Mothers Know Best

New Nest. New Eggs. New Possibilities

I watch a crow sitting on our backyard fence. He looks at me sitting at my desk, secure behind the window.

Our home is a walkout. I’m one floor up. Not close enough.

I open the upper deck door, step out, all while doing my best not to take my eyes off the crow. I’ve got a nest full of eggs below to protect.

The crow eyes me. I eye him back.

He caws (interesting. I always call these predators ‘he’). Hops down from the fence onto the ground. Casually, he hops along the fence line bringing him closer to the nest.

I yell, not to loudly. My neighbours are sleeping. “Go away.”

He does nothing.

I yell louder, disregarding the fact it’s 6:30 am. “Go away!”

He caws again. Takes another hop or two along the grass, flaps his glossy black wings and lifts off. A few swoops of his wings and he lands on a branch of a tree on the other side of the fence.

“Caw. Caw.”

I sigh. Where is the mommy robin?

I go downstairs to check the nest.

I open the patio door. Peek out, looking up to the beam where she’s built her nest.

She’s there. Sitting on her eggs.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

All is well.

But man. This Crow Patrol gig is tiring!

Perhaps, I need to trust in Mother Nature’s grand design and let her have her way. Because, let’s face it, ‘Mothers Know Best”.

At least, that’s what a taxicab driver told me in January after flying home from a visit to The LIttles in Vancouver. We were driving through a freak snowstorm at 1am. No traffic but the roads were slick. Windshield wipers beating a steady tattoo that did little to improve the visibility, he told me the story of returning to his native Sudan to tell his parents he was getting married to a woman in Canada only to discover, they already had his wedding planned, just not to the woman he intended.

“I was angry at my mother when she told me I was getting married in four days to a woman she’d chosen,” he said while using one hand to clear his windshield of condensation. “That was 10 years ago and I couldn’t be happier. My wife is the perfect woman for me.”

My eyes were peeled straight ahead at the road that was barely visible through the windscreen as if my looking so intently would make his driving more… safe.

Oblivious to my focus on the road, he laughed, gave another swipe at the condensation on the window.,”Just goes to show, Mothers know best!” 🙂

Namaste

New life. Same beautiful mystery. Magic and Miracle.

I am sitting on our lower patio. Through the thick undergrowth separating our lawn from the river bank, I spy glimpses of the river flowing past. Occasionally, I hear the voices of rafters and kayakers floating past. Their laughter fills the air, as welcome as the birdsong in the trees. Above the sky is blue. I hear the hum of city traffic. It forms part of the melody of life flowing all around me.

In the beam supporting our upper deck, the mother robin has built another nest. She sits quietly above while I sit on the couch about 8 feet away from her. She is nurturing a new brood while I savour the joy of her presence and the miracles upon which she so patiently sits.

It was last Saturday we noticed the possibility of a new nest being built. A few twigs on the supporting beam. Lots of grasses and twigs strewn along the edge of the patio. “I think she’s building her next nest,” my beloved said.

I was a bit perplexed; First we gave up our front door, making guests come through the garage. Now, she wants me to give up the lower patio?

Sunday morning I came downstairs to check if C.C. was right. He was. The nest was completely constructed.

“We are going to have to find a way to cohabit,” I told mama bird when I saw her sitting on the edge of one of my flower pots.

She didn’t answer. But, she didn’t fly away either.

It was mostly a rainy week and as the finches have flown the nest on our upper deck, what time we did spend outdoors, we spent there.

And then this morning, I decided I needed to blow the leaves and such off the patio, put out the cushions and settle in for a day of relaxation in the shade beneath the upper deck.

Mama robin was in situ.

I didn’t notice her at first. I thought she might have abandoned the nest last weekend when she realized we were frequent visitors to the area.

I tell myself she got my message about cohabitation.

I used the blower to clear off the patio. She didn’t move.

I put the pillows out. She stayed put.

A neighbour came over to chat. We stood on the lawn near where she’s roosting. She still didn’t move.

I tell myself it’s because she knows she’s safe here. That I believe in magic and miracles. That I celebrate the mystery of life.

Every moment in life counts, I tell her from my nearby perch. And these moments, I whisper to her still quiet body, these moments spent in your presence make this moment pregnant with the mystery of life.

