01 December 2014

Dec 1

After an almost agonizingly prolonged limbo between autumn and winter, December's arrival brought with it a real Canadian winter. Literally overnight, we had ourselves a blizzard-worth of snow and biting temperatures. It was somehow shocking; I think we had begun to imagine winter would never catch up with us.

But I love it. Three sweaters (minimum) at once, mittens, boots, slow-to-start car engines, more tea, cozier homes. There's just this feeling in winter that is unlike anything else. Our vulnerability to the raw elements increases the safe, warm feeling of being at home. And then Christmas comes. Despite the shortness of light and difficulty getting around, I kind of love winter.

These blizzard-like conditions have also seen me locked away at home all weekend, which gave me time to work on my long-neglected Butterfly Project. It's going great. I'll post pictures of my completed work.

Oh, and there are other plans for the rest of this winter. Did I mention I'm off to South America on New Year's Day...?

21 September 2014

a word on this spontaneous lovely day

The first day of autumn comes in two days. But for today, despite the yellowing leaves and subtle chill in the wind, the sun still thinks it's August. It's gorgeous outside.

Even with winter looming, I love this season. The field is harvested and open. The forest has the delicious spicy smell of rot. Geese scatter the skies in loose V-shapes. Mourning Cloaks can be seen fluttering among the falling leaves. This is autumn. A season of transitions.

This time of year reminds me that change can be good. Like the leaves, sometimes it's time to let things fall as they may. Like the harvest, sometimes it's time to purge what you've collected. Like the many creatures preparing for winter, sometimes it's time to prepare yourself.

Change is good. I choose to face mine. Like autumn, I run on toward winter.

14 September 2014

little cat

Have I ever introduced you to my little cat, Clarice? I love her--I've never loved a cat before. She even comes when called.

03 September 2014

after the last summer fire goes out

Hello friends. How was your summer? Here, in my part of the world, summer has begun its slow transition into fall. I've only just started saying my goodbyes.

Last week, on the last day of August, K and I decided to have one more summer fire. The sun was down by 9:30, so we stoked up with only the distant glow of the city to guide us. As we drank up the last of our hoppy IPAs, little streaks of aurora slid down the horizon behind the firelight. As it got darker, we could even make out the subtle stripe of the Milky Way. It was a gorgeous night--no mosquitos, no clouds, no distractions. Only the fire and the surrounding night.

All that day, we had hiked around Elk Island National Park. Not mountainous, not particularily special, but full of forested trails, untouched lakes and some of the only wild bison in Canada. Quite lovely, really. Our only goal was to walk until we could walk no more. We found a bison thigh bone, collected the fallen half of a wasp nest, and had satisfyingly sore feet by the end of it. That adventure, along with the fire that followed, was the best way we could think of to bid farewell to our summer.

Now, in this new season, they've begun the first stages of harvest.

Some important things took place over these months of warmth and sun. I turned 21. I ran my second triathlon ever. I summited my second mountain ever. I attempted a forest garden. I purged my room of everything I didn't need. I saved up a lot of money. I hatched some travel plans.

And now, with summer over, I am left to antisipate the many, many things growing on my horizon. Some are overdue and unexciting, like getting a credit card; some are new and even a little scary, like booking my first flight by myself. However, for once, I am ready to face all of them. I feel grown up; ready.

Lizzie wrote the other day about accepting leadership of your life; about being unapologetic and not ambivalent, about self-discipline, about looking at the "to-do" list as less important than the "accomplished" list. Having pondered a very similar train of ideas myself this summer, I really needed to read that post. And it came at just the right time.

The combines will be back to gather the rows of reaped canola soon. Hello, autumn. Let's get crackin'.

30 June 2014

the spreading board

I have already told you about my experimentation with the killing jar. It is only the first step in the very precise process of insect taxidermy, and now that I feel confident in my ability to use it, I have at last got up the courage to attempt using a "spreading board" -- the next, and highly necessary, insect-mounting step.

To be used while the insect is still soft and pliable--so preferably right after leaving the killing jar--the Spreading Board is for positioning insects so that they dry out the way you want them to. In the case of butterflies and moths, with their wings fully spread out to give an aesthetic shape and to reveal all the markings. My makeshift spread boards are nothing special: merely cardboard and sewing needles, with masking tape and little strips of paper to hold the limbs and wings in place. Not professional, but workable. I plan to invest in a proper one as soon as I can get it (this site has really cheap ones!)

