Monday, November 30, 2009

Grand Canyon Highlights

South Rim, Grand Canyon AZ, late afternoon in October

One of my priorities when planning our fall trip to the American south west was to see the Grand Canyon. Gaelyn of Geogypsy had posted so many interesting and beautiful features about the North Rim that I wanted to go to that section of the canyon. However, accommodations at the North Rim close on October 15th even though the park itself is open until November 30th or until snow makes it inaccessible. I realized there was not enough time to make the long trip into Utah. We settled for a few hours at the South Rim and even that was a 600 mile round trip from our hotel in Las Vegas. The day was beautiful, sunny and on the cool side which was good for walking. I took a hundred or more pictures but none of them conveyed the length and depth of the canyon. Every few minutes the colours on the rocks changed as the sun lowered in the sky.

Bright Angel Trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon AZ

The Bright Angel Trail descends over 4000 feet from the south rim to the Colorado River and is used by hikers and mules. This picture shows a little perspective of the size of this part of the canyon. I chose to walk up the Rim Trail which was paved and little wider with rest stops along the way. There were many birds along this trail which were hard to photograph due to light conditions. Deep shadows from the rocks and cliffs covered many trees as the autumn sun was lower in the sky. Mountain Chickadees look similar to our Black-capped Chickadees but their call is lower and a little more hoarse. I had to look closely to see the white stripe above the eye as they feasted on pine cones. Stellar Jays and Juncos were plentiful as were Pygmy Nuthatches that moved quickly around the trunks of the pine trees.

Hairy Woodpecker, Grand Canyon AZ

This Hairy Woodpecker looked and sounded like the ones I am familiar with in the eastern part of the continent. Their range is very widespread. We saw many Ravens, a bird we do not have in SW Ontario. Their croaky call was unmistakable, much different than the common American Crow which is abundant at home.

California Condor

I wanted to see a California Condor and about half an hour before we left, one flew overhead just long enough for me to get this picture. It is the largest flying bird in North America and is endangered, with only 75 of them in Arizona (2009). It created quite a stir and many people were excited to have even a brief glimpse of this scavenger. It rested below the rim on a shady rock, the banding number visible on the wing. (I cannot make sense of what appears to be -0 as a number)

We had only a brief glimpse of all there was to see at the south rim and I would love to return and explore the north rim as well. It was not too busy here in late October, but the weather could turn cold and snowy at any time this far into the season. Our tour guide said they have people sign a waiver after November so they do not have to return their money if they get near the park and the bus cannot continue due to ice and snow.

Have you seen the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world??

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Word Became Flesh...

Babies in our family

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. It also is the birth day of the newest member of our family, my grand-niece, Ivy, who was born less than four hours ago.

Christmas season is in full swing. Santa Claus has arrived in parades and malls, stores have extended hours for a busy shoppers, church choirs are rehearsing cantatas, and parties and family gatherings are being planned.

The first chapter of the Gospel of John describes the coming of the Messiah to earth. These verses are from The Message.

"He was in the world, the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn't even notice..."

"The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son, generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Jesus moved into his neighbourhood in flesh and blood. He arrived as other babies come, with pain and joy, into an uncertain world but one with hope and potential. His birthplace was more humble than average and his immediate family was not distinguished. During his ministry he mingled with sinful and sick people, touching their flesh, identifying with their suffering, bringing compassion and healing into their lives. He taught about the kingdom of God using simple parables which paralleled the lives of the people who listened to his words. He did not restrict himself to a pulpit within the walls of a place of worship. He was Lord of the fields, the trees, the seas, the lilies, and the sparrows. And he sought to be Lord of people who chose to be his disciples. He did not have a political agenda and resisted those who wanted him to build an empire on earth.

How can we celebrate the coming of Christ to earth? Do people in my "neighbourhood" know I am a follower of Christ? Is my worship and service restricted to a particular church building where people may look for a God who thinks the way they do and fits the box they made for him? Or do I reach out and touch the flesh of those who are needy, who are not like me, who are hurting and lonely? Will I be generous inside and out, true from start to finish?

Our family has welcomed many babies over the years. Ivy is our flesh and blood and will be loved and admired as she grows and develops.

Jesus showed us that everyone in the world is our flesh and blood. He came to all mankind and those who follow his example must do the same.

If I could visit Bethlehem

If I could visit Bethlehem,
what presents would I bring?
If I could see what happened then,
what would I say or sing?

