Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, June 29, 2007

Summer Garden Maturation

July already! Can hardly believe it. The garden, of course, says it's so. The roses are in full flush, and the clematis too. Tickseed has all its little yellow heads ready to burst, and the day lilies also. Lupine are in flush bloom and the digitalis is beginning to fade.

Our hydrangea bushes have sent up their large white luscious bloom clusters. The Stella do'Oro lilies are really living it up, challenging the colour of the sun with their bright sunny hue. And the Monarda's balmy fragrance sweetens the atmosphere.

Even the hostas are in the picture, shooting up their flower stalks. Oh, and the heuchera, the coral bells, and the others, the lime rickey and other types with their long bell-stalks of flowers. Malva in white and pink, and Canterbury bells, blue and white.

Delphinium and carnations and penstemon, the Shasta daisies; they're all showing off their forms and colours. Not to forget the asters, zinnias and the marigolds, the portulaca, the dahlias, fuschias, flowering maple, cosmos, impatiens, begonias; luscious, sumptuous, dishy show-offs, all.

The garden surprises us. It never fails to delight, with its fragrance, its texture, its architecture and bold presence. Above all, with its determination to be all that nature intends it to be.

First sight at morning light. Last farewell at dusk.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Ravine Demographics

Our little family of two seniors and two little companion dogs use the ravine daily as our recreational paradise. It brings us immense pleasure. It offers us seasonal delights of nature. It assist us in maintaining our physical health and psychological equilibrium. It offers to help us entertain our two little dogs who require daily exercise and the exposure the ravine offers them to inexhaustible opportunities to revel in verboten fragrances otherwise not accessible to them.

There are many other such individuals who value the ravine and its exploring-of-nature opportunities, its physical enterprise, aside from us. There are older couples, long retired, or freshly retired from the confines of a daily working life who venture there for relaxation and pleasure. There are young families who live nearby who on rare occasions to mark the changing of the seasons, take "nature" walks to remind their offspring of our obligations to and recognition of Mother Nature.

There are the hordes of young children who use the ravine and its many entries and exit offsets as short-cuts on their way to school, morning and afternoon. On foot or by bicycle. Theirs is but a brief transit. They manage, however, too often to leave a deleterious mark on the landscape. These are the children whose parents have somehow escaped the necessity to teach their young respect for the environment.

In their wake are left the vestiges of commercial consumables, wrappings and containers for food and drink. Many of these children pick not one or two examples of the many beautiful wildflowers that decorate the ravine, but full handfuls of them, then discard them carelessly on the trail, since it's too much of a bother to take them home and give them temporary respite in a vase of cool, clear water.

They may be the very same children who eventually grow to become quasi-adults, ungovernable teens who enjoy breaking saplings in half, who distribute the results of their dusk-and-dawn partying over the trails and into the creek in the form of soft-drink tins and beer cartons and bottles, some smashed on the rocks beside the creek, the better to harm carefree dogs seeking some relief in the creek from summer's heat.

We've just had occasion to meet and to thank a man who has taken it upon himself to patrol the ravine. He has stopped youth from attempting to burn down trees, and to chop them down with axes brought from home. We've seen the results obtaining from such enthusiasm left unchecked. Just latterly he's been attempting against all odds, to shore up a vulnerable portion of the creek bank from again collapsing into the creek.

And each time he has spent hours of hard physical labour collecting old fallen limbs to line them against the lip of the bank, he has discovered that they've been tossed into the creek in defiance of his attempts. We wondered what had happened to his work when, after the day we met him and he'd explained his enterprise, we saw it entirely undone.

Just as we wondered about the mindset of the young people who, at refuse collection day, brought a vegetation-full compostable sack into the ravine, set it beside one of the main bridges, and set it afire.

It burned, it would appear, just long enough to confer incendiary enjoyment on them as they sat and drank their beer, leaving in their wake the large black ugly scar of their party.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gilding The Lily

Well, aren't we all a-twitter with a sense of our importance on the world stage. The front pages of our local newspaper have been front and centre of late with news that Ottawa's Rideau Canal has been nominated for heritage status by the United Nation's World Heritage Committee. Actually, it's anticipated that approval is on the near horizon.

The 21-nation body appears to be convinced that the Rideau Canal's history, geography and the technological advance that it represents in a then-hostile geography makes it truly remarkable and a likely candidate for world heritage status. This will be, post-approval, Canada's 14th designated world heritage site. So, good on us. Eh?

True, this was an engineering feat of great foresight and boldness for its time, well over a century ago. The original intent behind the building of the canal was to keep Canada's borders and its population safe from a potential invasion by its neighbour, the United States. Planning commenced for the Ottawa-to-Kingston canal in the 1820s. At that time the British, which ruled the Dominion of Canada looked for a way to bypass the St.Lawrence River in the event of a conflict like the War of 1812.

The canal was completed by 1832, completing six years of labour, supervised by Lt.-Col. John By and the Royal Engineers. Ottawa was in fact, named Bytown in honour of Lt.Col. By, before it was designated by Queen Victoria as the capital of Canada, and re-named Ottawa. It was difficult, miserable work to complete the canals, and many of the workers died in the attempt. Ottawa was a malarial swamp in part at the time, and many of the workers contracted malaria.

Today the canal, which stretches down the middle of the city, is a great recreational playground. The locks are lifted in the summer months and pleasure craft enjoy boating down it. In the winter months when the level of the canal is deliberately lowered, the water freezes over, the National Capital Commission carefully grooms the resulting ice, and we have what is proudly billed as the "longest skating rink in the world", drawing masses of tourists, and encouraging some government workers to skate from home to work and back again.

