Transformed Landscape



It always amazes me.  You think at some point it wouldn’t, but still it does.  The way that first big snowfall transforms the landscape.

Not so very long ago, Winnipeg looked like this:

Then…

On Monday evening, as Winnipegers tucked off to bed, weather forcasts warned us to prepare for the first big snowfall of the season.

By the time I woke up on Tuesday, the wind was howling, the snow was blowing and it was already deep enough to be causing all sorts of traffic troubles.

I decided to take a bus to work. I just didn’t want to deal with the stress of maneuvering my vehicle through fresh snowdrifts, and around other vehicles.

I knew I’d made the right decision when I got to work early and without any white-knuckle driving.

On my way home after work, though, the bus got stuck in a snowdrift at an intersection. Yes, the enormous 60 foot city bus, completely stuck. The traffic behind it was backed up. In the other lanes, car tires were spinning, but not much was moving.

So, I bundled up, got off the bus, and walked the rest of the way home through the hard blowing snow that was now knee deep.

Truth is, once I got going, it felt like an adventure.  It was quite fun, and a lot of exercise to boot – several kilometres, for sure.

At some point, I couldn’t resist the idea of taking a picture. It was kind of silly because my phone was getting all wet and my fingers were numb, but I was having such a great time, I hardly noticed.

Now, it’s already Wednesday, and the snow finally let up late this afternoon.

I took a lot of pics, so I am sharing a few of them with you  here today. There are a few more below, too.  Hope you enjoy.

In the meantime, I am off to bed.  The last two days of walking and commuting in the storm have left me ready for a good winter’s nap.



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A Little Wanderlust.

Here are some of my thoughts and pictures from a long walk I took in Winnipeg, last Saturday.  Hope you enjoy…

~ Carina Spring

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In my last post, I announced that my blog’s technical troubles were finally resolved.  Turns out that my celebrations were, um… premature. Yes, after my gleeful announcement, I joyfully pressed “publish”, and soon realized that the email was not getting delivered to subscribers’ mailboxes.  Every time one problem gets resolved, another one pops up!

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Honestly, autumn has brought a few challenges with it, and not just with my blog.  When I stumbled on these words, yesterday, the mindset struck me as helpful:

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.  Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills.  Don’t wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom.”

~ Jim Rohn

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Anyhow, on Saturday, when I went for a long-overdue haircut, I decided to walk home.  I have been going to the same hairdresser for 15 years.  Her salon is downtown, a fair few kilometres from my home, and in a different neighbourhood.  It was a gorgeous day.  Without thinking much about it, after my haircut, I strolled into the fresh air and started my walk.  It took several hours to get home, though I don’t know exactly how long, because I didn’t pay much attention to the time.

The sun was in my eyes and I carried my big purse over my shoulder, and I felt kind of free: no plans, no car.

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By the time I got home, around 5:00 pm, I’d taken a bunch of snapshots with my cell phone (those are the pictures in today’s post), and I’d accepted a friend’s spontaneous dinner invitation for 6:00 pm.

Hiking, even the urban kind, can be so relaxing. There is something therapeutic about walking by yourself, for hours, like a tourist in your own city.  Now, I feel a vague kind of wanderlust.  Like I want to wander. Everywhere.  Even if it’s only around here.

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When I was in my late teens, I figured life out by running  kilometres and kilometres at a time.  In those runs I found my strength, and I figured out that life was short, and that it all comes down to the present moment.  I think walks like this one are another way for me to better understand life.

Here are a few more snapshots that I took with my cell phone, if you’d like to see what Winnipeg looked like, from my perspective, last Saturday.  It’s a pretty diverse place.

If you enjoyed the post, please feel free to subscribe (see the menu box at the top).  Thanks for the visit!

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A Walk with A Stranger, and The Bizarre Story of Good Memories from A Bad Evening

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After my walk with a stranger, I saw this huge caterpillar, and decided to bring out my cell-phone and take some snapshots.

I had an unusual experience last Saturday morning, When I went for a walk.

Just as I entered the park, I saw a woman, probably in her late 50’s, walking a little, white dog.   I casually commented that her dog was cute, when – much to my surprise – the woman began to tear up.  Apologizing, she explained that tomorrow would be 8 weeks since her husband had died of cancer.

Trees at St.Vital Park in September, in Winnipeg.
Trees in the park on a September day in Winnipeg.