I wouldn't take a modern toy,
but gold to pay for bread,
some wine to give his parents joy,
and wool to warm his bed.

I'd learn some simple words to speak
in Aramaic tongue.
I'd cradle him, and kiss his cheek,
and say, "I'm glad you've come."

If Mary asked me who I was
and what her child would do;
I wouldn't talk about the cross,
or tell her all I knew.

I'd say, "He'll never hurt or kill,
and joy will follow tears.
We'll know his name and love him still,
in twenty hundred years."

I cannot visit Bethlehem,
but what I can, I'll do:
I'll love you, Jesus as my friend,
and give my life to you.

Brian Wren
© 1990 Stainer & Bell Ltd

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Flowers: More California Blooms

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

By the end of October, we have usually had a killing frost in southern Ontario and our garden is dormant for the season. I appreciated the beauty of every flower seen on our recent vacation as it will be late April before flowers appear again at home. The tourist stop adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge had lovely gardens which seemed to have been coordinated in colour with this famous span across the bay. We drove through the San Francisco Botanical Gardens within the Golden Gate Park but did not have time to explore this area. It is definitely a place I would return to see the many themed gardens and the arboretum.

Lombard Street, San Francisco

Lombard Street is famous for its block which is considered one of the crookedest streets in the world. Because it was so steep and dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians, eight switchbacks were created to slow traffic. One of the most photographed streets in San Francisco, well kept gardens are contained along the winding roadway. Hydrangea blooms were the featured flower when we were there.

Hydrangea Bloom on Lombard Street

As we drove south to Monterey Bay, we noticed a succulent plant which was used as a ground cover in many places. I thought it was an aloe plant but it was an ice plant which is native to South Africa. Some people consider it to be an invasive species, especially around sand dunes along the coast and it has adapted very well in this climate.

Flowering Ice Plant

Large plantings of succulent plants can be a good fire barrier because of their high water content. This is important in places where there is a high risk of wild fires. In many places leaves of the ice plants were turning red which looked lovely on the rocks near the ocean.

The architecture of many buildings lent itself to a variety of trailing flowering vines. I loved the splashes of colour on roof tops and fences. Our rooftops will soon be adorned with snow but I prefer this image and the warmth it portrays.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Remember Whensday: Fears and Phobias

Going through my father's slides, I came across images of events which are forever seared in my mind, memories which became the origin of phobias I have struggled to overcome. From the pictures you can see that we generally went barefoot at home. We played outdoors here daily and I had my first little vegetable garden at this house. I remember only two poisonous snake encounters at home, the first being a black mamba that slithered between my mother's feet when she was raking the grass and the other being this puff adder which was found at the side of the house. From the look on my face it is obvious that I am not impressed with this snake.

Sandland brother did not seemed inclined to touch the puff adder but when we returned to Canada, he was a great collector of garter snakes and would bring them home from the ravine near our house. My snake phobia continued to grow to the point where I could not even look at or touch a picture of a snake. Seeing the smallest, most harmless snake would make my knees go weak.

I clearly remember my father pretending to charm the dead puff adder. The neighbour attached a string to the snake's mouth and moved it in a puppet like manner. Snakes have their place in the ecosystem, but deadly snakes in urban neighbourhoods were sure to be killed or removed to the snake park. My parents called the snake park to remove the mamba from the hedge beside the house.

The snake park was a place of horror in my mind yet we would go there on the weekend sometimes and view the pit where a writhing mass of serpents were thrown together. The facility had a very practical purpose too. Venom was milked from the snake's fangs in order to make anti-venom serum. I remember the snake kit we had at home in case we were accidentally bitten. The snake handlers would come out and put on a bit of a show for tourists.

I did not want to pass my irrational fear of snakes onto our daughters and made myself watch television documentaries about them, hiding my distaste for the subject. The Becka had a plastic snake which I loathed, but she was allowed to keep it. I have come across harmless snakes frequently on trails and my heart still pounds when I see one. But the panic I once felt has lessened and while I don't expect I would be able to touch a snake, I have desensitized my fear to some degree.

My other childhood phobia was waterfalls and again I would feel sick if I saw even a picture of one. Dad had his home movies put on DVD and there is a picture of me as a toddler wearing a harness, standing at the unprotected edge of Victoria Falls. Perhaps the seed of fear was planted then and with other experiences it grew much bigger. I don't care for heights, which I think is likely normal, but I can now stand at the brink of Niagara Falls beside the protective fence without feeling like I am going over.