Not to take any pride away from the potential of Canada's 14th world heritage site designation through the United Nations, nor the great technical feat accomplished one hundred years ago in swamp-infested, malarial-emerging Ottawa by the work invested in the Canal through the labour of Irish immigrants under the watchful eye of Colonel John By, but it's instructive to look to history and the building of canals and waterways.
Six hundred years ago and even earlier, engineering feats of great foresight and boldness in scope and technical advance were being advocated, their economies of construction weighed, and the enterprises either rejected as improbable, or too expensive to pursue - or embarked upon. The construction of the Rideau Canal originally envisioned as a defensive move against the encroaching armies of the U.S. into sovereign Canada, had its earlier counterparts.
None less an historic genius than Leonardo da Vinci turned his attention to an impending disaster hanging over Venice with the potential invasion of Turkish troops. Leonardo da Vinci determined that such an invasion involved crossing the Isonzo River; he planned to build a zigzag dam diverting the course of the river, planning sluices on the Isonzo: "The more muddied the water is, the more it weighs, and the more it weighs the faster it moves in its descent; and the faster a body moves the harder it hits its object."
Later, in peacetime Florence, he proposed that the lower Arno River should be regulated from above Florence and a canal cut from it to pass through Prato, Pistoia and Serravalle, emptying into the sea through the Stagno marshes. Leonardo enumerated an entire list of industries that would benefit by the canal: corn mills, silk-spinning mills giving large employment; ribbon-weaving sheds, forges, mills for grinding saltpetre, knife-grinding works, paper mills, water-driven potters' wheels, fulling mills, water-driven saws and arms-polishing factories.
Later Leonardo busied himself with canalization work in Lombardy. The use of locks was already known as early as the beginning of the fifteenth century. In a period of five years over fifty miles of canals were built, with twenty-five locks. Leonardo made improvements in the design of locks, drawing them with cheek gates in the middle of the 15th century, providing them with various devices for closing; sometimes lifted by two chains wound on a windlass fixed on the bank; others designed with a trapdoor moved by an oblique draw-bar or made to tip by heavily laden vessels.
How's that for historical perspective and creative genius?

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Sliding Into Summer

The weather hardly knows how to react to the season. We have a spate of cool days along with rain; cool enough for long sleeved shirts and light jackets, that cool. Swiftly followed by heat-burdened days hardly alleviated by hot, brisk winds scarcely bringing relief from the air heavily suffused with moisture.

We throw open our bedroom windows at night, seeking stray air currents to bring some modicum of relief from the oppressive heat. We've two silently efficient floor fans doing our fervent bidding.

So heated, so heavy the atmosphere, we decide today we won't wait for the anticipated 34 degrees to hit; we'll foray out into the ravine before breakfast. So we shower, give Button and Riley their breakfast, and decamp. By then it's just after nine, not so early after all, and already the thermometer reads 25 degrees and steadily rising. In anticipation of plenty of mosquito activity I cover up completely in thin white cotton.

A moist pudding of air heavily charged by the sun's relentless stare slaps our defenceless faces. We hurry Button and Riley along, up the street, to enter the kindness of the coolly leafed forest setting. All the sumachs, even the really slender young ones, are hoisting aloft yellow-green candles. The heat and the wet spring have conspired to encourage a green burst of energy from the ravine's trees, shrubs and undergrowth, narrowing the trails.

A solitary bee circles horizontally, hovering mere inches above the ground; can he have forgotten where he drilled his hole in the hard-packed earth? Damselflies, flit about, singly and in constant-motion pairs above the creek and its tributaries. No sign today of the great numbers of giant dragonflies we saw a mere two days earlier, one of which landed on my husband's shoulder, and just sat there so we could admire its clever guise.

We could use them, the damselflies could work a little more strenuously at ridding the area of those pests that keep encircling and bumbling into our sunglasses, forcing us to wave our arms about irritatedly, trying to fend them off. There's that lovely anemone just before the first of the bridges, still sending up its delicate white flowers. For the first time we see a small but unmistakable columbine, two tiny pink orchid-like flowers held aloft. To the best of our knowledge the only columbine in the entire ravine precinct.

Robins sing hopefully from tree branches. We're hopeful too; the weather forecast gives us encouragement that the sky will cloud over in the afternoon and unleash heavy rains through the impact of a series of thunderstorms headed our way. We could use the rain, couldn't we ever. Already we can see huge cracks appearing on the floor of the ravine and the creek banks as they begin to dry out in the absence of rain this week.

The sweet fragrance of flowering bedding grasses envelope us. When we first entered the trail there wasn't the slightest whisper of a breeze, but as we progress we can see, hear and feel the wind collecting its resourceful purpose, rushing the tops of the trees, sending stray little bits of breeze through the trees, reaching our grateful brows. The bright red berries of red baneberry glint their malice in the sun.

Tendrils of American bittersweet wind themselves about handy tree trunks. Ground ivy is growing rampantly over spent horsetails and any other handy green hosts that can accommodate its rule. Between a tangle of brown-grey dead branches fallen beside the trail exuberant thimbleberry bushes thrust themselves toward errant bits of sunlight, their bright purple-pink flowers calling us to admire their presence.

The splendid bouquets of buttercups, daisies, clover, cowvetch have been joined lately by yarrow and cinquefoil. The Vipers bugloss has yet to flower. Tiny ripe strawberries are there for the picking, for those who recall the fresh tangy-sweet taste of wild strawberries and don't mind stooping and picking for the meagre reward those minuscule berries offer.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Waterville Valley - 7 June 2007

Takes a lot longer for old bones to recover. Sore feet, sore backs, low energy levels, no great surprise. Driving alongside the Pemigewasset, the pounding run-off from a week of rain hurtling over scattered boulders, we approach our goal for the day's jaunt nestled inside Franconia Notch.

Another lovely day; coo, cloudy, windy. Sun sneaking through from time to time. We start our trek past the Basin on the Pemi Trail, leading to the Basin Cascades trail, and soon our aching old bones begin to groan as we begin an ascent.

On a gravelly trail, buttercups and lilies-of-the-valley fringing the trail. A massive old hemlock, beside a tight packaging of lesser-sized hemlock and oak.

Any height we attain on this day for which we've scheduled a physically modest output, comes at a great cost to our not-yet-rested energy resources. Takes that much longer for us to rebound from the expenditure of our escapade of the day before. Any other time, later in the season, this site is over-run with tourists.

Its splendour is ours alone, today. The trail narrows, becomes boggy in places. It's punctuated by large stones, boulders, the occasional fallen tree. Too recent to have yet been removed. And above all, a tortured network of tree roots necessitating some care in proceeding. Every bit of the ascent exacts its toll; I've no energy to spare.

Occasionally, as we rise, we do a little side-trip over to the wide, open rock face spilling down the mountain side, with its burden of boulders, some room-sized, where the cascading water finds its way around runnels in the rock and obliging channels between massive boulders.

We do these little diversions as much to enjoy the sight of the indomitable mountain stream exercising its inexorable option to claim sovereignty over the massively hulking granite, as to satisfy our need to rest, as we proceed.

Button and Riley are now off leash. Happy to be out and about, intrigued by all manner of new and different scents. The sound of the roaring stream pummeling the rocks is constant and pervasively loud, with an underlying shoosh between violent slaps on the protruding rocks.