I really felt badly for her.  I lost an aunt to cancer a year and a half ago, so I have some understanding of just how hard the whole experience can be.  I gave her a hug, and we started to stroll together.  Wound up doing a lap of the whole park. Mostly, I just listened.

When our walk was done, I felt good that I was able to lend a friendly ear to someone who needed it.  It got me thinking about how acts of kindness really do make both the receiver and the giver feel better.  Actually, this unexpected walk with a stranger also got me thinking about a remarkble experience that happened to my family, years ago.

imageI used to live in the city of Edmonton, Alberta.  One evening, my mom, grandma, brother, and cousin were on their way home after a day-trip to Drayton Valley, when they were rear-ended by a distracted driver on the highway. My mom’s car was a total write-off.  The policemen said how incredible it was that no one had been injured.

The accident occurred in front of a campground about 200 km from Edmonton, so my mom called my oldest brother to ask if he could come and give them a ride back home.  He immediately went to pick them up.

But.

He was a student at the time, driving an older vehicle and – shortly after picking everyone up – his car broke down.  What an evening, right?

Now, it was past 11:00 p.m.  This was the age before cell phones, so my family stood stranded by the side of the road, assessing the unfortunate circumstance in which they found themselves.

That’s when a young farmer stopped to help. He drove my family back to the city, more than an hour and a half in one direction (never mind that he still had to drive all the way back to his farm).  When my mother offered to pay him for his troubles, or at least for the gas, he refused to accept.  No, he said.  Pay it forward.  Help someone who needs your help in the future.

That is not the end of the story.

When the accident occurred, my mom’s car got towed away. In the stress of the moment, my mom wound up abandoning a bunch of the stuff that was in her car.  Some of these items were kind of valuable, like tools.

The following week, my mom and her best friend returned to the site of the accident, in the hopes of recovering some of the items. My mom entered the campground, and asked around a bit, just in case.  Turns out there were a number of seasonal workers who were living in the campground while they worked in Drayton Valley for the summer.  Everyone was so nice.  They had collected all of her belongings and, expecting that she might come back, had stored everything neatly under a tarp.

And there’s yet another twist.  On this trip, my mom had been driving a rental car provided by the insurance company.  Believe it or not, it also broke down while they were out there! Seriously!  It had to be towed, but, fortunately, the rental agency had an outlet in Drayton Valley, and my mom and her friend were able to get a replacement vehicle right away.

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What a strange experience, don’t you think?  Such a bitter-sweet combination.  They had a terrible accident, but, miraculously, no one was hurt. Every car that went out there had to be towed away!   Yet, the kindness of strangers transformed the memories of this negative experience into ones that are warm, and rather positive.

There is something very touching, even powerful, about an act of kindness from a stranger – extended without the hope of any retribution.

Sometimes, it can even be simple gestures that make a difference: being patient and present for others, or smiling at someone whom you sense might be feeling alone.

Kindness has a way of coming back to you in mysterious and beautiful ways, and studies show that helping others increases our own happiness.  It has a way of restoring hope, not only in the receiver, but also in the giver.

I am not sure why, but when I was done this walk, I knew it was time to start blogging again.  I am excited to be here, and I look forward to sharing the simple, everyday adventures that challenge, comfort, and enrich.

By the way, after I said goodbye to the woman last Saturday, I decided to do another lap of the park.   This time, for me.  I’d had a stressful week, and needed to process it so that I would have more energy to give to my family and my work.  Even though I had not planned on it, during that second lap of the park, I took a few snapshots with my cell phone.  Those are the pictures in today’s post, in case you wanted to see what one of Winnipeg’s city parks looks like.

Oh, just thought of one more thing!  While we are speaking of the kindness of strangers, have you heard this story of a life-changing phone call?  Not exactly light-hearted, but it gave me goose-bumps.

A caterpillar in St.Vital Park in autumn

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On The Map

Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.
Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.

If you are a bit of an explorer at heart, you might find this interesting.

A while back, I read something about Winnipeg, Manitoba that really surprised me.  And, at the same time, it didn’t.  Winnipeg, nick-named “The Peg”, is the unique and interesting place I have come to call home for more than two decades.  I have been wanting to write a post on The Peg for a while, and when I read the big news, I knew it was time.

