does your soul need comforting?

A special Earth Day 2020 post, inspired by the lovely poem, Such Singing in the Wild Branches by the incomparable Mary Oliver.

Such Singing in The Wild Branches

by Mary Oliver — from Owls and Other Fantasies

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves —
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness —
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself a wing or a tree —
and I begin to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
stopped
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that I was singing —
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in there perfectly blue sky — all of them

were singing
And, of course, yes so it seemed,
So was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
And does your own soul need comforting?
Quick then — open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Many of our souls have found comfort in nature over these last few difficult weeks.

If we are lucky, we may have experienced “a pure white moment” or two in the natural world.

I hope it is true that “once you have been there, you’re there forever” because, when the world starts to move on again, we need to remember the things we’ve learned over these quiet, worried, contemplative days.

We need to remember that we need Nature. And I really, really hope that we remember that Nature needs us too.

Now.

And later.

 

 

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© 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.

The Cabin Fever Series I

My “living alone in a cabin in the wilderness” years weren’t really comparable to what people are experiencing now.

The outside world was proceeding more or less normally while I was living “off grid” in the Cariboo in the mid 1970’s and I could, I suppose, have chosen to leave at any time.

In some ways though, I felt I had to stay.

Most days I loved it and, on days when I didn’t so much . . . well, for much of the time I was there, I couldn’t drive and didn’t have a vehicle, so an impulsive exit wasn’t really an option.

I’ve been trying to think of which things I learned during those years that are handy now. I chose that experience instead of going back to school to do my Master’s degree. While there have been many times I’ve thought that was a crazy decision, now that I’m older I’m less sure. Every day I’m grateful for things I learned — about myself, mostly — in my Cabin Fever period.

As it’s a bit of a long story, I’m dividing it into a few parts and will end with a small summary of Cabin Life Tips.

june on bridge

Crossing the log bridge at low water.

The first cabin I lived in was an old dynamite shack, left behind from a gold mining operation. Located several miles down a road that ended in the rushing Quesnel River, it was pretty remote.

Only about half a dozen people lived further down Seven Mile Road than me, and getting to the cabin involved a twenty minute hike from that road, including the fording of the creek that fed into the main river, via the rather dodgy log bridge.

This was less, or more, exciting depending on the season and the water level.

7 mile road

Seven Mile Road

While at the dynamite shack I learned how to make bannock and discovered that no-see-ums can fly through mosquito netting. A fit of rustic craftiness almost lost me a finger when trying to cut a bracket fungus off an old log to make into a candle holder, as one did in those days.  I’m sure I must have learned some other things.

One of them should have been “keep a diary so you can remember this stuff forty years later.”

After a few months in the dynamite shack I inherited another, closer to the road, vacant cabin. I had stayed there before with my good friends, Richard and Denise, but they had two babies by then and were moving closer to the amenities of  “town” — aka Likely, where the one grocery store, bar and post office/gas station were located.

Likely Bar-late 70's

Beautiful downtown Likely, mid-70’s.

June&Tiko

It was during this period that Finlay the Magnificent arrived in my life.

A neighbour stopped by with two puppies that his dog had given birth to. Using a uniquely hard sell technique, he told me that, if he couldn’t find homes for them, he’d be hitting them on the head with a hammer. I hadn’t really been planning on getting a dog, but . . .

Of the two, one was much prettier. I picked the plainer one, confident that the  “looker”  would have a better chance of adoption.

This was the start of a beautiful 15 year relationship.

I was told that cabin dogs needed to be kept outside so they could keep watch for bears, so little puppy Finlay slept in the great outdoors. He would get revenge by crawling under the cabin and getting stuck under the porch, yowling, so I’d have to get up in the middle of the night and pry a board off the platform to pull him out.