The higher our ascent, the more magnificent the complete landscape. Before us, the solidly massive bulk of distant mountains, seen through the veil of overhanging tree branches, partnering the huge rock slides that comprise these basins.

We take photographs of the tumbling water, the colossal boulders, the ornamenting presence of hemlock, oak, pine, beech, birch and spruce. The old grey skeletons of forest giants, fallen across the broad rock face. There is an occasional blue that flutters past us, a swallowtail now and again, and dragonflies.

The pestiferously irritating presence of blackflies is not to be ignored.

Here's a painted lady, there a proudly erect Ladies Slipper. From the insignificant presence of a shy spring flower, to the towering magnificence of the surrounding summits, the cascades link us to nature's greater purpose.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Amazing Cerebellum

  • Attitude counts for much.
  • Optimism trumps pessimism.
  • A hopeful spirit sees the good in everything.
  • Satisfaction comes to those who make the effort.
  • Expunge troublesome thoughts from your mind; replace them with forward-looking and achievable goals to enhance your life.
  • If you let yourself fester in misery, you will become miserable.
  • Always look on the bright side of life.
  • A sunny personality is its own salvation.
  • You can and will make yourself ill by thinking ill.
  • Pull yourself out of depression.
  • Be determined to be the best you can.
  • Remember, people have faced much worse, and survived.
  • Look to the future with full appreciation of your potential.
As though wishing could make it so. Think again. It might, it can. Neuroscience is teaching us just that.

The brain, evidently, is capable of learning from itself. Or from outside intervention. Medical science is continually discovering new and surprising things about ourselves. And there is much yet to be learned. But a new discovery, labelled neuroplasticity lets us know that the brain and its channelling of what it learns and what it knows and what it memorizes is not immutable.

Medical science now realizes that we don't use all of the potential of our prodigious brains. And that if a portion of the brain is somehow damaged, becomes non-functional, with time and training, another intact portion of the brain can become capable of resuming that particular function that was fractionated by damage.

The brain, it would appear, is capable of "thinking itself" into a new anatomic configuration. To take over a supervisory and functional role it was hitherto incapable of producing. Responding to injury with functional reorganization. Just as some primitive life forms are capable of re-growing severed limbs.

Evidently the potential to restructure our capabilities is available to elderly brains just as it is with younger ones. Plasticity is available to anyone in the right circumstances. We can teach an injured brain to over-ride its injuries; either by outside intervention through a series of electrical stimuli formulated for that very purpose, or by our own mental resources.

Determination, knowledge, understanding and application can result in charging our brain's electrical impulses to alter and amend. Described as a solid quantification of the power of thought. Experimentation is ongoing and exciting and promising, but yet relatively primitive in its scientific application.

We are malleable as reasonable and intelligent human beings. New ideas are accessible and help to change our way of thinking, enabling acceptance of things we might previously have rejected through lack of opportunity to discern, to weigh and balance. In just the same way our brains can be malleable, in being taught to perform functions that illuminate and assist us in formulating a way of life that promises to enhance our experiences.

History has proven that culture and tradition can form peoples' understanding and lead them to limit themselves or to open themselves to new experiences. We are vulnerable to being exploited by those who seek to use other human beings as pawns. We can as easily become victimized, and accept that condition, as we can also become liberated because we choose to use our native intelligence and make the suitable choices.

We know all of that from experience, from history. How populations can be accepting of a despotic rule, succumb to a truncation of human liberties. Religions and the beliefs and blind trust they evoke in the human mind have the capacity to enrich us or to entrap us. There are entire populations which silently consent to severe restrictions of their human potential simply because they become trapped into accepting the seeming inevitability of their existence.

Why should we then be surprised that the individual human has the potential to self-suggestibility with the capability to become egotistical, ambitious, charitable, tyrannical, or self-effacing, devotional, sacrificial? All, after all, part and parcel of human emotions, symptomatic of the way we react as human beings to situations and life in general.

The big idea here is that we can form ourselves, convince ourselves and our brains to react and behave in ways other than what has formerly pertained. We are fully capable of transforming ourselves. We can become other than what we have been.

Come to think of it, there's nothing all that new in that discovery. It's always been with us, we've always been aware that keen determination can help us accomplish anything. Just kind of interesting to have that scientific validation.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

One Of Life's Many Ironies

Vandals, they're always out to deliver their messages of intolerance and hatred. And this time around it was the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg reservation, near Maniwaki in Quebec that got hit. It was meant to be a day of celebration, for this was National Aboriginal Day in Canada. But when, early in the morning, people from the reserve converged on their newly-built community centre, they discovered their pride to have been sullied with swastikas and "white power" messages all over its nice new bright white stucco walls and the pavement before it..

Celebratory preparations for the day, including picnic tables and tent poles had been broken and lay scattered on the ground. Members of the larger community, upon hearing of the good work by local goons dropped by to lend a hand toward repairing whatever they could. A pall hung over the dismayed group, but they determined to forge on with their planned celebrations, and they did just that. They tamped down the misery of the message, the hard slaps, and welcomed those who arrived to help them celebrate.

Puzzled children asked their parents what "white power" meant. An elder shook his head in disbelief: "I don't believe that Canada is a tolerant society", he said..."we are." The children wanted to know if it was still all right to go ahead with the celebrations. "I'm determined to find who did this," said Chief McGregor of the Kitigan Zibi Police, involved in investigating a number of leads. People of the community are volunteering their contributions toward the estimated $20,000 it will cost to clean up the atrocity to their pride, their humanity.

That same day, there was a wreath-laying ceremony in Ottawa, marking the sixth anniversary of the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument. Proud Aboriginal Canadians who fought for their country during the Second World War were there to take part, and to beam their pride. They fought for Canada, for freedom from tyranny and oppression. As did David Ahenakew, former head of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada. Mr. Ahenakew was stationed abroad, in Germany after the war.

He found himself in great sympathy with the Germans with whom he interacted at that time. So much for that statement about Canada being intolerant, Aboriginals not. For in 2002 Mr. Ahenakew, a much-admired Native leader, and holder of the Order of Canada (since revoked, as Canadians do indeed represent tolerance, on balance) in acknowledgement of his services to Canada and his dedication to his people spewed forth a lurid stream of vindictive bile during a taped interview with a newspaper reporter.

Mr. Ahenakew made it abundantly clear where he stood in the matter of racial discrimination and superiority, condoning Adolf Hitler's consuming determination to exterminate Jews from the world scene, lamenting that the great man had not managed to complete the task. "How do you get rid of a disease like that?" he urged the reporter, James Parker, rhetorically, in explanation of his defence of the Fascist agenda.

