Category Archives: Nature and Planet Earth

Tomahawks and Giddy Up

‘If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come’ ~ Arapaho

Hay bales line the streets. Restaurants and bars take on a saloon-like appearance. The crowds, a sea of cowboy hats. Dusty boots, clicking spurs and faded-worn jeans walk the streets. I never realised what a big deal Stampede would be to Calgary, not only is the city transformed into a metropolitan version of the Wild West for the tourist invasion but I got a real sense of genuine local pride for the cow-herding, gun-slinging heritage of the province.

On Friday I went to the Stampede Parade, spectators lined the streets awaiting parade floats in the 31ºC heat. I love parades and festivals, on the condition I get a decent standing place in the crowd (I’m a little 5’3”) to watch the colourful celebrations. I love how the music fills the air and everyone is in high spirits and there to enjoy themselves. I love the dancers, the marching bands, flag wavers, balloons, bejeweled costumes, the horses. Maybe I’m just a really excitable person? Here’s a few of my favorite images from the day:

Perhaps this is the appropriate time to tell you that back in the deep dark dawn of time I bought Horse & Pony magazine and replaced my Transformers wallpaper with my Little Pony. Even now I have to say, horses are quite beautiful animals especially when they’re in motion cantering and galloping.

The parade lasted for about 2 hours, so I was shifting between standing and sitting, doing a little jig on the spot to keep my legs awake. I finally got to see the Chinese Cultural Society do their lion and dragon dances which was worth waiting for. Now cowboys are rootin’ tootin’ and all, but Native Americans are pretty awesome. Totem poles, tomahawks, dreamcatchers, battle cries, potlatches and pow-wows. Brave warriors and hunters of the old West.

So what else has been going on?

  • I have caught up with snail mail, so instead of online activity I’ve put pen to very pretty paper, mailing postcards and dusting off those air mail envelopes. I love the thought of my friends’ faces lighting up when something drops into their mailbox and they know I’ve thought of them. Now to tackle that scary looking pile of emails.

  • Uploaded nearly 1000 Banff photos, intrepid traveler tales will follow.
  • World Cup withdrawal. I get sucked in by world sporting events – the passion, the frantic flag waving, crowd eruptions and goal celebrations. I had backed Spain since England came crashing out, the final was very physical and tense. But I did cheer when Spain won especially after the Dutch ninja-kick foul that never got red carded. Must add to Bucketlist – Will attend one World Cup in my lifetime.

  • Becoming more and more demoralised by the job (or lack of) situation. I’m trying not to question my achievement and self-worth, but I see so many things I lack the requirements and experience for. Applications I’ve made (via job sites and speculatively) are hardly setting the place alight.  Should I reassess my career dreams? Should I go to graduate school? I’m really asking myself these things. If I don’t find employers willing to sponsor me to stay in Canada I will need to return to the UK by March. I graduated almost 1 year ago and it’s really denting my confidence that nothing has worked out. I don’t know how to sum up this year with a positive tone that recruiters will drool over. I have really been trying but it feels like I’m running out of steam. Limiting my job search to Calgary is really frustrating, maybe going back to England wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The term double-dip recession scares me, but maybe we’ll be out of it by then. It’s so tough. Especially when David has got a nicely paying jobs here.
  • Volunteering – been enquiring about tutoring in homework clubs for Grades 1-12, an internship at Shaw TV (something a bit different!), becoming a member of Big Sisters and having conversation meet-ups with Korean students wanting to get to grips with English. Not exactly career-related but I’m not one to sit around and do absolutely nothing.
  • Getting excited about Shark Week on Discovery next month. My first ever science career dream was shark and marine mammal research.
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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Nature and Planet Earth

A Dog Day

Tiresome and stuffy, the bus journey dragged on, I was wondering if I would even get off at the right stop for the animal shelter. After escaping the confines of the vehicle and letting 45 minutes of journey evaporate away I was standing in front of the building. I could sense the creature compassion and happy wagging tails before I even entered. My purpose for being here was actually volunteer-oriented and I had an interview with the volunteer manager – which went swimmingly well and she was super nice.

Not only are neglected, abandoned and surrendered doggies bought here but the biggest lop-eared rabbits you’ve ever laid eyes on, kitty cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and even a rogue snake has found its way into the shelter’s possession. 7000-8000 animals a year are bought through their doors – imagine that!  Using their super powers of love and care they arrange adoptions, offer top-notch care and educate the public, real life animal heroes.

