Gazing Bowl’s Summer Gift

The gazing bowl (AKA Geordie’s outdoor water bowl) normally only provides consoling insights and quiet focus in the autumn months when it becomes a kaleidoscope of spent leaves and shifting reflections.

Perhaps it sensed that quiet moments were especially needed this week as it’s putting on a rare summer performance.

The floral patterns in the bowl are only subsidiary gifs — the main one is that the snowbell (Styrax japonicus) tree itself is in full magnificent bloom for the first time for years.

I’d begun to accept that it would never flower again, but this summer it seems to be trying to make up for every lost opportunity. At times the tree is so full of bees that standing under it is like sticking your head into to a hive (but less dangerous.)

That soothing bzzzzz and the dappled light are the essences of summer.

But back the gazing bowl.

It’s summer message seems to be something of the lines of … take a break from the endlessly dire news cycle.

Like the wise flight attendant, it’s reminding me — put your psychic oxygen mask on first, or you’ll be no good at helping anyone else. If your beauty tank runs dry, how will you find the energy to fight for what needs fighting for?

So, just in case you need a deep breath of stillness yourself, please take your own reading from the gazing bowl.

You can hum-m-m-m a bit to yourself to mimic the sound of the bees.

As Geordie actually needs the bowl to drink out of at this time of year, the important messages do need to be dumped and rinsed every day.

For now, there are fresh scrying bowl memos each morning — but soon we’ll have to wait until fall for the next hydromancy installment.

Mavis stops by for a visit with her own messages

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

This was just one of the plethora of handy sayings my mother kept in her linguistic back pocket.

While “wherever you go, there you are,” sounded pointlessly obvious when I was younger, it’s turned out to be something in which I find more truth as the years go by.

The saying, and my idea of what it means, turn out to be pretty fundamental to my love of crows, as well as the way in which I look at the world overall.

I explore it a little in, City Crow Stories:

Crow watching is an ultra slow version of birdwatching; instead of darting about in search of new species to add to a list, you find yourself looking at things more closely and seeing the wonder there. My mother had an extensive repertoire of handy sayings, and when I’m enjoying time with the local crows I can always hear her saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” 

The truth of this saying has become more apparent to me as I get older. It also seems profoundly linked to the increasing need for us all to start finding more real joy in what we already have, and where we already are.

I was reminded this week about the many, many other sayings my mam (as we call moms in Newcastle) used every day when our local morning radio show had a call-in contest for remembered maternal aphorisms. There were some great ones and the more I thought about it, the more of my own mother’s surfaced like flotsam in my cluttered brain.

We knew she was really, really mad if “hells bells and buckets of blood” was uttered. The ultimate sanction for misbehaviour was, luckily, never enacted as it sounded gory: “You’ll get your head and your hands and your brains to play with.” Since she was a very gentle woman, we did not live in nearly as much fear as you’d think such a statement might engender.

Some of her sayings bring back in cinematic detail the occasions when they were deployed. The day she was running to catch the bus with me and my baby brother in tow and tripped on the stairs, spraining her ankle, muttering from a prone position on the sidewalk, “more haste, less speed.” I was quite impressed that she was managing to be so philosophical, but looking back I think she was trying not to scare her kids by crying or swearing, or both.

As a teenager I moved to a faraway town to go to university. During my first term I suffered that inevitable first romantic heartbreak and was feeling pretty crushed. In response to what must have been a tearful phone call, I received a letter from my mom exhorting me to remember that “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and that “every cloud has a silver lining.” She brought it all home with the always popular “it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.”
Of course, I was still heartbroken, but my mom’s borderline unhinged efforts to give me a long distance boost and a virtual hug did make me laugh and cry at the same time.
And I remember that letter as if it was yesterday, while I can’t even remember the name of the boy I was shedding tears over.

My lovely mom’s been gone now for 25 years, but I think of her every day.

The reason I love the hellebores I post about so often, is that she had them in her garden, and looking at them reminds me of her.

Her death was unexpected and I was a mess. As I was sobbing quietly at home, trying to get an emergency passport renewal to fly to England, my son came to offer some advice. For a four year old more usually to be found ricocheting off walls and furniture, he spoke with quiet authority. He had prepared a “to do” list for me:

  • Remember her behind your eyes
  • Remember everything she showed you
  • Paint your house beautiful colours and fill it with pictures of her.