A Little Background…

Now, before I get to the news, there is something you need to understand about Winterpeg (That’s our other popular nick-name. With our record low winter temperature being -47.8C before the wind-chill, you can easily guess why.  In all fairness, we rarely get anywhere near that cold!).  People have a tendency to complain about, or at least poke good-natured fun at this place. It’s too cold, there is too much snow in the winter, the drivers are bad, too many mosquitoes in the summer…

If you don’t believe me, check out this hit song, actually titled, “I Hate Winnipeg” (written and performed by a popular Winnipeg band), this Simpson’s clip that was often played on one of our networks, or this commercial (it’s a chuckle).

The Weekday Off

I’ll admit that I have certainly complained at times, especially when I’ve had to drive to work in a blizzard.  Or when my garage door froze shut and I was almost late for work. But I digress…

Overall, there are many wonderful things about Winnipeg.  One just has to learn to see them.  In fact, I have come to see Winnipeg as “a weekday off”. Let me explain.

When I was in university, my summer employment often found me working on the weekends and having Monday and Tuesday off.  Some people didn’t like that schedule, but I saw it differently.  Sure, it wasn’t “The Weekend”, but there were many unexpected advantages to a weekday off.  It was easy to make appointments and run errands, and there was always a choice spot wherever I went… be it a provincial beach or a city café!  In time, I came to love, in some ways, even prefer the “weekdays off”.

And that is the perspective I try to share when we all start getting down on Winnipeg.  It’s a week-day off. If you look at it from the right perspective, Winnipeg has many unexpected advantages, and is a wonderful place with much to offer.

So what’s the big news I recently read?….

Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself!
Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself! My son took this picture.
Picture by Julia Davi.
Picture by Julia Davi.

The Big News

Well, you can imagine what an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was to read that Winnipeg has been named, by non other than the National Geographic Traveler, as being one of the top 20 cities to visit in the world!  Top 20 – On the same list as some pretty amazing places, like the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom; an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is full of penguins; one of France’s finest vineyards; even places like Bermuda, and New York city.  I won’t go through all 20 places named, but feel free to check it out for yourself. (Here’s a link to the web-site edition… though I still want to read the print edition for the full article.)

Now, when the conversation starts to turn towards the obvious difficulties of living in this climate and city, I remind us: Hey, we’ve been named one of the top 20 cities in the world to visit.  And people pause, smile and nod in agreement.  That’s true, they say.

The National Geographic Traveler has given my positive perspective a lot of credibility.

By now you might be asking, Okay… so what are some of these cool things about The Peg?

Here is a quick list.   Just some of the reasons why Winnipeg is kind of an awesome place (to visit, and yes… to live!):

The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
  • We have wonderful restaurants with authentic cuisine from all over the world.
  • A world-class zoo, the oldest ballet company in Canada, a vibrant arts community, interesting galleries and museums- including the new National Museum of Human Rights.
My son took this picture on a beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
My son took this picture on a quiet beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
  • Many beaches within easy driving distance of the city. In fact, Grand Beach has been listed among the Top Ten Beaches of North America.
  • Lots of beautiful parks and trees, and the Forks (The place where our two rivers meet, The Forks has a children’s theatre, and is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés, and special events – both indoors and out).
  • We have the longest ice skating river trail in the world (at 8.5 km), and a popular winter festival (Le Festival Du Voyageur), as well as many other festivals, many of which take place in the summer.

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  • We are a diversely multicultural city, and also a distinctly bilingual city, with celebrated vibrant French communities amongst the English majority.
  • We have the typical cold, snowy prairie winters.   It may not be easy, but if we look at it objectively, it’s an interesting experience.  That fluffy white snow is rather magical, if you dress for the weather.  One can also try winter sports, or stay inside feeling super cozy and warm.  Bonus:  Bragging rights for being tough enough for the Manitoba winters!
  • We also have beautiful, sunny, hot summers, and fleetingly colourful autumns.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
  • The city is surrounded by cool towns such as Gimli (one hour away), provincial parks, and a national park only 3 hours away.  There are lovely farm fields all around, and lots of nature to be seen, all within easy driving distance.

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The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
  • If you are really adventurous (and don’t mind spending a bit of money), you can take a trip to visit Churchill, and see real-live polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat.
  • The house prices and cost of living are still relatively low!  This means that one can have quite a high quality of life on an average income.
  • The provincial slogan for our license plate is “Friendly Manitoba”, and most of us really are.
A unique winter experience
A unique winter experience

On top of everything, there are some interesting facts about this city.  Did you know that Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg?  Or that the character of Bond, yes… James bond was probably inspired by a real-live Winnipegger?  Ditto for Snow White.