Holocaust-denier and Nazi-sympathizer, Doug Christie is Mr. Ahenakew's lawyer, and objects to the reporter's taped conversation with this sterling citizen being used in evidence against him in a court of law. He maintains that as a private conversation, it should not have been made public. At the very least, he claims, the reporter should have warned Mr. Ahenakew, as police do, that his statement will be used in a public manner. Why else would a reporter interview someone, and with a tape, other than for public airing?

"Objectively speaking, there can be little doubt - the respondent was attempting to convince Mr. Parker that his hateful views about Jews were right and justified", Crown prosecutor Dean Sinclair argued before the three Justices hearing the case during this new trial. The man had, after all, on numerous occasions espoused his racial diatribes on public occasions when addressing Aboriginal congregations.

So, can we play that one back again, please?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Parental Concern

We continue to find it puzzling that parents of infants and young children think nothing amiss about contracting with 'lawn care' companies to have their lawns regularly sprayed with pesticides. It's hardly credible that anyone in this day and age can be ignorant of the controversy that surrounds the use of cosmetic pesticides. The knowledge is there that such chemicals sprayed on lawns contaminate the environment for everyone.

Children, small animals, insects, birds are all at risk of coming in harm's way because of the ubiquitous use of chemical lawn sprays, both herbicides and pesticides. Why people equate good housemanship with having a green lawn is beyond me. Why they allow themselves to be convinced that the only way to achieve a nice green lawn is with the use of harmful chemicals is puzzling beyond belief.

Some simple gardening expedients, starting with a good spring de-thatching of the lawn sets it up for future health, enables it to breathe, and for the grass plants to thrive. Invariably, the same people who contract to have pesticides sprayed also mow their grass far too short in the hot summer months, and then they're dismayed when the sun burns it. They waste water by attempting to reverse the harm they've caused and make the lawn dependent on frequent watering.

But that's the caretaking end of it. A far more serious aspect is the exposure side of pesticide use. A new survey released by the David Suzuki Foundation, authored by David Boyd, tracked data from poison control centres across Canada to draw the conclusion that pesticide poisoning is a far more serious phenomenon than previously appreciated.

Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment describes the results as "shocking". "It is very worrisome that almost half of the victims were under six years old", he concluded. These are young children dependent on the parental wisdom of their lawn-adoring parents, in large part.

The report indicated that immediate effects of acute pesticide poisoning are recognizable as blistering of the skin, respiratory distress, heart palpitations, and vomiting. That's in the short term. Long term effects of exposure to pesticide place people at higher risk for cancer, neurological diseases (Parkinson's), birth defects and organ damage.

The record shows that almost three thousand children under the age of six suffer acute pesticide poisoning every year - that's as far as reported incidents are concerned. It stands to reason that agriculture-based economies like Saskatchewan and Alberta report a higher incidence than Ontario. Caused by exposure to industrial applications on farms.

Incidence reporting isn't mandatory in Canada, however, and the true figures are likely to be higher than those reported. Many communities in Canada have enacted by-laws to restrict cosmetic use of pesticides. The nation's capital is a sad laggard, toying with the idea, then drawing back from bringing it into law, and that's truly poor municipal management.

The truth is we don't really know what the outcome of chronic, low-level exposure to such chemicals will lead to. The medical establishment in Canada and the Canadian Cancer Society are upfront in warning that children (as well as adults) are more likely to contract cancer as a result of such exposure.

Another interesting, but nasty fact is that there are roughly one thousand pesticide products available in Canada which are banned in other nations.

There is such a thing as personal responsibility.

All of us make decisions, some good some not. When it comes to the health of our children, let alone that of the broader community and the environment as well, it makes good sense to become better informed so that our decisions won't have a deleterious impact on those we love.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Welch-Dickey, 6 June 07

Took us an hour to reach the lookout on the way up to Welch Mountain. The scree and alpine plants were protected at that smooth-rock plateau by the placement of dead tree branches and a sign informing that the area was being protected and nurtured in a vast, ongoing attempt at regeneration. A far greater area shut off from hikers' boots and rampaging pet dogs than formerly. The protected areas are expanding, in their hopes for rehabilitation of those delicate alpine plants.

It was wonderfully cool up there; windy too, deterring winged pests from unduly plaguing our tender flesh. Not much was exposed, but black flies make the most of any opportunities to remove little divots of unprotected flesh; back of the ears, neck, hairline, scalp. It was only later they were given the opportunity to have at us. They have a decidedly unendearing way of burrowing under loose clothing, so even being fully clothed in reflection of the weather is no deterrent to them.

The mountainside is rich with oak and maple, but above all, beech and hemlock. The understory comprised of striped maple, yellow and white birch, dogwood. The forest floor boasting lilies of the valley, wood sorrel, false Solomon's seal, elusive Ladies Slippers. Higher up the hemlock and beech give way to stunted oak, jack pine, the understory replete with azalea, high blueberry bushes, laurel.

We follow a burbling mountain stream part of the way. Red squirrels scold our presence. Swallowtails drift lazily by. We stop often on our ascent. I need to rest, frequently, and my beloved partner is patient. Our two little companion dogs are agreeable enough since stopping briefly offers them the opportunity for sniff-fests.

Despite the cold, we soon shed our outer garments; we're burning plenty of calories, heating up that inner furnace. Resting at the ledges we have to decide whether to push on, knowing we'd be committing ourselves and Button and Riley to a tricky, arduous ascent. Four more hours' worth of energy and alertness. Button is now approaching her 14th year, Riley is a tiny animal, and we're well on our way to 71 ourselves.

But it's wonderfully cool and windy, no chance of rain and the day is young. What better to do on a beautiful late spring day? We stifle our doubts in favour of the incomparable views, the physical challenge, the sheer pleasure of the day stretching before us.

We trek the narrow defiles uphill, sided by grotesquely charming wind-challenged oaks and pines. We've left the boulder-strewn trail well behind. In its place stone and scree, hard-packed dirt littered with an ancient and rich layer of leaf and needles. Progress is slow - nice and easy does it. And I hum that old Frank Sinatra tune to myself, endlessly.

Button is agile and game. Riley semi-hesitant and vulnerably frightened when he comes face to face with the bulk of stone boulders he knows represent an impossible leap for him. Those barriers they can clear on their own they do right handily. At others, daunting enough for us also, they stand back, wait for us to lift them up and over. And we proceed.

