Northern Lights: the blessing of frigid weather

Yesterday it was -36 Celsius and – 58 with the wind chill factored into it. That’s pretty freaking cold. Today is much the same. Life gets interesting when the thermometer dips so low. For one thing the exhaust from vehicles in front of you freezes in place, making driving even more challenging. On days like this we stay home, if at all possible. Today we have similar temperatures with a slight one degree drop lower. Yup, it’s cold. But the wonder of seeing the Northern Lights somewhat makes up for it. They really are a blessing on a frigidly cold night. So, last night I was out on the balcony to try to capture them. These photos do not do them justice at all, and it was so cold I could not stay outside to try to get better ones.

On the best nights the lights “dance” in the sky
I love the green hues, if the earth is white the skies were definitely displaying their beautiful green hues in the Norther Lights

I really wish I could have captured more, but my fingers were beginning to freeze after mere moments outside

Ice fog this morning, a rather eerie view, but pretty too

This morning we were treated to a thick ice fog. It’s not easy to really see in this photograph but it was very dense. Oh, the joys of living in the frozen North! Yet, though it is very, very cold I do enjoy the Northern Lights and the ice fog. That is, as long as I can stay comfortably ensconced at home.

Serenity Sunday: Gregoire Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada

These photos were taken at Gregoire Lake, a provincial park not far from the city that offers beautiful trails through the woods and an opportunity to swim in the lake or simply sit on the beach on a warm summer’s day. Many use it to fish either from the shore or in boats. It was a haven I feared may be lost when wildfires swept through the area in 2016. In these times of great uncertainty, I am often reminded of the fear, stress, and worry of those days. The city was evacuated and we spent a month not knowing what the future held. Of course, we never really did know what the future held in store, not then not now, but have to have faith despite the cries that tell us the sky is falling. When all is said and done and we one day look back on these pandemic days it is my hope that we too, though perhaps somewhat scorched, will stand as tall and as fully alive as the pines and birch trees in Gregoire Park that survived the fire.

Gregoire Lake in Gregoire Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada
One of many ponds alongside the highway, this one is not far from the community of Anzac
Paved road way through Gregoire Park
I aimed my camera to the left at the edge of the lake, to the right trees were burnt and the vista hurt my heart, I am so grateful for all that was saved
A mix of dead and burned trees along with those that were miraculously untouched by the flames
A beautiful autumn day in the park
Blackened trees still standing alongside their more fortunate neighbors
“There’s got to be a morning after” a song by Maureen McGovern that played in my head often during those days, and is playing there once again. There will be a morning after, even if we cannot envision what it may look like.
Is there anything more perfect than a walk through the woods or along a lake shore in autumn?
Docks on the lake in Gregoire Provincial Park, AB, Canada I am so grateful that though the park was not untouched, the fire fighters managed to save the vast majority of it.

I leave you with a few quotes on autumn and nature as we move into winter, with its own brand of beauty.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird, I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” –  George Eliot

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” –  John Muir

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” –  Richard Bach

Wonderful Wildlife or Pop goes the weasel

We went for a drive this morning and I dragged along my big canon rebel, you know, just in case. It was such a thrill to see a hare, a wolverine, which is part of the weasel family, and a tree full of red polls. I wasn’t able to capture the rabbit, it was just too quick and the photos of the birds are not the best. However, I wanted to share a few I managed to capture of the wolverine.

I think this guy must be a youngster. I don’t know but it was such a thrill to see.
Loping through the snow, possibly hunting the rabbit
He was moving pretty quickly
and away into the woods he goes

As you can see we’ve had a bit of snow already in these parts. Here in town it’s pretty much gone again, but these were taken outside the city where there was a bit more. I am not looking forward to winter, but maybe with a bit of luck I will get snow shoes so I can walk the trails more easily. If it means catching sight of the local wildlife, I’m willing to brave the cold.

I am so not ready for this

The weather network said we’d have rain all day. They were wrong and I am so not ready for this. But I was happy to see my camera caught the action:

Early morning surprise
Hey, Mother Nature, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, not Christmas!

I know it won’t last long, first snow never does but it’s still coming down hard out there. I mean, will the children be out making snowmen this afternoon? I refuse to dig out winter boots and parkas just yet. Still, there is a bit of magic around the first snow.

Yesterday I dropped hubby off for his dialysis treatment then went to the grocery store for a couple of things. I bought these flowers to decorate the table for Thanksgiving. Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a world where such color exists and we can have beautiful flowers on the table, even while snow covers the earth?

Giving thanks for the beauty and the bounty this good earth provides

I hope all my family and friends enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend. And may we all recognize the blessings that flow into our lives and give thanks for them.

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
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
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!