He was so tiny that first winter, when we walked through the deep snow to visit the nearest neighbours a couple of miles away, his forward motion was accomplished via a combination of swimming and tunnelling.

babyfinlay

There are so many Finlay stories. He came tree planting with me for years and was a pretty legendary camp dog. His favourite sleeping spot was, not beside, but under the airtight stove in the cook shack. While I was out planting, he would stretch out in the blazingly hot sun beside the tree box supply. Sometimes when we got back we could hardly find him because he’d be completely and obliviously covered in dust.

There will actually have to be a whole separate post on Finlay for some of the other stories. The time he went missing for a week, the memorable day he brought me a bear, how he adapted, years later, to city life . . .

june in a box

My first winter in the log cabin was very enlightening. First I learned that a cabin made of logs needs to be “chinked” — i.e. insulation of some sort put between each log. This one had been built without such consideration, so when it was 20 below outside, it was about 18 below inside — with an arctic wind blowing across the floor. I would keep the airtight stove going all night and still the water bucket, located next to said airtight, would be frozen in the morning.

logcabin w

Log cabin in early winter.

Keeping that stove going all night meant lots of wood chopping, which meant a crash course in the care and maintenance of firewood.

First I learned that if you locate your wood pile under the eaves of the cabin, where three foot long icicles will inevitably form, your wood supply will become deeply encased in ice. It actually took longer to use the axe to chip wood out of its crystal prison each day than it did to split it. That’s the second fun thing I learned — splitting rounds in freezing weather is kind of fun as it only takes a tap with the axe and the wood explodes in a satisfying manner.

Miraculously, by the end of the first winter I had neither frozen to death, nor bled to death in the snow from an axe injury. And I had taught myself Fair Isle knitting.

In kindergarten I had been the worst knitter in the class. I still remember the humiliation of being the only one still forced to struggle on with a tangle of red string when all the others had graduated to actual wool.

Perhaps it was over-weaning pride in my new accomplishment, but I somehow concluded that, because I had mastered knitting Fair Isle socks, I was now ready to build my own cabin.

I headed into Williams lake and bought what was to become my bible.

illustrated housebuilding

It was the description “definitive layman’s book” that sold me. That and “for those who need a lot of help.”

As you can see, I still have the book “Illustrated Housebuilding.” I don’t think I’ll be building any more houses myself but I keep it handy in case either of my kids should feel inspired.

My goal was to build my “dream” cabin  — i.e. insulated to an extreme level, and close to a water source. The log cabin was only a few minutes walk from the road, but was a long trek uphill from the stream where water had to be hauled from. I decided I’d rather be further from the road and closer to the water.

So all that remained to do was get supplies and build it.

Since there was just me, and I still didn’t drive, there were a few technical details remaining to be worked out.

illustrated housebuilding inside

Stay tuned for the next instalment, Cabin Construction!

cabinbuilding june

Read on at:

 

logo with crow

Edgar and the Great Outdoors

Edgar doing a bit of supervised bird watching/conversing with the crows this morning.

He has only once tried to make a break from his back deck playground.

Many years ago I had a market tent set up for a summer studio sale in the garden. The tent roof was, apparently, enticingly close to the deck.

I was inside the tent when I heard a thud as Edgar landed on the cloth roof. As quickly as I ran out to try and rescue him, he was faster.

Somehow he deployed his “terrified cat” superpowers to make the gravity defying leap back to the familiar safety of the deck.

The experience confirmed his (correct) belief that the outdoors is a dangerous and unpredictable place.

Surfaces that look perfectly solid, for example, are deceptive.

He has never tried to escape since then.

Downy Dating Tips

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of all the North American woodpeckers, a compact and handsome little bird, often found in urban backyards.

The male wears a jaunty red cap, while the female restricts her fashion palette to a crisp and dapper black and white.

They are firm believers in the saying “good things come in small packages.”

I was out walking the dog a few mornings ago and heard what sounded like a small jackhammer. A bit rude to be working on a construction project so early, I thought.

