Earth Day Euphoria

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A sunny, warm (12℃) day, frog song, a caterpillar, a couple of moths, a bumblebee, lots of flies, blooming Forsythia and Pussy willow, a picnic, a bike ride, a rumble in the marsh and water, water, everywhere – who could ask for anything more?!?

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How did you connect with nature today? Since posting last night, I’ve had numerous similar queries – what’s the big deal about spending time in nature? For me it is restorative and inspirational. Time in nature always boosts my creativity; my camera is constantly in my hands and I find something interesting or exciting to capture with my lens at every turn. It is so much more special than that, though.

Most of my time in nature happens at Presqu’ile. No matter what has been on my mind, or what conversation has been happening in the car, once we turn into the park, pass the gatehouse, and approach the pannes, our observation skills become instantly focussed on the amazing stimuli around us – sights, sounds and smells – and so the experience begins. Unplanned, (we’ve never discussed this) small talk ends and our focus changes. Each visit ultimately becomes something of a spiritual experience for me, engendering feelings of composure, serenity and peace.

For me the big deal is that spending time in nature boosts my happiness.

So, Earth Day 2017… All week long, our plan has been to have a picnic and a bike ride at Presqu’ile and happily the weather co-operated, albeit with a vigorous breeze off the lake. Freshly cleaned and overhauled, we loaded our bikes onto the rack and filled the back seat with assorted clothes, helmets, water, our picnic and my camera.

The Bike Ride

Exploring Presqu’ile by bike is always exhilarating. It’s a quick but silent way to get around the park; cyclists often come upon birds, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and foxes – playing/grazing near the roadside, clearly less frightened by bikes than by cars. Today was no different. We saw a caterpillar in the bike lane and a couple of moths. Also, this guy, playing hide-and-seek with my lens:

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Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
[Coleridge]

On to the lagoon – I never, NEVER miss a chance to explore the lagoon where I’ve had some of my closest and most exciting contacts with water fowl. This is my fourth spring at Presqu’ile and never, in these past four years, have I ever seen the water so high in the lagoon at Calf Pasture Point and in Presqu’ile Bay. At two points, the spit separating the bay from the lagoon was completely submerged.

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The bay water was up over the top of the picnic table where I often have my lunch (usually on dry land), it was high enough that it was beneath the observation platform/hut, and well past the hunting sign stakes. Just last week I walked by those stakes – on the bay side – with plenty of room to spare.

In the parking area, the water was up over the curb stones and the sign by the drive down into the lagoon area was also in water.

Marsh Rumble!

Last park stop was the marsh. Best experience of the day – by far! The story unfolded like this: Mum is having a restful afternoon nap atop her nest, nicely warmed by the sun. It is quiet and no one is around except us and we are silent and still.

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Enter the interloper. Sneaking along the reed line, getting closer and closer to Mum – seemingly nonchalantly and innocently.

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Dad to the rescue! That’s when the rumble – and an almighty row – began. Dad quickly (and noisily) chased off the intruder.

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Then Mum wakes up and looks at Dad as if to say What’s all this fuss about? I’m sleeping here!

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Interloper dispatched, peace reigns. What’s the big deal about Nature? For reals???

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Spring is here!

Sure and favourite signs of spring are the pretty Forsythia and Pussy willow bushes. We saw both today. Forsythia always makes me think of my mum; she’d cut some for the house every year and try to get roots to sprout from her cuttings every year but with very limited success (read: none). On the Pussy willow today I saw my first bumblebee of the year, and he was a beaut!

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Tell me how you spent your Earth Day and about your interactions with nature. Hope you had as much fun today as we did!

‘Til next time, y’all…

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Earth Day 2017

Earth Day Canada

Our VISION:
Connecting people to nature on Earth Day and every day.

Our MISSION:
Earth Day Canada inspires and supports people across Canada to connect with nature and build resilient communities.

Here in Canada, tomorrow is Earth Day – dedicated to the protection of our planet, its environment and biodiversity. We should all passionately support this movement because if we don’t care about our planet and all the forms of life it hosts and nurtures what, exactly, do we care about?

An interesting question was put to us at book club this week: What do you need right now? Considering how I might respond and what I might write, I began thinking of how the term ‘need’ relates to Earth Day. Need is a word that is often confused with want. Our culture wants bigger things, faster things, shinier things, trendier things and above all else, newer things; a craving that drives seemingly unstoppable consumerism. And the manufacturing of these “needed” products is harmful to our planet. But what if we were take a stand and reverse this trend? What if we were to make a commitment to buy nothing but essentials (food, medication, tools of your trade, etc.) for a six month period? Could you do it? Could I? Shifting the paradigm might involve doing repairs, cleaning/refreshing items and/or finding new uses for them, visiting the library rather than the book shop and, with a bit of luck, discovering forgotten treasures and realizing that we already have enough and that we have joy in those things we already own. Understanding that “more” and “new” doesn’t make us happier or decrease our suffering will help us dedicate our efforts towards the stewardship and conservation of Earth which is an essential part of my path to spirituality. To answer the question what do I need right now – nothing. Which means I am a fortunate woman and that makes me very grateful.

