Archive for April, 2009

meet Sage   no comments

Posted at 8:23 am in loss,sabrina,sage

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As you might have guessed after reading my last post, Sabrina and I arrived home over a week ago. We’re busy every day as there’s a lot happening in our lives, not the least of which is the arrival of Sage, who is now part of what I guess you could refer to as our “family unit”. She’s a blue merle Rough Collie who came to us from Caralan and Bob Dams of Kars, Ont (Forestree Collies). The manner in which she arrived was a little unscheduled, but the search for a young collie has been more or less underway for quite some time. However, it was put on hold after Don became ill in 2007 as we knew I probably couldn’t deal with starting a young dog while also caring for him during the following months. Although Sabrina seems to be in good condition now, her deterioration during Don’s illness was a strong reminder that she won’t be with me forever and that this might be a good time to find an apprentice who can absorb some of her wisdom. That’s pretty much how Sabrina learned — by acquiring the wisdom passed along by my previous collie, Maggie. We’ve always had two collies at any given time, so I’m just attempting to return to the usual way that we did things around here in the past.

She’s only been here about a week, but Sage is fitting in well. She’s just a little over 3 months old and seems bright and quick to learn. We go for about 4 or 5 walks on the trails in our fields and woods each day. She has already learned which paths to take and likes to show off by racing ahead and hiding in the dry grass, waiting for Sabrina and I to catch up so that she can spring out and scare us (or so she believes). I’ve put up a short video clip in case anyone wants to see part of a walk from my point of view. Not that much happens, but what seems interesting to me is how Sabrina walks ahead, then stops to make sure that everyone is coming along.

In other news, it is with some sadness that I report on what is probably the demise of my trusty Windstar van. Last Sunday, while returning from the city after spending an evening with my mom and brothers, I heard a loud BANG and instantly felt the van lurching out of control. Although I had very little steering, I was able to swing the van onto the roadside. When the tow truck driver winched the van up onto the bed of his ramp truck, we could see that the steering parts – tie rod, etc.. had come apart and the right front drive axle had actually fallen out of the transmission. The right front wheel was turned out to the side at a crazy angle (see below – click on all images for larger views). A mechanic friend dropped by to look at the damage this week and we pretty much came to the conclusion that the van is probably not worth repairing. So, for now I’m driving a rental car and looking around for a replacement van — something appropriate as a home to a gypsy traveling with her two dogs — a van that is up to the challenge of being both a “camper” and a “construction workhorse” as we move into the next phase of our lives.

Although I probably haven’t written much about this on the blog, I’ll be putting my farm for sale very soon. In fact, I’ve spent the past week packing up all of the belongings I’d like to take with me as I move on. The rest, I’ll be disposing of, mainly using The Great Matter Transporter (putting things at the roadside with a big FREE sign set up beside — it works almost instantly to move objects out of my universe and into someone else’s). After I get all of the work done that needs to be taken care of, and I leave the farm in someone else’s hands to sell, my plan is to head east to Nova Scotia for awhile. At the moment, my intention is to look around for a place where we could spend spring through fall. In winter, we would return to southeast Arizona, to the region that I now like to think of as our “other home”. No doubt, there will be plenty of wandering in between points A and B as I’m restless and find it next to impossible to stay in one place for any length of time. Most days, I’d rather be off wandering around in the forests, deserts or along rivers or the ocean. However, I’m hopeful that I can find a place that will make me want to settle down for a time – or at least to plant a vegetable garden and do some hiking or canoeing around each summer. Also, to get back to my writing, photography and art — all of which I’ve largely abandoned over the past few months. But more about all of this a little later on. For now, I’m just busy packing and spending as much time as possible working with Sage so that she’ll be ready to go on the road with us when it comes time to depart for points as yet unknown.

One other note — a little belated as I’ve been without a net connection so much of the time for the past few weeks. The third edition of “Carnival of the Arid” has been up at Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing for a couple of weeks. You’ll find some nice things to see and read. Also, Chris invites anyone to submit posts or other material having to do with arid regions, so give that some consideration if you have something you would like to share.

Written by bev on April 19th, 2009

the return   11 comments

Posted at 7:45 am in being alone,loss,ontario

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

As most of you will know, events and places I have been, are described at least a few weeks later. Often, I haven’t had a net connection, or am so busy trying to “carry on”, that I can’t post until I find the time or a good connection. This morning, I don’t really have time, but am making a little for this post before continuing on my way.