But, getting closer to the hammering, I realized the source was the top of a Hydro pole. I then assumed that it was the usual suspect — the amorous male Northern Flicker looking to impress the ladies.

I stared at the pole for quite a while without being able to spot the percussionist. It took my camera lens finally pick him out — a tiny, but talented, male downy woodpecker.

He was exploring the whole T-bar of the pole, testing here and there to find the best reverb. And he’d found the sweet spot for sure, making a noise that echoed richly around the neighbourhood.

So impressive did he sound — he finally attracted a  female Northern Flicker to his perch.
They both looked at each other as if they’d arrived on a blind date . . . and both parties had stretched the truth in their dating profiles.

You can see Mr. Downy trying to look inconspicuous on the far right.

After an awkward moment or two, the downy made a quiet exit stage right — off in search of his true love.

Here’s the actual object of his affections, taking a little spa time at our bird bath. I’m hoping they’ve sorted the confusion out now and that we can look forward to some even littler downies later in the season.

Incidentally, my very first blog post, written in spring 2014 was about a Downy Woodpecker. You can read it here: Downy Woodpecker Drama

Two big things to take away from the 2014 story:

  1. Keep your cat indoors
  2. Donate to your local wildlife rescue centre. Nesting season is always an extra busy time for these volunteer run organizations, especially as they try to work through the Covid-19 complications, so help them out if you can. The organization that saved the downy in 2014 (and countless other birds and other wildlife before and since) is Wildlife Rescue BC.

 

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© 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.

The Edgar Diaries

Edgar, so confident that all will be well, now finds himself nodding off during the Prime Minister’s daily briefings.

He is however, adamant that everyone should listen to the Health Officer’s advice and keep on staying the bleep home. Do not cross this cat. You have been warned.

staycation

And, just in case you need a reminder about the vital importance of hand washing …

More on the importance of keeping to some sort of schedule during these discombobulating times.

4:57 Edgar arrives at my desk.
4:59 Geordie arrives as back up.
5pm is dinner time and some schedules must be adhered to, regardless of whether the humans have lost track of the days. Honestly, they say, what would the people do without us …? A good question.

Photo 2020-04-13, 4 59 24 PMPhoto 2020-04-13, 5 01 03 PM

Because his own luxury pet bed is starting to seem a bit cramped, or perhaps just because he feels like a change, Edgar has now laid claim to the dog’s bed as well as his own. Luckily Geordie is willing to roll with the punches.

Photo 2020-04-13, 2 57 24 PM

Photo 2020-04-13, 2 58 29 PM

And … a rare win for the human, staring contest-wise.

You know the days are long when you’re competing in staring contests with Edgar.

Stay safe!

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 . . .

 

 

Raven Therapy

I must confess, I’ve been “hoarding” these ravens since mid-March, working on prints of them as a consolation prize for not being able to get up to the mountains more than twice this winter.

It already seems like another lifetime when I took these photos in late February and mid-March — in the all too brief period between the “fractured foot” and “everything in the world has changed” eras.

On the first trip, it was sunny and lovely, and we saw a few ravens.

The most interesting raven moment that day was when we heard what sounded like a chipmunk being strangled in the shadow of a big tree  …

… and it turned out to be this raven noisily bringing up a pellet.

The second trip, just before the mountain trails were closed to the public, was mid-March. That precious day provided a small conspiracy of ravens and lovely soft light for photographing them.

If it had to be my last day of the winter to see them, it was a good one.

 

 

I should put in a special thanks here to my family who were on the trip and who waited, more or less patiently, while I was taking these photos and perhaps a few more.

While I do love my local crows, ravens are somehow a special treat. Even if I can’t see them for weeks at a time, I find the simple idea of their existence to be therapeutic.

When I couldn’t get up to the mountains for the early part of the winter, I watched this video of ravens playing with snowballs over and over again to tide me over. It seemed to speak to many people. I think it’s the most popular video I ever posted on my Twitter account, shared thousands of times.