By tomorrow, my specimens should be dry enough to be removed from the board. I'm excited to see how well they turned out! It's yet another step in this practice, and being a hobby that I value, I want to do it correctly. Mounted insects can be beautiful. I want mine to be.

27 June 2014

for this hot week :

these insects added to the ol' mounting board
Tiger Swallowtail
Mustard White
Summer Azure
Common Ringlet
Virginia Ctenucha
Northern Bluet

this new dress

 a first attempt at sun tea

a discovery that the forest beds have been nibbled down to nubs by some wild thing

these songs
"I've been hanging on your every word/Under blankets and covers." - Mounties
"When you wake what is it that you think of most?" - Tegan & Sara
"Soft hair and a velvet tongue/I wanna give you what you give to me." - The White Stripes
"I didn't know I was lonely 'til I saw your face." - Bleachers

25 June 2014

first summit, 2014

Coming from the middle of the Canadian prairies, mountains are a novelty. Despite being merely three hours away from Alberta's portion of the Canadian Rockies, my hometown is completely flat, with no inkling whatsoever that there are mountains anywhere near enough to get to. I hold those handful of times in the year that I get to see them/breathe them/climb them as very precious. I try to keep them vivid in my mind for as long as possible, until the next time--which, in every case, can never come too soon.

Over the weekend, K and I went to Jasper. We set up camp. We hiked through and around Maligne Canyon. We swam in Lake Edith. We purchased a growler of beer from the local brewery. We even encountered a bear.

But, in all of that, it's always the mountain that yields the highest level of satisfaction. On the first day of our trip, the summer solstice, we climbed Roche Miette.

It was not an easy venture--it was downright painful at times. The scree at the top threatened to shower down on us; we burnt our faces (forgot the sunscreen) and our legs still ache. But what did we gain? We stood on the top of a goddamn mountain.

I love all of it: the sheer distance away from other people and wifi, the idea that the only things you own at that time is what you carry on your back, the distict smell of rock in the sun, the constantly changing view, the good quadricep pain, the feeling of intense satisfaction when you reach the top...

There's nothing like it.

Even so, I am no pro. I'm not even hiking-fit. This is only the second mountain I've ever climbed. But last year, after climbing Mount Lady MacDonald in Canmore, I fell in love with it. I needed it. And this one, though more difficult, was even more satisfying. I can hardly wait for the next one.

And what better activity is there to do with someone you like a real lot? K is the best mountain-conquering partner I could ask for.

19 June 2014

that kind of girl

We're going to Jasper this weekend. Would it be weird if I told you that the triathlon wetsuit K bought me as an early birthday present (for swiming in Lake Edith) made me swoon more than if it had been a diamond?

12 June 2014

killing jar

Obviously, telling people that I kill butterflies is like saying, "I destroy beauty and snuff innocence." Even though spiders and beetles and wasps are swatted at without the least twinge of conscience, a butterfly is different. More free, more whimsical and seemingly symbolic of all things innocent. People like butterflies. So what can I say? I kill butterflies.

I use a killing jar: priming it well by sealing in three cottonballs soaked in ethyl acetate (a chemical in nail polish remover) until the fumes have created a sort of warm, damp presence. I then cover the cottonballs with a cardboard platform and add the insect. After a few flaps and shudders, it just falls asleep: curling its legs beneath it and calmly laying its wings open.

There is never anything sweet about death--even the death of an entirely unrelatable, strange being like a bug--but I still don't feel like a "killer." I don't feel cruel. I don't feel that there is anything about this that I should be ashamed of. Mounting insects isn't exactly a common practice, but it is a practice. And a good one. Insects are beautiful and fascinating: they're worth preserving for closer study and appreciation.

And I appreciate them greatly. Aren't they marvelous?

09 June 2014

from the fire pit

Rain and rain and raaaiiin. All last week has been utterly soaked to the bone, and this one is starting out the same way. My bike has only been ridden once since the snow melted, the local outdoor pool has not been visited, and my summer tan has barely been started. Still, we managed the first bonfire of the year over the weekend--we fit it neatly during a calm between two storms--and it has made me feel like I have accomplished something. It may be strange to take something like this so seriously, but having as many bonfires as possible is one of my goals for the summer. I found last year to be very lacking in this regard, which was a bit of a let-down for me because I think bonfires are highly important for the structural integrity of a successful summer. There is nothing more summer-oriented, socially inclusive, and utterly enjoyable than building and having beer around a bonfire. I am excited for more to come.

