Let’s celebrate! It’s World Environment Day!


So, it’s World Environment Day! Let’s celebrate the planet and its awesomeness! I truly do love nature. As I write I am remembering visiting my husband’s aunt and uncle. While we were there we somehow ended up at their neighbor’s place across the street. My children were very little then and one of them had picked up a caterpillar and brought it to me. I bent down and what followed was a conversation with my little ones about caterpillars. I have no idea what that conversation entailed but I do remember the neighbor remarking, “Oh, we have an environmentalist in our midst”. I remember being somewhat surprised by the comment. I honestly thought at the time that most people shared my views. Sadly, I came to understand that no, that was not the case.

We are living with climate change and all the backlash that has entailed with so-called natural disasters causing untold destruction and upheaval. It does not have to be this way. Human beings can make better choices. Politicians can be moved to enact better environmental protection laws. I have seen politicians back down when faced with public outrage over a variety of social issues. We need to make our voices heard.

What social issue is more important than the environment on which all life depends? Let us all make better decisions, please. We can do our small parts at home by reducing waste, by becoming more informed, by respecting our local green spaces and wildlife, and in a myriad of other ways. I will not belabor the point, better writers than I have articulated it well, time and time again.

Let’s celebrate this world.  Take a deep breath and thank the trees for providing us oxygen. Listen to the birdsong and be grateful for their music. Dip a toe in a river, pond, lake, or ocean and be cleansed, or better yet drink a tall glass of cool water and be quenched.  Gaze at the beauty surrounding us all and let it feed your soul. Take your shoes of and walk on the cool grass on a hot summer’s day. Life is good, but it could be so much better. Let’s take good care of this little blue marble we call home.

Sing of spring: More birds


All of the photos featured in this post were taken by my firend, nature enthusiast, Kathy Marche. She takes phenomenal photographs around the Stephenville/Port au Port areas in Newfoundland, Canada. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

“Whatcha looking ay, Willis”
Nuthatches seem to be natural acrobats
This one seems to have earned its stripes (sorry for the bad pun)
Birds are great at hiding in plain sight
An American Bald Eagle on the hunt
Black-capped Chickadee, one of my personal favourites, though very common and found pretty much everywhere, their friendly curiosity and cheerful song is always a delight
an exceptional shot of a Boreal Chickadee
Kathy caught this Canada Jay as it was jumping from branch to branch
Another shot the pretty little Canada Jay a.k.a. Gray Jay
Downy Woodpecker – they sure can make a racket but nice to see
Finches are common as well, but also lovely to hear
Perched and perfectly positioned to have a look around
Naturally, gulls are a common sight around Newfoundland waters. This one is a great black-backed gull
Hairy Woodpecker (female)
Hairy Woodpecker (male)
nice close up of a Hairy Woodpecker
Herring Gull
Herring Gull – though some people consider gulls a nuisance I always enjoyed seeing them circling overhead and squawking to one another
Iceland Gull
Mourning Dove
Pine Grosbeak (male)
Pine Grosbeak (female)
Purple Finch (doesn’t it look like it had its feathers styled punk? haha)
“Here get my good side”
Red and White-winged Crossbills
Red breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch – so pretty
An immature Red Crossbill preening his feathers
White-winged Crossbill
Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting
And back to the Chickadees – just because I love them so 🙂
Since we began with a Nuthatch I guess it makes sense to “end” with one. And now this “tale” is done.

My sincere thanks and deepest gratitude, Kathy, for allowing me to feature some of your stunning photographs on my blog. I hope my readers enjoy them.

Feel the fear and do it anyway – zip lining at Marble Mountain, NL


 

Photo credit: Jess Molnar

Several years ago, I was studying journalism at the local college. In the second year of the program we were sent to cover the Canadian Student Leadership Conference. It was an interesting experience, not least because during the conference we were treated to a free pass on the zipline at Marble Mountain. We had been split into several teams to cover various aspects of the gathering and it was my team that was chosen for this dubious assignment.

There were four of us on my team. I had planned to interview and photograph students from across Canada who were taking part during my trek up the mountain. One of my teammates was supposed to participate in zip lining while trying to capture photographs of the experience – she chickened out. That left us with a decision to make: who was going to bite the bullet and take the plunge?

Now, I had always had a huge fear of heights and initially I was adamant it would NOT be me.  However, one of the team was already fitted with a Go-pro camera that was attached to a helmet and she was geared up to go. Another member was struggling with the flu, which knocked him out of the running, so that left me!

I finally consented, for the good of the team. After all, I am nothing if not a team player. I remember praying earnestly that I would live to see another day and asking the Creator to take care of my husband and children. I would not look down. I concentrated on the harness that would fly me through the air and gauging the strength of the cables above that I would be sliding on. They seemed secure. I remember trembling as I stepped off the platform. I had never been so nervous or anxious in my entire life! However, by the time I stepped off the second platform (the zip line zigzags across a deep fjord) I was really enjoying myself and was yelling at the top of my lungs: Whoot! Whoot!