Fear is a protective instinct. Phobias are irrational. Looking and these pictures and remembering helps me understand them.

Follow this link for more Remember Whensday posts.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Fisherman's Prayer

Fishermen's and Seamen's Chapel, Pier 45, San Francisco CA

The Fisherman's Prayer
by Thomas Keats

When far from land on the stormy sea
There are times when my boat seems frail to me
Where the rising wind and the monstrous waves
Have sent many souls to their watery graves

When the fog shuts down and blacks out the shore
And the heavy seas on the rocks do roar
Where the hidden shoal and the tricky tide
Could mean my doom without a guide

In times like this our hearts sometime fail
And we fear we'll be lost in the stormy gale
Our thoughts go back to our friends on shore
And loved ones whom we'll probably see no more

But then at last there is a light
Shining through the gloom like a beacon bright
It is our faith in Our Lord we see
Who rules the raging of the sea

Our thoughts go back to the story true
Of Our Lord who protects His disciples crew
Who were fishermen just like me
And we follow their tradition of the sea

So now all fishermen be of good cheer
And always remember Your Lord is near
The word of a hymn which can give courage to thee
Are "Jesus Saviour, Pilot Me".

Sunset at Pier 45, San Francisco CA

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clutter, Chaos, and Creativity

Sunset at Pacific Grove CA

I have been back in Canada for a little over two weeks and during that time the contractor has been at the house daily continuing with our renovations. Things have taken shape nicely but we move from rooms which are almost empty to rooms which are crowded with furniture and other displaced items. The clutter and disorganization have sapped my energy and most evenings it is easier to just go to bed rather than deal with the mess. The project will not be completed until the end of the first week of December. Yesterday the baseboards were finished in the living room and we put the basic furniture back in room to relax in. I have decided to wait a few weeks to put pictures on the wall and have packed away the knicknacks (dust collectors) for now. How does one accumulate so much "stuff"?

The Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach CA

I love open outdoor landscapes, the simplicity of the horizon, the sun and moon, a body of water, a tree. Creativity is unleashed when we have space for our ideas. My New Year's resolution was Simplify and I have this opportunity to act on the one word guide I chose for 2009.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Red-tailed Hawk Rescue

Paul is the plumber at our hospital. I knew him as the person who had a Smart car in the parking lot, but recently found that he also has a keen interest in the natural world around him. On his way to work last week he noticed a young Red-tailed Hawk lying at the side of the expressway which runs through our twin cities. He thought it was dead but stopped, picked it up and continued on his way to work.

Deb* works at the reception desk but is more at home with her camera taking pictures of birds and wildlife. She is one of those people who brings her camera everywhere she goes just in case she has a great photo opportunity. The hawk was very docile and allowed Paul to handle it while Deb took these pictures. Sadly, I had already left work for the day.

The hawk was alive but sustained an injury to its right eye and had some bleeding from its beak. Apparently it was able to move both wings normally and had no other obvious external problems. Paul called the local Humane Society and they arranged to have the bird moved to Hawkeye, a regional bird control and rehabilitation facility. The plan was to return the hawk to the area where it had been found once it was well enough to be released.

On Friday Paul heard that the bird was recovering but today he came and told me that it had died from its injuries. We have many Red-tailed Hawks in our area and they are seen frequently in the city, often on light standards along busy roads. I drive the same expressway home and recognize the "golf course" hawk and the pair of "land fill" hawks who are seen in basically the same area each day. Large birds which hunt near traffic are at risk for injury from cars and trucks. This hawk must have had injuries more severe than were initially apparent.

Man made structures and machines inadvertently injure and kill many birds each year. But people like Paul, the staff at the Humane Society and Hawkeye do what they can to save unfortunate victims. Hawkeye claims that about 70% of the birds in their care survive. It is too bad that this hawk was not one of them.

*All photos taken by Deb Lehman. Please do not copy or reproduce

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Flowers: California Blooms

Bougainvillea Bloom

One of my patients recommended that we spend time in the Pacific Grove/ Monterey area of California on our road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. She told me about the Monarch butterflies which over winter in the area and I was determined to stop there. We stayed at a lovely place called Sunset Inn which was just a short walk from the Monarch grove and the ocean. Three days earlier a bad storm had knocked out the power in the area for more than a day.