I tire, we wait. From time to time, I throw myself on the mercy of the broad, 40-degree granite slope, and rest, while my companion takes in the height we've achieved, the awe-inspiring arras of peaks marching off into the distance. The blue sky, the fluffed clouds. The cold wind whips the heat from our bodies, mitigates the effect of the sun on our little dogs.

At the peak of Welch we stop, seat ourselves, replenish our little dogs' energy with doggy biscuits and water. Then we forge on again, dipping carefully over recessed boulders down the opposite side of the peak to reach the short coll between the sister mountains, one some 200 feet taller than the other.

A brief forested pathway leads us to Mount Dickey and we begin our second, fatiguing ascent. From there to the endlessly descending rock faces where sumac join the oak and the stunted pines. This has always been our favourite part of the circuit. Finally, we negotiate a long stony spine, a rock ledge open, exposed, with shoulders descending on either side.

A final dip into the forest and our tingling knees tell us about the steep strain of the descent, over rocks, boulders, tree roots. The forest is cool, moist and densely verdant.


Monday, June 18, 2007

The Ravine Birds

The creek in the ravine is really low now. Despite which, that brace of mallards is still hanging around. Why, we cannot imagine. On a clay base, the creek is fairly unproductive. What are those ducks eating, we wonder. It's quite different for the robins, there in great numbers, running alongside the trail as though they're ground creatures and not creatures of the air and the wind.

But nature doesn't appear to pride herself on moderation. She delivers up many beautiful days for our pleasure, equal measures of sun and rain. To offset the disequilibrium of inordinately heated summer days when we wilt with heat and high humidity. Or those times when day after day we are visited by unrelenting downpours, when to look out a window appears as though we're looking into an aquarium.

And that's when the creek in the ravine runs deep with water and detritus, all rushing down to empty into the mighty Ottawa River. When the creatures of the forest seek shelter from the relentless rain, and when we are loath to remove ourselves from the comfort of home to venture out into the ravine.

This day, though, the atmosphere is blessed with moderation. There are goldfinches weaving their way through the branches of trees, and a white-throat lets loose its praise of the day, again and again, joined by a cardinal also pleased with this day's beauty. Cowvetch is now in bloom, sending its slender searching fingers above and around daisies and clover, adding its bright purple to the colour scheme.

Damselflies, their bright iridescent purple bodies glinting in the sun, hover around the banks of the creek, joined by a multitude of dragonflies, lilting here and there, on the lookout for tasty morsels of mosquitoes, those little pests that have already taken their portion from our tender skin.

There is hawkweed in abundance now, single-headed and multi-flowered, among anemones, and fleabane with their perky pink heads. The thimbleberry bushes have begun to flower, their deep pink heads aglow, soon enough to become tasty little red berries eager to be eaten by the casual bypasser.

Button and Riley have sniffed out something that appears to be completely irresistible to them. They park themselves side by side, immobilized by the splendid odour to which we are immune. Partners in a kind of olfactory ecstasy denied us. We can live without it, given how irresistible they find aged scat.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Luscious Garden Peonies

It's hard to select favourite plants in one's garden. Like most gardeners there are so many plants and flowers that offer pleasure in their colourful presence, their texture, their fragrance, their architecture. Perennials like digitalis and delphiniums with their regal and towering floral presence are compelling in their presence. And the garden mulleins, slender-stalked with delicate blossoms so unlike their wild cousins.

And the spectrum of hostas, with the added gift of their floral displays rivet my eyes with pleasure. Their shapes, the fullness of their mounding habit, their various textured and coloured and shaped foliage send me into into an ecstasy of appreciation. Heucheras too, with their various coloured leaves, their mounding presence, their delicate floral sprays are special garden plants.

And the roses, who doesn't love roses, in all their manifestations, from shrubs to climbers, to tea roses, the miniatures. Their colours of white, yellow, orange, pink, red and mauve, with some able to turn from orange to pink, from pink to white, and others beautifully and delicately petal-striped sends the avid gardener into raptures of blissful appreciation. Standard roses, grafted onto the slender trunks of apple trees require such care in our harsh winters, yet they demand their place in our gardens.

Day lilies with their slender, lancelike foliage, sending their floral displays aloft gladden our hearts. The Asiatic lilies and the Tiger lilies with their ladder-like leaf stalks, their large and fragrant flower heads send us into a tizzy of olfactory delight. The sight of irises, the blues, the purples, the yellows, the whites and combinations of all sturdily aloft, above their sworded leaves flag our attention.

And then there's the peonies, the tree and herbaceous peonies, cut down to nothing in the fall, swiftly making their presence known again in early spring until in a few short weeks they're ready to burst into full bloom, with huge, luscious flower heads, single, double or triple petalled. And the divine fragrance, following one about in the garden, wafting its way into the house is not quite to be believed.

Challenged only by the heady fragrance of lilies-of-the-valley, of the Asiatic lilies, of French tree lilacs.


Friday, June 15, 2007

5June07 - 52Wedding Anniversary

The first day in a week without rain. Perfect day for a walk in the woods. This, despite the forecast for a continuation of yesterday's non-stop, often heavy rain. Nature offering her compassionate side, bestowing upon us a mostly sunny, breezily-cool day. No need to bundle ourselves into fleece and raingear on this day, our 52nd wedding anniversary.

We set off on the day's outing, still anticipating surprise precipitation events, but the sky was clear of thunderheads. The Mad River, swollen from a week of relentless rainstorms, sent its run-off crashing over the boulder-strewn length alongside our route. The spires of the Tripyramid Mountains rise in the near distance, mist lifting above and below, as the sun bakes the drenched landscape.

We heave ourselves up the steep trailhead at Smarts Brook, doing the circuit again in reverse. The forest detritus of generations has absorbed the rainfall handily, its moist cushion cradling our boots as we ascend. Rocks glisten back the moisture, the still humidity; roots dark and ubiquitous on the trail. A subtle hint of movement at the trailside, an accumulated leaf compost draws the eye toward a garter snake, its body sinuously resting on the debris, absorbing rays of the sun.

Remarkably, though we stand together observing the little green-patterned serpent, Button and Riley, ever alert to the presence of other life forms, remain oblivious to the presence of the snake. Which is all right with us. We wouldn't look forward to the potential of their curiosity resulting in the snake's fright and flight.

Luxurious hemlock seedlings, their tender bright new tips unfurled crowd the edges of the forest. So too, the resurgence of growth on tiny pine, spruce, fir and maple saplings. These must be black, not copper beech in this forest, trunks encrusted with many years' worth of lichens. Lilies-of-the-valley abound in a richness of presence, stippled here and there with pendulous pink orchid heads.