That’s not all…  Just for fun, click here or here to find out more.

Sure, going to the Caribbean to soak up some sun does seem like a top choice for a vacation, you won’t get any argument from me.  But still…  Winnipeg is an interesting place for the brave hearts!  How exciting that our square “Peg” has made the top 20s in this round world!

Do you have an unusual or little known favourite destination?

Thanks for stopping by!

Photo by Julia Davi.
Photo by Julia Davi.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.

Where Do You Go?

For me, there is something captivating, even comforting about migration.  Even though my life on the ground may have changed over the year – I’ve lost loved ones, my father is in palliative care – in the spring, the birds return.  And while it does not make the losses easier, there is a serene kind of solace found in the predictable beauty of the cycles of nature.

Depending on the conditions of their geographical location, some Golden Eagles migrate, and some do not.
Depending on the conditions of their geographical location, some Golden Eagles migrate, and some do not.

The arrival of the migrating animals after their long journey exemplifies courage, and life’s triumph over adversity.   We look up and welcome the geese, not only as a sign of the changing seasons and spring’s renewal, but simultaneously as a symbol of perseverance, and life’s constancy.

A family of geese

That’s the thing about migration – it heralds change, but also continuity.  It is a process that transcends our existence here on earth: Migration was here before us, and continues without us. Just like when children grow, they make us more aware of the passage of time, migrations orient us to the seasons of life and create a sense of connection between the passing years.

There is something so worthwhile, so healthy about pausing, and remembering the processes in nature that transcend our own lifespans

Alicia and Neil’s Photography

Migration also reminds us of unseen bonds that connect us to other parts of the planet. We share something beyond ourselves; We share a living species that calls both of our lands home.

“Where Is Your Home, Restless Wings?”

In the modern era, it is harder for us to grasp the magic of migration.  We have developed the remarkable technology to connect with almost anyone, anywhere, instantly, but in so doing may be forgetting a time in recent history when distant lands were still mysterious, and the world felt much bigger.  Less than a century ago, simply receiving a letter from a different part of the world was an exciting event.  In some ways, migrating animals are like living, timeless emblems from distant lands; messengers reminding us of an intricate connection with people we will never meet, and places we might never see.

Reader Julia shared this picture of a beautiful Monarch, know for its epic migration.
Reader Julia shared this picture of a beautiful Monarch, known for its epic migration.

And just as I finished writing these reflections, the world outside my window was transformed over night by a fluffy snowfall, and the words on this post are now a farewell to fall.

How wonderful that the timeless truths of nature are right at our doorstep, and the simple act of stepping outside and looking at the sky can help us find comfort and perspective in our modern, everyday lives.

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A beautiful Mountain Blue Bird:  Alicia and Neil’s Photography

Unless otherwise indicated, all of today’s photos are from Alicia and Neil’s Photography.

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Last winter, I heard this song for the first time.  This song may have helped inspire this post.  I have to add that I love this band, and they seem to share my poetic obsession with birds.

Would you like to learn more?  Here are some links to organizations that are working hard to preserve habitat so that life on earth can stay diverse, and migrating animals can persevere.  Every bit we do helps, and these organizations are making a real difference.

World Wildlife Fund

World Wildlife Fund International

Nature Conservancy of Canada

Sign a petition to protect Caribou habitat or  Learn more about CPAWS

Thank you for stopping by!

High Winds

Okay, when I decided on the phrase “Everyday Adventures at Home… Hurrah”, I had in mind some pretty safe adventures; looking at and living life creatively and openly – not adrenaline thrills.  This Saturday, though, I found myself on more of an adventure than I had expected.

It was the last sail of the season – the day when we sail the boat for a couple of hours, from the marina where we keep the sailboat for the summer, to the marina where the boat gets hauled out of the water and stored for the winter.

I’ll admit that, unlike my husband, I am not a natural sailor. I am an active person – I love walking, swimming, and bike riding – but a rather passive sailor.  Maybe that makes me more of a ‘passenger’?  I enjoy sailing as a unique way to connect with nature, for relaxation and fun.

We’ve had our boat for about 6 years. At 22 feet, it is not a huge boat, and one can certainly feel the motion of the water and wind around it.

