Sunday, November 19, 2017

If herons had dreams

I was sorting through some photos from the past couple of months to pull together a blog post about fall, when I came across this series of images I captured while on vacation on the Sunshine Coast in September.  The story it tells (with a little imagination) deserves its own post. 

We were staying in a cottage right on Welcome Beach, Halfmoon Bay, where the view is restful and the sunsets phenomenal.  Each evening, Maggie and I took a stroll along the beach just as the sun was slipping behind Thormanby Island, painting the sky and the bay golden yellow.

Just down the way lived a member of the BC Coast Guard, and a small inflatable boat was always at the ready, insignia visible, securely anchored near the shore.  One evening, I spied a heron on the boat:

He stared with great concentration at the line connecting boat to buoy.  I'm not sure if he was debating the merits of stealing the craft, or pondering what life would be like if he didn't have to flap his wings to move from location to location.   I'm hoping it was the latter and that the Sunshine Coast doesn't have a gang of boat-thieving herons in its midst.

Hmmm.....bowline, I think.  
Rabbit comes up the hole, round the tree, down the hole and back up again.
Yes, it's a bowline. 

After giving his attention to the anchor line, he strutted from the bow to the stern, to have a look at the motor and determine how to start it.

Looks like I need to pull that cord right there.....

I'm quite sure he envisioned his life as a sailor, proud captain of his ship, the ocean breezes ruffling his feathers as he loudly sings his favourite sea shanties:

♫ Oh blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down,
To me way-eye, blow the man down... ♫

Of course, in time he would run out of fuel.  Before long, he would himself be the object of an air-and sea search, needing rescue from a heartless sea.

Hey!  Ahoy there!  Mayday! Mayday!

Down here!  Haaalp!  

I'm pretty sure he might rethink his dreams and be content to travel with his own wingpower, sheltering where he wishes, flying when he wants. 

But even a heron can dream.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembrance Day 2017

There was never a good war, or a bad peace.
~Benjamin Franklin~

As you join in Remembrance Day ceremonies and watch images on the news of men and women in spotlessly clean uniforms marching with heads held high, take a moment to close your eyes and picture them instead in sodden, muddy, torn uniforms, limbs missing and bleeding, guts falling out, horror on their faces, the bodies of women, men, children and animals lying around them, villages demolished. 

As you honour the minute of silence at 11:00 AM, hear instead the sounds of people screaming in terror, the deafening roar of bombs exploding, the high pitched air raid sirens,  and the barely-audible sound of soldiers and civilians taking their last breath. 

As you breath in the autumn air, smell instead the stench of decomposing bodies on the battle fields and in bombed out towns, the odor of feces in the trenches and in the pants of the scared-shitless youth powerful leaders have sent into battle, the acrid gas of the Holocaust chambers that killed so many millions. 

That is the reality of war, those are the images and sounds and smells we must keep at the forefront, the memories we must share with our children, if ever we are really to honor the slogan "Never Again".

I cannot attend Remembrance Day services where the horrors of war are scrubbed clean, and little children go home to play with their toy solders and toy guns with no conception of what real war is like. 

War is horrific.  Lest we Forget.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Butchart Gardens in fall

Well, we have the first snow of the season tonight, so I figure I better get some of the many fall photos onto the blog before the winter photos take over.  I'm still working on a bunch of local fall ones I took over the last two weeks (it was our most colourful and prolonged fall that I can recall), but as the ones from Butchart Gardens this week are ready and the others are not, I'll do them first.

Monday was a beautiful day, and Pat and the poms and I took the Mill Bay - Brentwood Bay ferry across to the Saanich peninsula. It was a lovely way to go, and the ferry lands about 5-10 minutes from the gardens.  The gardens were ablaze with colour:

After waffling back and forth, I had decided not to take Maggie and that turned out to be the right decision.  Paths are narrow (and bordered on either side by either dense bushes and/or chain barriers on posts) and people tended to travel in large groups, leaving no way for Mags and me to step to the side to let them pass.  Additionally, many people (nine out of ten, I swear) stopped right in front of us to bend over and reach out with grabby hands to excitedly comment on the cute little poms, Cosmo and Lexi.  Grabby hands, excited people, groups front and back, and no way out is NOT a good combo for a socially-anxious dog like Maggie.

Busy paths

We did, however, see a sheltie whose name was, coincidentally, Maggie!  While her humans were oohing and aahing over the poms, I snuck this photo of eleven year old Maggie who is not my Maggie:

Another sheltie named Maggie!

I was using my no-longer-reliable point-and-shoot (about 20 or so of the 140 photos I took turned out okay - most of the rest were either unfocused or had jolly pink or red or blue circles or stripes on them), but also took along the Canon EOS with a 50 mm lens and a 12 mm extension tube to practice some macro shots (super close ups) of flowers. 