Strong north winds were still blowing when we arrived and it was actually colder here than it was back at our home in Canada. This was unusual for the date. The winds had scattered the butterflies and there very few to be seen in the grove. Apparently the number of Monarch butterflies was greatly reduced this year west of the Rockies as well as in the north-eastern part of the continent where we live. But I was not disappointed with the grove which is dominated by tall Monterey pines and Eucalyptus trees.

Hummingbird in Bottlebrush bloom

Flowering shrubs had been planted to provide nourishment for the butterflies, and many hummingbirds were in the area. I also saw several warblers, woodpeckers and other birds which I will identify when I find my Sibley bird guide in our renovation mess.

Monarch Butterfly at Big Sur, CA

On the drive south a couple of days later, we came upon more Monarch butterflies around Big Sur. They were sheltered from the wind in the valleys of the mountains. I love Bougainvillea and the bright splash of colour it adds to fences and walls. We came across a lot of it in the area.

Many Canadians go to Florida in the winter, but I would rather travel to the Monterey area for a break from the snow. The beaches here are not for sunbathing but the scenery is spectacular. My patient had been discharged by the time I returned to work, but I took some pictures and sent a sincere thank you to her for directing me to this beautiful place.

Bougainvillea at the Monarch sanctuary at Pacific Grove, CA

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


National War Memorial, Ottawa Canada

I have met many Canadian war veterans in my work as they are an aging group of people, their numbers thinning as we move a half century and more past the big wars we memorialize today. Many of them suffered physical and emotional ailments related to the war and even if they are difficult or unpleasant patients, I respect their contribution to the peace we enjoy here today. One of our patients dressed in full uniform this week and went to a special luncheon where he was to recite a poem. He wore his medals with pride and we were proud of him too.

Overnight Vigil November 10-11, 2009

I am working today and cannot attend the outdoor Remembrance Day parade and service at 11:00 AM. So last night The Becka and I went to our city's cenotaph for a while and watched the young cadets who stood vigil through the entire night. Night time must have had a special horror in times of war, the hours long, the air cold and the enemy unseen. I took night pictures of our national war memorial in Ottawa earlier this year with the same thoughts in mind.

Ottawa, Ontario

The darkness of war continues to plague our world and conflicts claim the lives of young men and women who have dedicated themselves to serve and protect our nation. Today we remember and honour their sacrifice.
The Royal Canadian Legion sponsors an art and poetry contest each year for students across the country and encourages them to reflect on Remembrance Day and its meaning to them. This poem was a winner in 2005.


I stare at my feet in a moment of silence
And strain to cry for those who were lost.
Yet no tears come, and I struggle to understand
Why I do not cry like the veteran next to me.

I try to imagine the young men of our country
Leaving home to fight the unknown.
I try to envision families broken apart
By the terror that is war.
I try to picture someone close to me
Having to kill.
I try to imagine the crushing pain
When a loved one does not return home.

Soon the reveille sounds and I awake from
my thoughts.
I am moved but have shed no tears.
I look to the veteran next to me and see the
sorrow in his eyes.

He gives me a teary smile and takes my hand.
Only then do I realize that he has seen
unspeakable things.
And fought so I could only imagine them.

Nicole Jowett, 2005
Winnipeg – Charleswood Junior High

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remember Whensday: "The Chair" and other Memories

I have no recollection of this Christmas when I was three, almost four, but the picture evokes many memories of my childhood. This is Grandma's living room, a room in which I spent many, many happy hours.

In this picture Mom is playing the piano, something she still enjoys doing to this day. She was a kindergarten teacher and was required to have a Grade 8 piano certificate in order to teach at this level. She had a rhythm band for children, a collection of wooden sticks, blocks, tambourines and bells which we used to accompany her music. I am holding one of the tambourines and my cousin on the left is undoubtedly using another instrument.

My great-grandmother "Bobby" is sitting in a chintz covered wing-backed chair in the left of the picture. That chair was my favourite and I would sit in it, my head wedged in the left wing with both legs dangling over the right armrest. The chair was next to Grandma's built-in bookshelves by the fireplace and I spent hours reading books from her personal library. The chair reminds me of authors such as Thornton Burgess, Emily Carr, Pauline Johnson, Willa Cather, Nellie McClung, and Louis Hémon. When Grandma died in 1990, I took many of her books and the wing-backed chair. It was covered in a gold fabric by then and it has been in my living room for almost twenty years.

