Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Morning Glory


The rain around midnight woke me, which meant my brain said, "I was just thinking..." and for a couple of hours, I tossed and turned as I worried about my writing career, and its current downward slide into --
well --
into nothingness.
In all the years I've been doing this, this nothingness is worse than rejection. Hearing back from no one, not even people who know me, is worse than being told, "Thanks but no thanks." It also makes it difficult to know when I can send the projects to other publishers.
I'm really worried about not getting another book published. The new book project isn't helping because it's going to be a mess for a long time as I get all the stories sorted out. 
It's not been a good summer for my hopes and plans. I'm starting to think ahead, about what I can do other than the books and the magazine articles, but that only increases my anxiety.

It was unusually dark when I woke up again at six a.m. The dog sat up but I said, "Let me check." I went outside and looked to the east, the direction of our walk, and the sky was clearing. The sun was coming up behind the clouds.
But when I turned around -- the sky was almost black to the south and I saw that the clouds were moving towards the east, and I went back inside and turned on the kettle. "Yoga this morning," I whispered to the dog.

As I stood on the yoga mat, warming up with stretches, the sky in the east was ablaze in orange. I went outside, into the rain, and looked to the east, but the colour was so deep and bright, the camera on my phone wouldn't register it properly.  And when I turned around -- this rainbow arched out of the field.
Like the first snowfall of the year, or a lovely sunset, we always take a photo of a rainbow even though everyone does. Because it's special. Even as familiar as it is, it doesn't happen every day, and a rainbow is always special. Always a welcome sight. Always a moment when our breath catches and we say, "Oh!"
One photo and I dashed back inside out of the rain.

As I stood on the yoga mat, the rain fell harder, then the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed. The dog curled up on the couch and I wrapped her in a blanket as she shivered and quivered.
I breathed in hope and breathed out peace.
This is the only time I feel in control of my dreams, when I feel hopeful: on the yoga mat. This is the only time I feel strong and grounded.
I didn't do Sun Salutations this morning; I did Rainbow Salutations! There is no such thing but I incorporated all my favourite poses into the traditional lineup. Long and strong, spacious and gracious, as one of my yoga instructors used to say. When in doubt, do all your favourites.
When in doubt, breath in hope. Enough to carry me through until the next middle-of-the-night conversation with my anxious self.




Friday, August 09, 2019

Searching For Gratitude


The joy of walking is the engagement of all the senses. The sound of the poplar leaves rustling in the wind. The breeze on sweat-sheened skin. The faint crow of a rooster carrying across the river and the fields. The flash of yellow as a goldfinch flies by, its dipsy doodle flight style as distinctive as its colouring.
Every morning this summer, I've made a conscious effort to listen to the birds' singing as the dog and I walk to Carrington Road and back. This morning, I watched a bird singing and flying over me -- it seemed to be flinging itself into the day, invigorated by the rising sun, by the rain overnight, by me thanking it for its song. It sounded so happy.
My mood is in a low ebb these days so I needed the small boost I received from its energy and its happiness.

As I type, a robin has started singing in the maple tree outside my office window. It's telling a story I wish I could understand. It, too, sounds happy.

When I lived in Vancouver in the late 1990's, the Blackberry cell phone had just become ubiquitous; I didn't have one. I'd walk the dog through the leafy, wide streets of Shaughnessy (the rich part of Vancouver) where it was quiet and few people or cars were around. But occasionally, I'd see someone talking on their cell phone as they walked their dog and I always thought what a shame that was. Walking the dog is the best way to experience the world -- the city and the nature hiding inside that concrete-and-asphalt mess.
We miss so much when we are focused on our cell phone. It's not a big deal inside our house but when we are outside -- there is so much to see and hear and smell. We aren't just missing connections with other humans; we are missing connections will all creatures. We are missing connections with our senses, and therefore our own selves.
I still don't walk with a cell phone. I miss out on beautiful photos of the sunrise but I enjoy them in the moment, knowing that the world doesn't need another sunrise photo posted to Instagram -- but my soul certainly needs that quiet moment of pausing in admiration.

Put the phone down on the kitchen table. Go outside and find yourself this weekend. Especially if everything seems to be going wrong, if your mood is at a low ebb -- that's when you most need the hear the birds singing and see a sunrise with your own eyes.




Wednesday, August 07, 2019

In Other News


How about something completely different than sad news about nature and wildlife?
You may be wondering how my summer of creative writing is going.

It's not.

Can you imagine? We even built a gazebo in early July because we were no longer able to sit outside on any of our three decks because the bugs are so bad now. It's the perfect place for sitting and writing all day, in the shade of the maple tree and totally bug-free! Unfortunately, other writing, the kind that earns income but also the kind that suddenly reveals itself, demanded my time and attention.