Petals on a hydrangea blossom


Possibly lipstick plant, or maybe closed hibiscus?

Late blooming Toad Lily

Close-ups of bugs were also in the mix, but this little bug was the cutest of all.  The gardens have a policy against costumes, but made an exception for her.  A ladybug in the gardens seems very apropos!
Cute as a bug ladybug!

The fountain was beautiful, shooting spouts of water high in the air, changing shapes over and over again - wide, skinny, short, tall, up, down - a wonderful sight:

Cosmo, however, was more impressed with this little fountain.  I'm not sure if he was hoping to go for a swim (he loves swimming) or making a wish on all the coins in the well:

🎵 Three coins in the fountain....🎵

The last time I visited Butchart Gardens, if I recall correctly, was with family for my mother's 80th birthday in 1998.  That was early October, with the dahlias in full bloom, creating a beautiful backdrop for some family photos.  The dahlias were a bit more scarce on this late October day, but still provided lots of colour. 

A Single Happy Romeo dahlia


We had a lovely afternoon surrounded by sunlight and colour, and decided as our Christmas gift to each other this year, Pat and I would each buy a season's pass for 2018.  They are the cost of two entry fees and give unlimited access.  My goal is to go at least once each season.

Maple leaves in fall

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Bone.....

Just teasing.  I have a blog post coming soon, just haven't had the time to pull it together - too busy enjoying the amazing fall and taking a zillion photos a day.  Sadly, I think I have worn out my little point-and-swear camera as this week it started doing crazy things - like rotating photos, adding violet and pink stripes, turning whole beautiful scenes dark blue, or telling me I took five photos and then only producing one.

So today, in preparation for a trip to Butchart Gardens tomorrow, I pulled out my sister's old Canon - the one I bounced on the patio a year or so ago.  I removed the extremely versatile but now damaged 18-255 mm lens, replaced it with a non-zooming not-so-versatile basic 50 mm lens that likely came with the camera base, and then remembered I had some extender tubes amongst my sister's stuff.

Extender tubes are a way to distance the lens from the body of the camera in order to take macro shots - that is, shots of little things really, really close up.  I'd never tried them out, but thought that might be good for photographing flowers at the gardens.  So while my garden is nothing like Butchart Gardens, I took them out back to try them out. 

I haven't quite figured out how to use the two largest ones, nor how to do stuff manually, but with the smallest extender attached to the 50 mm lens and set on autofocus, this is what I got:

Asters, aka Michaelmas daisies

Dew drops on a leaf

Bee on aster

Some kind of seed pod on a plant whose name I forget

I'm quite pleased with them, though less happy with the basic 50 mm lens as I like having a zoom.  Now my dilemma is whether to take all the camera stuff (three extender tubes, two lenses, one camera base, maybe a monopod, as well as my point-and-swear just in case it decides to work) and leave the dog at home, or take the dog and chance having no photos.  Maggie is scared of people - and there will be people there.  Possibly lots of people.  Camera parts that have to be attached and unattached, and switched back and forth for different situations,  are prone to accidents when one hand is holding a leash.  But we'll be gone about 8 hours which is longer than I've ever left her before.

Dog?  Camera?  Dog?  Camera?

You tell me.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Autumn days at Swallowfield

I'm no longer going to apologize for lengthy gaps between posts.  I do post regularly on facebook, which is quicker and easier, and most of my blog readers are there.  But I do appreciate my small, but often silent, faithful following on the blog, so for the three or four of you reading this who are not on facebook, I promise to throw you a bone now and then.

Not one of MY bones, I hope!

Autumn is the best season for vacations and hikes - not too hot, not too wet, not to cold, just perfect.  In September I went to the Sunshine Coast with my sister-in-law  for a week, where we enjoyed amazing sunsets, gorgeous ocean views, great parks, and wonderful food.  I haven't finished editing those photos yet, but it does explain a small part of my absence.

Other than that, I really have no excuse.  Oh, well, I do hike Mondays and Fridays, swim 3-4 days a week, walk Maggie twice a day, take way too many photos, and find ways to fritter away the hours without blogging. But enough of the excuses.....Let's talk about those hikes.  Last Friday's hike in particularly.  My friend Pat (she's the one with the two black-and-white poms, you may recall) and I headed out to Swallowfield with the dogs.