The Ladies slippers, some bright, all attention-arresting in their grace and beauty. Pale pink, bright pink, some verging on ivory, catching the sun, luminescent. Swallowtails lazily lift their curvaceous yellow wings in pairs, casually arabesquing the landscape. There! Button has sniffed a patch of grass and from the plants nearby an interrupted orgy of egg-laying as a mass of Swallowtails rise on the still air.

The trail approaches, then diverges from the mountain stream. Its busy surge down mountainsides at first faint, then thundering as we approach, as spume and spray smash over rocks and boulders. Large pools swell under the granite outcroppings where the furious waters fall. One weather-fierce waterfall after another, diluting the excess above, running down the mountains.

Button races ahead, her curiosity and energy belying her age, roughly analogous to ours. Riley stumps sturdily, stubbornly well behind, stopping now and again to nibble on fresh new grasses. His stubby little legs take a lot more pumping to move him expeditiously along, unlike Button's long graceful lope, despite that she's twice his age. Bright, sun-kissed flowers of blue-eyed grass rises nearby.

When we reach the pine flats coming off the Yellowjacket trail, we note the regeneration as we proceed. Buttercups abound among the growing thickets of hemlock and spruce. There are Ladies slippers, dandelions, moose maple, pines, spruce, birch, beech, with wood sorrel sprinkled beside their tender trunks. As we approach the stream again it roars and froths down the mountainside, flashing out the rain-soaked slopes.

The roar is insistent, everpresent, underlined by a broad shooshing as water catapults over immense boulders, onto the smooth grey bedrock of the Granite State. What better way to celebrate, for we two grey-caps. Fifty two sunny years together, discovering life and celebrating our duet of future years.

Back in the car, on our way to another, this time indoor destination, the sky fills with ominous thunderheads. We thrill to clap after clap of thunder, watch as a bright crooked rod of electrical magic divides the sky.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

4June07 - West Rattlesnake

Last night's thunderstorms left us a legacy of daytime cloudbursts. We drove through one after another, on our way to the Squam Lakes area. By the time we reached the parking lot the squalls had given way to a nuanced veil of showers. We suited up in light rain gear, hauled on our hiking boots and set off, Button and Riley in tow.

At the trailhead, an auspicious sign; an oriole flew past us on the trail. The trail, heavily rock- and root-strewn, gave us ample shelter. The bower effect of the old oaks, maples and birch ensuring we kept nice and dry. Bursts of wind let loose rainwater on us, though, from the saturated, sheltering foliage from time to time.

The undergrowth of ferns, lilies-of-the-valley, mosses, strawberry, blueberries, Ladies slippers, lush with that extra colour impact rain enlivens them with. It's cold enough, so Riley is made more comfortable with a light fleece coat, while Button goes without, not taking kindly at this time of year to the loss of dignity the offence of a coat burdens her with.

She's our intrepid adventurer, hastening to explore every beckoning animal trail. Riley plods bumptiously behind. We know we'll have to check them carefully later, for ticks.

The trail is interlaced with a criss-cross pattern of roots, well exposed through popular use. Hemlock abounds, and striped maple, pines, fir and spruce. We step carefully over the bouldered portions of the trail, the heavy root system, loathe to trip. Our Vibrand-soled boots are good, but we've experienced unwanted surprises in these conditions before.

When we finally ascend to the rocky top of the Rattlesnake there is no view to reward the climb. The lake below is not to be seen, the vista obscured, absorbed in the grey fog socked into the slope and the scene below. We're enveloped in mist. Fine rain descends about us. Button's rough, curly haircoat is damp to the touch and she is feeling definitely frisky, her usual reaction to water.

We too feel refreshed, free, grateful to be there in this splendid place of nature. Our descent is leisurely. Button scoots irrepressibly ahead. Riley clumps forward stodgily in our wake.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lush The Gardens Are Becoming

Nothing quite like it, to wander about the gardens, front and back of the house, and just drink in the texture, the colours, the shapes and the companioning of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. There's always something new and different to note. And there's always something that needs to be done. A planter getting too dry and the flowers beginning to wilt, a flower stalk that needs to be supported, others that require dead-heading to encourage new growth.

And anything that has been newly planted has to be scrutinized, to determine whether it's happy, feels it's in the right environment for its needs. And then the lilies, looking for that scourge of the lily patch, those bright orange lily beetles. And the roses, plagued by those damn little green caterpillars that love to eat every bud in sight.

Of course there's always the nice surprises, to discover that something planted last year, like poppies or portulaca, or cosmos, or Canterbury bells, have re-seeded and are positioning themselves nicely for another go at the garden. Hostas that you've forgotten you split and stuck into awkward shaded spots suddenly appear.

And the surprise, to discover that the Jack-in-the-pulpit really had returned again this spring, but look as you might, you kept overlooking it. But there it is, huge, a giant, how on earth could you ever have not noticed it? The stalks are unbelievably tall, the leafs huge, and there, underneath, the shy little - not so little - striped purple flower head.

Just another pass through the garden, on another beautiful day. Just cannot believe how thick and lush everything has become. The rhododendrons, azalea, and irises have finished blooming. The lilies are beginning, the roses are breaking out into bloom and the clematises. Can hardly wait to see the digitalis in bloom, and the delphiniums are getting ready to open their long-stalked blooms.

Just wondering: what's it all going to look like in another month? We're not yet into summer. Form, texture, fragrance, colour. Truly spectacular. Unbelievably satisfying.


Summer at Byward Market

Wasn't so hard to find a parking spot, after all. And close to the market, as well. Took along Button and Riley. And we wandered about. It's such a lively place, bustling with strollers just like us. Great place to go to look around, at people, at the market offerings, at historic Ottawa; take your pick. And this was just such a perfect day. Hot and sunny, but dry, not humid, with a good lively breeze.

There are vendors all over the place, selling everything from cheap imported "jewellery", to hand-made cotton garments, cool and fashionable. There's the market building, of course, and it hosts various restaurants, artisans, and although we haven't been in it for ages, we used to go upstairs to look around at a lot of original artworks by local artists.

Outside, there are rows of stands with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, and cut flowers. Incredibly colourful displays. Opposite the stands there are the traditional old market shops. Some dedicated to selling produce, others cheeses, and restaurants and pubs, lots of them. We make a stop at the magazine shop, to pick up the American Art Review.