I am grateful.

A mama robin nests in the rafters above where I sit, reminding me once again that life is always full of mystery, magic and miracles.

Fail Big

What if I fall? baby bird asked. We will always catch you, said his mama and papa.

Fail Big.

Those were the words of Denzel Washington in his commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011.

Fail Big.

Take chances.

Don’t be afraid to fall. Don’t be afraid to go outside the box.

What he didn’t mention, was, if you’re going to go for it, if you’re going to take risks, make sure you have a parachute, or at least strong arms to catch you.

Who will be there to catch you?

I was thinking about that this morning after a friend asked me to remind them of the title of a book I’d quoted from several months ago as we were chatting about life and taking risks and getting so stuck in the groove you don’t realize it’s actually your comfort zone.

The book is, Warriors of the Heart by Daanan Perry.

I read it in the 80s and one analogy, in particular, has always stuck with me. Perry suggested that often in life, we feel like we’re on a trapeze, swinging back and forth. We get comfortable with the to and fro, finding the swing comforting. There’s no friction against our body and the air and forget, friction creates energy.

One day, we’re just swinging merrily along when suddenly, a new trapeze comes flying towards us.

What’s that? we wonder.

When we realize it’s a shiny, brand new trapeze…We have a choice.

Hang onto our comfortable ride, or, let go and reach for the new vision coming our way.

New opportunities are full of many possibilities. But… where we’re at is so easy and comfortable, why disturb the status quo?

It is in the letting go, Perry writes, that growth happens. In that moment of hanging suspended mid-flight, held up by nothing more than invisible threads of gravity, we experience true freedom.

You could fall. You could fly…

The wind is blowin’ fierce today.

The baby finches are safe in their nest. The mama and papa keep watch.

Soon, the young ones will fly free.

It’s a risk they must take to know the beauty of flight.

It’s a risk they will take because their mama and papa will be there to catch them.

Stolen!

I’m on a zoom call when I hear the noise. Screaming and squawaking like someone, something is in pain.

My heart pounding, I pull off my headset and race upstairs from my office. When I get to the front door, I am too late. The crow has already raided the nest.

My chickies are gone.

Mama robin is confused. She keeps returning to the nest, food in beak. She stand on the edge looking in. Flies off. Returns.

Again and again.

I wish I spoke Robin. If I did I would go out and tell her what has happened. Tell her that this safe haven is no longer safe. That nature has taken its course. A predator has destroyed her hopes and dreams.

Her returning, again and again, is heartbreaking.

Finally, after several flights back and forth, she leaves and does not return.

The nest still rests on the wreath at our front door. Evidence of her industrious build, and the crow’s insurgence.

I know I need to clean it all up. I know I need to sweep away the debris. Clear the wreath of its presence.

Later, I tell myself.

For now, I continue to walk past the front door and glance up through the half moon transom window as if expecting to see her sitting on the rim of the nest, a tiny worm dangling from her beak, the eager mouths of her young open, waiting for it to fall.

Someone said, “Well, that’s nature. Were you upset when she fed a tiny worm to her babies?”

No. But, I’ve never bonded with a worm. I’ve never followed its conception journey.

This mother arrived at our front door while I was away in mid May. She spent a week crafting her nest, two weeks sitting on her eggs and up until yesterday, 10 days tending to her young.

And, while I knew they would eventually fly away and be gone, I felt like I was part of nature’s beauty unfolding. I was part of their journey.

We are using our front door again.

This morning, Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I left the house through it for our early morning walk.

When we returned, I stood on the front steps for a moment, closed my eyes and bid farewell to my avian companions.

I know it is nature. But sometimes the nature of this world to destroy, the nature of predators to swoop in and tear apart families, to blow up hopes and dreams of the young, sometimes, it makes me cry.

I sit silently and watch the river flow. Fast and deep. Spring run-off continues. The sky above is grey. The trees are in full bloom, green leaves dancing in the morning breeze. A squirrel scampers along the top of the fence. Birdsong fills the air.

The Boston Fern on our deck turns gently in the breeze. I spy a baby finches head peeking out from its nest within the fern.

And as I type, the papa finch lands on the railing of the deck outside my window.