So, Earth Day: Connecting people to nature on Earth Day and every day. Although many Canadians live the majority of their lives indoors, remember: You don’t have to “return to nature” – you’ve always been an integral part of it. How will you be connecting with our planet tomorrow? Whatever you choose, be happy outdoors, enjoy everything nature has to offer and share that joy with others.

After Earth Day 2006 (we were living in Baltimore) I made a change to my cleaning routine, substituting new (to me) green cleaning products for all the chemically toxic cleaning supplies in my cupboards and was happy to find that they work just as well. Last year – ten years later – on Earth Day, a friend gave me a home-made, all-purpose green cleaner that is pure amazingness. I’ll leave you with the ‘recipe’ and hope you try it and enjoy using it every bit as much as I have!

1 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon baking soda
10 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil

Pour water and vinegar into a clean spray bottle. Add soda and oil and gently agitate to combine. Spray surfaces, wipe clean/dry.

Start a ripple on Earth Day, see how far it spreads!

’Til next time, y’all…

May you be safe from all harm.
May you be happy and have everything you need.
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you live in peace and harmony.

Earth Day 2017

VIMY REMEMBERED

The Battle of Vimy Ridge – April 9-12, 1917
(An act of love and remembrance by the City of Peterborough.)

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One hundred years ago, at five-thirty on Easter Monday morning, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked the German army holding Vimy Ridge. Their goal was to capture the high ground along the escarpment at the northernmost end of the Arras Offensive. This would ensure that the British regiment on the southern flank could advance without suffering German fire. By the end of day one they had taken most of the ridge. The planning, innovation, training and execution of this offensive proved the Canadians to be one of the finest armies on the Western Front. The enormous success of the Canadian Corps earned Canada signatory status on The Treaty of Versailles which ended The Great War.

On Sunday morning, 9th April nearly 600 hand-made, hand-painted pottery Trilliums decorated the mound at the Peterborough Cenotaph to commemorate The Battle of Vimy Ridge and to honour the heroism of the men whose lives were lost in the Great War.  Each of the 585 white Trilliums represented one of the residents of Peterborough, Peterborough County and local First Nations bands killed during the World War.

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Each of the 16 red Trilliums represented men from Peterborough city and county who lost their lives at Vimy Ridge:

John C. Ashman
Herbert F. Baker
Louis G. Beckett
Cecil Bennett
Maxwell Brackenridge
William J. Carruthers
Benjamin A. Cater
Thomas Coones
Robert B. Hawkins
Harold F. Hill
Charles H. McCusker
Michael McDonnel
William L. Meagher
Charles B. Milligan
Edward T. Milligan
Frederick H. Orde

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Kudos to the gifted artists at the Kawartha Potters Guild who created the stunning Trilliums. The Trilliums have all been sold and the funds raised will be put to good use; half being used to restore the base of the war memorial and half for services and treatments for Veterans and their families.

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We visited the Cenotaph today; it was an emotional experience for me, and I felt oh-so-proud of the Canadian Corps of the Great War.  If you have the time this week, I highly recommend a visit to take in this inspirational installation before all the Trilliums are removed.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

lux perpetua lucebit vobis

lux perpetua

There are notes for several requiems in my Granddad’s book of sermons, and one Latin phrase occurs in each:

lux perpetua lucebit vobis

In English, the phrase means may perpetual light shine upon you. This week we want that light to shine on three friends – Wendy, Steve and Ron – all taken from us far too soon, one so very suddenly, and on their families who are in such pain right now.

For the families and friends of Wendy and Ron, the act of marking time in the years, months and days before death was nearly as sad and haunting as the inevitable passing because of the merciless malevolence of stage four cancer.

“On the death of a friend,
we should consider that the fates through confidence
have devolved on us the task of a double living,
that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also,
in our own, to the world.”
[Henry David Thoreau]

Our burden, in fulfilling the promise of these three friends’ lives will be enormous. Our friends, variously, personified love, friendship, caring, humour, athleticism, exuberance and creativity. But before fulfilling, we will mourn and remember…

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance

Modern society seems to need rules for how we ought to mourn, hence these stages of grieving, tidily tied into five neat packages but, of course, grief is neither neat nor tidy. It’s hugely messy! Bereavement is also a study in social polarity – our expectancy of public announcement and participation in funereal rites opposed by our expectancy that mourning be conducted in the privacy of our homes. As if this messy, emotional explosion can (or should) be contained.