This may surprise a few of you, but I’m now back in Ontario. Yesterday, I drove the northern route around Lake Superior between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. It was a very long day. This morning, as soon as I finish this post, I’ll be continuing eastwards. With luck, I may be “home” tonight. I left Utah about a week ago, traveled west and north, up into B.C., then east along the trans-canada highway, pretty much following the route that took me west last October. It’s been a difficult trip — colder than I had hoped for. Yesterday, as I stopped at a few spots along Superior, the lake was still frozen in many places, especially at the western end near Thunder Bay. The ice looked unbroken out to Sleeping Giant and beyond.

I have more to write about the time spent in Arizona and Utah, but today, I wanted to write about “real time” events — things that have happened over the past couple of days.

Two days ago (April 5) was Don’s birthday. Had he not died on September 6, 2008, he would have been 57 years old. A life cut short. Seven months later, I am still learning to deal with that reality. The journey, to this point, has been difficult. I’ve found that many of the things that once meant something to me, are now meaningless: time, distance, the future, the past, home, among others. The map by which I navigated over the past 52 years, doesn’t exist anymore. In the space of a few months, it was destroyed and replaced with a new one that looks more like a map of a galaxy that is being drawn as I go. Many changes in direction are and will be happening soon. More about this in the coming weeks.

Yesterday, while traveling the north shore of Lake Superior, I stopped at Old Woman Bay to take a few photos. A week ago, my friend, Paul, met me in Utah to bring me this box made by a mutual friend, Ken Altman, a maker of bows for musical instruments. Last autumn, after Don’s death, the idea of making a special container for his ashes began to form as I drove westwards. I wanted to make a box that would be somewhat similar to a west coast bentwood box in shape but not construction — a box which could be carved and then painted or inlaid with abalone shell in a design which I have been contemplating over the winter. Initially, I had intended to make the box myself, but Paul suggested that we talk to Ken as he is a master craftsman and had the skills to make a box that would suit the intended purpose. We met with Ken and I described the box which I envisioned while he made careful notes and suggested ideas for possible construction. I left to continue on my way to Arizona.

Over the winter, Ken worked on the box between other projects. The box which you see in the photos above and below is the result. It is a thing of great beauty. I’m sorry that my photographs from yesterday can’t begin to illustrate just how wonderful this creation is “in person”. Further, there are things about it that a photograph can’t express. The scent of the wood which is Yellow Cedar from Alaska. Ken made the box from a slab which had been under his work bench for more than 20 years. It was brought to him by a friend named Don, who died several years ago. Ken so generously contributed this precious piece of wood for this project. I wish to take this moment to thank him for all that he has done to make this project possible. Thank you, Ken. The box is all that I hoped it would be, and more. Its smooth, fine grain is a pleasure to touch and hold.

The lid of the box is constructed in such a way that it lifts to reveal a small compartment in the top of the container — a place to store a few photos and other keepsakes. When I have time, I’ll work on the outside of the box and hopefully do justice to a blank canvas that is, in fact, so perfect that I wonder whether it should even be altered. Perhaps that is something I will know in time. This isn’t the gift I would have ever have imagined, or wished to give, to Don for his fifty-seventh birthday. However, it is such a wonderful piece and I know just how much he would have loved and appreciated this final gift to him.

Well, it is morning and I must be on my way. Another long day of driving — hopefully to that place which is “home” to us for a short while longer. I believe I can speak for Sabrina when saying that we’re both tired from many days on the road. It will be nice to rest awhile before continuing on the new path which forms before us.

Written by bev on April 7th, 2009

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Whitewater Draw   5 comments

Posted at 11:54 am in Arizona,birds

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

We now return to my intended post after last night’s unscheduled entry.

I can’t write about my winter in Bisbee without mentioning Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area as Sabrina and I spent quite a few days there with and without house guests. It’s a great spot for birders, especially because it is one of the main wintering areas for Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). From around the beginning of December through to some time in March, the Sulphur Springs Valley is home to something like 30,000 of these cranes. On any day, you can usually find hundreds of cranes feeding in the dry winter pastures surrounding Whitewater Draw and the Willcox Playa which lies further north in the valley. A couple of times a day, thousands of birds can be seen as they fly out from these shallow lakes to feed on the range, and then return around sunset, but with many making a return trip around noon. I’ve posted a few photos below to give you some idea of the landscape surrounding Whitewater Draw. It’s a very flat plain surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides (Mule, Swisshelm, Pedregosa, Dragoons, Chiricahua, Dos Cabezas ranges, and the Charleston hills).