So, Saturday’s sail started out well enough. Quite promising – a sunny, warm day. It was windy, just enough to keep a quick pace (or so we thought). As we headed out (my husband, a family friend, my son and I), it looked something like this…

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Lovely, right?

Well, it turns out the winds soon grew stronger, at points at least 70 km per hour, with the waves becoming frighteningly high, and jarringly choppy. The boat was leaning sharply, getting slammed every which way.  It was hard to control, and we were getting splashed as the cold water crashed against the deck. All this made it difficult, and dangerous to balance on the bow of the boat in order to raise the sail, and the fabric ripped with the force of the wind, though it was still intact enough to move us forward.

We have been in large waves before, but they were gentle, rolling waves.  Kind of lulling.  Saturday’s waves were sharp, driven by a hard wind, repeatedly lifting us up high and crashing us down.  It was the first time that I was seriously worried that we might come to harm.

Fortunately, between my husband, and a good friend of ours (who often joins us on sails), we managed to reach our destination, unharmed.  My husband took the helm, both literally by steering the rudder, and figuratively by directing our efforts.  Our friend worked the sails and GPS.   My 12 year old son and I helped by being an extra pair of hands – holding the GPS, passing ropes and ties.  Most importantly, we tried to stay calm.

I did manage to take a few, very quick snapshots in between the really scary waves. They were all taken from the same vantage point – I didn’t move – so the horizon changes in the pictures because the water was swelling, and we were rising and dropping, very fast.

Honestly, these pics do not capture the size of the waves, nor how violently they were tossing the boat around. Nor the shrill hisses and howls the wind produced. Nor the deep, straining groans of the wood, as heard from the hull (where I spent a lot of time, both to stay out of the way and to hold on for dear life). I braced myself with my legs and took these quick snapshots from the doorway that goes below deck.

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These pictures were taken from the doorway going down below deck. The boat was slamming up and down fast, with strong winds making it hard to maneuver.

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From a wave this high (above) to a wave that low (below) in what felt like one second, repeated again and again…

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Eventually, we had to insist that my son come down into the hull with me, though he wanted to be out on deck where he felt safer.  He was getting wet, and we didn’t want to chance him falling in the water.  I was more worried for him than for us throughout the ordeal.

Toward the end of the trip, as we struggled to get the sail down, wind flailing it violently, we saw the coastguard heading out to make sure we were okay. I actually felt immense relief. Even though we managed without their help, it was such a reassuring sight. I was grateful to all those brave souls in professions that risk themselves to help others.

By the time we arrived at the harbour, the wind was howling so strongly that it was hard even to walk on the dock. The boats parked in the marina were rocking, some of their cables flying lose in the wind.

In the end, I am happy to report that we are all safe and sound. I don’t exactly regret the escapade, either.  I’ve learned some lessons, and it stretched us, brought out our courage, and tested us. If one sails, I suppose one has to be prepared to accept high winds and learn how to handle them. Some people thrive on that excitement.  Not me.  While I like to step outside of my comfort zone by learning new things or being outdoors, I definitely don’t need that much danger to feel alive.

Still, the unexpected happens.  We had to accept the situation and just do the best we could with the experience we had. My husband had been in a thunderstorm once when he was training to sail, so it was some comfort to know that this was not his first experience with very challenging conditions.  I guess one is bound to encounter difficult weather sometimes, in sailing as in life.  I am really proud of us for pulling through this one.

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Safe at port.

“If we are strong, and have faith in life, and its richness of surprises, and hold the rudder steadily in our hands, I am sure we will sail into quiet and pleasant waters…”

Freya Stark – Brainy Quote

Sweet Summer Winds Are What I’ll Remember Most.

Post by Carina Spring.

Stand By For The Weather…

“By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, with summer’s best of weather, and autumn’s best of cheer.”

Helen Hunt Jackson

This is the last weekend of the summer, and what a send off. We couldn’t have asked for a more radiant Saturday.

I went for a bike ride to enjoy this beautiful Saturday. Birds gathering to migrate, colourful trees, unbelievably blue skies.

We were so lucky this summer.  The weather here was wonderful – lots of sunny, hot spells and soft breezes – basically, the kind of weather I love most.  I mean really, really love.  (Honestly, the air conditioner doesn’t get much use around our home).

Even when it rained, the storms lasted only a few hours, maybe a day or two, and then we were back to heat and sunshine for a good stretch of time.   The thing that was strange, though, is that the storms we did have seemed to be so powerful.

