Serenity Sunday: Beauty of Nature


One of my all-time favorite songs is It’s a Wonderful World by the great Louis Armstrong. Every morning waking up to the beauty of this good earth how can I not feel it is anything but wonderful world? There is so much beauty in every nook and corner of the planet. Yes, this pandemic weighs heavy at times, but when we go outside nature is always there to provide balm for the spirit. I hope you will find balm for your soul in this week’s offerings. We won’t be going anywhere today but I hope you enjoy the wonderful beauty right here at or near my home.

On Canada Day in 2018 we were treated to a double rainbow. The colors were especially vibrant that day on July 1st

“Mirth is like a flash of lightening, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.” – Joseph Addison

The skies always amaze me, constantly changing with clouds that morph into various shapes in the blink of an eye

“You see, I had been riding with the storm clouds, and had come to earth as rain, and it was drought I had killed with the power that the Six Grandfathers gave me.” – Black Elk

I don’t know which is more beautiful to witness, dawn or sunset, both are so beautiful

“When I began to listen to poetry, it’s when I began to listen to the stones, and I began to listen to what the clouds had to say, and I began to listen to others. And I think, most importantly for all of us, then you begin to learn to listen to the soul, the soul of yourself in here, which is also the soul of everyone else.” – Joy Harjo

This was just one of many beautiful sunrises

“Ah, Hope! What would life be, stripped of thy encouraging smiles, that teach us to look behind the dark clouds of today, for the golden beams that are to gild the morrow.” – Susanna Moodie

Sacred night, when the clouds separate and the moon shines down on the city

“Never lose hope. The darkest clouds precede the loveliest rain!” – Avijeet Das

Summer, season of long days and beautiful flowers….life seems to expand in summer

“At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor, here gusts of heat, at my back, white clouds. I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this: to glorify things just because they are.” – Czeslaw Milosz

Summer beckons us to come to the water . . .

“Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds.” – Regina Butt

Nature at it’s most dramatic …

 “Only he shakes the heavens and from its treasure takes out the winds. He joins the waters and the clouds and produces the rain. Only he realizes miracles permanently.” – Michael Servetus

Blue skies, smiling at me …

“I think I will be able to, in the end, rise above the clouds and climb the stairs to Heaven, and I will look down on my beautiful life.” – Yayoi Kusama

A new day, a new dawn a sacred gift, always

 “Religion is among the most beautiful and most natural of all things – that religion that ‘sees God in clouds and hears him in the wind,’ which endows every object of sense with a living soul, which finds in the system of nature whatever is holy, mysterious, and venerable, and inspires the bosom with sentiments of awe and veneration.” – William Godwin

Over the hills and among the trees, what new mystery awaits?

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” – St. Augustine

No matter what storms may come, a new light will always break through

“God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” – Martin Luther

Serenity Sunday: Back to the Rockies


I think we all feel like we are deep in a dark valley, hemmed in on all sides as this pandemic continues to cause much anxiety, sickness and death. I invite you to come to the mountains, one of the Creator’s great miracles. I pray you will find a renewed sense of wonder, peace, and renewal.

“Nature is one of the most underutilized treasures in life. It has the power to unburden hearts and reconnect to that inner place of peace.” – Janice Anderson

“Although I deeply love oceans, deserts, and other wild landscapes, it is only mountains that beckon me with that sort of painful magnetic pull to walk deeper and deeper into their beauty.” – Victoria Erikson
“Mountains know secrets we need to learn. That it might take time, it might be hard, but if you just hold on long enough you will find the strength to rise up.” – Tyler Knott
“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all-natural scenery.” –John Ruskin
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Over every mountain, there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley.” – Theodore Roethke
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
“When the sun is shining, I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” – Wilma Rudolph
“I love to sit on a mountain top and gaze. I don’t think of anything but the people I care about and the view.” – Julian Lennon
“Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” – Richard M. Nixon

Thank you for coming with me to the mountains. These photos were captured by my talented daughter, Kelly Hopkins, and I am grateful to her for granting me the honor of sharing them here. May your Sunday bring you serenity and peace.

