Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

T'is the season of giving and receiving. After wracking my brain, I can't think of many greater gifts than the trust of a child or animal. Then, of course, the trick is maintaining our worthiness of such a precious gift.

And the New Year is traditionally a time of hope. Our hope, as always, rests with our young. As I approach my 60th New Year, I realize that with a greater sense of import than ever.

Be good to yourself and others in 2011. (Amazingly, the latter usually accomplishes the former.)

Happy New Year.

Photo by Hilary.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wisdom, A Joke, Spirituality, Science & Christmas - Oh My! (#233)

Cherokee Wisdom

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride and ego. The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, courage, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about this for a moment and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old man replied: “The one you feed.”

A Sherlock Holmes Joke

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine they laid down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend.

"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

"What does that tell you?"

Watson pondered for a minute.

"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "It tells me that someone has stolen our tent."

Science & Spirituality Meet

T'is the season of fellowship and goodwill. And yet, Christmas is a notoriously difficult time for many folks, for various reasons. Over the years, many of  mine have been endured rather than enjoyed. The joyous carols, the beautiful lights can seem a cruel mockery when one is feeling disconnected from it all. 

A few months ago, I came across a YouTube video featuring four distinguished scientists (well, three plus Bill Nye The Science Guy) marvelling at Nature and the Universe. The video is a re-mix and some viewers/listeners may be put off by the metallic-sounding voices. I hope not, though. If I'd had access to it years ago, it would have helped me with my perspective at holiday time (or any time).

As it is, I watch it every once in a while and never fail to be moved and uplifted. From Symphony of Science comes We Are All Connected. I hope you enjoy.

The cosmos is also within us. We're made of star stuff. 
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. - Carl Sagan

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year folks. Thanks for staying connected with me these last few years.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3rd Eye Now Operational - Advice Requested (#232)

Today’s subject line is the title of a thread on an online, New Age message board that I visited recently. (For those unfamiliar - threads are topics of conversation initiated by a member of a particular message board community. Other members type replies which appear below the original post on a virtual board. The Interweb has gazillions of message boards on gazillions of topics.)

My first instinct was to reply: “Well, for starters, you won’t be able to buy sunglasses off the rack any more.”

But my better self prevailed and I refrained from commenting at all.

Lemme back up a bit.

I’ve been mostly retired for the last couple of years. Of all the pleasures retirement can bring, the one I value most is having time to pursue my interests. Some of those interests would fit under the umbrella label of “metaphysics” which might be defined as a branch of philosophy related to the natural sciences (physics, biology etc.) and also to mysticism, religion and spirituality.

Most people with inquiring minds want to know why we’re here and where we might go next, if anywhere. For many (most?) those questions are answered satisfactorily by their religion or by science or some combination. Some are satisfied with the answers: “to exist” and “nowhere.” Some people don’t have inquiring minds and they try not to think about those topics at all.

I’m a bit envious of all the above. I’ve never been satisfied with any religion’s answers. I’m not smart enough to understand much of what science posits. Atheism doesn’t feel right. And my first words may have been “I wonder why...?”

So, throughout my life but most particularly the last couple of years, I’ve devoted a goodly chunk of time mulling and trying to forge my own path towards - well, let’s call it “understanding.” (In my Hunter S. Thompson-esque youth, I called it “plugging into the universe.” That still works too.)

And although I like to think I’m forging my own path, I’m not the least bit opposed to peeking at others and borrowing a directional sign here, or a nugget of knowledge there. No sir. Much wiser folks than me have asked those questions and left a breadcrumb trail to their answers.

Not so long ago, if I wanted to pursue this line of study, I would have to spend many years in a major metropolitan library and most likely have to travel the world to pick the brains of wise elders.

Today, we are astoundingly fortunate to live in an age where the world’s accumulated knowledge is gradually being assembled into one giant data bank which can be accessed by anyone with the proper equipment.

On the minus side, that same data bank can contain a lot of lies, half-truths, nonsense and insanity -- ofttimes at the same website.

Nowhere have I found that mix more in evidence than on some message boards, particularly those focused on what’s loosely termed “New Age Spirituality.” In my admittedly-short time visiting some, I’ve been struck by quite a few observations:

1 - Most members are gentle, likeable souls, tolerant and respectful of others’ belief systems.

2- Women outnumber men by at least a 2-1 ratio.

3- A disturbingly high percentage of the women tell stories of, or hint at, being victims of abuse.

4- Too many, though still a smallish minority (thank the Creator) appear mentally ill and/or emotionally broken.

5 - Predators lurk among them. A rudimentary understanding of Nature’s way explains their presence: There cannot be such an abundance of victims (prey) without attracting predators. I haven’t “made” one yet but have no doubt they lurk.

6 - Self- described gurus abound. Most parrot feel-good, pseudo-psychological, self-realization pap they got from some books or daytime talk show or infomercial. Most of what they spout is harmless, if occasionally nonsensical. Most are women and don’t strike me as Psycho-Nasty-Lesbo-Butches-From-Heck. So I don’t number them among the predators. (But there’s this one white-haired guy I’m keeping an eye on....)

7 - Sadly, people will grasp onto the flimsiest belief if they’re (spiritually) drowning. More sadly, they’ll cling to many different ones. Some embrace Tarot and Crystals and Spiritualism and Telepathy and Telekinesis and Voodoo and Paganism and Close Encounters With Reptilian Aliens with an addict’s fervour. Perhaps they think the more beliefs they can collect, the stronger the raft they can fashion in order to stay afloat.

8- Thankfully, a very few Science-minded folks (usually men) are there to question and to suggest possible alternative explanations for all those blurry photographs purporting to be faeries. Their comments however, are largely dismissed by the rank and file.

9 - People need to believe in something bigger/better/beyond themselves. That's not news but the number of folks seeking that something is huge - and growing, their numbers augmented daily by those disenchanted with "old-time" religion.

In case you're wondering, the 3rd-eye person was advised by one person to use certain herbs and by another not to neglect some chakras lest she suffer a disidentification with the material world.

As my ex-guru, the aforementioned Dr. Thompson, once said: "When the going gets weird - the weird turn pro."

I’ll probably touch on this topic again down the road. Maybe when I've turned pro. Right now I'm just a serious amateur.


For those of you not on my email list – I have a new blog which focuses on music and features YouTube videos of groups/songs I like. If that sounds of interest, I hope you’ll visit Frankie’s Jukebox.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Roots (#231)

About 28 years ago, my maternal grandparents were asked to record some memories of their early life in Manitoba, Canada. It was for a centennial project, a book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the rural municipality of St. Clements.

At the time, they were in their 70s and had lived in Ontario since the late 1940s. I was the Designated Writer of the family (cousin Clive Thompson came into his own a few years later) so Gramma (Mary) and Gigi (Peter) asked me to interview them and write their story for the book.

Recently, I read a couple of blog posts by a very perceptive, intelligent and handsome man (who just happened to buy my book) named Grayquill. The posts featured stories about and by an uncle of his who kept a journal for much of his life. The journal entries provided a fascinating peek into what life was like in the first half of the 1900s.

GQ’s posts prompted me to rummage around the house until I found my copy of the centennial book. For the first time since 1984 I reread the story I’d written on my grandparents’ behalf. Theirs, and especially their parents’ lives, were difficult in ways that seem almost incomprehensible today.

A few excerpts:

In 1902, my great-grandparents (Peter’s parents) John and Catherine Karandiuk arrived in East Selkirk from Starawa, Austria (now part of Ukraine) with one child, $2.50 and a dream of a better life.

Within a few weeks, their child was dead, possibly of diptheria. The funeral cost $1.50 and the dream wasn’t turning out as hoped. John found work in a sawmill and bought three acres of land in East Selkirk. He and Catherine built a house of woven willow branches covered with clay. In all, they had five children, four of whom died. In 1907, my grandfather Peter was born, healthy and strong.

A few years later, John and Catherine (who we came to know as “Little Baba”) moved up in the world and bought a seven-acre parcel of land which had a brick house on it. Not believing anyone could stay warm in a house made of bricks, they tore it down and built a log cabin chinked with mud. That winter, they nearly froze to death.

In 1924, at the age of 17, Peter got a job maintaining the roads that linked the various townships. He and his team of horses were paid 23 cents an hour for working on ditches and grading. That was 8 cents more than men working without horses.