I try, still, 25 years later, to follow that wise advice every day — and that seems to include having all those handy sayings rattling around in my brain and seeing how they fit into my life as I get older … even on those days when I feel like “the Wreck of the Hesperus” or as if I’ve been “dragged through a hedge backwards.”

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Modern Travel

“Wherever you go, there you are” was just one of my mother’s vast repertoire of Handy Sayings For All Occasions.

It sounded a bit eye roll inducing when I was young, but gets increasingly profound as I age.

Which brings me to travel.

Most of my journeys, especially over the past two years, have been of the internal variety, moving from one state to another. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

We’re all confined our own little vessels, one way or another.

This has limitations and does take a toll — leaving us at the mercy of time, wind, rain and whatever passing reflections come to visit.

Things become worn and begin to fall apart.

Colours fade — but then others become richer and more transparent.

I’ve always had a fondness for travelling in place, perhaps dating back to the time I lived alone in my little cabin. 

My studies of bowls in the garden are like small, eagerly anticipated, annual journeys.

I love the hellebore bowls in spring, which are always beautiful when first arranged, but often become far more interesting when left to their own devices — week after week, or even month after month.

Some of the images here are of the glass bowl hellebores from last week’s post, left to drown in a week of heavy rain since then. Others are one of last year’s collections, left in the garden to make their fading journey from March until May 2021.

Each fall there’s always the adventure of the gazing bowl to look forward to. Starting off as a rather pedestrian dog’s water bowl in September … by late November, who knows where it might have taken me?

I believe that my interest in watching the crows in my neighbourhood falls into the same category of static travel— spending so much time watching, not just a single bird species, but actually the same individual birds, year after year, is a bit like gazing into a solitary bowl.

It never gets boring.

The longer you look, the more ways of seeing you find.

The crow world is also full of reflections — yourself reflected in the eyes of the birds is the simple version. It becomes a hall of mirrors as you consider the infinity of crow reflections, real and imaginary, in the looking glass of your own eye and brain.

So there you have it: the future of modern travel lies with crows, reflections, faded foliage, and is always far more about the journey than the destination.

Get your tickets now!

You may also like:

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Small Change

This a little story of serendipity involving Agnes (the small but determined bushtit), a friend, and the coins of the realm.

Here is Agnes, a female bushtit.

If you would like to read more about why bushtits are such awesome birds, check out my 2020 post Consider the Bushtit.

Agnes is the model for one of my most popular prints, Small But Determined, and is  a member of the ensemble cast in Birds of Judgment.

She also makes tiny guest appearances on some of the parcels I send out to customers in the form of stickers I have made to adorn outgoing orders.

I often put one of Frazzled Mabel, for example, near the flap of a package so that the recipient can have an extra little smile as they open it.

I don’t put Agnes stickers on every parcel — I often consider what the customer ordered and “customize” the sticker combination according to what I guess they might like most. (Shhh … don’t tell the time and motion efficiency inspector!)

What you might call … badaboom … Flicker Stickers

So the situation is that there are a few Agnes stickers out there in the world.

Now to my friend.

She and her partner have recently moved away from Vancouver. We had a farewell drink with them in the garden just last week. One of the last things she did before starting the trip to the new place on Vancouver Island was to pick up some groceries. Later, when she looked at the change in her pocket, she found Agnes gazing up at her …

… having been stuck on the back of, what we call in Canada, a loonie. *

It fit perfectly as the stickers are, as we say here, loonie-sized.

My friend sent me the photos above and we both thought what a funny and crazy coincidence that was. I also thought … maybe it was the universe giving me one more chance to wish her bon voyage.

* This is why we call them loonies!

So, if it was you who put Agnes on the coin, thanks!

And now I think we can now describe Agnes as, not only small and determined, but also well travelled, and occasionally, legal tender!

Nothing Is Simple

Simplicity is a rare thing these days.

I’m sure I’m not alone in spending hours online seeking a simple answer to the questions, “how did we get to this place?” and “is there a way to get out of this place.”

The fine art of doomscrolling takes up far too much of my days. You too?

And, of course, in world full of  confusion, contention and endless, endless complexity, there simply are no simple answers.

