Summer of Revelations

I have learned a lot this summer. About myself and life in general. I’d say that I am sad that summer is coming to a close but that would be a lie. I am elated at the prospect of change. Change of the season to Autumn, change of daily routine, and change in temperature. I respond well to change, I think. It keeps me on my toes and makes everything  fresh!

 

 

I never thought of myself as a Being of Summer. Boy, how things have changed. The heat and humidity are not high on the fun-factor scale for me but I can deal with it which I never used to be able to. This summer I have developed the look I always sought when younger but could never accomplish; hair bleached by the sun, tanned limbs and absorbing vitamin D in the form of sunshine like nobody’s business! This really hit home when my Grannie said to me a week or so ago, “You are definitely an outdoor girl.”  I used to be the girl who hid from the sun to keep my  pale skin from freckling and turning the shade of a cooked lobster. Now I work in the sunshine daily and am trying to be smart about precautions while maintaining reality. I certainly don’t spend my days off laying in the sun!

 

 

“I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things…

I play with leaves.

I skip down the street

and run against the wind.”

– Leo Buscaglia

Yesterday, I realized something quite extraordinary – I am only twelve pounds away from the weight I was throughout high school! Mind you, after having two children, the joy of passing time, and working a very physically-demanding job my body shape has changed significantly (for the better, I think). So, I plan on saying goodbye to those clinging twelve pounds before the end of this work season and accomplishing a task I had never thought was all that important until now since I am so very close to accomplishing it. Weight in terms of the scale is not all that important to me but how my body responds to exertion through work and play is paramount. I have become strong and more defined muscle-wise over the past two work seasons and am liking how I feel! I intend to keep getting better in terms of health and strength. My lazy and uninspired days are behind me.

The other day something occurred to me when I was listening to an acquaintance talking. This individual had mentioned how difficult and time-consuming it was to be environmentally friendly. WHAT? This came as a shock to me as it was in that moment I suddenly realized that I basically run on autopilot when it comes to issues of environmental responsibility. Sure, I’m not perfect and I sometimes make poor decisions but overall I feel responsible for my actions and have integrated this thinking into the every day so it is the norm in my world. It seems so archaic and offensive not to care about the planet we all share and its inhabitants. I seriously don’t understand the unconcerned mindset.

 

 

One of the biggest revelations this summer has been that sometimes, there is no going back home. Recently I went back to my hometown to visit family and friends. I quickly realized that this may be their home but it is no longer mine; I am merely a visitor. At first this thought made me uncomfortable so I dug a bit deeper to understand the reason for my discomfort. I think part of the parcel is that my parents are aging (as we all are) and I have moved in a different direction as offspring are supposed to do. When I first moved away from home at the age of 19 to St. Catharines, I knew no one here. It was not only an adventure but it was sometimes lonely and scary until I made friends and connected with others. Luckily, this was only a matter of days that I wound up in the company of good people. This city has become my home over the years and has replaced my hometown as the place I identify with. I no longer consider myself a Peterborough girl  and this puts a bit of a lump in my throat. Honestly though, the Niagara Region has opened its arms wide with welcome and I am now enfolded in its embrace. I love living here!

 

 

This summer has also shown me more of the incredible natural beauty that surrounds us here in the Niagara Region. We have such a diverse landscape that is teaming with incredible natural wonders. The Niagara Region is tucked between two of the Great Lakes – Lake Ontario (I live on the south shore) and Lake Erie. There are over 200 walking, hiking and cycling trails to be enjoyed and shared with incredible flora and fauna at every step. The Region has created many naturalized sites to encourage wildlife to do its thing and give a safe haven for many species. One of my favorite hikes/walks is up the escarpment by Niagara College. It has a feeling of such intense history to be with these particular trees and rocks and gives an all-encompassing feeling of being a part of Nature not just an outsider looking in. These photos were taken in the late Fall a couple years ago but the escarpment is beautiful in every season.

 

 

 

One of my favorite walking trails on the Niagara Escarpment

One of my favorite walking trails on the Niagara Escarpment

Ericsson 2012 343

 

 

 

Within a short walking distance from my home is the Welland Canal. Even though I’ve lived in St. Catharines half of my life I still find the Canal interesting. It is fascinating that these huge freighters and  sea-going ships make their way through a system of locks up the Niagara Escarpment. For a brief description of the Welland Canal see this link. When my kids were itty-bitty, they used to love to go sit at the locks with me and watch as the ships went through. They were thrilled to bits when the workers on the massive ships would wave to them. Recently I have visited the Canal again a few times and realized that it doesn’t matter how old or young you are or where you come from the Welland Canal is an incredible feat of engineering.

 

 

I’m sure I need not dwell on the prominence of wineries in this region but seriously, they are worth a visit and the trip along the wine route. Wineries play a huge supporting role in the area’s mindset and activities. Good food and great wine are the specialties of an area filled with orchards, farms and vineyards. It’s easy to eat well here.

 

 

Another huge revelation for me and I think the most important of all – I need to live the life I envision for myself. We all have dreams, desires and are called deep from within our Soul to certain places, people and actions. Respecting someone else’s dream is essential to living our own.

 

 

Learning to love the Life we have and moving forward instead of stagnating or going backward is on my mind. I see movement in my future…I strive for joy each and every day through learning new Truths…to treat myself and others with kindness…to appreciate all that is on offer.

 

 

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open

where there were only walls.”

– Joseph Campbell

 

 

 

Arbor Day

Arbor Day has never been a day that I personally associated with…until now. I’ve always loved the notion of Earth Day, even though I try to live each and every day in a manner of caring for our planet. Arbor Day seemed too one-dimensional, too all-about-trees. I wouldn’t feel all aglow at the thought of Soil Day even though healthy soil is essential. Why the sudden desire to adore a day for trees? My heart just feels in tune with trees recently. I have become more observant of the trees around me and have gained appreciation of each one’s individual uniqueness. As a Horticulture Technician, gardener and environmental tree-hugger I have always understood the value and beauty of trees but something in me has shifted to feel the presence of trees like never before.