We had very few ‘soft summer rains’.

So, while most of the days were like this…

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the storms that came and went were electrically charged, with strong winds, and  heavy rains belting down rather fiercely.  You could see plenty of evidence of these powerful storms in the lake region near Winnipeg: Felled trees and branches throughout the area.  Parts of the main beach at Winnipeg Beach were closed off for the whole season due to the damage.

Strong storms causing damage in the Interlake Region.
A common sight this summer – strong storms causing damage in the Interlake Region.

In fact, one afternoon out at the lake, when we were inside, a crack of thunder pierced the air so loudly that I froze (ears covered- ouch). It seemed to keep on going… a white light iluminating the whole room while the force of the sound seemed to rattle everything.

When the storm was over, we went outside to see what had happened.  Remarkably, there wasn’t any significant damage. None!  Yet the lightning must have struck extremely close.  We thought for sure we would find a charred tree outside the door!

 

A reader, Julia, shared with me this pictures of a stormy morning out by lake Winnipeg.
A reader, Julia, took this picture when she was out for a walk by Lake Winnipeg on a stormy morning..

There have even been several tornadoes in the province (…not entirely unusual in the prairies).  One funnel cloud touched down in southwestern Manitoba for around three hours.  Now that is rare.  In Canada, funnel clouds normally only touch down for a few minutes, at most.   The tornado lashed trees, farmlands, and roads.  Miraculously, despite its duration, it did not go through any towns or cities, and caused no major injuries.

We also had a funnel cloud touch down near Winnipeg Beach.  They call it a waterspout when a tornado happens on the water. This one also briefly made it’s way to land.  Again, thankfully, no one was hurt and there was only minimal damage.

I am so glad that there were no major injuries caused by the severe weather, though the trend is worrisome.

Have you experienced any extreme weather in your area?

When I look back on summer 2015, though, soft warm winds are what I will remember most.

One spring day, four colourful, huge kites were dancing in the soft wind, against a radiant blue sky.
One spring day, four colourful, huge kites were dancing in the soft wind, against a radiant blue sky.

Thank you so much for stopping by!  I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

Summer’s Ghost

 “We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming.  We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are.  They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse.  But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”

Gary Zukav

Welcome back!  Hope you have all had a wonderful summer.  I have missed you, and I have missed blogging for the last long while… Looking forward to catching up.  I have a lot to share, and despite of the fact that the months ahead will be very busy for me, it is the season to get back into regular writing.  I can hardly believe that we are almost at mid-September, but (I think) I am finally embracing the idea of autumn and its routine (maybe).

July and August of 2015 are now behind us, and when all is said and done, I look back on a special summer.  Many out-of-town guests, one road trip to Alberta, a brief stay at the mountains, some time at home, time at the lake. That is the synopsis that describes my summer, but hardly captures it.

It was not a perfect or bump-less summer (literally… I recently suffered a mild concussion.  Please don’t worry, though, I am much better already).  But there were so many beautiful moments – and I am glad that I remembered to notice.

Northern lights, a big round moon, the stars. Fireworks.  Hot days spent swimming in cold water, cool evenings spent by the campfire.  Farm fields, trees, birds.  Mountain lakes.  Laughter, family and friends.  Aaaah.

I miss summer already… and I have lots of stories to tell, but I won’t try to relate my whole summer in one post.

Swimming off one of the many charming public piers. The picture taken at Winnipeg Beach by Julia, a reader.
One of the many charming public piers around Lake Winnipeg. Picture sent in by a reader, Julia.

Hopefully, some of the experiences and thoughts that I’ve been wanting to share with you will find their way into my blog posts in the months to come.  As I’ve heard it said, “In September, we know we’ll welcome summer’s ghost.”

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

John Lubbock

A serene moment on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, image captured by reader Julia.
A serene moment on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, captured on camera by reader Julia.

Home Is Where The Story Begins

It feels good to be writing again!  I have not posted in 28 days.  I just counted, and the number actually surprised me!  I started blogging at the end of November, and since then, I have always posted at least once a week, and often more.  Most months, 2 or 3 posts a week was the norm.

Back in November, as I was just starting this blog, I created the image below for my landing page (with the help of my 11 year old son).  It was a fun little project, completed on a big piece of paper early one afternoon, but I wound up not using it.  So today, as I ‘begin again’, I thought would be a good time to share it.