Mud and mosquitoes


Note to self, Never leave the trail, especially on a humid morning

Some days it just does not pay to go for a walk. It’s been raining here a lot this month. Rain is in the forecast again for every day this week. Enough already! But yesterday was beautiful and this morning dawned lovely and bright. So, I decided to make use of the nice weather while I could and went for a walk along the riverbank. I’d decided to go to a trail I haven’t walked in almost a year, but wanted to be near the river (that was a big mistake). I left the trail and climbed down the bank to walk along the shore of the river. That was fine and I made it without mishap. On the way back I once again climbed the bank up to the trail and fell in the muddy and very wet grass. The grass is very long there. I was soaked! Mud all over me! To make matters worst, the air was thick with humidity and the mosquitoes fierce. And just when I was almost to the top of the bank I fell again. Now my shoes were soaked as were my jeans. My hands and forearms covered in much and nowhere to rinse it off. Good times. And the nippers left many itchy spots. The best part of the morning was meeting Naya (her name means little sister), a husky cross. Her owner told me she is also part wolf. She came out of the woods just as I reached my car. What a sweet doggie, very friendly. I had a brief chat with her owner before climbing into my car to go home and shower. Silver linings. And my sweet Callie-cat was happy to welcome me home, despite the mud. Aw, unconditional love!

Have a nice, mud-free, day my friends. I am going to try to find something to take the itch away from these bites.

Serenity Sunday: Sylvan Lake, Alberta, Canada


In 2016 wildfires forced the evacuation of this city where I live. We were so blessed to spend the month of evacuation in the town of Sylvan lake, a small town located at the halfway point between Calgary and Edmonton. I hope you enjoy these photos from our stay there.

From sunrise to sunset the lake is a beautiful place to be
Is there anything more serene than time spent at (or on) the water?
The marina at Sylvan Lake
Beautiful paths along the shoreline
Stairs provided from street level to the the beach
Downtown Sylvan Lake
resting places are provided
A boat at anchor on Sylvan Lake
We spent many hours walking along the shore and I often had my camera in hand
Tranquility
These benches provide a wonderful view of the lake

We lived with many unknowns during the evacuation. It was stressful in many ways, but being able to walk the shores of Sylvan Lake and experiencing the kindnesses of the people of this small town helped tremendously. I hope that these photos lend themselves well to creating a small bit of serenity to your day. Be well. Be blessed. Be safe.

Serenity Sunday: Clearwater River


The Clearwater River is one of five that run through Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. The city has many scenic spots and several nature trails. These were taken on Macdonald Island, near where I work.

Taken at dusk, the skies are always so beautiful
Macdonald Island in Fort McMurray
Reflections
I can picture fur traders that used the rivers to distribute (and collect) their furs
Near the highway that runs through the city
Meandering waters
This sculpture of an eagle in flight is near the Aboriginal Nature Trail that is a pleasure to walk on Macdonald Island near the city’s downtown core

Chipmunk visitor


“What’s that over there?”
“This smells good”

I enjoyed watching this little guys the other day. He was quite busy gathering something off the ground in the parking lot. I have no idea what it is – perhaps nesting materials? It didn’t look to be anything edible. Wildlife in the city, gotta love it!

Serenity Sunday: Alberta


These photos were taken over the past few years between Fort McMurray and Edmonton. Alberta has many beautiful places. There is lots of rural farmland as well as hills and mountains with lakes and rivers carved into the land.

The mighty Athabasca River taken in the town of Athabasca
Highway 63 winds over hills and through lush farmland from Fort McMurray to Edmonton
Horses, cows, sheep, llama, alpacas, and even buffalo can be seen on the drive to Edmonton
Rivers, ponds, and lakes aplenty
And lots and lots of cows
Lac La Biche
Beaver Dams are a frequent sight as well
Look up into those wide Alberta skies and you may catch sight of a hawk or two
North of Fort McMurray
Gregoire Lake, just outside Fort McMurray, near the community of Anzac
Fort McMurray Golf Course

Into the woods


Last week my daughter and I went on a hike on a nature trail here in town. I love the woods. I hope you do too. Here are a few photos from our little adventure.

Does anyone else see a face here? Admittedly I have a vivid imagination.
Mushroom growing out of a tree trunk – fantastic!
A promise of wild strawberries – they grow abundantly on the edges of the trail
The Birchwood trail goes on for many miles through the city
Another mushroom! A very oddly shaped mushroom!
At some points the trail is a narrow footpath
Almost looks like something out of a sci-fi movie but this is no special effects job – nature does it well with no help at all
One minute it was sunny but off and on the clouds moved in
A fairy hoop – the woods are magical
More mushrooms!
I kept seeing them everywhere – maybe I was hungry….
While there are many level areas the Cougar Trail can be quite arduous as well – lots of hills!
Another “monster”
Evidence of insects – it was too low to the ground to be wood peckers
What do you see?

I hope you enjoyed the hike. Come back soon and we will go again. Thanks for visiting.

But where’s the Water?


When Dad moved our family from Newfoundland to Ontario when I was a child it was a bit of a shock. We moved from a very rural area to a small town in Ontario and the question we children kept asking was, “But where is the water?” All these years later I have moved back to Newfoundland (twice) before eventually moving to Alberta where I now live. Alberta is a beautiful province, actually, Canada is a beautiful country, no matter where you live. But there is something about spring and summer that has me yearning for ocean breezes and the scent of brine in the air. Forgive my nostalgia for simpler times and the sweetness of childhood memories. Allow me to share with you a few of the things I miss about the island.

First of all, the view of the ocean from atop the hill where our house was situated, as well as the woods where I often played as a child. As spring turns to summer I still miss the water.

Port au Port West, NL, Canada – photo by Barra Studio

Can you see why we asked, where is the water? No matter where we went there was always a view of the bay, and depending where you were, you could watch big waves crashing along Bay St. George or enjoy the calmer waters of Port au Port Bay. In any case we were surrounded by water – no wonder we looked for it and were happier once our parents found a few lakes to take us to.

Mr. Walter Martin’s house, down the hill and across the road from where I lived as a child

Mr. Martin, as we called him, was actually related to us. He was our great grandfather’s step brother. I don’t know why we addressed him as Mister, but we did. I loved going down the hill to visit him. He was a dear, sweet man. He had built a stairway down to the rocky beach. If we were going down to the beach it was the safest way to get there as the cliff was quite steep below his home. Once on the beach there were large overhanging sheets of slate that formed a natural shelter from the elements. This house is long gone now, so I am very glad to have this photograph of it.

Mayflowers are a springtime delight, my thanks to Kathy Marche for kindly sending me this photo

Picking flowers in the woods, especially Mayflowers in spring, is another favorite memory. I have never seen them in any other place I’ve lived. Sometimes they were hard to find, particularly early in the season as they tend to hide under their foliage. As the season progresses they are a bit easier to see. I remember the delightful scent of these flowers and how often we would gather them for our Mom.

As the season progresses the pink hue fades to white
Wild roses are prolific along roadsides and on the edges of forest paths all across the island of Newfoundland. Although most are pink from time to time you may see white as well.

The rose pictured above also grows wild here in Alberta and out here it is aptly named the Alberta Rose. Every time I walk in the woods I am reminded again of my childhood home by these sweet-smelling flowers. Their scent is so much stronger than their domestic cousins.

I am happy here in Alberta. The people here are wonderful and it is a beautiful province. One of the things that also remind me of “back home” is the ring of hills surrounding the city. Newfoundland is very hilly, so in addition to the roses, I feel like a little bit of Newfoundland has been transplanted here. And although I do miss the ocean I am gratified to have several water sources nearby from the small pond behind the building to rivers and lakes within a short drive from here. It may not be quite the same as Newfoundland but it is home – even if there is no brine in the air!

Serenity Sunday: Back to the mountains


These photos were some I took driving out of Canmore, Alberta in May of 2016. It was a beautiful day. I feel so blessed to have been able to stand and gaze at these impressive peaks in the foothills of the Rockies.

Clouds kiss the mountain tops
A little bit of snow hangs on
in higher altitudes snow stays late into spring
which makes Banff a favorite of skiers
Three humps…. a different angle
It is so awe-inspiring as we drive out of the mountains. I took this one looking back from where we’d been and where we cannot wait to go again….
Close up …
Awesome views!
Glaciers carved furrows into the land
Further down the highway and ponds are plentiful
Even from a distance the foothills are beautiful
Farewell to the mountains, until I can come again….