I watch him. He tilts his head back and a gentle song rises out. It is a beautiful reminder of what is true, no matter the times, no matter the circumstances.

All of nature is a miracle.

All of it. Darkness and light. Yin and yang. Predators and prey.

We are all born miracles of life.

Sometimes, we lose our way.

The miracle is, most of us don’t.

Namaste.

The Joy of Arting

I have been working on a ‘top secret’ project as Beaumont calls it.

I laugh at myself when I type that phrase “as Beaumont calls it”. Fact is, Beaumont doesn’t actually speak so he can’t call it anything. All he knows is that I have been back in my studio again.

And that’s a good thing.

I forget when I take long periods away from ‘arting’ how restorative, healing and calming it is to spend time immersed in the creative flow. How fulfilling it is to play with colour and texture, mediums and papers. To let my mind disassociate from the everyday to become embraced by the magical

I can’t write about the project… it wouldn’t be top secret if I did (and my daughters tell me I can’t keep a secret. Ha! Can too!) 🙂

What I can write about is the pure joy of losing track of time and space to become one with the moment, fully embodied in the wonder of now.

What I can tell you about is how when I begin each page of a new art journal, I don’t have a clear vision of the outcome. I simply have a vision of the ‘feelings’ I want it to evoke. The emotions I want to capture, the sense of there being room to breathe freely in this busy, chaotic world I want to create.

Every page is an emotional response to the moment, and on every page, I lay down not just paint, but those very emotions I want to evoke, examine, escape, embrace… show and know

Emotions that sometimes have no words. No space to breathe. No space to be simply because their ability to hide is greater than my ability to know them clearly — and so, I paint them out in an effort to set them free. Or at least, set myself free.

And that is what always happens.

In painting them out, I set myself free to be the light I want to see in a spacious, beautiful, calm and loving world.

Arting. It’s a gift that keeps creating the more of what I want in my world. Love. Joy and Beauty.

Namaste.

Dizzy as a Finch in a Fern.

Every morning, while mother robin is out scouring for food, I sneak out to take a photo of the babies in the nest she built in the wreath on our front door. They’re a week old now and when I place my camera above the nest, the babies’ little beaks open up as they plead for food. They are growing fast and sometime in the next eight days or so, will fly the nest!

Baby robins – 5 days old

In other, magical turns of nature, we discovered another nest in the Boston fern hanging on our deck!

I know. Two nests in one spring. How miraculous!

Finch in fern nest

This one was built by a pair of finches. Tucked within the ferns branches, I have now stopped watering it for fear I’ll drown the babies! It’s hard to see… but it’s there, full of babies the mother is protecting.

We’re amazed they chose such a dizzying place for their nest. The wind constantly moves the fern around and around. Hence, the title of this post, “Dizzy as a finch in a fern.”

C.C. and I are both enchanted with our avian guests… though, it would be nice to be able to use our front door again!

One day soon.

In the meantime, we treasure these magical moments of nature unfolding in all its beauty and wonder at our front door.

And… because Beau is inclined to get his nose out of joint if I share too many photos of winged treasures… here’s a video of him chasing the ball at the park yesterday! 🙂

Everyday Magic

Day 1 – Sunday

They arrived, naked and vulnerable, sometime between Saturday mid-day and evening.

Three baby robbins tucked into the nest woven into the wreath at our front door.

Mama and Papa attentively sit and/or feed their tiny fledglings, protecting them from the elements and marauding magpies.

Day 2 – I’m hungry!

I watch through the slightly open slats of the kitchen window, measuring the babies’ progress by the lengthening moments of time the mama spends away from the nest. When I see her leave, I race to the front door, slowly, carefully opening it to grab a photo. Sometimes, I’m not quick enough and the mama catches me mid-action. She squawks and flaps her wings, changing direction mid-flight as I hastily retreat and slowly, carefully close the front door. Within moments she returns.

I can almost feel her breath of relief. Her babies are safe. I didn’t disturb them.

Yesterday, their third day in this world outside the protection of their egg, I took a photo. Their feathers are starting to appear. Their beaks to become more defined. They are starting to untangle from one another.

It is mystery, magic, miracle at our front door.

