked me out 2,781 times.

My day is made — thanks everyone!

Monday evening

Oh, I’m so sorry I haven’t been able to write lately!  I’ve really missed it.

But let me tell you. . .

. . .last week was just terrible.  I started back to work (which isn’t a bad thing, really) but I was totally not organized or prepared for it.  Then, my fridge decided to quit on me.  So, into panic mode I go tossing food left right and center, while piling what I couldn’t justify tossing into coolers or dumping it in a freezer.  (We ate a few rather gruesome meals of stuff I couldn’t in good conscience throw out.  Sigh.  Chalk that up to thriftiness – or – cheapness, which ever you prefer.)

I thought I’d have to replace the fridge and actually spent a couple of days shopping around.  But an uncle of a friend of Tim’s who knows about fridges said we should unplug it and let it thaw out.  It’s a frost-free fridge, I said.  Yes, but sometimes they freeze up for no apparent reason, the uncle said.  So, we tried it, and voila! two days later, the fridge is working better than new!  I was so happy to not have to go out and spend a $1000 on a new one.  I am, however, starting a savings plan to replace it.  The old girl is 20 years old.  I think we’re doing pretty good if we get another year out of it.  (Could I possibly hope for two?)

Then, while dealing with the fridge I decided I might as well defrost my freezers.  “Cause you see, this Friday the chickens are coming.  Some friends and I raise chickens every other year (well, to be honest, Joe, Rita and Heather have done all the ‘raising’ this year).  Usually we kill and clean them ourselves, but this year time is at a premium so Joe and Rita are taking them into to be done professionally.  This will cost a few extra $’s, but truthfully, I’m okay with it.

Gutting, plucking and de-cropping chickens is not something I ever imagined myself doing, and over the years I’ve gotten used to it, but is it something I absolutely love and look forward to?  Not on your life.  It’s a messy, stinky, hot and tiring job.  And the whole while you’re at it the bees and wasps are buzzing around your head.  Not pretty when you swat with a mitt full of guts.

So, anyway, back to defrosting the freezers — I had to get that done in order to make room for my chickens.

Then the weekend came and it was Hailey’s TaeKwonDo test.  We went and spent Sat. afternoon watching her, then went off to the Edmonton/Saskatchewan football game.  Man, those Roughrider fans are crazy!  We had a blast watching them.  Oh, and Edmonton won.  Whoot! Whoot!    Sunday, Tim worked and I took Hailey shopping for school clothes.  She starts kindergarten this week!  My! Where did the time go?

We had so much fun.  For lunch we had the most amazing cupcakes I’ve ever eaten!  Then we shopped ’til we dropped.  And there it was, the weekend over, and I didn’t have the energy to blog.

Tonight, though, on my way home from a meeting the mist had rolled in over the fields and I decided that I needed to get out and take some pictures.  So I flew home, threw the camera in the car and headed out.

The pictures I’ve included here are from down Sunnyside Road just south of Bon Accord.  The alpaca pictures didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped — I’ve got to invest in a tripod.  I think a couple of the others are pretty nice — especially the bridge and the ones of the fields.

The weather here has been just lousy lately, our daytime temperature was 12 degrees today.  Tonight we could get frost.  Ridiculous for August!  But what is it that I always say?  Oh, yeah, it’s summer in Alberta.

Good night everyone — sweet dreams.

An Unseasonably Warm Saturday in November

Winter Trees
This is the magic kind of winter day I love.

It’s a gorgeous morning here in North-Central Alberta.  Hard to believe, actually, that it’s November.  A month ago I would have thought we’d be knee-deep in the white stuff and freezing our tushies off.  Not so.  Mother Nature has had a stroke I believe, or developed Alzheimer’s, because our weather is all out of balance and kind of making the rest of us that way, too.

The sad thing is, I like it this way.  I know that we need cold and snow and sub-zero temps to kill viruses, and bacteria and pine beetles, and that my darling perennials need deep-root sleep in order to thrive next spring, but I can’t help revelling in these schizophrenic times. 

I hate snow, unless it’s seen from inside, or it’s one of those fairytale days where the sun is shining like a gold coin in the bottom of shallow stream, and the temperature is barely below freezing.  Remember those days? 

Those were the days when you were a kid that you tromped along with your friends, coats open to the warm breeze, your shoes (who wore boots?) wet to the ankles, no hat, but a long, long scarf trailing behind you like a kite tail.  And you felt that free, that full of joy and life and you laughed and talked about a future you couldn’t even barely imagine, but you believed in your heart that it would always be as good as you felt in that moment, with your friends, with nothing but sunshine bursting all around you. 

Those are the winter days I like.  There are other categories of ‘those days’ that I cherish, and if winter could always only be made up of them then I don’t believe we’d have any ‘seasonal disorder’ diagnoses to contend with.  There’d be no reason for anyone to ever be upset, depressed or lacking in vitamin D.  It would be a perfect world. 

Ahh, such fantasy!  Eventually, snow will fall, it will blanket everything, we’ll feel stifled and mildly claustrophobic.  Our tempers will become short, our humours dark.  It will become harder and harder to drag ourselves outside to commune with others, and we’ll become slightly more pessimistic about the fate of the world and mankind in general. 

But. . .  if we keep in mind that those magical days are out there, if we keep ourselves open to the possibility of respite from the long, dark days of sleep, we’ll be okay.  We can remember how it felt to be young and vital and full of blind faith in the beautiful potential of ourselves and the world. 

So, whether or not Mother Nature has slipped loose her moorings, I’m going to enjoy these days for as long as I can.  I will not think about global warming, melting ice-caps (unless, they’re from Tim Horton’s), tsunami’s, earthquakes, El Nino’s or El Nina’s.  That’s adult, responsible thought.  I want, if even only for a brief, delusional moment, to feel in my heart that the world is that great and beautiful and unalterable entity I once-upon-a-time took for granted that it was.

Have a beautiful day.

Today is a Beautiful Day

Today is a beautiful day.  It’s mid-October in Alberta and our brief too-early stint with winter is nothing more than a bad memory.  I’m looking forward to working in the yard tonight and then going to yoga for some much needed de-stressing.  I am extremely grateful that the weather is going to hold long enough for our new furnace to be installed.  My sister Lori called yesterday wondering if Tim and I would be interested in going to Antigua in January.  Interested?!  You bet!  Sadly, the cost of the new furnace eliminates the possibility.  Oh well, another time.  It’s something to dream about.

Because it is such a beautiful day I want to share the following poem, one of my absolute favorites, by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

A beautiful, misty day at Peggy's Cove.
A beautiful, misty day at Peggy's Cove.

Reverance can be found anywhere.  Time took this picture.  I think it's beautiful.

Reverance can be found anywhere. Tim took this picture. I think it’s very beautiful. Peggy’s Cove, July 2009
I have a strange affinity with water.  It terrifies me, yet I'm always drawn to the mysteriousness of it.  I thought the contrast of the ropes was a nice visual.
I have a strange affinity with water. It terrifies me, yet I'm always drawn to the mysteriousness of it. I thought the contrast of the ropes was a nice visual.