I imagine they’re up there now, joyfully living their raven lives, with only trees and the skyline reflected in their all-seeing eyes. I’m sure they don’t miss the human company — except, perhaps their ill-guarded and easy to purloin lunches.

You can find some of these images and others now available as prints in my shop.

 

 

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© 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 Tonic

Well, I think what today needs is . . . hummingbirds!

Luckily (unlike toilet paper) they are in decent supply around here. After a bit of a scarcity over the past few weeks, I had two Anna’s Hummingbirds come by this week.

These days, a special bird visitor is the equivalent of a wild party.

It’s certainly a blessed “stop anxiously listening to the radio and obsessively bleaching surfaces” moment.

So, in case your hummingbirds haven’t arrived yet, here are my recent visitors for some vicarious hummingbird therapy.

First we had a male Anna’s stop by a few days ago to check out the intoxicatingly scented Daphne Odora.

I imagine the nectar of the daphne must be exquisite to the discerning hummingbird palate

Post lunch pause. He had to clean some pollen off his beak and stuck around to enjoy the view.

Bit of a nap/meditate …

A good wing stretch … and then off he flew.

Yesterday I put fresh hummingbird nectar out and it seemed as if this female had been just waiting for it to be served.

Photo by June Hunter

Next, she went to check out the fountain. I noticed last year that they seem to like the running water in the fountain better than the static bird bath.

(See Novice Hummingbird)

She would take some sips of water from the bird bath and then go for a quick fly-through shower under the stream of water.

Then time to dry off in the lilac tree …

… followed by a snack and a perch on the purple rhododendron.

Then she was off again, pursuing her hummingbird adventures. I’m hoping they have a nest nearby and that we’ll be seeing both of them again soon, perhaps with babies.

Stay tuned for some #raventherapy coming up later this weekend!

 

 

 

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© 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.

 

Moon Phases

As the Super Pink Moon rose over our little part of the world last night I realized that it seemed like such a long, long time since the last full moon — the Super Worm Moon of early March.

Back then (in another lifetime) clouds were gathering, but life was still fairly normal here in Vancouver.

Super Worm Moon, March 9 2020

Many other people were out in the early evening enjoying the air and the appearance of the Pink Moon. “How breath taking is the moon?” we exclaimed from our 2 metre exclusion zones, as it miraculously rose above the city tangle of roof tops, wires and poles.

If there is something to be taken from our current situation it might be that, even in our urban setting, people finally have the time to just stop and watch the Nature channel.

On the last few nights I noticed neighbours taking advantage of any viewpoint to better enjoy the gorgeous sunsets. The top of the local school’s “earthquake preparedness box” seems to be a favourite way to gain some altitude.

The Pink Moon, lovely as it is, isn’t actually pink. Because it’s the first full moon of Spring, it rises at a time when the rest of the world is turning pink with blooms and blossoms. It reflects the pinkness of the world below.

Our neighbourhood is in full pink glory. We’re on the fulcrum between the falling snow of the darker pink plum blossom and the blooming of the shell pink cherry ones.

Mr. Pants guards “his” corner

Ornamental Plum Blossom

 

Quince blooming on a neighbour’s weathered wall.

Pink-tinged snow on Mount Seymour where, in a different universe, we’d be enjoying some late season snow shoeing and raven visiting …

Marvin in a pink world

Blossom nest  — the destination for this furniture delivery from a week or so ago.

As I try to adjust to the changes between the last full moon and this, I’m starting to get back to some work. I’ve got some new prints ready and I plan to re-open my online shops this weekend, just in case people want to browse in world of garden birds, crows and ravens.

The next full moon, in May, will be the Full Flower Moon.

Its arrival is a certainty in uncertain times.

May we all be safe and well to see it — and all the moons to come through summer, fall and winter — all the way to the lovely Pink Moon of 2021.

 

 

 

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© 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.