The fall colours are not at their peak yet, though some trees are more dressed for the part than others:

The bullrushes have formed their brown furry heads, and the autumn crocuses poke up through the fallen leaves:

Along the way, the dogs stop to sniff and rest and pose for photos:

We reach the little hump on the trail, from which we can see out over the estuary to the ocean.  Lexi and Cosmo stop to admire the view:

Then down the hill to the Chemainus River, where the water colour is always gorgeous and the reflections plentiful:

After a brief rest to take photos and enjoy the tranquility, we find the overgrown path through tall grasses to wend our way across the estuary.  A slight detour to avoid wading through deep water, and we are out on the gravel beds where the river and the smaller streams all fan out on their way to the ocean.  The shallow waters allow water-baby Cosmo to go for a swim despite the chill - he gets the zoomies and races back and forth as far as his long leash will let him:

Maggie thinks water is evil, but Lexi shows a little spirit by wading right in - and right back out again:

Blech! No one warned me it was salty! 

I spot something in the tall grass - a snake in the grass?  No, a tail in the grass!  A dog tail, wagging happily!

Two friendly big dogs and their equally-friendly owner come join us on the estuary, and I have fun watching the big dogs race through the water to little islands then bounce their way back again:

Soon it was time to head back.  Ms. Maggie was very tired, but she is becoming a great hiking buddy.  While still scared of strangers (and particularly people who come to the house or yard, or children, or groups of more than four), she has come a looooong way from the terrified girl she used to be, and loves meeting other dogs.  On the walk back, we ran into a group with six large dogs, all of whom came up to meet Mags, and she didn't bat an eye.  She also took treats from Pat and went to her when Pat called, and approached the owner of the two dogs above in order to sniff his hand - huge steps forward for Ms. Maggie.  She was calm and relaxed on the hike, and this photo of her taken out on the estuary with the stranger sitting nearby and four dogs and her 'Auntie Pat' in the area, reflects her comfort level. Her head is turned because she's watching the other dogs in the water, no doubt thinking "Are they crazy?  Get wet voluntarily? Not Me!"   It was my very favourite photo of the day:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Thinking About Emma

Last May, my trip to the mainland to bring Maggie home was a bittersweet one. Sweet because I was adopting Maggie, but sad because I was seeing Emma (the yellow lab who stayed with my ex when we split more than ten years ago) for very likely the last time. Emma and her dad were moving 800 km further away, or about 900 km from where I live.

Emma, May 2017

When Emma's dad and I split up, Charley (the border collie cross) came with me and Emma stayed with him. We came to an agreement, with the help of our lawyers, regarding my visitation rights. The first couple of years were tough -  for me, for her dad, and quite probably for Emma. But over time it became clear to me that the bond between Emma and her dad was deep, and while she still greeted me enthusiastically on each and every visit, I had no doubt she had become her dad's heartdog, and he was her heartperson. I continued to see Emma - monthly when I lived on the mainland, and several times a year after I moved to the island - but no longer needed that reassurance that she was loved and well taken care of. She was - and is - the apple of her dad's eye.


Last fall, her dad talked with me of his desire to semi-retire and move to the place he and Emma have spent their last several summers, in eastern BC.  Emma loves it there, and each summer her dad sent me photos of  Emma swimming in the river, lazing around with many good friends including her best doggy friend Abby, soaking up the sun and the attention.

WHEEEE!  I'm a happy stick-fetching water dog! 
(Photo by Emma's dad, a couple of summers ago)

Her dad's intention had been to stay on the coast until after Emma passed, giving me continued access to her.  But for personal and familial reasons, he didn't want to delay the move any longer.  And I fully and unhesitatingly supported that decision.  I know only too well that our future and that of our loved ones is never guaranteed.  Sometimes you just have to grab life and run with it.

Or grab a stick and throw it!

And so in May, with his house about to go on the market and his annual summertime migration fast approaching, I went for one last visit.

Over the course of the last year or two, Emma's health and vitality had been declining. She is nearly 13 now,  old for a dog as large as she. At the May visit, the change in her was remarkable since the previous one a few months before - for the first time she did not bounce up to greet me, for the first time she did not wish to run through her paces in exchange for pieces of her kibble, for the first time she did not pester me for attention but simply lay quietly on the grass as her dad and I talked.

I can still hear everything you say, y'know!
One ear up! 

Her happy lab get-up-and-go often got up and went, her dad reported, and even that insatiable lab appetite had dissipated to the extent that sometimes she didn't want to eat at all. She still has her moments of happy lab silliness, of course, but we both agree that she is in God's Waiting Room.

I'm not tired - I'm just resting my eyeballs.  

And so it is only right that both she and her dad should be in the place they love most, sharing some summer and fall splashes in the river, being among friends and family doing all the memorable things that friends and family do.

Emma is living the good life, for whatever length of time she has left.  But between my health, Maggie's anxiety issues,  Emma's health, and the geographic distance, the chances are very slim that I will see her again.  At least, not on this side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Until then, she is in good hands. Thank you, Emma's dad, for loving her as you do.