The wildlife area consists of two more or less year-round ponds surrounded by high levees with a trail system that you can walk over. Here is a map of the area that I found online. It will give you some idea of the lay of the land. The above photo is of the Cattail Pond indicated on the map.

As mentioned, a couple of times a day, the Sandhill Cranes fly in from the grasslands by the hundreds, forming wave after wave of birds. Generally, you hear them before you see them. I had hoped to put up a videotape to accompany this post, but I’m a bit pressed for time this morning. As you might have guessed by my previous post, I’m “on the road” now – more or less headed for home – so don’t have time to prepare a video clip right now. If I get a few spare moments in the next few days, I’ll post a clip in a separate post. Suffice to say that the sight and sound of hundreds of cranes flying overhead is awesome. Sometimes there are so many circling and flying in straight lines back and forth in strange formations, that I find myself thinking that the sky looks like a slide under a microscope, with hundreds of some type of organism swirling in random ways from side to side. It’s almost impossible to get your head around the sight of so many huge birds swirling around above you, never seeming to collide.

After awhile, a few will begin to drop to the earth, followed by more and more. Eventually, most will be on the ground, but from time to time, a flock will rise up and fly around for a bit before resettling somewhere else.

Stray flocks flying around just at sunset is a truly beautiful sight, so it’s well worth staying around for awhile even after most of the action seems to be over for the day.

Over the winter, a large flock of Snow Geese hung out around Whitewater Draw. They would put on quite a show with low passes back and forth over the water. Often, a few Sandhill Cranes would join their formation which was always entertaining to watch as they tried to keep pace.

At least one Vermillion Flycatcher could be counted upon to make an appearance. He hangs out on the willows at the south end of the Cattail Pond. Sometimes others could be found in the tall grass to the south of the ponds.

Over winter, hawks are also plentiful in the Sulphur Springs Valley. I think I saw more Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers and Kestrels this winter than (collectively) in my entire life. When I’d drive to Whitewater Draw or Chiricahua National Monument, I would see at least one or two dozen (or more) perched on powerline poles, fence posts, or coursing over the grasslands. From a birding perspective, southeastern Arizona is an incredible place to spend a few weeks in winter.

dumb-ass-teroid impact   11 comments

Posted at 1:06 am in environment

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

This isn’t the post I was going to put up today, but it seemed timely, so it goes up first. I’ll try to get another up before I get back on the road tomorrow.

Yesterday, while traveling between Twin Falls, Idaho, and Baker City, Oregon, I was passed by a *dumb ass* in a pick-up truck carrying a snowmobile and a very filthy ATV — one that had (quite obviously) been crawling around in a mucky place. The truck was speeding by in the fast lane. I noticed it because the snowmobile seemed to be poorly loaded — tipped up at a crazy angle, was bumping around, and looked as though it wouldn’t take much to have it flip back over.

While I was contemplating the crappy job of loading the truck, a huge chunk of dried mud, perhaps the size of a large bowling ball, broke free of the underside of the ATV and flew up and hit the hood of my van. It made quite a mess of the hood — put a big “rock-sized” dent in the hood right above the grille. I haven’t tried opening the hood since the accident as it might not be possible to close it again after.

I guess the one bright spot in all of this is that the dumb-ass-teroid missed hitting the windshield. If it had, I have a pretty good idea of what might have happened. Most likely I wouldn’t be sitting here typing out this post.

Quite apart from the obvious safety hazard and peril that a mud-caked ATV poses to the public, it should be remembered that the dried mud can also carry huge numbers of seeds from invasive plants. Shortly after I was bombarded by the giant mud ball, I noticed a road sign instructing ATVers not to spread invasive seeds around on their tires. Would anyone like to hazard a guess at how plant seeds were imbedded in the dumb-ass-teroid that smashed into my van hood? Ahem.

Well, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Written by bev on April 2nd, 2009

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