It started at the end of June. Because my writing mentor and friend Marjorie had suggested that my memoir about taking care of my father "needed to be out in the world earning its keep", I had spent a couple of weeks reworking that as a Nova Scotia-based story. It was all right, but at the same time, because of something else Marjorie had said, I was trying to work more of my father's life as a funeral director into it.
This aspect -- my father as funeral director -- has been something I've avoided for years; Sheree Fitch first encouraged me to write about it in 2015. I never felt I had enough to say. 
Then one afternoon in late June, I was at the grocery store when the whole "funeral director's daughter" book dropped into my head: theme, format and ending.

Holy shit. That's a major epiphany for a writer. Thank goodness I was in a quiet aisle; otherwise, I might have started babbling to the nearest shopper!
Who would have backed away very slowly...

So I knew I had to add that book to my list of creative writing for the summer.
But as soon as July started, I received magazine work -- three stories that needed to be researched, interviewed and written. I got that out of the way in time to travel to Ontario to interview a couple of people who knew my father when he was a child, and when I was a child living above our first funeral home.
I was looking forward to getting started on the book as soon as I got back -- but the day before I was to fly home, another editor emailed me with two more writing assignments! I just finished writing those today.

So the much-anticipated summer of creative writing turned into a rather mundane summer of regular writing. HOWEVER: There are three weeks left in my summer holidays, before I have to start writing church services and sermons again, and I'm going to work on the revised book about my father AND a middle-grade chapter book about Hazel the funeral home dog.

Neither of which, sadly, I can do while sitting in the gazebo. But that makes it a nice getaway -- our handy little cottage -- whenever I need a reading break. Because as you can see, there are books to read...




Sunday, August 04, 2019

New Insights Into the Ospreys

The three fledglings from the "Summer of the Ospreys, 2010
One last update before we pack away this sad, tragic story for this year and hope for the best next spring and summer.

Kim is a friend of mine in Ontario and she communicates with animals; she's helped me with my dog and cat companions for over 15 years. I wondered if her abilities could extend to wild birds...
...and they do. By using my most recent photos of this year's ospreys, she communicated with the female.

We spoke last evening and now we know that someone is indeed shooting the ospreys fishing out of his trout pond. There is also a possibility of poisoned fish -- which impacts more than the ospreys. Anything that eats fish (eagles, seals, herons, even ducks and bear, perhaps raccoons) can be harmed.
So what we have here is the worst of humanity. Instead of figuring out a way to protect the trout and avoid killing the osprey, this person is opting for the "easiest", and not entirely legal, solution.

When Kim relayed that the male osprey (of this year) was shot, Kim said the female's heart "is banging in her chest". She also conveyed that the female didn't desert her chicks; she was impacted by a poisoned fish, she was "brought down" and couldn't get airborn. She "said" that an osprey parent does not abandon their babies; their instinct is to survive and get back to the nest.

Through Kim, the female osprey said that stocking our pond with trout just for the ospreys to fish "would be like bringing back the breed". Apparently, shooting osprey who are "stealing" fish is a greater problem than we realize. Trout taste good and that's why they insist on fishing the trout ponds. So we have to entice them to stay close to home. If that's all it takes, bring on the excavator! We'll build a bigger pond.

In a Google search, a website outlining wildlife laws in Canada (isthatlegal.ca) states this about Nova Scotia and "nuisance wildlife":
Owners and occupiers of private property may, where "wildlife is found doing or is in a position where it may cause actual damage to a growing cultivated crop, an orchard, livestock or private property", "use all reasonable methods to scare away the offending wildlife" [WA 28(1)]. Where this fails a permit may be issued by a conservation officer allowing extermination [WA 28(2)].

To SCARE AWAY the offending wildlife. And a permit is need to allow extermination.

The problem is the kind of person who would shoot an osprey is ignorant and won't care. I see this all the time: people (loggers or landowners) who cut down trees in the spring when birds are nesting and laying eggs; people who shoot foxes and owls without first trying to better secure their poultry (we used to shoot foxes but I now regret this, and we don't need to do it anymore because they don't bother us and our chickens are protected). There is no attempt to live in harmony with nature, there is no attempt to have as little impact on habitat as possible. If it's a tree, it's clear cut; if it's a nuisance, it is killed. We shoot first, and never consider what we, as humans invading the animals' territory, can do to avoid killing.

I don't know what we do about people who don't care and who are ignorant (y which I mean lacking knowledge and common sense, or lacking basic decency and morality). This kind of human behaviour actually freezes up my brain; I can't comprehend it, and I can't cope with the anxiety -- and rage -- it creates in me.
I hate feeling helpless.
And so, what I know is this: I can't imagine living here in Nova Scotia without that nest alongside our house, without the provincial bird raising and FLEDGING two or three babies from that nest every summer. We've failed to send SIX new ospreys into the world the past two summers. We cannot let that happen again. Ospreys ARE ENDANGERED in our area. So we will spend our winter making plans to mitigate the behaviour of others. We will protect our ospreys and see our chicks fly off in September 2020.