Just another spring morning…

A bit of blue sky, a glimpse of sunshine…yesterday was the perfect day to paint or play, depending on your priorities. For my hubby, it was his morning to begin applying the white paint I had taken several weeks to choose. Our kitchen mini-reno is almost complete. With all the construction done, it’s now paint and fabric time.

He was carefully applying Benjamin Moore’s ‘Vanilla Milkshake’ to the breakfast nook wall when he discovered two adult bears on the lawn below the window. Both were black bears, Ursus americanus, although one was decidedly brown. (Black bears come in various shades of black, cinnamon, brown, even white. If you’re curious, there’s lots more info here.)

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For these guys, it was time to romp through the garden, tromping on shrubs, overturning that pink pot of sedum, and breaking a branch or two. Then they settled in to graze on grass, just as a different visiting bear had done exactly one year ago to the day. (I shared that morning in photos here.)

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We noted the yellow tag in the black bear’s ear, a sign that he had been relocated by conservation officers. It was likely this was the same bear who visited our back deck on a couple of earlier nighttime bird feeder raids. That one wore a yellow ear tag, too.

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On closer inspection of my photos, it looked like there were actually two tags, each with different numbers. Not a good sign for this bear, who apparently is establishing his reputation as a troublemaker.

DSC05032 - Version 2We’ve duly reported the encounter to the conservation office, but living rurally means we expect to see wildlife here occasionally. Last night it was coyotes, a pair behind the house yipping and howling in competition with the chorus of tree frogs.

I’ll take wildlife any day rather than the smog and congestion of city living. Over the four-or-so decades of my hubby’s studies and pastoral service, we’ve lived in both big and small centres — Vancouver (BC), Toronto (ON), Coleville (SK), Creston (BC), Calgary (AB), Port Alberni (BC), Langley (BC), and Maple Ridge (BC) — almost always having our homes on typical residential streets.

In retrospect, we wish we’d discovered country living a lot sooner. It isn’t a lifestyle that suits everyone but the peacefulness and treed setting is a blissful sanctuary for us.

I realize my love of a quiet rural setting has rubbed off on my fictional characters who are all situated somewhere other than in a major city. They all own dogs, too. I guess it’s true that we write a bit of ourselves into our stories, but why not? In our world-building, we’re in control of every aspect of our characters’ lives, so why wouldn’t we let them live or work in places reminiscent of our personal experiences and preference?

Would you label yourself a city-dweller or a country-lover at heart? Where do you situate your characters? (Tell me I’m not the only one who imposes my choices on them! Come to think of it, I’ve even had a character encounter a bear on his property.) 

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Watching and Waiting: a poem

You may be getting tired of my bear photos, but I’m hoping you’ll bear with me a little longer. (I honestly didn’t intend that to be a pun!) I’ve been taking part (after a fashion) in a book study being done by a group of us on Facebook, organized by Sandra Heska King. The book is MAKING MANIFEST: on Faith, Creativity and the Kingdom at Hand, by Dave Harrity. ‘Taking part’ is presumptuous… an over-statement. I’m barely auditing the participation of others, reading portions as I have time, skipping bits, or re-reading others that particularly appeal to me.

There is an exercise for each day, a prompt provided, meant to stimulate a response to the day’s chapter. Day #21 was about “Making New: Bear [or bare] yourself before the page, wait, be patient. Ask for something impossible. Come to the desk [or the yard] for renewal,” and we were asked to write a ten-line poem that features an animal.

It made me think of our recent visiting bear, waiting for her invisible cub to finish its nap, hidden away behind the greenery. Thus my ‘bearwatch’ poem was born.

I don’t write much poetry, but I believe the required spontaneous creativity has a spin-off effect on my other writing. How about you? Do you ever write poems? Do you prefer the tidy, measured, rhyming kind, or the more emotional free verse? If you’d like to try your hand at this exercise I’d love it if you’d add a poem in the comments section below. (I won’t critique yours if you don’t critique mine.) 🙂

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WATCHING AND WAITING

~

Patience stretches time

into moments undone

unseen

hidden in green

waiting while a babe restores.

We would do well to emulate

watch and wait

and be recreated

a child of God

in His endless time.

~

(Carol J. Garvin for the ‘Making Manifest’
book study group’s Day #21 exercise)

Hiding from… what?

Ten days ago we celebrated my aunt’s 91st birthday with a small party… cake, presents, flowers and, of course, photos. There are other better ones, but I rather like this photo… a ‘peek-a-boo’ shot of her hiding behind her flowers, taken as a joke by her son.

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(Photo credit: Ra McGuire)

Just a week before the birthday celebration there was a photo-taking situation of a different kind in my backyard — I posted about it along with a sampling of the photos here. But there were additional, less impressive photos that I wasn’t planning to display.

Bear Tree

 

Bear Bush

In each case, the subject was hiding, one willingly, the other unwittingly. The shots made for… um, interesting, but not terribly useful records of the event. None of them gives a very clear picture of the subject.

What they do, however, is get me thinking. (I know, that can be a dangerous thing!) People also hide more often than is acknowledged. Not too long ago I attended a social gathering where I spent a good portion of the time hiding behind my camera. I’m not great in social situations… often at a loss for words to engage in meaningful conversations. I’m better at putting them on paper.