One recent distraction has been reading Dostoyevsky’s 1866 novel, Crime and Punishment, in tandem with my son who’s reading it for a course.  As you may imagine, it’s not exactly light reading, but it very immersive and a trip to mid-nineteenth century Russia is a getaway of sorts.

Berries and birds have been my other escape this week.

In case you need a distraction, and at least the illusion of simplicity, come along . . .

There is a street near us lined with berry laden trees.

At various times, it’s populated with hundreds of birds. Many species are enjoying the buffet, but robins are the main customers.

Joined by a strong starling contingent ..,

… and a good showing from house finches and juncos.

The rarest visitors (be still my beating heart) are the cedar waxwings, filling up for their journey further south. More on them in a coming post!

And the crows. Of course, the crows. Some of my dog walk followers end up on this street with me and discover the berry delights.

As always, they are excellent models, pleased I’m sure, at how fine the ebony of their winter feathers looks against the scarlet berries.

The world does seem quite simple while I’m peering up into those branches and I actually have to force myself to head home.

Besides, while I’m photographing, Geordie is grazing on the fallen berries, with some unfortunate gastrointestinal results — giving me another reason to tear myself away and get back to the doomscrolling.

But I’ll certainly be back tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________

© junehunterimages, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to junehunterimages with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hummingbird Interlude

Ive been trying to write another blog post for over a week now, but I feel rather as if I ran out of words in my arguments to save the Notre Dame poplars until after nesting season.

That bid failed and I’ve been feeling a bit how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world -ish for the past couple of weeks.

The trees are gone, and only one day’s work at the site has been done in the last 7, so I am left wondering what the huge rush was.

However, in the interests of my psyche and my blood pressure, I am trying not to look that way or think about it for a while.

Today a small Anna’s Hummingbird cheered me up with a joyful visit to our small fountain.

So, by way of dipping my toe back into the blog posting world, here she is.

I hope she is as cheering for you as she was for me.

Urban Nature Challenge

“Explore your own neighbourhood,” advises our provincial premier, John Horgan for this long weekend in British Columbia.  We’re all being asked to stay relatively close to home to limit the spread of COVID-19. So, much as I long for the forest and mountains after weeks and months confined to the city, I decided have some fun and set myself a real Urban Nature Enthusiast challenge.

Geordie and I heading out on our urban nature safari.

We headed out to one of the least promising-looking locations, nature-wise, in our East Vancouver neighbourhood.

Our destination was the old Grandview Hydro Substation located at the noisy intersection of First Avenue and Nanaimo Street. This cavernous space is a perennially popular filming location for the local movie industry. From what I can discover, it was built in 1937 as a substation for the BC Electric Railroad Company to help power the old interurban rail lines that once criss-crossed the city.

As the traffic roared past, Geordie and I scouted around for some interesting moss, lichen or rust. I wasn’t really expecting to find much in the way bird life, but the trilling, whistling sound of many starlings lured me around the corner of the building.

The east side of the substation is covered in a cascade of ivy and, at first, that’s all I could see. It took a few moments before I realized that it was alive with starlings; specifically, fledgling starlings, merrily feasting on the ivy’s dark berries. Very few adult starlings were around, making it seem like a massive starling nursery — a relatively safe place to leave the kids while running errands.

Roll call at the starling nursery school.

Apart from the starling crowd, there were some robins and sparrows also enjoying the dining facilities. Nearby, a pair of crows seemed more focussed on another project.

These two were industriously flying back and forth to a nearby tree with a succession of twigs, mud and grass.

First, some structural stuff …

… and then some soft furnishings …

… finally, some scraps of cedar bark fibres, which crows often use to line the nest for its antimicrobial properties.

I thought that was a pretty good dose of urban nature for a trip to an old substation in a busy traffic area next to a gas station and was about to call it a day when I noticed the swallows.

At first I thought they were just more starlings darting around in the sky, but  I could see they were much smaller and more erratic. When one swooped only feet from my head I realized they were Violet Green Swallows!

I tried for quite a while to get a photo of them flying, which is hard enough because of their speed and random direction changes, but just about impossible in an urban area with all the power lines and poles getting in the way of the camera’s focus.

I found the best strategy was to focus on one bird when it stopped on a wire and hope that some others would fly close by. I just had my light “walking” lens with me, so success was limited, but here are few shots of the magical substation swallows.