Stop at our favourite cheese shop as well and select some irresistible cheeses we cannot seem to get anywhere else, at prices no one else could manage. But then, you've got to watch the expiry dates on these items, too. Last stop is the Rideau Bakery, to stock up on triple dark ryes, onion buns, round white Russian ryes, the fragrance of which threaten to transport one to food heaven.


Ah, Summer!

Well, not yet. It's not yet summer. Sure feels like it though. Hot again, but dry, not like yesterday's close humidity that spawned one thunderstorm after another. Storms that entertained us with their thundering claps, tantalized us with the prospect of cooling off after the downpour, but that simply passed us by, one after the other. But today there's a nice stiff breeze, and it was quite wonderful, a truly beautiful summer day. Even if it's not yet summer by the calendar.

When we wandered into the garden after breakfast to have a look around, first in the backyard, then the front, we found ourselves looking at the rather unusual spectacle of a young-of-the-year chipmunk, a tender, slender wisp of a vulnerable animal clambering up the brick wall alongside the front garden border, between a clematis and a climbing rose, going higher and higher, desperate to be away from those booming human voices. So we left, quickly.

As we entered the trail to the ravine, we noted sumachs thrusting their tender new candles skyward. Public works hasn't been around at all to mow the grass alongside the road and Button hates to plow through the long grass, which leaves grass seeds in her hair, now that it's flowering. However, because it hasn't been cut, there is now a lot of fleabane in flower; bright pink little flowerheads. Beautiful they are, belying the "bane" in their name.

At the first bridge, we lean over to note the low height of the creek. Everything is beginning to dry up. But there are bright white anemones in bloom now, their heads aloft, above the lovely shape of their leaves. Maples, we note, are opportunistically beginning to fill in the slope beyond the trail we're ascending, scraped clean of its trees two summers ago when a poorly positioned tractor had slid down the hill during the building of the bridges.

Robins are pealing their song of appreciation from overhead branches. Others run-and-hop over the trail, busy looking for live tidbits. The trees are well leafed out now, presenting a full and deep bower overhead, closing us in, shutting out the effects of the sun, the breeze cooling us and keeping the mosquitoes away. There is also now a notable presence of dragonflies and they too are concerned about mosquitoes.

Clover is in bloom, in white, mauve and pink. There's a giant burdock, we recall it from last year. Dogwood is in bloom, its white panicles reminding me always of hydrangea. The red baneberry flowers have morphed into tiny green berry clusters. False Solomon's seal still in bloom. There's yellow and orange hawkweed, bright sunny buttercups, white blackberry in flower.

Button's allergies are acting up, and she coughs hoarsely. Another week or so and she'll no longer react. There's a lot of yellow pollen drifting down from the pine trees, and white fluff in drifts from the surrounding poplars. When we reach the flats, there's a widespread bouquet of pear-scented bedding grasses, just starting now to come into bloom. There are daisies, buttercups, fleabane and hawkweed all vying for attention, complementing one another.

Swallowtails, skippers and blues drift in and out of the flower stalks. Ferns gather thickly at the base of oaks, maples, poplars, and even more so as we descend to the tributary of the ravine, where there are also a few specimens of meadow rue, not yet in flower. There's plenty of jewelweed, and it's growing lustily, but nowhere near ready to flower.

What a day.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

3 June 07 - Waterville Valley, N.H.

Heavily overcast, dark clouds skimming the mountains, following last night's series of violent thunderstorms. Violent enough to shake the foundations of the cottage we're staying at for the week. Sound-blasting enough to wake Button from her sleep of exhaustion, to make her whimper slightly in puzzlement and distress. Most unlike her. She's not the kind of little dog who requires reassurance at such times. She generally takes things placidly in stride.

We drive off on our day's jaunt, in a light drizzle. It's Sunday, roughly eleven in the morning. A little rain won't keep us from walking about in the woods, enjoying the air, the sounds and sights and smells of the forest. Where the late springtime canopy of leafs is more than sufficient to keep us comfortable and dry. On the way to the White Mountain National Forest we pass the William Tell - packed with the Sunday brunch crowd.

Given the cold, the wind and the rain, we're up for a trail walk, just nothing too ambitious. A two-hour circuit will do us just fine. And where to go? Well, back to Smarts Brook Trail, only this time we'll do the circuit in reverse. See everything from the opposite perspective, as it were. Which means we've got a long steep haul at the trailhead; instead of descending that portion as we usually do, when proceeding from the opposite end, we're now ascending.

Lots of Ladies' slippers nodding their bright pink heads here and there, in singles and small clusters, among the violets, the lilies. Button is ahead, with her graceful loping prance. Riley, as usual, trots resolutely behind us. He's bored, he's seen all this before, what's with us anyway, trudging along on this wet trail when we could be comfortably ensconced on a lawn chair in front of the cottage, basking in the sun?

The boulder-strewn gorge rises beside the trail, the rain-swollen mountain stream gushing over and around the rocks, over the slabby rock face, swishing and hurling itself downward. White spume of the rushing waters looks cool, inviting. The sheer rock walls of the canyon ahead are wet, coloured iron-oxide red; glistening, cracks hosting luxuriant mosses.

We pass a nicely rotted old nursery log hosting its own little forest of pine and spruce saplings. A miniature forest within-a-forest. There's a movement beside the trail, barely seen from the corner of my eye; was I just imagining? Just a little toad. Imagine there's more where he came from, just not to be seen, shy and withdrawn.

We trudge across the bridge leading to the Yellowjacket trail, and begin the dark, deliberately slow passage through the forest, at times alongside the brook, at times widely diverging. Swallowtails appear lazily flitting about, settle on some leafs, determine them inadequate and continue with their quest for an appropriate place to lay their eggs.


Monday, June 11, 2007

June 2, Smarts Brook, N.H.

Back in New Hampshire, in the White Mountains, more specifically the Waterville Valley. Our old haunts. Why we go there in early June is questionable. To contend with blackflies, with inclement weather. On the other hand, for energy-expending activities like ascending mountains, uphill treks, hot weather isn't conducive to comfort and success, either. So early June it is. And here, despite a light rain, we find ourselves once again driving in the White Mountain National Forest.

We've planned for our first hike to do the Smarts Brook trail. We've stopped to procure our permit for the week, stick it on the windshield, and park at the trail head; pull on our hiking boots, and off we go. Button and Riley are off leash and sniffing and snuffling about, eager to go. In fact, as soon as the car was parked, before the ignition was shut off, they were both pealing their anxious yelps to get started. There's a lot of blow-down from severe storms at the start of the trail, following Smarts Brook as it tumbles down from the mountains above.