She has chosen her nesting spot well. Tucked into the portico of our front porch, the winds do not disturb her, the rain does not intrude, and the magpies… they have to dive and tuck to access the nest. Before they can do that, mama and papa are on scene, and the crazy woman, aka me, on the other side of the glass has time to race to the window, hollering and flapping her arms to chase the magpie away.

The storm has abated, somewhat, though the winds still howl and rain falls, not as heavily and consistently. The river is higher today, the highest we’ve seen it since moving into this home 4 years ago. It’s still a long way from our back fence and the storm is predicted to pass today with the water cresting later this afternoon.

I am grateful.

Day 3 – too soon to fly

On our front door three baby robbins grow stronger every day.

On the pedestrian bridge I look at from where I sit at my desk typing, workers have gathered again to continue resurfacing the bridge deck. They’re doing their yoga this morning. Their morning ritual.

It pleases me to see them stretching and bending before beginning their work.

They were absent yesterday. It wasn’t safe to crawl over and under the bridge deck. I’m not sure I’d want to do it today but there they are, clad in rain gear, readying themselves for the day’s labour.

High above, the sky is lighter, less angry and swollen with pregnant clouds desperately trying to rid themselves of nature’s wet bounty.

The trees still dance in the wind. A small, leaf-burdened twig is ripped from a limb and strikes the deck.

I am here, calls out Mother Nature.

I see you, I reply.

We are one.

How it all began

Three eggs at our front door

Riverwatch

There’s no stopping the rain. It comes down in sheets. Eases off and returns to its deluge form again.

It’s going to go on like this for another day, the weather forecasters foretell.

And I watch the river like a hawk.

It is my ‘June’ thing. Riverwatch.

June is the rainy month in Calgary. If the river is going to flood, it will most likely do so now.

And I keep watch.

Prepare my ‘gotta go package’. Important papers. Suitcase. Treasures.

The likelihood of needing it is low. In the great flood of 2013, the river came to our back fence. No higher.

But…

Who knows with Mother Nature? Though the forecasters do foretell that these rains are still significantly less than the rains of the great flood, I still keep watch.

I let that knowledge comfort me. Ease my mind.

Living on the river is a gift or perhaps I should call it a privilege. Because it is.

We get to watch the river coursing through Mother Nature’s unfolding seasons from fast-flowing spring to sultry summer to Autumn’s gunmetal greys and winter’s glistening ice blanket.

We are party to buds bursting forth into a green curtain of beauty playing peek-a-boo with the view beyond their greenery to falling away to reveal the river flowing and freezing up and breaking up and flowing once again.

It is a privilege to live on the river.

And, just as darkness contains light and love contains anger, with that privilege comes the knowledge that what is cherished most also contains the potential to become something less desired.

As in all things, vigilance, standing in awareness, being present within all that is present, contains opportunities for miracles to unfold, love to rise and hearts to beat wild and free.

Not allowing the possible less desired to deter us from living here requires an acceptance of all that is present. The beauty, the constant flow of water, the sense of being immersed in Mother Nature through every season while being part of a vibrant and bustling city is divinely inspiring and invigorating.

And so, I watch the river.

She’s a wild one today.

She’ll be wild for another couple of days, the weather forecasters foretell.

Guess it’s a good thing I like living on the wild side!

Bird in Nest. Do Not Disturb.

The view from our bedroom window

She sits, still and enigmatic as a full moon glowing in the dark. Patiently, she waits for nature to take its course.

I watch, constantly peeking through the slats in the blinds at the kitchen window I never drew, until she arrived. Impatient for nature to take its course.

Her nest is an architectural marvel. Securely fashioned into the wire rungs of the spring wreath I hung on our front door to welcome guests.

She is the most welcome guest. As are her two blue eggs nestled into the nest she crafted of moss and leaves and twigs and forest debris.

The front door is off limits now. Guests are invited to enter through our garage door, into the laundry room, down the hall to the main room. (I really must get that basket of clean laundry put away!)

I’ve hung a sign on a rope strung from the handle of a large lantern that sits on the far corner of our front doorsteps to the planter that sits at the edge of the walkway beside the stairs leading down to the backyard deck. “Bird in Nest. Do not disturb. Thank you!”