Coming in for a landing Whoot Whoot

Thanks to happenstance I overcame the fear and enjoyed the experience immensely. Part of the assignment was to write a story about the experience, which I did. I was pleased to hear my instructor chuckling as he read it. I learned a lot that day, not least of all was to feel the fear and do it anyway.

The Conversation


The conversation 2

 

“Come, rest upon my petals here and tell me of your story.

Where have you been, My little friend?”

Said the flower to the moth

“I roam high above, where you can never go.

I visit plants and trees and flowers sweet everywhere I travel,”

Said the moth to the flower.

“Oh, to fly up high, to soar upon the winds.

To not be planted in one place, to see beyond the wall.”

Sang the flower to the moth.

“Aw, but you are treasured, for your beauty and your scent.

No worries about foes like birds that would eat you, if they could,”

Said the moth to the flower.

“There are pros and cons to every Life,”

Continued he to she. The moth thought to comfort her with his words so wise

And yet the flower pined and pined for freedom to travel far.

“It’s true, I am admired, and watered every day, but if you think me safe right here

You know not all my visitors,” replied the flower,

“For there are bugs that chew my leaves, And spiders everywhere. Not to mention

honey bees That feed upon my nectar.”

“Aw, so you serve this world,

Nourishing the pollinator,” the moth cried out.

“Oh silly moth, I know the truth – that you as well

Pollinate us flowers,” she answered,

“And so, you see, we have need of thee.

When you brush your soft, soft wings

Against my little petals, you do more than tickle me

Like some ethereal feather. And when you chance to nibble me

And drink deeply of my nectar,” she shyly whispered, “you too carry my

Essence to continue seed production.”

The moth stretched out his wings and proudly strutted his stuff

He thought about all the good he did and didn’t remember why

Venus flytrap chewed up his kind, that naughty, naughty flower.

It was because the caterpillar he once was did damage to her leaves

and ruined her every finery….

The flower knew this, but did not say, for his friendship she treasured

After what seemed a lengthy pause, the moth did once more speak

“We each do our part, to bring beauty to this world, and I will speak to north wind

And ask him when you’re ready, to blow your petals far above the wall so you can see

The wonders of this world,” the moth proclaimed.

And so, it came to be, that during summer’s warmest days the flower bloomed and blossomed. But in the fall the north wind kept his promise and lifted high her petals. She traveled far beyond the wall and lived at last her dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death of a Sunflower


 

She bows her head down to the earth

As if in prayer and submissive stance

She lowers her head down to the ground

From which she sprung, but a short time ago

Her life is short but leaves behind

Memories of her beauty and her grace

And reminds us all of the sacred and sublime

That lays within utter humility

She hangs her head, but not in shame

‘Tis only the lateness of the hour

Her stalk, once strong, that held her high

Lowers her gently now back to the soil

She will lie fallow through harsh autumn winds

And willingly gives herself to winter’s icy grip

Knowing that the seed she carries

Deep within her flower

Will arise anew when the sun once again warms the earth

In the great cycle of death and birth

Questioning the Moon


MOON resized

Peeking through the cloud cover

Witnessing life on earth

Earth’s faithful companion

Orbiting through space

Were you there, Sister Moon

When life first formed?

Did you watch as the first creature

Crawled slowly from the sea?

In your ever-lasting cycle,

in your orbit around our world

Did you witness the dinosaurs

As they prowled the hills and plains?

Did your winking face gaze down upon

The planet and can you tell us why

All life on earth was wiped out

As cold air masses froze the land?

Oh, ancient wonder in the sky

What drama have you witnessed

What stories could you tell

Of all the changes

On this, our blue-green planet

That you follow faithfully

Sister Moon, do tell us

Advise us if you can

On how to save the planet

This jewel of blue and green

That humans have made obscene

Garbage in our oceans

Choking off all life

Pollution on all fronts:

Land and sea, and sky

Oh, beauty of the night

Tell us if you please

How can we save our planet?

Our home, our heart, our life force

For we need your wisdom

We are lost, we have forsaken

The knowledge of our forebears

Remind us now

How fragile

Life truly is

And let us find better ways

To live upon this miracle

American Influence


Stephenville NL RESIZED 2

Here in Canada we are inundated with media message from our neighbour in the south, from news to movies, songs to magazines, business and trade, we are steeped in American culture. And it’s not bad, really. It just is. Canada is a huge country, but has nowhere near the population that  America does, nor even a fraction of its power. Many people around the world see little difference between our two countries. Yet, there are distinctive difference such as the idea of America as a ‘melting pot” where all cultures are assimilated into the dominant culture. Conversely Canada celebrates multi-culturalism and protects many rights and freedoms in the Charter of Rights.

I grew up in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. My home was on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland. During World War II the Americans built an air force base in Stephenville – a coastal town close to the rural area where we lived. My father worked on the base and often invited American friends to our home for a Sunday dinner.

When President Kennedy was assassinated my father wept copious tears at what ‘they’ did to ‘our’ president. This was repeated when Senator Robert Kennedy was murdered. American politics were often discussed by my Dad and his cronies. When I was a small child I thought we were American! Not hard to understand with frequent letters coming from my paternal aunt in Vermont and another in Detroit. In addition, the province had fairly recently joined confederation making it the youngest province in the country.