The water courses furiously over rock slabs, around huge boulders, its sound booming in our ears. We stand there, transfixed, our first view of the descending mountain stream, swollen with new rain, tumbling over and around, rushing through lapses in the rock face, washing over the lichen clinging to the rocks. Beside the mountain stream, the forest of benign old maples, birch, pine.

As we ascend, the bright red rock of the cliffs begin to reveal their height, towering over the stream bed. The understory of dogwood is in bloom. The rain begins to lift and we see, through the maze of needles from surrounding pine, hemlock and spruce, some blue sky among the fast-moving clouds.

Ferns are unfurling beside the trail. There are bright pink heads of Ladies slippers, bright white bunchberry flowers, purple and yellow violets, and wood sorrel growing in between hemlock seedlings. There's a sweet raspberry fragrance on the air, but we can't imagine where it's coming from.

We ascend slowly, relishing the unfolding scene, looking to the right, to the left, unwilling to miss anything, for everything is notable, from the rocky outcroppings rich with moss and lichen, to the irresistible painted trilliums beside a group of Ladies slippers, to the huge granite erratic hosting its own miniature forest of ferns and violets.

Riley toddles stolidly behind us. Button, ever the adventurer, forges irrepressibly ahead. There are rich black, boggy areas on the trail, well tramped by hikers' boots, easily sidestepped by treading on smooth rock outcroppings close to the ground, inviting us to hop from one to the other.

The humidity level remains high, an odour now pervasive of mould assails us. The trail begins to narrow, pulling us away from the stream and its insistent roar. We move up onto the Pine flats where the Ladies slippers still nod shyly from under hemlock, pine and spruce and emerge finally to a more open area. This takes us to a shallow descent, and then forest swallows us again into its dense and dark embrace.

We've accessed the Yellowjacket trail. We hear the calls of an oven bird, some thrushes. Mosquitoes begin to zero in on Button. They love her black coat, her hormones. They always ignore Riley. A few Swallowtails flit about lazily.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

We're Off!

Up early, not too indecently so, however. All our baggage packed into the car the night before. Breakfast for Button and Riley, showers for us, then off to the ravine for some exercise. Quick work later to thermos some Earl Grey tea, smear bagels with hazelnut butter and honey, pack a few bananas, haul in the morning papers, and we're off!

The long grind of the drive, the agony of getting across Montreal, the rain finally descending seriously just as we approached Lake Memphremagog. Finally, at the border, we luck in. Instead of the lout in uniform we had to deal with last year who demanded our passports, an apparition of beauty in uniform this year. Young, blond, bright and cheerful, the antithesis of last year's sour welcome to Vermont.

Five minutes on we stop at a rest area, to pee. Both us and the dogs - and that's likely where Riley picked up the two ticks discovered later that evening. Because of the rain, lighter by then, we had our late breakfast sitting in the car, not at a picnic table, sharing the goodies with suddenly-ravenous Button and Riley who had, up until then, snoozed right through the drive.

The verdant Vermont landscape enchants with its post-card-perfect presentation of steeple-chased church enclosed by tidy homes and well-mannered streets. The gentle folds of hills either side of the highway present bucolic perfection. A confetti of small farms perched here and there on the rising folds of landscape. Mist rises from the fields. Barely perceptible outlines of mountains appear in the distance as the rain lifts, then starts again.

We're tantalized occasionally with a brief lifting of the dense, fast-moving clouds. The sun manages to send a few blinding rays over us. Gone with amazing speed as the darkness and the rain reassert their presence. This may very well reflect what we are to anticipate for the greater balance of our week coming up, given the long-range weather forecast we tapped into on the Internet before leaving home.

We can live with that. We'll still manage some good hikes, if not long strenuous climbs. Don't know if we can even make the attempt this year, after all. We're another year older. The energy and stamina somewhat diminished. Not quite what we were like thirty years ago when we first began going up to the White Mountains with our then-young family and accustomed ourselves to climbing - Lafayette, Eisenhower, Clinton, Little Haystack, Mount Mouselaki.

The weather closed in again as we drove on, rain pounding the car and the landscape, lighter portions of sky visible in the distance, but not where we were headed. At the Franconia Notch, the usual awe-inspiring landscape eluded us. The surrounding mountains draped too heavily in dark clouds and mist for visibility.


Good to be Back

Nice to be back trekking in our ravine again. We didn't miss it, while we were away. How could we? Too many other viable, interesting, challenging venues to tackle. And we did tackle them. Surprising ourselves in the process. By our ability, despite the physical challenge, to overcome the difficulties before us and to succeed in our determination to do the best we could. But that's another story.

Meanwhile, we re-acquainted ourselves with the ravine. It's really wet in there again. Result of all that rain, the heavy thunderstorms, the accumulation of nearly a week of unrelenting rain. So it's mucky along the trail. Thought we'd see some greater presence of fungi, mushrooms, but no, not yet. Although during yesterday's trek we did see one large white daintily crumpled fungus which I wanted to remember to photograph today, but forgot the camera.

Just as well, since the fungus was gone. Shattered. Smashed into oblivion. By the nature-adoring youngsters who live in the area, no doubt. What kind of mind-set would that be, I ponder to myself, that would view a thing of beauty and react by destroying it? The ravine trails represent a short-cut to many neighbourhood children, one affording them the opportunity to pull down slender saplings, to litter the detritus of their snacks about.

These are the offspring of adults who value things other than the nature that surrounds us. For surely they have never been taught to appreciate the scenery of nature that envelopes us. Schools can do only so much. The immediate environment, the home situation is the place where children absorb their deepest, longest-lasting values. And for these children the place where nature can best be appreciated is at Disneyland.

As for us, we were treated to the lovely pink flowers of fleabane. The pale purple of flowering clover. Buttercups are everywhere now, raising their bright little shiny yellow caps. Daisies are out in full bloom, and the bunchberries still brighten the forest floor. Late-blooming false Solomon's seal is there, too. The blackberries are beginning to blossom, as are the starry-white grasses.

We watched a hairy woodpecker busy on a tree trunk, disinterested in us, busy looking for grubs. Robins ran in quick little bursts of energy along the trail in front of us. All that rain should have gifted them amply with drowning worms, if nothing much else. The cardinal trills high and sweet above us; we catch a fleeting glimpse of the male cardinal flying from the top mast of a spruce. There are glossy starlings about, with their iridescent head feathers, pecking about for digestible offerings in the detritus beside the trail.

Nice to be here again.

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