Dear, sweet Wendy more than earned her blessed release after eight long and tedious years of chemo and radiation treatments. The past month had been particularly horrible yet even the knowledge that her death was imminent did not prepare me for the acute pain and sentimentality I experienced upon learning of her passing. The friends I love the most become a cherished part of me, making them all the harder to lose. They’re irreplaceable. I accept that the fates through confidence have devolved on me the task of a double living, and I will honour my beloved friend Wendy by doing my utmost to fulfill the promise of my friend’s life.

Lux perpetua lucebit vobis Wendy, Steve and Ron – may light eternal shine upon you all until we meet again.

‘Til next time,  y’all…

MOSS

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“By the mediation of a thousand little mosses and fungi,
the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty.”
[Henry David Thoreau]

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Now that the white snow and glistening ice have both melted, the park would be a study in drab browns were it not for the many patches of vibrant green moss making the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty. I saw it everywhere I looked yesterday, and it was cheering.

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After a tough week for four families that are very close to us, my week ended with a new health scare. It meant that this morning we had another trip to Pbo to see my doctor for advice and an action plan. Just when everything seemed to be going swimmingly well, this issue felt especially stressful and disappointing and scary. So, like I always do when life closes in, as soon as we got home I grabbed my camera and ‘ran away’ to Presqu’ile…

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Although there was no sunshine, it was a balmy 9℃ and there were very few visitors to the park. In fact, the entire time I was tramping through Jobe’s Woods, I had the trail to myself. The bareness of the forest makes it the perfect time of year to go off-trail and I took full advantage.

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Fun facts – moss has no roots, it never flowers and
it can only survive being stepped on twice, the third time it withers and dies.

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It is remarkable to me that so many species of moss are able to flourish in the harshest conditions, spreading beauty across the forest floor. It seems like a hopeful plant and seeing it at every turn made me smile and feel happy and grateful to be in such a special place.

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Perspective. That’s one of the gifts Presqu’ile and Jobe’s Woods gave me yesterday. After a couple of hours of breathing fresh forest air, tramping through fallen leaves, over countless logs both big and small, through lots of mud and water, amidst trees standing like Druids of eld*, perspective arrived and I felt more than able to face and challenge this new ailment.

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“This is the forest primeval.
The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic.”
*[Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]

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Oh dear, I almost forgot: By far the happiest part of my day was hearing, for the first time this year, frog song ringing out from the Pannes. Bliss! Have you heard it yet this year? When you’re driving into Presqu’ile, turn off your radio, open your windows and you’ll be serenaded by one of the happiest sounds of spring!

‘Til next time, y’all…

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Trees, Version 3

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“We shouldn’t be concerned about trees purely for material reasons,
we should also care about them because of the little puzzles
and wonders they present us with.”
[Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life Of Trees]

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Admittedly, before reading Mr. Wohlleben’s book, I thought very little about the life, brain (yes!), capability and possibility of trees. Perhaps, beyond their majesty and enormous beauty, I had taken them entirely for granted. No longer! My curiosity is aroused and I am reading and learning as much as I can about tree life.

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What I learned this month: March Edition

Trees emit energy. Electrical power, in fact. Are you gobsmacked? I was!  In two completely unrelated studies performed on opposite sides of the continent, researchers at both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Washington have confirmed that trees generate electrical power. Up to 200 millivolts using one electrode.

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MIT researchers have started a bioenergy company called Voltree Power which uses their new technology to prevent wide-spread damage and loss due to forest fires. Their system generates sufficient power to wirelessly communicate forest data, including temperature and humidity, several times each day. Instantly if a fire is detected. This amazing new technology is already being used by the US Forest Service. Admit it, you’re shocked and stunned, non?

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Across the continent at UW, researchers proved that Maples continuously generate a few hundred millivolts. This group of gifted scientists has formed a nanotechnology company that will use their research to harness electrical power from trees and adapt it into ecologically useful energy that will monitor tree/forest health. Using sensors they hope to design early warning systems for forest diseases like blights, fungi and cankers and for pests like Emerald Ash Borer, Elm Bark Beetles and Asian Long-horned Beetles. Just imagine how much damage might be averted, how many trees might be saved with this use of tree power.  Science! Pure amazingness.

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Our Ontario weather has oscillated more than a garden sprinkler this past month; spring-like warmth for a few days causing a complete melt immediately followed by a few days of winter cold causing a refreeze. On a recent trip to the park, immediately following a cold snap, I noticed that there were halos in the ice around all the tree trunks that were in standing water. Intrigued, I shot a few images and enquired about the cause which, it turns out, is at least in part the milliwatts of power emanating from the trees.

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‘Til next time, y’all…