Sunday, May 13, 2018

The best gift a dog mom could receive....

The best gift that a mom could receive is the knowledge that their youngun' - be it human or furry - is happy and confident and feels safe.  My human child, an adult for some years now, has grown into an amazing woman and while I won't say I never worry about her, I no longer feel responsible for her wellbeing, her happiness, or her safety.  The critters, however, are another matter.

As a 'mom' to a seventeen year old cat in kidney failure, and a rather anxious and fearful dog around 8-10 years old with severe allergies,  I worry about them constantly.  But I also marvel at their resiliency, their intelligence, their ability to communicate their needs, and their sensitivity to my moods.  And each time I find myself smiling at something they have done, or sighing with exasperation when they become demanding little tyrants, or drifting off to sleep with one or the other snuggled up against me, I am grateful for the bond that we have.

This past week my anxious, fearful, barky Maggie gave me an incredible early Mother's Day gift.  We spent the week at Saratoga Beach, up island, sharing a cabin right on the beach with my friend Pat and the poms. I had been worried it would be too much for Mags - sharing space, living with other dogs, being somewhere new.  Instead, Maggie was in heaven - relaxed, happy, quick to learn, moving from on leash to long line to off leash with the delight of a four year old working her way through a candy store.

I have hundreds of photos from the week, of course, but those will take a while to prepare.  And so I shall share just a few - some images of my happy, happy girl who gave me the best Mother's Day gift ever: a brief glimpse at the dog she will become over time - happy, confident and feeling safe. We're back home now and she is her somewhat edgy self again, but now I know there is a happy inner pup who only needs the right environment and the right approach to let that puppy out to play.

Happy Mother's Day to all you dog moms- may your critters share their joy with you.

C'mom. mom - Let's go!

Mom, I've been dragging this long line for awhile now, and it's getting
kinda heavy with the sand and water!

See, I can stay really well without you holding the leash!
Okay Mags, we'll try you off leash - 'Away' ...'Stay'.......
Can I 'come' now?
Here I come!

I'm runnin' so fast, I left two of mah legs behind!

Hi. Mama!  I'm here! 

I loves this beach!
Can we lives here forever?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Blooms and Bloopers

The more photography I do, the more critical I become of the photos I take, and the longer it takes to correct the 'flaws' I see in them.  It's not unusual for me to take a couple of hundred photos on a hike, and post only half a dozen.  This was true of a hike yesterday to the beautiful Jack Point/Biggs Park near Duke Point ferry terminal in south Nanaimo.

I always love this fairly simple five km hike (three loooong flights of steep steps notwithstanding), for there are always beautiful seascapes, tall trees, bird life, and fascinating rock formations that make me think of dinosaur fossils.

On yesterday's hike, there were also masses of spring flowers in bloom: camus and seablush, monkeyflower and buttercups and paintbrush and chocolate lilies, as well as orange hawkweed about to bloom.  I took lots of photos, with and without dogs.


Camus and Sea Blush

Meadow of Sea Blush

Monkeyflower near a sandstone basin

But yesterday's photos also provided good examples of photographic bloopers.  Some bloopers are easy to fix. A photo with a slanted horizon , for example, can easily be improved by rotating it slightly, and dull colour can be brightened with the click of a key:


After two clicks - one to straighten the horizon, one to brighten

Others, where too little attention was paid to properly focusing the picture, are not salvageable even with the 'sharpen' tool available on many software programs.  None of the ones I took of chocolate lilies came out well - my camera was on autofocus and the settings weren't appropriate for closeup work:
Blurry chocolate lilies

But the ones that have me whacking myself upside the head are nearly always the ones that include dogs.   I become so intent on catching a great shot of the dog before he/she moves, that I forget all about watching the background.  That's why there is a tree growing out of my friend's head, when simply moving over a foot or two would have altered the background and provided a tree-free head.  Wiggly uncooperative poms caused me to miss a great photo op here, though using the crop and clone features of my photo-editing software, I was able to remove offending tree with some success:

Before - a tree grows from Pat's head

After a bit of cropping and a bit of cloning

And of course,  even without people, dog photos can be challenging.  Maggie made me laugh with these ones:

Wait a minute, mom - there's a good smell here!

Oh, wait, what's Auntie Pat doing?

Auntie Pat, are there treats in that bag?

YAWN!  Modeling is so tiring! 

Hahahaha - I love giving my mama a hard time! 