In Ontario (Canada) we observe Arbor Week from the last Friday in April until the first Sunday in May.   J. Sterling Morton founded the idea of having a special day in honour of planting trees over 135 years ago. Isn’t it reassuring that we still note this day to plant trees? I feel optimistic when a tree is planted with the intent of it enjoying its growth for many years. On the wings of optimism I planted a tree this morning in my back yard. My little tree has a special place in my heart. When my son was just a wee little guy, he brought me home a sapling from school one day. It was so tiny that it was almost unrecognizable as a Spruce. It was potted in a Dixie cup and sat on our windowsill for a month or so before it graduated to a pot on the patio. Since this tree exited the school in my son’s tiny hand it has been contained in a pot until today.  I couldn’t decide where the perfect spot in our garden would be to plant this tree until today. I went out into the back yard to enjoy the bright clear sky when I noticed a sunbeam in the back corner of our garden. It was like a stage light directed at the perfect location!

Spruce- Picea Abies

One day this small tree will become tall and stately, just like the little boy who presented it to me with great pride and a toothy grin.

Although I love my Picea abies (Norway Spruce), my favorite tree in my garden is the majestic Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra). To me it is reminiscent of the Group of Seven paintings I  adore and is a signal to me that I am home as I come around the corner.

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra – Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra – Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  ~Minnie Aumonier

Birds of March Break

Oh, March Break, how I love thee. There is nothing more wonderful than trying to conjure up ideas for keeping children occupied so the phrase “I’m bored” never need be spoken. I live by the comeback my mother used on me and my sisters when we were growing up. It sounded something like this, “If you complain that you are bored I will find you something to do”. It usually involved cleaning something or some equally sigh-worthy chore. I rarely hear the term “I’m bored” anymore. Thank goodness…it is highly irritating. Scratches on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard.

I refuse to sign my kids up for all sorts of expensive ventures to keep them from getting bored. Isn’t part of being a kid learning to play? Is that even a word in most kids vocabulary now? We parents are so freaked out about our kids getting dirty or hurt that we hover over them constantly.  I smile inside when my kids come home covered in mud, grass stains or wet from exploring in the creek nearby. They are washable. Don’t get me wrong, I have boundaries that need to be respected but I also think that children need to know that it’s alright to not have an adult dictate what is fun constantly. We adults tend to sign them up for anything that comes along just so they have something to do. There is, of course, the exception of young children when both parents are working outside of the home. Day camps and other structured activities become a necessity in this case. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to be at home with my children but not without making sacrifices to do so. Let me tell you, being a stay-at-home mom has been the hardest thing I have ever done. From the outside looking in it looks like a breeze but it is quite the opposite.

Hanging out and being silly with their friends is at the top of my list of things I like to see my kids doing. When kids spend time with their friends they gain a sense of belonging outside of their family circle and begin to blossom with self-confidence. The sound of laughter from kids is one of the most enjoyable sounds I can think of. OK, the coffee grinder in the morning is a close second.

One of our local shopping malls has had a free educational activity every day this week for all ages. Yesterday was a demonstration by the Ontario Raptor Conservancy with a show about birds of prey. I was going, kids or no kids. I stated that I was leaving at 11:45 am and whoever wanted to join me must be in the car. Works every time!

The man who was giving the demonstration was excellent. Sir, whoever you are, thank you for an engaging experience that kept not only the little kids sitting on the floor riveted but you had me hanging on your every word as well.

If you know me personally (in the real world), you know that I am terrified of birds. Honestly, I really can’t explain my fear. Walking by a parrot on a perch leaves me holding my breath for far too long and walking sideways – no eye contact! I am intrigued by large birds of prey for some reason though. They are incredible creatures. We were only able to view the first half of the demonstration sadly since daughter’s friend wasn’t feeling well so we headed home. The two birds that I was awestruck by were the Turkey Vulture and the Barn Owl. My photos are seriously lacking and I apologize. I was using my Blackberry since I forgot to bring the better camera. Of course, the man beside me had the super-dee-dooper camera with gigundo lens and kept giving me the sideways look. I hope he managed to get some incredible pictures of these beautiful birds.

Let’s start with the Turkey Vulture. The wingspan was impressive to say the least. I believe the speaker stated the wingspan could be six feet across.

A co-worker (and friend) and I joked during the summer that we must be moving too slow when we looked up and saw Turkey Vultures circling overhead. The term “look alive” was never funnier than at that moment!

To learn more about the Turkey Vulture click on the link here.

Turkey Vulture                       Turkey Vulture                  Turkey Vulture

The other bird of prey that captured my heart was the Barn Owl.

Barn Owls in southern Ontario are now critically endangered due to lack of prefered habitat. There is only one mating pair left in the wild. We need to start allowing naturalization of grasslands to give these beautiful birds a place to thrive again.

For more info on the Barn Owl, see this page.

Barn Owl                           Barn Owl in flight

In my mind, these are the interesting tidbits that together make up a great March Break. I’m sure all of the people there that were spellbound by the demonstration would agree.

These types of performances are a great way to bring attention to the importance of these magnificent birds in nature as well as what the Ontario Raptor Conservancy does.

In case you were wondering, none of the birds present were from the wild. They have all been raised in captivity at the conservancy and are used to being with people.

The conservancy also rehabilitates injured birds and releases them back into the wild.  It was uplifting to hear of a group doing so much to help another species and doing no harm.

Time well spent, I’d say.

“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see
land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and
respect.”   ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac