Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
"Jen!" The word came out in a terse gust of air, my breath and my feet caught short as I stopped dead in my tracks. She pulled back too, but took a second to identify the cause of my concern. After that one word burst, my voice failed me and I could only stand frozen. Steps below the trail, belly deep in a lazy section of river, stood a black bear fishing for salmon. He didn't look up at first, and we backed slowly away, our eyes glued to the big beast. But, nature nerds that the two of us are, we didn't get too far away before our cameras came out, trained on the black hulk wading through the current. After a few moments of river recon, the bear abruptly climbed up the bank and started toward us on the trail.
Backing up a little...a couple hours earlier we had been bushwhacking through wet young hemlocks and brush just off the highway some ways north of town, getting soaked and hunting for chanterelles. The thick young evergreens hid even our feet as we navigated the hillside, but when we stopped and tucked below the branches, golden 'shrooms revealed themselves through the mossy duff. We were soaked as we emerged again onto the overgrown logging road, but each of the five of us carried a bag full of forest treasure ready for dinner. I eyed my extra prize - a giant, moss-covered vertebra from an elk, after discovering its skeleton remains on the forest floor - likely discarded some time ago after a hunter took the meat and head. We returned to town satisfied, and after dropping off the other women I asked my friend (she who takes me to see many wild beasts) if she was up for a walk along a favoured salmon river. Gamely, we drove to the trailhead. After surveying the crowd of cars in the parking lot, she deemed it unlikely we'd see any bears today, and we set to walking through the carpet of maple leaves along the water's edge. But that confident assertion proved untrue...
Boots feeling slick in the mud, we backed up again until we rounded a bend in the trail, hidden from view. After a breathless pause, a curious black face poked around the next bend. He didn't seem aggressive, but he showed no fear either, and we tucked back out of view and moved back again to the next bend. We wished out loud that he would return to the river and we might be able to sneak past, feeling our walk was being cut unduly short otherwise. We could have tried to scare him off, but didn't want to disturb him if we didn't have to. Jen had already stopped an off-leash pup in its tracks and directed it and its owner back in the opposite direction, but we were a bit more stubborn. Again the bear appeared around the corner we had just left, watching us, coming along steadily. We retreated one more time. All was quiet but for the gurgles of the river. I saw a black shape appear around the bend, but just as quickly it tucked down into the brush along the river's edge. We waited. Then Jen started forward with a stick in hand, a frail looking thing not more than a couple feet long, less than an inch in diameter. I wasn't sure what she planned to do, exactly, with that sad little weapon, but I quickly followed behind.
But that massive black bear had disappeared, vanished into the dwindling leaves along the river's edge and nowhere to be seen. We continued on up the trail, ears perked to any sound, hearts still pumping with adrenaline. Nothing but the river's rushing journey, although the signs of recent bear activity (*ahem*) were frequent on the path.
On the way back down, we peered out from a little overlook above the river. A rustle in the bushes on the opposite shore alerted us to another beast clambering along. He emerged, unconcerned with us but in tune with every splash of the active salmon swimming upstream. We felt much more relaxed as he ambled along, a deep section of water separating us this time. We spoke in whispers as he tested the water, gnawed on a rotten fish found on the river bed. He continued on up the shore and we continued on our journey back to the truck, wide eyed and invigorated by our close brush with the wild out in the crisp October air.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Out of the car and up the stairs. Like a kid out of school and eager to go play, I'm inside just long enough to don my boots and some woolen layers. With camera and gathering bag slung over my shoulder, I grab a handful of chocolate chips and I'm out the door again. The air is crisp with a mostly blue sky overhead, and the smell of wood smoke is in the air. A few blocks through quiet streets and then I'm tucked under the canopy of the trees, heading downhill on dirt into the woods. The last rays of sun light up the fallen leaves like bits of stained glass on the dark path underfoot. The creek gurgles, renewed with all the recent rain. Down across the bridge and I see the huge maple, a canopy of yellow leaves just a few days ago, nearly bare now as a storm or two has come through. A bit farther along and I am out of the woods again, out in the grasses above the bay. The light is warm, golden as it comes across the blades, reflects off the turning leaves of the trees that border this open space. The sky itself is full of drama, grey-blue clouds with a blaze of sun, a hint of rain over closer to town.
I am caught up, entranced. Clambering over old driftwood I shoot photo after photo, trying to capture that light before it slips away. The high pitched whistle of eagles come lilting through the air, and I spot a small crew in the tops of the trees. Out in the bay a paddling of ducks sets off in squawking half-flight, upset by some unseen disturbance, only to settle into their float again a few moments later just a little farther off.
I am busy behind the camera, but all too soon the sun is fading, slipping behind the hills. I know if I wait much longer I will be walking back through the woods in the dark. A few more snaps and I reluctantly pull away, slipping back beneath the trees. I make a quick stop at the deer skeleton, checking the decaying process beneath the leaves, assured that no one else has found it. Then it's back along the winding pathways through the tall firs, eyes and ears alert as always. Over another bridge and steady back up the hill to the street. In minutes I'm climbing up the front stairs again, cheeks red and nose cold, but heart full. Time to make up a big pot of chili, to warm the bones on this cold autumn night.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
I wish you could walk with me, through the woods. See how the ground has soaked up the new rain, how the moss has turned green again overnight. With the rain comes its companion the wind, and I can hear the swoosh of the southeasterly gust moving through the tree tops. But down here on the trail it's calm, quiet but for the rustle underfoot and the steady croak of little tree frogs.
Birds of all sizes are busy these days, from the wee winter wren in the underbrush with its "chip, CHIP CHIP!" to the plaintive calls of the northern flickers in the forest canopy. Winter's breath is just around the corner, and each day the woods change as they prepare. The forest floor is becoming carpeted with maple leaves, and if you listen quietly you can hear the plink plunk plink as a soggy yellow leaf makes its way through the branches to fall to earth.
I walk quietly, sturdy boots taking soft steps on the dirt paths. My pace is slow but steady, owl eyes darting constantly to try and see everything, deer ears straining for every sound. And then there, on the path, is a deer, although it takes me a moment to match the shape with memory. This deer is twisted, decaying, bones poking out through sodden fur and a macabre grin below empty eye sockets. I contemplate it, saddened but fascinated, and pondering whether I can salvage some of those bones. I will leave it a bit, but there might be some treasure there, a form of reverence for a once majestic creature. There are bits and pieces at every turn, if one is looking - laurel berries to dye with, chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms for eating, fallen leaves to admire. It's all a form of reverence, really.
I might be absent from here for a bit. I need to do some thinking. I will probably still be posting things over on flickr and anything new for the shop will be posted on facebook too. Hope your Sunday is going well.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
It's that time of year when the salmon are leaving the ocean to swim upstream in west coast rivers and spawn, finishing their life cycle and starting new ones at the same time. The bears (grizzly and black) come to the river banks to feast on the fish, stuffing themselves before hibernation time. Other animals flock to the salmon as well - eagles and ravens and small scavengers eager to get their share. Yet on the central coast of British Columbia, another large land predator emerges from the towering trees to do a little fishing alongside the bears. The grey wolves of the coast (who are even grizzly bear eaters when they want to be), are also after this rich source of protein, chasing the floundering salmon through the shallows while clumsily attempting to snap their jaws shut on a tasty meal. It's all part of the salmon cycle of the west coast, where these fish nourish all levels of the ecosystem, including the trees themselves.
This piece came together slowly, amidst the bustle of moving, but also because every single stitch on it was done by hand. Most of my pieces are extensively hand stitched, but often at least a part of them are done on the machine. My love of handwork continues to grow though, so I may be doing this more often. This small grey wolf and his sockeye salmon meal (in flushed spawning colours) are stitched up all in linen, one of my favourite materials. He is a friendly sort of wolf, but you will definitely need to win his trust before he might share that tasty fish. If you're interested in trying, they are available here.
It's a canine sort of the place in the shop right now - did you know there is also a red fox and a coyote in there? But if you're waiting for whales (or other ocean creatures), I think I'm just about ready to get back to those too. The shop has been a bit sorely neglected recently, but I hope to get back to it now that we're moved, so there can be lots of pieces available if you are doing your holiday gift shopping. There should also be more natural dye fabric packs by the weekend.
Hope you're having a great week so far!
ETA - a little wolf music for you.
Monday, October 08, 2012
Popping in for another relatively quick hello. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians! We had a nice dinner here last night with some friends; a mountain of delicious food was devoured. Today is quieter, in certain ways but not in others. I sat on the couch for a bit this morning as the sun filtered in behind me, shadows and flurries of activity catching the corner of my eye. I soon realized that all sorts of birds were flitting about outside, between the bushes and the roof's edge, including at least one Northern flicker who kept perching on the wall of the house just outside the window to tap-tap-tap away. There were other species I didn't recognize, but I look forward to getting to know more new neighbours.
The shots above were taken on Saturday at the local ski hill, where not a flurry was spotted just yet. That's okay - the weather was beautiful, autumn alpine colours under a swathe of rich blue sky. A bit of fall crispness seemed in order, but the sun shone down with surprising heat and the mountain breeze had no bite. I'm looking forward to snow up there, but what a sweet afternoon in that fleeting environment.
Today definitely calls for a bit of outdoor exploring: to walk off last night's dinner, to pick some more blackberries, to enjoy the sunshine. Our months of extended blue skies look they just might be reaching their end later this week. Now if I could just find my battery charger that has been hiding since the move - my camera is basically dead and as I'm sure you could guess that just isn't going to fly for me.
Hope you have a great day whether it's a holiday or just plain old Monday!
Saturday, October 06, 2012
A few 'sea grizzlies' spotted a few weeks back, playing in the tidal currents between islands. Love these big beasts and their raucous ways, grateful to have the opportunity to see them often. Grateful too, to have all you lovely people stop by to visit me here and enjoy these photos.
Just popping in for a quick hello and to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving weekend if you're in Canada. This weekend promises to be full of good food, including the meal I myself am cooking here at the new house tomorrow night. The beautiful weather just keeps on coming which keeps smiles on everyone's faces. (Although as a hardened 'wet coaster' I'm starting to feel like I'm drying up, seriously; and the salmon would be happy with a bit more water in the rivers too; and the mushrooms might finally come out to say hello...Anyway...) Whether it's a long weekend or not, and whether the sun is shining or not, I hope you all have a good one. I'll be back either tomorrow or the next day with more to share.
Until then, enjoy cool things other people are doing:
>> Smitten Kitchen's pumpkin cinnamon rolls might also need to make an appearance on the weekend menu.
>> I do know I am definitely making these kale and goat cheese mashed sweet potatoes.
>> As an ardent Bean Boot lover, I can't wait until these beauties are available again. Perfect for tromping through the trails.
>> I love the lace front of this sweater - I really want to recreate the whole thing in adult size.
>> Did you see that Jenny is now offering Wiksten prints on Spoonflower? Sweet.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Yesterday, as the warm sun began to slip below the trees and the air regained its crispness, I ventured out to a park near my new home. Not my usual sort of walk, no winding trails through tall evergreens or an open expanse of shore. This park is home to several old heritage buildings, wide lawns dotted with rare trees and manicured flower beds. It's a beautiful spot right on the water, and I wanted to go hunting for acorns like the ones i had gathered there last year. Stepping through the gate, I was immediately drawn to the last rays of light hitting the newly fallen leaves, brought down in the gusting northwesterly making its way through. Happily snapping away, a bit of movement caught my eye and a little fawn stood up from the grass, less than 50 feet away. Way to be observant, K.
The small deer and its mom, just a little farther off, eyed me for a minute, but then continued with their grazing. I moved in a little closer and they seemed unconcerned, so I sat down on the grass. Mama nibbled at the green blades, but then stood alert, looking past me. I heard no sounds, but suddenly another doe and an even smaller fawn trotted past on either side of me. The little group seemed to exchange a greeting of sorts. I was getting the impression this was a popular spot for the little black tailed deer; they know they are safe in this little swathe of trees.
As I wandered a wide circle through the different levels of grass, I came upon several other mamas and their little ones. I'll need to go back a bit earlier in the day when there is brighter light. But in the meantime, I also made note of the different trees; on top of the Garry oaks, there are black walnuts, horse chestnuts, apples and pears. I might need to gather some walnuts when they start coming down more, breaking out of their green pods - try a little dyeing with them.
I forgot how much moving disrupts your life. I've been unpacking every evening after work, but I'm still surrounded by boxes. It took me four days to find the library book that was overdue. I'm especially looking forward to setting up our bedroom, but the ceiling needs to be painted first, so we're sleeping in the spare bedroom, with more boxes and piles of clothing. Not exactly relaxing. And yes, I suppose I could get started on that painting, but...well, I don't have any really good reason, other than AK left me with all these boxes to unpack, so he can do the painting when he gets back in a couple days. Nothing like a little passive-aggressiveness in a healthy relationship. :)
And I'm staring at a little wolf, or what will eventually be a wolf. Right now he's just the body, with no features or embellishments. I think I know where my basic tools are, so perhaps I should just stop browsing the web and get started on it!
>> I'm also very much enjoying this A.A. Bondy song.
Monday, October 01, 2012
'Tis the season for knitting. We are still being blessed with loads of sunshine and relatively warm weather - October 1st and I'm still wearing my Birks! - but there is a bit of a nip in the mornings and evenings, and the shortening daylight makes me want to wrap myself in wool. A while back a friend gifted me with two large skeins of squishy grey wool. It wasn't enough for a sweater, but a big plush cowl seemed a good fit to wrap myself on these cold in the morning/warm in the afternoon days. I kept things simple in the knitting, just seed stitch round and round until I ran out of yarn. But I had a little plan in mind to add some interest - dip dyeing! I made up a little dyepot of logwood (with a touch of iron) and dipped half the cowl in for a few minutes, repeating a few times. It created a subtle shift, light grey changing over to a darker grey-blue, but I like it.
While I was at it I tried dipping a couple shirts. The striped one worked out better than the other - you might think your shirt is clean but hidden grease stains will show up poorly when dyeing. Oops.
I've always been obsessed with the weather - I keep track of it on a neurotic sort of level. The last couple months of sunshine have been great, but I'll be honest and say that it's been a bit boring too. I'm longing for a bit of wildness in the weather. Our old house was also very sheltered, which meant even when a storm was howling we could barely tell. But tonight I'm sitting in my living room and listening to the wind stir up around the house, gusting through the leaves outside. I love it. The sunny days are continuing to stick around, but it's good to get a little preview of winter storms.