One thing that struck me about the dogs here was how well-behaved they were, either greeting you with barks and bounding – wanting to lick your face off in the friendliest of ways, or calm and gentle – to put you at ease in their company. Each dog has such a distinct personality, like people there are those that immediately want you attention and crave it, and those that are happy to sit back and maybe be a bit cautious about revealing too much of their personality till you know them better.

I thought I would share some photos of my day, including my favourite dogs. Yes, if I had the room I would love and look after them all, then buy a sleigh so I can get around the city when the winter snow starts to layer the ground.

Human kindness

Ginger (German shepherd, rottweiler cross) and Yoyo (American Eskimo). Great dogs, great spirit.

Top: Benny. Love at first sight. Here’s 50% American Eskimo, 50% who knows (pure awesome). He looked so full of joy I thought he would burst. Below: Charlie, a giant Saint Bernard, though between you and me I think he’s crossed with a giant teddy bear.

I have such a promising feeling about getting involved here, I’m excited to be a dog walker and carer and looking forward to putting a positive stamp on animals’ lives. Who wouldn’t want to spread kindness in the face of unconditional puppy love?

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Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth

Treasure Troves of Chinatown

Chinatown shops are treasure troves of the weird, wonderful and kawaii (‘cute’). Amongst the jade dragons and lucky cats you’ll find Hello Kitty, paper lanterns and garlands, resting or jolly laughing buddhas and miniature Chinese lion puppets. There’s no real logic to what goes where on the shelves,  it’s a colorful assembly with a splash of red and gold and a hint of disorder and chaos. Which all adds to the charm. Surrounded by Chinese script on the packages it almost feels like leaving behind the English-dominated outside for a moment or two, being immersed in something quirky in a language you don’t fully understand, besides the dollar signs on the goodies that is.

The little girl in me couldn’t resist ‘Milk’, clearly David couldn’t either.

The Chinese Cultural Centre in the area actually has a Lion Dance society, it’s not only the lion’s vivid colours which cause the audience to marvel but the group of skilled people inside the lion’s body – they are able to move in such a coordinated, harmonious manner that the lion’s movement is nothing short of fluid, almost appearing to sweep effortlessly over the ground without a stumble. The head dancer controls the lion’s ears, mouth and eyes moving them rhythmically to the music and giving them dramatic expressions. Making the costume leap to life. Hopefully I will get to see this spectacle mark the Chinese New Year in China one day.

What do I think is really awesome right now? This video. What a tradition! Wait till the champion lion starts balancing on the poles and rearing up to really see the skill involved, this isn’t child’s play.

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Calgary, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth, Travel

Wings of Freedom

‘The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage’ ~ Thucydides (Ancient Greek historian).

I thought…

Gazing up into the sky, eyes transfixed on flocking birds. Sometimes darting unpredictably, other times in synchronous formation. Sometimes dropping through the sky, confident in their recovery. Dispersing and swarming. Encircling.

Fighting the oncoming air currents, riding determined, battling to regain their freedom.

So much space, so much sky. Their playground limitless.

I scribbled this down today in my sketchbook. We can’t sprout wings but I think we can learn a lot from birds – the importance of traveling together and learning from others (the reason birds can effortlessly switch direction is their movement influenced by those beside them, this following allows them to move in an interconnected network). They can make us pine for more freedom and fill us with wanderlust to up sticks and traverse the continents. We may question what boundaries prevent us from being truly happy and content. Birds illuminate the truth that you can go where you wish, you are not tethered, you can go where the wind takes you or let determination drive you to where you want to be. They remind us we are each battling our own air currents so we can open our metaphorical wings and glide on the breeze.

A favourite Postsecret, making a very good point.

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Filed under Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth, Personal Development

Down by the Lazy River

‘When you arise in the morning,

think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive –

to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’

Marcus Aurelius

Just a reminder to live in the NOW and to appreciate our presence on Planet Earth. More than lucky.

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Filed under Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth, Personal Development

Creature Compassion

“Please human kind wake up and realise the very real consequences of your each and every action. In today’s society it is not that ‘can we make a difference’…we do make a difference and therefore it is up to each and every one of us to decide what kind of difference that is going to be” ~ Julia Butterfly Hill.

Watching the news unfold on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blog out has been a dragged out and painfully prolonged catastrophe. It is truly sad, but pointless to direct blame, it will not speed up a solution to the problem or help reverse the environmental disaster that has left the shores, ocean and marshes tainted. But after weeks of seeing poor helpless birds, dolphins and sea creatures helpless and immersed in a thick sludge, unable to move and slowly being choked, suffocated and drowned in the slick, there is a little ray of hope. Only small but still a slither.