Yesterday an Irish upholsterer with a thick brogue carried "the chair" out the door to his shop where he will re-cover it in the selected green tweed material.

"It is a good chair," he said after checking the joints and supports, "but the cushion springs will have to be replaced."

Yes, it is a good chair and I am not surprised that the seat cushion needs to be replaced. Perhaps I will find a chintzy slip cover sometime and re-read Grandma's collection of Canadian authors pretending that I am ten or twelve or sixteen years old again. Or perhaps I will just continue making new memories on this special old chair.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

In His Image...

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
(Lester Kern)

I have been a Sunday School teacher for grade school children for many years and scarcely need to look at the curriculum to know how lessons will be presented. Some children like to colour pictures and do word puzzles, but many find the seat work to be boring. I have collected many games and crafts to supplement my teaching and have learned a lot about various learning styles through trial and error.

When I was a child, churches in North America collected old Sunday School materials and shipped them overseas to missionaries. People like my parents distributed Sunday School papers to children with few material possessions. I remember one little girl in Durban, South Africa who died from some illness. Her mother placed a few treasured Sunday School papers in the coffin before her burial. Mom taught Bible lessons with flannel figures on beautiful oil painted backgrounds. I loved those stories and bought the entire Bible in flannel figures twenty years ago. I use them regularly and children still enjoy them. In the past few years we have had more children from various racial backgrounds and I am very aware that all my flannel figures are Caucasian with no colour variations.

Jesus welcomes little children (Jesus Mafa)

This fall I have been using curriculum from the United Methodist Publishing House (Live B.I.G.) The lessons are creatively presented with many interesting activities and short DVD clips are provided for introduction and review. I played the DVD today and was introduced to some wonderful art portraying a black Jesus along with more traditional white images. Over half the children in my group were black or of south east Asian background.

The African village gospel pictures shown here were created for people in the Mafa region of Cameroon. These beautiful, culturally relevant paintings were done by a French artist in the 1970s. I found other sites on the internet featuring African American religious art including this one. God created man in his image and it was not an exclusively white likeness. The traditional art renditions we recognize as Jesus Christ are not what he really looked like either.

It is good to step outside of our traditional perceptions of God. Earlier this year I read The Shack by Willam P. Young. The book has its strengths and weaknesses but I enjoyed the author's allegorical approach to the image of God. Some people I know felt the presentation of God as an African American woman was heretical, but that characterization did change later in the book. God is a spirit, neither male or female, and exhibits the strength we associate with a man along with the compassion and tenderness of a mother.

Jesus heals the paralytic (Jesus Mafa)

I hope the children and grandchildren of the people my parents taught in South Africa now get Sunday School papers with pictures like these on them.

Friday, November 06, 2009

From Vegas to "Reno"

Colorado River/Lake Mead approaching Las Vegas

I have been home for three full days, back to work for two, following a perfect holiday where we enjoyed 13 consecutive days of warmth, sunshine and travel without hassle. Each day was a new learning experience as we visited places never seen before. It has taken a while to get back to the eastern time zone after being three hours behind on the Pacific coast but I actually awoke today and felt rested.

The day after we left, the contractor we hired removed the wall between our kitchen and dining room and started a major renovation to our main floor. Initially we planned a kitchen renovation only, but once flooring and wall colours started to change, it was apparent that the work needed to continue in other rooms, especially when the house was taking on a more open concept appearance. I arrived home to "Reno", and found no place to sit and eat. My desk was covered with items removed from the construction areas. It is a good thing I have a laptop and wireless internet. My husband and the Becka did an excellent job of organizing things in the chaos, but I did not know where they had moved items we needed.
I just started going through photos last night. Digital cameras are great but looking at over 1000 pictures is a time consuming task. Many will be trashed as I try to organize the best ones.

I had a chance to try Apple's iMovie software for the first time and made two short movies, this one of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas...

...and another of a cable car ride in San Francisco.

Hopefully I will find time and place to re-enter the blogging world on a regular basis in the next week or so. I have been scanning other blogs but have not had time to comment.
Have a good weekend!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Postcard #8 ...end of the journey

Went to the beach at Malibu this morning and enjoyed the warm sun and fresh ocean breezes. This lagoon was north of the pier and many birds were there. I took a lot of pictures but will have to check my Sibley guide at home to identify some of them. Western birds are familiar but just a little different than ours in the northeast of the continent. This is a beautiful spot, out of the smog and congestion of the big city.
Goodbye California...