Monday, September 28, 2009

Walking in the Sun (and the Dark)

As nice as it would be, we can't spend all of our time up at the cottage. Sometimes I just have to settle for the everyday images of Frank's and my own home surroundings. Truthfully, I'm not settling at all. There's beauty to be found everywhere I look. Please join me on a walk or two, and I'll show some of the sites I've seen over the last month or so. Please remember to click each image to enlarge.

On a morning walk around my pond, I was watching other creatures when a mallard skidded to a stop in front of me. You can tell that he'd been moulting, since the usually-prominent green head feathers are scarcely visible. (please click to enlarge)

A couple of weeks later you can see the emerald touches on his head. It won't be long before their colouring is back to normal. This drake struggles to remove a feather from his beak. (please click to enlarge)

A young robin struts happily across the back of a bench. To him, summer might have seemed never-ending. (please click to enlarge)

One of Frank's neighbours has planted raspberry and blackberry bushes in the field across from his house and they're just coming into season now. We help ourselves to a few of them (with his permission) each afternoon on our way to the cedar grove and creek. (please click to enlarge)

Along the path in the field, there are wild fruit trees. Early in August, we discovered that a nest had been built upon the branches of one of them. On one of our walks, we happened upon this *Eastern Kingbird sitting on her eggs.
*Thank you to Randy Emmit in the comments below for correctly identifying this bird as an Eastern Kingbird and not the Mockingbird which I first believed it to be. (please click to enlarge)

A couple of weeks later, the mother was absent from her nest but perched on a nearby tree. She watched as my camera lens peered up at the nest. If you enlarge this photo, you'll see two downy nestlings peering right back at me, over the edge of the nest. (please click to enlarge)

Shortly afterward, this adult flew to a nearby branch with food in its mouth. It waited until I moved away from the babies before bringing the insect to them for feeding time. This is probably the father, as both parents are responsible for feedings. We watched for a bit them moved on. (please click to enlarge)

Another fruit tree along the edge of the creek. Although somewhat weighted down by apples, the tree is actually growing out from the edge of the shoreline. Considering the rapid erosion rate, I wonder how long it will be until that tree is lost to a windy, rainy day. (please click to enlarge)

Further along the shore, a sandpiper explores a floating log. (please click to enlarge)

We don't visit the cedar grove too often in the summer because of overgrowth and mosquitoes. Mostly the latter. But we did wander around and beneath its magnificent trees on this day. It's a lovely area filled with magic and beauty. Has anyone seen where Benny went? (please click to enlarge)

Oh, here he comes tearing out of the overgrowth like his tail is on fire. (please click to enlarge)

True to his style, he's hoping we'll throw a stick into the creek so he can chase after it. Maybe next time, Ben. (please click to enlarge)

Leaving the grove and creek behind us, the late afternoon sunlight breathes colour and life into the aging wildflowers of the field. If you look closely you'll see Queen Anne's Lace, Chicory, Goldenrod, Asters, Snapdragons and a few leaves changing colour. (please click to enlarge)

One final photo taken at night, at what Frank calls his UFO spot. You can't see them, but people were salmon fishing in the dark. Only the stars up above and the occasional lantern lit their way. (please click to enlarge)

Looks like this day is over. Thanks for joining me on my walk.

This is a scheduled post. Despite my opening line in this post, if all has worked out as planned, we're about to head up to the cottage one more time. The week promises to be wet, cold and unpleasant - not likely to provide photo opportunities. But you never know. Please stay tuned and I'll be back next weekend to reply to comments and try to catch up on your blogs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

By the Shore

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore…
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

W. B. Yeats

Earlier this month, when we planned for a few days up at the cottage, Environment Canada was being a big party pooper. Their long-range forecast warned of cool, rainy weather for the full time we hoped to be there, beginning with the three-hour drive up on the Tuesday. Thoughts of rainy fishing days and wet, empty hammocks prevailed. Gone was the hope of a campfire each evening and long walks devoid of pesky mosquitoes. We packed for all kinds of weather and card games, and went anyway.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with only stray gray wisps of cloud in an otherwise blue sky. Also greeting us were Frank's sister, her husband and their brother in law. We spent the afternoon sitting and chatting on the dock where the grand total of four raindrops touched my skin. The rest of our visit was met with mostly sunny skies, warm days and comfortable nights. I love it when meteorologists are wrong like that.