I grew up in a very industrial part of a northern English town and I spent my childhood playing along the Newcastle quayside, discovering places like this all the time. Forgotten by the grown-ups, slightly dirty, dodgy and dangerous,  but full of adventure and new understanding for free range kids. My substation outing reminded me of those days, and the sense of having made small but amazing discoveries.

If you’re looking for something to do, I really suggest setting yourself an urban nature challenge, checking  out some new part of your local neighbourhood. It’s important to give it a a few minutes of waiting and watching to see what’s going on in the slightly hidden world of nature in the city. Bring the kids — they love a good expedition and, if it helps,  imagine it being narrated by David Attenborough!

A small chickadee making himself heard over the river of traffic.

Cocktail Party Guests

Cocktail hour is quite a big deal these days.

The rules are as follows: once the dog and cat have been fed (and they are very good at keeping us on schedule with that) it’s cocktail hour.

Actually, that’s about it really. So … rule. Singular.

As it’s still a bit chilly out, the front porch is the best bet for sitting al fresco without a blanket. Toque and down jacket, yes — but no blanket!

Photo 2020-04-12, 5 33 32 PM

Geordie, with  black and white tux colours and serious expression, does a passably good imitation of a maitre de in a very high class establishment.

Photo 2020-04-12, 6 22 22 PM

How are the first sips tasting, madam?

Really, it’s a highlight of the day. The only thing that could make it better?

Friends coming over, of course — but that’s not possible right now.

Or is it?

During cocktail hour a couple of days ago we noticed that we DID have company. Marvin and Mavis, after a hectic day of nest building, were enjoying the corvid equivalent of cocktail hour with us.

Bobbing gently in the breeze in the Katsura tree by the porch, they sat together, dozing, preening and softly chatting for a least half an hour.

Just as we were making a move to head inside, they flew off — only to replaced a second later by the next round of cocktail party guests — a pair of collared doves.

It was almost, almost, like sitting on the patio of one of favourite restaurants, enjoying a drink and some people (or in this case, bird) watching.

It’s the little things . . .

 

 

Spring Garden Notes for Sanity

I realize that I’m incredibly lucky to have a garden I can escape into, even if we’re confined to home.

It’s like having a cabin with an outside deck on the cruise ship of pandemic life.

The least I can do, in gratitude for my good fortune, is to share some of the things going on out there.

I hope to be posting every other day, about birds, or crows, or ravens . . . but some days  I (like many of you) feel just a bit too discombobulated to construct a sentence, so bear with me if there are gaps.

Newly returned pine siskin enjoying the bird bath.

Now that it’s officially spring, I took the bold move of finally removing the bird bath heater. Call me crazy! We may even go hog wild and get the small fountain out of winter mothballs too.

I keep thinking that the Steller’s Jays have moved on permanently, but then, when I’m reconciled to their absence, back they come. It’s not hard to know when they’ve arrived, what with the shrieking calls and flashes of electric blue — my cue to stop listening to the radio and rush outside and enjoy them before they move on again.

The finches, House and Gold, are providing a more melodic garden sound track with an almost constant chorus of song.

Mr and Mrs House Finch

The bushtits are back, but often in groups of only two, now that nesting season has arrived.

Female bushtit with her pale gold eyes.

And those bushtits are still using their clever little claws for holding their food like a the world’s smallest burrito.

I have been doing my Feederwatch bird count each week, even though sometimes it’s hard to settle down and do it. I have to say, I highly recommend it as a mental health strategy. Even if you don’t have a garden, you just need to pick a spot with some birds (even if it’s just a few crows or pigeons), register, and do a count when you feel like it. It doesn’t have to be every week — just when you can.

Often when I go out there to count it’s as if the birds know and they all scarper.

But I’ve learned that if you are quiet enough and just sit for a few minutes, you will find that there’s always a bird somewhere out there.

Often it’s just one modest brown song sparrow scuffling ever so softly through the shadowy leaf litter.

Or a finch, outlined against the sun on a high branch, gathering a long breath for the next musical recitation.

I suspect there may be a metaphor to be sifted out of that word litter  . . .

Song sparrow tightrope walking on the Daphne Odora

To close, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog, and sometimes writing to let me know it helps a bit.

The fact is that writing the blog helps me a lot too, by giving me something positive to focus on at this crazy time.

So, thanks and stay well, be kind to each other. And to the birds, of course.