The released oil no longer constitutes a spill but more like patches of oil, little tarblobs, following a trajectory – spreading out across the sea with the tides and currents. It is hard to precisely imagine the spread of the oil gush but maybe it would help to equate it to the geography you are familiar with. This helped me visualise the contaminated area. It really puts into perspective what a huge cleanup operation this is going to be.

It totally engulfs Calgary but when you position it over England, well it looks nothing less than monstrous.

The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, my family have been regulars at Sarasota on the coast of Florida. I cannot imagine this area being overcome with mucky grime, the beach was so serene and looking out across the horizon made troubles just melt away. To see it become a part of the problem is just unthinkable.

If anything this disaster is a reminder of how fragile our ecosystems are and the impact we have on them. It is too late to consider risk management and safety measures, but not too late to learn for it. The media creates a grim picture of recovery but it’s also what is not seen that worries me. Food webs are very complex and effects on small organisms will funnel upwards to their predators, magnifying the effect. The full impact is impossible to determine right now and it is hard to know what’s going on in the murky depths and seabeds. Wetlands and mangrove swamps will become clogged with the tarballs as they lack the mechanical wave force to break up the oil – they are important for diffusing pollutants, as nesting sites for birds and spawning zones for fish. I guess you could say they are like the kidneys of the waterways.

There is more to this disaster than meets the eye but I live in hope that something can be done.

Links for committing acts of kindness (because this isn’t just America’s problem) – Care2 and this.

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Filed under Facts & Figures, Life, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth, Science

Wonderful World

‘There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day’ ~ Alexander Woollcott

Determined not to let my anxiety and thoughts ruin a perfectly good day I swept them back to the deepest darkest corners of my mind to be dealt with later. I had let my decision invade my mind and it just ended up making my mind pound frantically every time it did. Clouds hardly peppered the sky and the sunshine was able to bathe the pavements and grass below it in a bright, blinding light. I simply had to get outside.

I went to two live music events today Carifest 2010, a celebration of all things Caribbean. Think timpani, flying Rastafarian colours and ladies dressed in Carnival gear – an assortment of brightly coloured feathers, body glitter and sparkly, skimpy outfits. The smell of Jamaican Jerked Chicken enveloping the food tents and the beat of percussion ever-present in the air. Very apt for a sunny afternoon, alas! no beaches or palm trees in the near vicinity. I think that would have just about completed the setting.

Such a fan of outdoor music events, you will find me there enjoying the vibe of the crowd regardless of if it’s melodic rock, trance, cheesy pop or Scandinavian death metal. It’s more the energy and enjoying being in the open air that attracts me.

I spent the rest of the day down here at the Bow River park.

The smooth pavement makes this a mecca for skateboarders, rollerblading and joggers who take the miles in their stride and enjoy being close to the river, nature and gazing at the riverside apartments (they are gorgeous).  It’s days like today which make me happy to be here, when snow and deep freeze is a distant memory – this is Calgary, so you never know when the weather will turn!

I went to the Eau Claire centre (unique shopping mall, food market) and was sitting outside on a bench watching long distance runner complete a course and high-fiving a man dressed in a Blackberry suit as they crossed the finish line. We sat and listened to an acoustic duo, with a sneaky harmonica, their music strikes of sincerity and lessons learnt during their travels, something about wishing on shooting stars and unforgettable beauty of Australian beaches. I could have sat there all day….

Till I saw a guy with a pet snake (a bull python) around his neck and I had a compulsion to pet the reptile. With an oil slick sheen shimmering on its skin, the snake looked at me with lifeless eyes probably wondering what this enthusiastic girl wanted. He didn’t seem phased by my excitement and apparently this little sucker escapes on a regular basis, which make me want to always make sure toilet lids are firmly closed. Maybe with a few books on for extra security.

Then we went over to Prince’s Island Park. Apologises for windswept photo, but can you feel the happiness and relaxation of the moment? Bliss!

Something I am famed for… if I’m carrying around a fizzy drink or a smoothie, and a wasp wants to ninja my bounty, regardless of who is around and who gets soaked I will 1) Do a tribal dance for 30 seconds and when the wasp gets aggressive, 2) Throw the drink like a projectile missile to divert the waspy attention.

A release of serotonin and a chance to enjoy the outdoors was just what I needed and tonight I feel rejuvenated and that I have a clearer and more focused mindset. HOORAH!

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Filed under Calgary, Canada, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Nature and Planet Earth