Theresa's usual menagerie accompanied her. Her kittens (found abandoned within a day or two after their birth - umbilical cords still attached) Luca and Sambuca are now a few months old and are at that incredibly cute stage where they have to play with everything - all night long. The critters, having been separated from their mother at such an early age, still have a strong sucking and kneading urge.

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When Luca is tired, he climbs up onto his blanket, then kneads and sucks it until he falls asleep. Similarly, Sambuca settles in and grabs his own tail to suck on. They're incredibly cute.

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Her big, beautiful sheep dog, Duncan was there. And so were 6 baby squirrels which Theresa is raising to maturity. Add Benny to that mix and we had quite the activity level at times.

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Of course Sugar and Spike were around in the evenings too.

By the following afternoon, Frank, Benny and I were alone at the cottage. Being the incurable romantic that Frank is, it wasn't long before he had that irresistible gleam in his eye. He sidled closer to me, cupped my chin in his hand and looked deeply into my eyes so that there was no mistaking what he wanted me to do next. "Sweetie, the worms are on the lower shelf of the back room fridge. Grab them for me, willya?" Yeah, he's hot when he's got fishin' on his mind.

Between the two of us, we grabbed the worms, rods, tackle boxes, vests, PFDs, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, the cooler should we get lucky (by now you'll have figured out that means "if we should catch something") and various other paraphernalia which might come in handy at some point. We grabbed Benny and put him in the cottage and then headed out for a couple of hours of fishing.

The eagles' nest was empty more often than not, that week, but we did see them flying around at various times of the day.

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One drive-by with the boat proved worthwhile when we saw one of the adults perched proudly atop its nest.

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Another time we noticed him on a branch which topped a tree within clear, but distant view of the cottage.

Our fishing luck was pretty much in keeping with the rest of the summer - poor. About mid-week, one of our trips out in the boat resulted in two catches.

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This bass was one of them. It was released back into the lake immediately after the photo was taken.

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That same day, I also caught this walleye which became our lunch the next afternoon. Yum!

Some afternoons were too clear and breeze-free for fishing, so we each got some reading done out on that dock.

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Benny was happy to just lounge around nearby, but kept a watchful eye to to be sure we didn't make moves to get into the boat.

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Occasionally, he'd wander over to the edge of the dock to check out that twin JRT in the water. And yes, he fell in once or twice while going after it.

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Nearby, colourful clothespins on the line caught my eye.

Nighttime comes sooner at this time of year, and shortly after securing the boat and returning worms to the fridge, Frank would build a fire.

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He's been referred to as the Fish Whisperer, Dog Whisperer, Tree Whisperer and probably more, but after three or four nights of perfect campfires, he is also most definitely the Flame Whisperer.

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Just look at that baby burn!

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A last glance or two out on the water just before all colour disappeared from the sky. Weakening ripples gently lapped the shore.

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The night sky descends to kiss the last shades of the sun goodnight.

The small photo at the top, is of the cottage as seen from the boat on the way back from an afternoon of fishing. Please click on it to enlarge.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September Days

I can see, hear, smell and feel the changes that signal the end of summer. Mostly it's in the changing landscape. Purple and yellow wildflowers abound while the pink, blue and white petals recede.

I love summer more than any other season, but I'm beginning to appreciate even the coldest days more. Photography has a lot to do with that. It helps to see the world through new eyes.

Here are a few images from what's left of summer. I'll have some cottage shots for you in a few days.. as we step into autumn. Please remember to click on each image to enlarge.

"Art is the unceasing effort to
compete with the beauty of flowers -
and never succeeding."
~ Marc Chagall

"Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, ”I have found a truth.”
Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path."
For the soul walks upon all paths...
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals."
~ Kahlil Gibran

"By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather
And autumn’s best of cheer."
~ Helen Hunt Jackson

"September days have the warmth of summer in their briefer hours, but in their lengthening evenings a prophetic breath of autumn. The cricket chirps in the noontide, making the most of what remains of his brief life. The bumblebee is busy among the clover blossoms of the aftermath, and their shrill and dreamy hum hold the outdoor world above the voices of the song birds, now silent or departed."
~ Rowland E. Robinson

"September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret."
~ Alexander Theroux

"Flowers always make people better,
happier and more helpful; they are sunshine,
food and medicine to the soul."
~ Luther Burbank

"September leaf
The torrid kisses
...Of July
September leaf
Sensing winter
....And oblivion
And whispers
"July, my only love" "Say you remember."
~ LaRetha Adams

"Earth laughs in flowers."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"When the goldenrod is yellow,
And leaves are turning brown -
Reluctantly the summer goes
In a cloud of thistledown.