But my very favourite blooper of the day was this  next one - I was so intent on getting a nice shot of Maggie with flowers and seascape, that I failed to see a leprechaun-sized Pat placing a mini-Lexi on Mag's head.  In reality, she was well behind Maggie - probably 20 feet away, but up a hill, and thus the 'perfect' positioning of  Lexi above Mags without either Pat or I realizing what was happening. There's no fix for this.  I guess we'll just have to make sure we go back again next spring - and make sure Pat and the poms are standing behind me!

Monday, April 16, 2018

When Rainy Days are Mondays

When rainy days are Mondays, one of my usual hiking days, I don't let it get me down.  Unless the rain is torrential, my friend Sally and I head out anyway - glad for the fresh air, exercise, freedom from mundane chores, in the beautiful outdoors of Vancouver Island. 

Does anyone else see an elephant in this photo?

Today was one of those rainy Mondays.  It was pouring heavily when I arose, but by eight it had improved somewhat - a steady rain but light and reasonably warm.   We chose one of Nanaimo's urban parks, less than an hour north,  where we knew the trails to be quite sheltered from rain and wind, and quite well maintained to provide safe footing in wet weather. Colliery Dam Park is one of Nanaimo's larger parks, with loop trails around two lakes (dogs permitted off leash around one, on leash around the other), plus numerous little side trails.  The paved, multi-use Parkway Trail also cuts through the park. 

A tranquil spot on one of the side trails

Nanaimo does a stellar job of creating urban parks that have a delightful balance of development and wilderness.  Entering the park, we encountered a small covered picnic area and washrooms, and scattered around part of the first lake were park benches, information boards about the park (maps, history,  vegetation, fish stocking program - fishing is encouraged!),  and attractive landscaping. 

Pumpkinseed fish? A new one to me!
Apparently it is another name for pond perch or sunfish. 

But shortly after crossing the bridge where the water from the lake flows down the channel, we diverged into the forest where one forgets the city is all around - tall trees, duff trails, large moss covered boulders, more rugged lakeshore. 

I have done the main loop trails several times, but this time we chose to explore some of the many side trails, some a little muddier and rockier, and our efforts were rewarded as we discovered things we had not seen before.   Where the park nears a road (heard but not seen), and just after we had crossed over a narrow rushing stream on an interesting little bridge, we saw a side trail and decided to check it out.  A splash of colour down below beckoned us, and that was when we saw a graffiti bedecked tunnel . 

As we were admiring the colourful work, we suddenly spotted a man and dog come out of the tunnel and realized it was not merely a passage for the water heading to the lake but also a pedestrian underpass.  We scrambled back up to the main trail, crossed the bridge again and scrambled back down to check it out.

The tunnel was lined on both sides with art work - this was not the swear-laden graffiti of young punks defacing post boxes and bus shelters, but graffiti created by some artists quite talented in their own genre of art.  I must confess I have no objections to this type of graffiti on otherwise boring and ugly cement tunnels.

Art in the Park - presumably done when the water was lower. 
That face above the blue was truly remarkable, with a 3-D quality to it! 

The tunnel, long and unlit, provided artistic inspiration itself as daylight and spring growth at the far end begged to be photographed:

The light at the end of the tunnel
We walked through the tunnel and discovered trails on the other side, but chose to leave them to explore another day - in part because we would have had to cross some very wet rocks to go any further.  Those trails will be better left for summer or early fall, when the water is lower.

We returned back through the tunnel and up to the main trail, and continued back on the return side of our lake loop.  Along the trail were many trillium in bloom, and down by the creeks and lake was skunk cabbage, aka bears' salad bar or swamp lanterns.


Skunk Cabbage/Swamp Lantern

We located one of the lesser traveled trails paralleling the main trail but below it, closer to the Chase River and lakeside.  It was there that a short side trip found us gazing upon large patches of fawn lilies everywhere we looked.  This beautiful cluster was on a mossy cliff above the river:

Fawn lilies - or fairy umbrellas?

Fawn lilies

Eventually, we joined back up with the main trail once again, at a point where a newer footbridge had been built right on top of the old one.  I envisioned frogs and snakes and rabbits making their way across the stream along their own private walkway.

A walkway above for humans and dogs, and one below for smaller critters? 
We made our way back to our starting point, where we enjoyed our lunch in the clean, covered picnic shelter while we gazed at the lake and the lightly falling rain.

Both glad we had come, for we were none the worse for the weather and considerably better for the hike!