Large Flakes?

Looking out the window this afternoon, I saw huge snowflakes. Or were they leaves? But they were floating so easily, like snow. More and more flakes came down, and yet, not enough to say, “It’s snowing,” and besides, it was just a tad too warm. Something didn’t feel right. I went to investigate.

I picked up some of the “snowflakes” and saw that they were feathers. They kept falling from the sky. I thought of the German folk tale about Frau Holle who shakes the featherbeds (goosedown duvets, in our modern western world) in the sky and makes it snow.

I traced the path of the feathers to their origin and strained my eyes to study the top reaches of a fir tree. For a few minutes I saw nothing, but at last I made the culprit nervous.

A huge eagle took off from the tree with its dinner in its talons.

I knew from the feathers that the eagle’s meal was a duck. The harsh reality of  life and death in the animal food chain always leaves me with mixed feelings. Both are beautiful birds, but why does one have to eat the other? Couldn’t they just eat pancakes instead?

 

 

Sounds of Autumn

The sun warms my back, the wind cools my hair.

I photograph leaves that soon won’t be there.

Shushing and rustling cottonwood leaves,

Some cling to life in the stiffening breeze.

Others have flown, for the chilly night air

Has sent them a warning. “Oh trees, do beware.

The harsh days are coming; it’s time to prepare.

Your fluttering whispering dresses of gold

Must leave you alone now to suffer the cold.

But fear not, for soon you will warm up again.

New dresses will grow in the coming spring’s rain.”

 

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The video clip is of ten seconds in Montana. The wind is rumbling a bit in the microphone and the Captain is calling Ruby with his whistle, but the main thing I love about the clip is the sound of the wind in the leaves. It’s best if you make it full screen and you can almost feel as if you are there under the trees. Be sure to turn on the sound. That’s what it’s all about.

 

 

 

Get in Line

The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear,  equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.

The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”

The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.

Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.

This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.

Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal.  Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.

And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids)  held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.

The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monofilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it.   A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.

With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have  to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.

Lily

Did you know there are many varieties of lilies?  A friend brought this lily to my garden last year just before it was about to bloom. Somehow the conditions weren’t right for the bloom to last very long so I have been waiting anxiously for it to bloom again this year, so I could take its picture for posterity. The  long-hoped-for rain  arrived the day the lily tried to bloom. Would I be lucky enough to see the flowers this year? Not only did it bloom, but it graced my garden with three blossoms. I see that the first to bloom is already a little “rough around the edges” but the other two are still fresh. Notice the dark pollen on the stamens? Then please read the poem below the photo and tell me if this has ever happened to you.

Dainty lily blooms a while,

When she does it makes you smile.

But if you invade her space

Staring right into her face,

In her bloom your nose you poke,

Be prepared for Lily’s  joke.

Those who sniff her sometimes pay.

Pollen on their nose will stay.

Orchid Goes to Town

Another orchid is waking up. The first bud is squinting with one eye to have a look around. She’s not sure she wants to come out completely. It looks a bit gray out there. Where is summer?

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She waits a day or two and soon reinforcements come along. In the company of her sisters, she feels brave enough to face the world. But what faces they have!

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One of the things I love about orchids (besides their long blooming time) is that each type has such unique characteristics. It seems that the colours and designs are infinite. DSCN8532

 

What beetle with its bleeding feet

Has marked my orchid, once so neat?

Or maybe she’s not feeling well

And has the measles, I can’t tell.

I know! She’s going into town

To sport her polka-dotted gown.

Wild and Crazy

 

Spring didn’t really happen this year. It was winter right up until nearly summer. I’m way behind in my weeding, but the poppies are telling me, “Don’t worry. We’ll put on a show to distract any critical eyes.”

“Order, Order!” shouts the judge.

“Bring this yard to order, please.”

But the gardener’s brain is sludge,

Toes and fingers start to freeze.

 

Weeds are shouting everywhere,

“We’re part of winter’s doom and gloom.

Come and pull us if you dare.

But wait, what’s this? The poppies bloom?”

 

Poppies growing where they like,

Squeezing into any place.

What a pretty pose they strike,

Wild and crazy wins the race.

 

Community Garden

On Protection Island, near Nanaimo, BC, my visit continued with my friend acting as tour guide. Here is a community garden where residents can maintain a raised bed or contribute in other ways to the island’s garden project.

Can you see the glimpse of ocean through the trees? Now imagine that fresh sea air warmed by the sun. The garden is surrounded by trees that keep the humidity  hovering over the fruit and vegetables grown here.

Two special things got my attention:

  1. The potato plants in the two boxes at the front of the picture. In the ample loose soil in those boxes, the roots of the plants are able to produce more potatoes.
  2. The huge cage to the left is like a bird cage in reverse. It it meant to keep the birds out and the raspberries and strawberries in. What a great idea! So much better than netting that can tangle the birds’ feet.
    The garden is well looked after and is producing abundantly already. Outside the garden is a “Help Yourself” table where gardeners can share produce. Sometimes a person can only eat so many tomatoes or whatever vegetable has suddenly become prolific. It’s great to share.