1/30/2011

Chip Off the Old Block

Today was a sunny winter day, crisp but no wind,  a perfect day for a look around the yard. It was also a perfect day to  climb up a tree
and beat the pulp out of it
...if you're a Pileated Woodpecker of course.
There is no mistaking the sound of a Pileated Woodpecker pounding the living bugs out of a branch. They move purposely up one branch, and then another, foraging their way through the woods.
There is no such thing as subtlety either. This is a bird that knows what he wants, and will go to great lengths to get it. Chip-off-the-old-block is his middle name. And he leaves large chips of bark
and wood all over the ground -a sure sign of his visit.
In Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, he calls the Pileated Woodpecker (aka Dryocopus pileatus) the slightly unseemly
Log Cock.
But if you think about it, there's the Cock of the Walk  -  or the flamboyant rooster who is master of the chicks.
And this guy, old Chip,  is definitely the biggest bird on the tree
in this neck of the woods!
So Log Cock it is - A finely feathered pecker indeed.

1/22/2011

Owl Be Seeing You

As we were driving along Hwy# 148, something caught my eye...something that didn't quite belong, and immediately signaled the inner bird alert.
I yelled politely asked John to slow down, and turn the car around immediately whenever it was convenient. Which he did.
Can you see it? (Yes, it's there!)
Having been birding for several years now, my eyes automatically scan the sides of roads, tops of trees, fence lines...looking for shapes that don't quite fit,
as in this case a football sitting on a branch.
A football? That doesn't make any sense! The season ended here ages ago, and besides, a football isn't as fluffy.
Must be, I hope it is, I think it is, turn the car around now!! It's an owl!
As we turned around, I'm reaching for camera and the binoculars (never leave home without them...bird nerd, I know!), so I'm ready when once again we pull up to the spot we were just seconds ago.
Yay!!! Still there!


It's been three or four years since I've had such a good look at an owl...in this case, a Barred Owl. You know the one...you can often hear him calling on an early spring evening..."Who  cooks for you? Who cooks for you?"
They're generally nocturnal, so to see one on a bright Saturday afternoon is a thrill. And this guy, not only did he did he not fly away as soon as we parked the car beside the road, he actually flew closer -
wanted a look at us too it seems!
 And sat patiently while I adjusted the camera, rolled the window down further, and generally acted like an squirrely tourist!
I remember as a child, my mother reciting this nursery rhyme to me:
A wise old owl sat in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Now wasn't he a wise old bird?

I got it then, and I get it now..and perhaps that's why the owl -any owl - is a such  favourite of mine. They're just so spectacularly special. They have acheived mythical status -they're wise, they're full of magic, they portend great beginnings and great endings. And they sail to sea with pussycats in beautiful pea green boats.
They're truly a hoot.

1/15/2011

The Sue Chef: Fortification Soup

When it's -8C and the windchill makes it feel more like -21C
and the view out the window looks like this

and only those poor, unfortunate people who got snowshoes for Christmas
feel compelled to be outside,
then that is the time that my thoughts, and those of the creatures around me,
turn to food. From the little nibble notes of the Red Squirrel

to the nutty taste tests by the Blue Jays,


thoughts of food abound.

Perhaps it's a winter thing. A cold thing that makes us yearn for rich, tasty treats, a kitchen redolent with earthy spices, a pot simmering on the stove
and buns in the oven. Pregnant pause here. 
Some spicy cooking indeed!
Which is why I'm thrilled with the ability to browse through papers from all over the world, and discover a recipe in the Los Angeles Times that begs to be tested and tasted. A recipe for a soup that a couple had at Bewley's on Grafton Street in Dublin. I've actually been there! And they thought the soup was so exceptional that they asked the food writer at the LA Times to get it for them.
And lo and behold, it's now simmering on my stove too.
I love that about today's technology!
This soup is chock full of vegetables: onions, potatoes, leeks, tomatos,fennel, carrots,  and white kidney beans...



My kitchen smells like a place to linger.
To sit and share a bowl of soup,
 and a warm cheese scone.
I'll put another log on the fire, and we can enjoy this cold winter's day -
where at least for this hour, and in this place, all is right with the world. 


Fortifying the soul on a Saturday afternoon.

1/08/2011

Ellis in Wonderland

In 1965, a British rock group who couldn't think of a name, called themselves The Who and released My Generation. The depth of their lyrics was stunning. Really. Every kid between 10 and 20 thought so. And sadly, 40 years later, they still think there's substance and meaning in this s-s-song for the aaa-gg-ing.

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)


Sometimes I wonder what the archeologists digging among our bones and lost baggage in the year 3011 are going to think.  Sometimes even I have trouble reconciling our past with our present.

The dusty old farmer and his favourite team of horses is quickly becoming a romantic image of a kinder, gentler time.

"Kind" and "gentle", of course, have a totally different meaning and context than they do now. Getting up at 6:00 am to
start plowing the field, and sitting on an iron bevelled seat in the rain, the sleet , the hail, and heat while being swarmed by bugs~ not so gentle, not so kind. Different from driving 100 kph down the highway dodging trucks and weary travellers? Yes. Avoiding the driver who's busy texting and talking at the same time, far more dangerous than sitting behind Nelly and Jo, agreed. Definitely.
There are so many stories that this generation hasn't even had the dignity to forget. They didn't even know  about it in the first place. And who's left to tell them about the time in 1950's in Newfoundland when a decision was made to bring families in from the outposts, so they'd be easier to manage. Row, row, row your home... a piece of Canadian history quickly archived, but poignantly illustrated in this painting by Ted Stuckless (great name for the painter of this scene, no?)

At  another point in our nefarious Canadian history, and again, in the 1950's , the government of Canada decided that it should do  something about all the people living in the north. In August of 2010, some 60 years later, a special apology was given by the Government of Canada for the sublime, supreme ignorance it had demonstrated, and the untold pain it had caused, to the indigenous people of the North.

Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for M├ętis and Non-Status Indians, apologized for relocating Inuit from Inukjuak and Pond Inlet to Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay in the High Arctic in the 1950s, and for the hardship, suffering and loss they experienced as a result of the relocation.
"The Government of Canada apologizes for having relocated Inuit families and recognizes that the High Arctic Relocation resulted in extreme hardship and suffering for Inuit who were relocated," said Minister Duncan. "We deeply regret the mistakes and broken promises of this dark chapter of our history."

I recognize the inevitability of change. It is a constant. The cliches reflecting time and changes, ages and stages, and the inevitable march to the edge  ring true with poets, painters and authors..no matter Who they may be.

Birds falling from the sky, fish washing up on the shores, and So You ThinkYou Can Dance ...It all appears to be nonsense.

And I fear, Alice, that  we have finally fallen through the rabbit hole.

Helllooo?? Anybody here?