Oh, and while we're at the subject of goals, have the rest of my summer to-do's; for my own accountability if nothing else...

train weekly for August triathlon - 2 swims, 2 bikes, 2 runs
successfully mount a butterfly (third time's the charm!)
read Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury
track swamp tadpoles during transition into frogs
go see The Room at the Garneau Theatre
go on three camping trips (minimum)
hold a garden party per month
sew a garment per month
achieve epic tan
attend festivals  
save money

05 June 2014

rhubarb sprouts and a terrarium

So it looks like the first sprouts of the forest beds have finally come up. Rhubarb!

Every day this week has been hot and lovely, ending with a storm. Lots of sun and rain for the beds! K and I also contributed this week by collecting rocks from the field to make a little garden border. The sprouts finally became noticable on Tuesday, even among the confusion of weeds (we plucked carefully around them).

Inbetween, K  has also helped me with my terrarium. I chose a 40oz growler rescued from the junkyard, first layering the bottom with small gravel rocks, then garden dirt, then crushed bits of soft rotting wood from a fallen tree, then bits of the moss growing on that same tree. A little water, then the cap. Ta da! We'll see how that goes.

In other news: the tadpoles are bigger (we had to transfer them into a larger tank, even then letting some go free into the swamp to allow more room) and two of the painted ladies have hatched. It's difficult to get pictures of these things, but I will continue to try. Perhaps you shall see them soon!

28 May 2014

junkyard musing

Edit: this whole time, I have thought the forest and junkyard were established by my grandfather while my mother was young. I just found out today that it was my GREAT grandfather; and it was my GRAND mother who was the young girl. How much grander is that!

On Monday, it was raining. I was out running the dogs, taking my usual walk up and around the forest. Lazily, enjoying the rich damp smell, I decided to go in and check the flower beds. Because of the rain, everything was very wet and silent and still, and all the vegetation was brilliantly green. The mosses growing over the dead leaves and rotting logs was vivid. Almost impulsively, I went over and gathered some: I was thinking about K's terrariums. 

Despite always having admired the idea of terrariums, the thought of starting my own had never crossed my mind until I started dating the terrarium aficionado that is K. He has three flourishing in his bedroom: a smallish growler, a sideways wine bottle, and a lightbulb. They are lovely and fantastic, so when I saw the lush moss brightly contrasted against the forest floor, I couldn't help myself. I only realized after gathering a large handful that I would need a glass bottle before I could proceed any further. Then I remembered the junkyard. 

Buried in layers of rose and raspberry bushes and punctuated by chokecherry trunks, the junkyard my great grandfather established before my grandma was born has stood untouched since my last proper visit, ten years ago. Everything that was old back then is even older. I remembered it differently: more abundant, more mysterious, less as a scourge on the environment--less of a junkyard, really. My young mind looked at it as a treasure trove, something exciting and secret: there was nothing to worry about concerning morality or danger, it was merely something to explore. I remember imagining that I would find something really valuable, then dream up all the things I would buy with my new riches.

Stepping carefully around anything that resembled broken glass or sharp rusty metal, a practice reminiscent of days long past, I elbowed through the branches in search of anything with terrarium promise. I found the bottom part of an oil lamp (unfortunately the glass part was broken), parts of a car and stove, a chicken feeder, vodka and ketchup bottles, a huge rusty and mossy barrel, rusty metal kegs, rolls of chicken wire, fully rusted tin cans, numerous teal plastic containers, and--my adventure's goal--varieties of glass jars.

After gathering a small but successful yield, I departed. I didn't stay for hours of further adventuring; I didn't double-check the inside of every tin can for lost treasure. When I left, I left any mystery that may have still surrounded the old junkyard behind. I have grown up. I no longer play all day in old forests in search of potential riches. I no longer see huge heaps of rotting tin as the houses of magical forest creatures. As the tragedy of adulthood would enforce, everything has become plainly exposed for what it really is. The forest is just a bundle of old trees, the junkyard is just some overgrown old junk. It was sad to feel the nostalgic wonder fade into drab reality as a scrambled into the clearing and made for home with my armful of bottles.

But, perhaps, one man's junk is still another man's treasure? Perhaps the fact that I even bothered to return to the junkyard demonstrates that there is still a little childish wonder left in me. Maybe these old fantasies don't have to die? Maybe they just transfer into the desire to watch a little moss take over an old beer bottle...