I think authors hide among their pages, peeking out via their characters. We’re asked if we put ourselves or our friends (or maybe our enemies) into our stories, and the answer is almost always ‘no’. But glimpses…? Ah, yes, I think some of our characters say things we wouldn’t dare say but might like to, wear the clothes we wish we looked good in, live in homes we can only dream of in settings that appeal to us.  Would we admit to it? Maybe not. We like to hide.

Do you agree? If you’re a writer, do you model any of your characters after yourself or people you know?

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Will it be survival of the fittest or of the most diligent seeker?

Nobody’s very happy about it. When a bear and her cub found their way into our back yard last week, I knew it was past time to put away the bird feeders for the summer. But you should see the looks I’ve been getting…

1-Junco

 

Jay

 

Flicker

 

Grosbeak

 

Thrush

Sorry guys, but this lunch counter is closed for the season. There’s lots of nibblies out there, but you’re going to have to find them for yourselves.

 

Squirrel
Ah, c’mon now, it’s not that bad. After all, the one who’s responsible for the sudden closure managed to find an acceptable alternative.

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If there’s to be any kind of writing application in this, I’d say it has something to do with accepting that there’s no free lunch along the road to publication. We simply have to knuckle down and put in the work ourselves.

 ~

Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

Genesis 1:29-30

 

He has given food and provision to those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever and imprint it [on His mind].

Psalm 111: 5

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A not-terribly-useful photo journal of a morning in my life…

Bear 6Some days I approach the writing of my blog post wondering what I can say that will be meaningful, or interesting, or useful. What bit of wit or wisdom will make you feel it was worth your while to stop here? My tidbits about the craft of writing are gleaned from personal experience and can’t be counted on as professional expertise. My life isn’t full of extraordinariness that makes it much different from anyone else’s. My efforts at photography are hit and miss at best. I take oodles of shots, and discard most, but I present you with the few that suitably illustrate my topic du jour.

My problem today? No ‘topic du jour’ will come to mind! I have no brilliant writing analogies, and my days recently have been pretty ordinary. However, I DO have some photos I can share, not because they’re particularly great photography, but because the subject matter is pretty spectacular… at least, it is to me, given it was shot in my own backyard.

I’ve mentioned before that we live more-or-less rurally, in a cul-de-sac, but one where the few homes are surrounded by woods and marshland. All manner of wildlife wander through en route to wherever. Wednesday the biggest bear yet came through… but she stayed. And stayed.

Bear 1

My hubby yelled at her when she started up the stairs to the deck, so she backed off. Instead, she wandered around the lawn and through the gardens. She climbed high into one of the very tall (200′) evergreens and then backed her way down again. She laid down and grazed on the grass, got up and wandered some more, repeatedly… for eighty minutes! (I know that because I checked the time stamps on the first and last of my 100+ photos.)

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She didn’t DO anything, but neither did she seem inclined to leave.

Then, after keeping us entertained for eighty minutes, she took one last stroll through the garden shrubs, turned and headed with determination across the yard towards the trail to our marsh… this time followed by a little cub who materialized from behind a rhododendron and scrambled to keep up!

 

Bear 3

Our best guess for the prolonged visit is that, en route to wherever, it must have been time for the cub’s morning nap. Mama Bear had deposited him there, out of sight just above the creek, and left him to snooze while she put in the time munching and mowing our unkempt lawn, and posing for her extensive photo opp.

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(If you’d like a closer look, click on the photos to enlarge)

I’m left with an abundance of photos and memories of this close-up wildlife encounter, but I still don’t have a useful Friday post for you. Nothing brilliant has emerged from my boggled brain, so I hope you’ll be satisfied with this photo journal and feel your visit here hasn’t been entirely in vain.

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“Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
and makes us wiser than the fowls of heaven?”

[Job 35:11]

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Are you leaving footprints?

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A bear wandered through our property the other night. He left his ‘calling card’ and other evidence of his presence, plus his ‘footprints’ in the fence boards as he scrambled over.

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(A click on the photo will enlarge it for a closer look.)

I sometimes wonder at the footprints I’m leaving. Do you? What will people remember of us after our wandering and scrambling are done? Will it be our lives, our faithfulness, how we have loved, the words left behind on pages, or … what? I doubt I should be concerned it will be my dirty windows (and they are dirty). Then again, I recall someone saying eyes are the windows to one’s soul, so perhaps I should be wondering what of my inner self, if anything, is visible to those who may be trying to peer in.

Neglecting to reflect God’s love and lordship contradicts my purpose in life. If His presence within me is not visible to others in how I live and write, I will be a failed creation.

So much to ponder as I re-evaluate my destination!

~

Included in the planned blog changes I mentioned last week is a shortened blogging week. I will be reducing my posts here to two a week instead of three, writing on Mondays and Fridays. Although few people regularly leave comments, five years worth of statistics indicate those are the two days receiving the most visits here. This scheduling change will give me a wee bit more time during the week to devote to my other writing. I have a novel that needs serious attention between now and October’s SiWC.