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The other thing that has surprised me is how hard it is to start writing again.  When I was writing all of the time, sitting down to prepare another blog post came quite easily.  Having broken the momentum, though, it’s kind of awkward to begin again.  You know when you hear your own voice on a recording and think, “I sound like that?”  Writing for the first time in a while gives me a similar sensation.

So all this has got me thinking a bit about why I haven’t posted, and how staying at home, and leaving on a trip both play a part in the creative process.

On staying…

We can do simple things at home to create the environment we need. We can surround ourselves with books and quotes, images that inspire, and keepsakes that we love.  We can change the colours in our office, or get a brighter lightbulb for the desk.

In the famous words of Franz Kafka, “It isn’t necessary that you leave home.  Sit at your desk and listen.  Don’t even listen, just wait.  Don’t wait, be still and alone.  The whole world will offer itself to you.”

There is a value in knowing how to stay, especially in today’s world, which is constantly in motion.  Staying teaches us how to change our perspective so that familiarity does not become stale; to see the old through new eyes.   This requires and cultivates a certain creativity and ability to appreciate everyday moments.

On Going…

Still, it is invigorating to change our environment entirely every now and then, and go somewhere different.  Distance is the quickest prescription to refreshing and reviving our spirits, helping us see things in a new way.

The last 28 days for me have included some travel.  Nothing too exotic – we drove west through a couple of provinces to see the mountains (that’s where I took the first  picture of the sign) and visit family.  I haven’t been to the mountains for years, though, so I was excited about it, and I always love to see our families.  The 28 days also included a short period of intense work, as well as hosting out of town guests in our home.  Each of those 28 days was rich and meaningful. There were amusing moments, light with humour and laughter.  Other moments stirred thoughts about life, the passage of time, and even the meaning of bizarre coincidences (more on that soon).

I took this photograph from the passenger's window as we drove through Saskatchewan, "The land of the living sky".
I took this photograph from the passenger’s window as we drove through Saskatchewan, “The land of the living sky”.

In tandem…

It is only now that I am home again that I am ready to reflect on these experiences through writing.  In many ways, home is where I make meaning of the adventures that happen outside its doors.

Home is the firm base from where we can launch into our adventures, and home is often where the story is ready to be told after our return.  And whatever home might mean, and whether the story is a sad or joyful one – in so many ways, the story really does begin at home.

 

Backyards

How has the weather been where you live?  Have you had a chance to get out a bit to enjoy Spring?

Thankfully, the weather around here has been quite beautiful lately. A good amount of rain, and lots of blue skies and sunshine in the mix!  Everything has turned to a lush green, and flowers are blooming.

The other evening, a couple of birds were singing the most beautiful melody in the backyard. I couldn’t see them, but their enchanting song seemed to joyfully echo through the trees. It was a rare kind of sound, and made me drop everything I was doing to stop and listen.

We have been making the most of the nice weather. Even on weeknights, we’ve often opted to eat in the backyard, enjoying the longer hours of sunshine and the blissful fragrance of the nearby lilac blossoms.

We have been so busy lately that our backyard is definitely sporting a very ‘natural’ kind of beauty.  😉  If the weather cooperates, I am hoping to spend some time working in the yard next weekend. Over time, I hope to create a yard that grows plenty of native plants and provides some habitat for butterflies and bees, so I will be doing a bit more research, too.

In the meantime, I hope you have a great week!  I’ll leave you with some famous reflections on “the backyard” and outdoors.  Do any of these resonate with you?

“People’s backyards are much more interesting than their front gardens, and houses that back on to railways are public benefactors.”

~ John Betjeman

“Nature is impersonal, awe-inspiring, elegant, eternal. It’s geometrically perfect. It’s tiny and gigantic. You can travel far to be in a beautiful setting, or you can observe it in your own backyard – or, in my case, in the trees lining New York City sidewalks, or in the clouds above the skyscrapers.”

~ Gretchen Rubin

“The really best acting is children in a playground or in a backyard. They’re just lost in their imagination…”

~ Nolan North

“I like to sit in my backyard. I go out on the hammock and sit in silence and kind of meditate. Nature is calming, and it’s nice to go out there and clear my head.”

~ Devon Werkheiser

“I feel a responsibility to my backyard. I want it to be taken care of and protected. “

~ Annie Leiboritz

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