I wonder if she realizes the sacrifices we’ve made to give her peace. I smile at my use of the word ‘sacrifice’. It is anything but. She feels like a gift from Mother Nature. As I said to my beloved last night after my final peek through the blinds to ensure she was settled in for the night, “I’m so glad she thinks our home is safe for her to nest here.”

It is the third year we’ve had a robin use our home as its nesting site. The other two were tucked into the rafters above the bottom deck. They were easy prey for the magpies and crows who frequent the neighbourhood too.

This nest is easy for me to help protect from predators. I watch incessantly for marauding crows or magpies on the hunt. The minute I see one, or hear the squawking of the robin and her mate, I race to the window, adding my voice to the cacophony.

I think the crows and magpies are terrified of this woman on the other side of the glass who flaps her arms and screams loudly, ‘Get Away!’.

I hope so.

There’s lots for them to eat in the band of forest that separates our yard from the river behind our home. They don’t need to poach eggs from our guest.

I do not know if there are more than the two eggs in her nest now. I only risked the one photo as I didn’t want to disturb her nest building. As robins lay one egg a day, it’s possible she laid a couple more eggs before she settled in to incubate her hatch.

I don’t know how much longer she will be resident at our front door. It could be three or four weeks. What I do know is that C.C. and I are agreed. The door is hers until she and her fledglings take flight.

It’s nature’s way of reminding us to slow down. Be still. Be patient. And above all, be caring of all creatures, big and small.

In the meantime, I shall do my best to not keep peeking through the slats of the blinds I’ve drawn to give her privacy and to help her feel safe.

See Mother Nature. I am learning from you how to be present in this moment right now, connected to all of your creation around me.

Namaste

Ebb and Flow. Flow and Ebb.

#fromwhereIsit #morningview

The river is flowing again. Fast. Free. Fluid. Spring melt ripens slowly.

The water level rises, centimetre by centimetre. Day by day. Where yesterday, the log-jammed up against one of the buttresses beneath the bridge was fully exposed, this morning, only ridges are available. Soon, as the snowmelt begins in earnest in the Rockies to the west, the water will submerge it and wash it away downstream.

For now, morning brings higher water levels. By dusk, the water will have receded a few centimeters. The cycle will continue day after day as I watch, sometimes with trepidation, its ever-increasing flow, wondering, how high will the waters come?

It is the gift and the angst of living on the Bow.

Years ago, along with 99 Calgarians chosen for Peter von Tiesenhausen’s Passage’s exhibition celebrating the Bow River, I released a small wooden boat (slightly bigger than my hand), carved with a number and message on its side, and set it adrift into the rushing waters of the River. Each of the 100 boats contained information for whoever found it on how to share the story of the boat’s discovery online.

I do not know where my boat was found, or if it was. I know many were. Many weren’t.

Perhaps, like the log stuck against the abutment, my boat landed in the weeds upstream from where it was launched and became buried in the silt of spring flooding.

Perhaps, it became waterlogged and lies at the bottom of the river in some distant tributary.

Or perhaps, it floated and drifted, following the current all the way to Lake Winnipeg into the Nelson River and onward to the Hudson’s Bay.

I like to imagine it did. I like to imagine it sailed out of the Bay into the Arctic Ocean to become frozen in time under the Tundra of the far north.

Perhaps.

Perhaps still, the patches of ice that stubbornly cling to the gravel bar further upstream will melt and somewhere on their journey, a current will find my boat, still and silent, waiting for its release in a marshland far to the east.

Perhaps.

The river, like time, does not flow backward. My boat, like memory, fades.

The sun struggles to reach the ice clinging to the shore.

Somedays, I struggle against the flow, just as some days I struggle to release the angst of these past two years.

Somedays, I release myself to the flow, allowing worry and angst, fear and sorrow to abate into the River’s constant flow.

Ebbing and flowing. Flowing and Ebbing. Life moves on as time passes.

No matter if I struggle or release, the river is in constant motion, life abounds all around and I am carried by the flow.

Whether I struggle or release, Love is always flowing.

It is my choice to struggle or to breathe into its constant flow trusting that no matter where I go, or where I become stuck or end my journey Love will always carry me through.

Namaste.

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This is a video of the boat launch — if you look closely you’ll see me passing by the camera… 🙂

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