I was still living in Newfoundland when the events of 9/11 brought several planes to land at our airport. Stephenville boasts an international airport, the runway built by the Americans during the war. It was a very sad time for local people who had known many American friends – some of which maintained summer homes all over the island and continue to visit annually.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a proud Canadian and deeply love ‘our home and native land’. But I fully recognize the huge influence the U.S.A. has had and continues to have on my country.

Ancestry: My Search


The mystery of ancestry

“There are many people who could claim and learn from their Indian ancestry, but because of the fear their parents and grandparents knew, because of past and present prejudice against Indian people, that part of their heritage is clouded or denied.”
–Joseph Bruchac, ABENAKI

In 2013 I learned that one of my great grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman. This all came about in 2008 when the Mi’kMaq nation in Newfoundland & Labrador were finally recognized by the Canadian government and struck a deal to become a landless band under the Indian Act. Many families, mine included, began investigating birth, marriage, and census records. My cousin did much of the work and found evidence in the census of the early 1900s. It came in the form of my grandfather’s brother admitting he was a Mi’kmaq descendant. However, I do not know if it was his mother or grandmother who was Mi’kmaq. I know his mother’s name, but not my great, great grandmother’s. It saddens me.

In 1949 the Dominion of Newfoundland became a province of Canada. At that point in time the federal government was in the midst of negotiations with several First Nations bands.  Because the leader of Newfoundland & Labrador, Joey Smallwood, wanted to join confederation he vehemently denied there were any indigenous peoples there, in order to reassure the federal government they would not have to face the same challenges there.

For all intents and purposes indigenous peoples were discriminated against in every corner of the country. It was no different in Newfoundland, where indigenous people were forced to hide their identity in order to gain employment. This, coupled with past colonial biases, and patriarchy, meant that many Mi’kmaq people denied who they were and identity became a closely guarded secret in many families, including mine.

Unfortunately, I have little information regarding my native ancestors, their culture and ways of life are foreign to me. However, I have always held certain sympathies with indigenous peoples around the world, long before I knew the truth of my own heritage. This is partly due to the way I was raised, but also, I think, to the mysteries of ancestry. There has been much written about cellular memory and I cannot help but feel there is truth to the thought that our ancestor’s experiences are written in our DNA. It certainly explains the phenomenon of déjà vu!

I have learned more about the Mi’kmaq people since 2013, and have much more to discover. I am grateful to have made the connection, thanks to my cousin’s hard work and generous sharing of information.

I attribute my passion for nature, the environment and human rights to my Mi’kmaq ancestors. For although I never knew them their innate connection to the earth and collective cultural ways do live on through the mystery of ancestry.

“Oh Great Spirit, today I am ready for You to use me as a channel of Your peace. Let my walk today be visible so the people will say “There goes a Man of God.” I want to know what He knows. If they ask, I will tell them to go out into the wilderness and pray for You to guide them.” – Native Prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On global warming


I have lived in Fort McMurray for nearly four years and every summer we are faced with smoke from forest fires from across Alberta, British Columbia, the prairies and Ontario, as well as the North West Territories. This summer has been no different. Last week the smoke was so dense we could smell it. It stings your eyes and throat and for people with health issues it becomes a situation where they are house bound.

Last year we had hoped to travel to B.C. but due to smoke and warnings from the health department we were forced to change our plans. My husband does have several health issues and I am sure we were not the only ones forced to alter vacation plans. So, what is my point, you may ask. My point is that besides the environmental costs caused by global warming there are many and varied economic costs as well. The cost to the tourism industry for one.

Of course, there is the huge costs to taxpayers as governments everywhere are faced with ever growing financial challenges from fighting forest fires to cleaning up after severe flooding and other so called ‘natural disasters’.

We take clean air for granted as well as clean, potable water. There is far too much we continue to take for granted. It is disappointing, to say the least, to see our provincial governments fighting against any real efforts to curb global warming, such as a carbon tax. At the same time, they are lagging in taking initiatives to deal with the fall out.

While partisan politics uses every instrument of technology such as mining data to help them shape their promises and their platforms and spend much of their time fighting one another the issues and challenges caused by global warming rage on.

I don’t have any answers except perhaps to say it is more important than ever to exercise your right to vote, in every single election, whether municipal, provincial or federal. Our future and the future of our young people and our very planet may depend on it.

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day


Pow Wow at Flat Bay, NL Canada July 2013

Today we celebrate the rich diversity of our country’s First Nations peoples. From the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador to the beaches of British Columbia our native peoples offer a wide variety of culture and spirituality. Yet traditionally, all across this great land they share a love of nature and a deep respect for the environment. Several years ago, I learned that one of my great grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman. Unfortunately, due to patrimony and the colonial practices of the day, I know little about her, or the Mi’kmaq people. I have been doing my best to learn more ever since then.

Today I celebrate all indigenous people everywhere and especially those here in Canada. Let us dance to the beat of the sacred drum and give thanks to the Creator who gifted us with life.