I hope my ‘musings’ here will still be of interest to you despite being less frequent.

~

“We writers, as we work our way deeper into our craft,
learn to drop more and more personal clues.
Like burglars who secretly wish to be caught,
we leave our fingerprints on broken locks,
our voiceprints in bugged rooms,
our footprints in the wet concrete.”

Ross MacDonald

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Just bearing with it!

For all of the almost-seventeen years we’ve lived in this rural neighbourhood, we’ve coexisted with the wildlife. The deer eat some of our garden plants which I replace with ones they don’t like. The coyotes occasionally keep us awake at night, and raccoons play Peeping Tom through the patio doors. A few closer-than-desirable encounters with bears on our deck are memorable, but there’s never been any real problems.

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We’ve learned to remove the birdfeeders before bears come out of hibernation in the spring, and to keep the temptation of garbage to a minimum. The acreage isn’t fenced, but we have a fenced dog yard, and in one nook  next to the house garbage cans have been contained in a wooden bin. Only recently did a bear decide to brave the dog scent and scale the fence to investigate the garbage.

Apparently on Friday night he had a midnight craving for our leftovers. I had words with him when he began flinging the cans against the house in an effort to dislodge their secured lids.

The phrase ‘Mexican standoff’ comes to mind. He ignored me, but he didn’t get the lids off, either. However he did manage to pry them up far enough to drag the contents out onto the ground before they snapped closed again. When I rapped on the window above his head and flashed the lights at him, he eventually ambled away… towing a couple of the garbage bags with him as he clambered over the fence, through the back yard and into the bush. Of course the bags snagged on the fence so the resulting mess was greater than if I’d left him to his munching undisturbed.

One day I’ll learn. In the meantime the garbage cans have taken up residence inside the garage where I must edge my way around them en route to the car, because there is absolutely no extra space in our garage. If you could do a better job of organizing our truck, van, Model A, lawn tractor, snow blower, fifth-wheel trailer hitch, freezer, pump organ, work bench and garden tools… well, you’re welcome to try… but that’s why the garbage bins were outside in the first place. I think I’m resigned to just bearing with it until winter freeze-up and hibernation begin again.

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Lineup at the Non-existent Birdfeeder and Breakfast Bar

The first seconds after I waken from a deep sleep are always fuzzy, so Friday morning when the birdfeeder that hung a few inches outside my bedroom window began to rattle and zing, I muttered into my pillow about energetic Jays and their pre-dawn appetites. Not that I said anything quite that polite. It was more like, “Those blasted Jays!”

When the rattling became a bang and a clunk, however, I got up to peer through the blinds at the offender. Offenders. There were three of them. Definitely bigger than Jays.

“Barely” visible in the predawn light.

Our place is surrounded by woods, and bears amble through our yard at least once every summer. We don’t have fruit trees or garden produce of much interest, so they’ve never lingered or caused us a problem. Well… only once was I startled to look out my office window straight into the face of a bear who was searching for a wooden birdfeeder we’d taken down earlier that day. It was empty and had been tucked behind some flower pots on the deck, right underneath the window. At the sight of each other we both fled in opposite directions, me away from what seemed like the cellophane-thin pane of glass between us, and him off the deck.

Banished to make do with the gleanings.

We know they like bird seed — they consider it gourmet granola — so at the first bear sighting each spring we always put the feeders away until the next winter. This time the bears found the feeder first. When they couldn’t flip the seeds out of it fast enough, they yanked it and the hanger with its screws right out of the wall, dumped it out and then climbed down off the deck to lick up the spillage.

I’ve never heard bears snarl before, but apparently the hungriest, or the alpha male (or female) wasn’t inclined to share, so a brief argument ensued. One loser scrambled away into the bush, and the second snuffled random seeds from around the perimeter while the third scarfed up the main meal — what would have been almost four litres of seed since the feeder had been filled just the evening before.

Chowing down underneath our bedroom window.

There was no opportunity to wean the birds from their heretofore bottomless breakfast bar, so over the weekend there has been a steady procession of them. They peck at the few remainders scattered on the railing and in the gravel below, or sit on the railing and peer with confusion at where the feeder use to be.

Hey! Where’s the birdfeeder gone?

I’ve found some dregs down here in the dirt.

Where? What’s it doing down there?

You’ve got to be kidding! There isn’t enough here to keep me going until dawn.

Pretty slim pickings! And you thought I was to blame for this?

The hummingbirds are the only winners. They have zipped past the mournful lineups to slurp nectar in greedy disregard for the other birds who will eventually find their way around the neighbourhood in search of a better-stocked seedy buffet.

What’s everyone complaining about? Mine’s still here. Yum!!

There is no writing application to this tale. It’s a bit of birdie chitchat intended only to describe why I went through my weekend doing very little writing but a lot of bird watching. I’ve been keeping an eye out for returning bears, too.

Then there was Sunday. It ended with the stunning and totally unexpected arrival of a 1930 Ford Model A in our garage. But that’s a story for another post.

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So how was YOUR weekend? Did you do anything special — maybe get to sleep in? If you did, I don’t want to hear about it! 😉

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