When squirrels are harvesting
And birds in flight appear -
By these autumn signs we know
September days are here."
~ Beverly Ashour

"I've always thought my flowers had souls."

Myrtle Reed

"I love to smell flowers in the dark," she said. "You get hold of their soul then."

~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

"If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." ~ Buddha

"I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one."
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Great Angler

Anyone who knows Frank reasonably well also knows that he's an avid angler and a very talented writer. He's so fond of both activities, that a few years back, he wrote a wonderful, humourous book called What Fish Don't Want You To Know, based on his years of fishing experience.

I never really thought I'd learn to enjoy fishing. It involves holding worms, hooking them and sometimes injecting air into them so they'll float above the sinker. That's gross - but if I wanted to get to know the pastime with which Frank is so enamoured, I had to put my squeamish side on hold and just do it.

Now, three summers later, I scarcely shudder when removing a worm from its styrofoam container. I can hook it with hardly a wince. And my stomach only flips, and stops short of a flop when I insert a needle and squeeze air into it to puff it up a tad. It's a pleasure to be out on the boat watching loons float by. I enjoy feeling the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face. I get a kick out of feeling that tug on the end of the line and reeling in a fish sometimes occasionally rarely if I'm lucky. And if the day works out right, it's such a thrill to see the sunset on our way back to shore.

Frank's passion for fishing was not passed along to his sons. Oh they'll fish, much like I will - probably far more intuitively than I do but they don't live and breathe it the way their father has for all of his life. Fortunately, there is yet another family member who appears to be developing a love for the sport.

This video was taken shortly before we left to go up to the cottage last week. There's a creek across the road from Frank's place, and that's where he generally walks Benny twice a day. At this time of the year, salmon are swimming upstream to spawn. They make an impressive sight.

Frank doesn't fish for salmon - but others do...

I'll have some photos for you in a few days.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nature's Wrath

A few weeks ago, an aggressive storm descended upon parts of southern Ontario. Local reports warned of severe weather all day, and as it approached, the alerts reported funnel clouds all around. As the rain fell, winds picked up considerably. I was listening to the weather channel. They repeatedly suggested that I visit the basement lest one of those funnel clouds turn into a full-blown tornado, as one had in the town of Durham earlier in the day. Sadly, it claimed an eleven year old victim.

Still, I took my time.

As the storm blew through, the trees outside my window were swaying violently. Lightning flashed almost non-stop and the thunder which followed was frighteningly loud. I saw how dramatic the lightning appeared and tried to capture a photograph of it through my bedroom window. I slowed my shutter speed way down, thinking I could snap one of those nifty shots that you often see - of several impressive forks of lightning. I leaned the camera right into the glass, and pressed the shutter as soon as I saw the first flash. The immediate crash of thunder vibrated through the glass and made me jump. Perhaps I should make my way down at least to the main floor of the house.

I never did get one of those super-impressive lightning shots. All I got was rain.

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It turned out that a tornado touched down in Vaughan, north of Toronto, and about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from here.

Once the storm passed, an incredibly brilliant rainbow appeared in the still darkened skies. (please click to enlarge)

The rest of the evening remained calm but news reports were full of stories of destruction and devastation. My area got off easy, but still there was damage.

The following day, a walk revealed broken branches and brush throughout the park.

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Parks' crews had already tended to some of the more serious damage, collected and placed now lifeless debris along the side of the path. (please click to enlarge)

This once-thriving tree took quite a blow. I wonder if it will survive such exposure to the upcoming winter winds and snow. (please click to enlarge)

Several branches had fallen into the lake where they'll most likely remain. (please click to enlarge)

Further along, Parks and Recreation crews were attending to a seriously damaged tree which grew almost horizontally out over the water. (please click to enlarge)

After several cuts and and snips, this charming tree is no more. (please click to enlarge)

It could have been so much worse. It was for others. The wrath of Nature shows no mercy.

This was a scheduled post. I'm up at the cottage with Frank for a few days. I'll be back soon to reply to your always-kind comments, and to visit your blogs.