In 1926 Pete married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Bozysko whose family came to East Selkirk from Ukraine two years after the Karandiuks. They moved in with Pete’s parents.

In 1929 John Karandiuk died and Pete had to look after his mother Catherine and his own growing family.

During those Depression years, everyone had to work if a family was to survive. Besides working on the roads, Pete spent the winters cutting and hauling wood for the Selkirk hospital for 50 cents a cord. He and another man would cut huge, 1,000 pound chunks of ice from the river with cross-cut saws and deliver them to the hotels and stores in East and West Selkirk. (Imagine how cold that job must have been!)

Mary worked their farm and minded their four daughters, Madeleine, Janet (my mother) Katherine and Hallie.

Pete’s mother Catherine would load railroad boxcars with cords of wood for $1.00 a day and gather scraps of grain from the cars to take home and feed the chickens.

In 1932, the Karandiuk’s were forced to sell the family dog, Jackie, to Indians across the river who wanted him to haul fish. Mary needed the $5.00 to buy winter coats for the girls. But when the Red River froze, Jackie crossed the ice and came home. The girls kept their coats.

In 1933, Catherine slipped down the stairs while carrying a coal-oil lamp. The house burned to the ground. The family was safe but lost everything except clothes on the clothesline, including their $90.00 life savings stored in their mattress. A few weeks before, Mary cried bitterly about sending out the $10.00 insurance premium because there were so many other ways the family could use the money. Thankful now, they collected $1600 and started over.

In 1936 technology, in the form of a motorized grader, arrived in the municipality. It was Pete Karandiuk’s pride and joy but it was a brutal machine to operate. Pete had to stand on a metal cover directly over the engine and burned his feet badly. But he was being paid 35 cents an hour and usually worked 18-19 hours a day. The municipality feared it would go bankrupt when he submitted a bill for one month for $90.

Between 1940-44 Pete worked at the Cordite Plant, an ammunition factory, and farmed 400 acres of rented land. In 1945-46, because of a market glut, farmers could only sell one bushel of wheat per acre. Pete had 6,000 bushels. Although the government paid the farmers for the wheat, the payments were staggered and ill-timed, making the bills mount up.

By 1947, the Karandiuks had had enough. They sold everything and moved to a farm in Ontario taking two boxcars full of 500, 90-pound bags of potatoes, three horses, two cows, three pigs and several turkeys and chickens.

Mary summed up life in those days. “It was a hard life - of bone-breaking work - but full of love and laughter and life.”

Peter, Gigi, died soon after the book came out in 1984. Mary, Gramma, couldn’t live without him and died several months later. They’d been married for 58 years.

I loved them dearly and am proud to come from such stock.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October Gold & Other Pics (#230)

Every photographer (even a part-time amateur) loves morning and evening light. And the fading sunlight filtered through yellowing autumn leaves adds an especially rich, golden glow. Below are a few examples, most of which were taken a week or so ago at the cottage. Remember, if you wish to see a larger version of the photo, just click on it. (In fact, if you click them twice, they get even bigger. Don't try three times though. Your monitor might explode.)

The larger, comfortable fishing boats have all been trailered back to their owners' garages for winter storage. This little 14' aluminum with a 6 HP motor stays at the cottage year-round. It's about as plain a craft as can be but the October sun prettifies it.

This oak leaf was tumbling gently an inch or two below the water's surface -- nudged towards shore by a soft breeze.

Thar's gold in that-there stump!

Although not well focused, I couldn't resist adding the splash of colour offered by these shore-hugging plants.

Okay, "gold" is a stretch but this snails' graveyard, located near shore and under about a foot of water, is interesting. Besides, I said "& Other Pics." So there.

I shot this earlier in the summer. Golden ants are rare in my experience. I'm not sure I've ever seen them that colour before. Have you?

Brother Karl shows off a very nice golden-sided walleye. I'd say I caught it and let him hold it for me. But that would be a lie. And, as we all know, fishermen never lie.

That cute little raccoon washing her hands is Binky. (And yes, they really are more like hands than paws.) Binky is one of three young raccoons that my sister Theresa fostered this summer (along with a dozen or so squirrels.) Binky is the youngest and smallest of the raccoons, too young to be released into the wild this winter. The Binky & Benny Show provided a lot of hilarity this summer. They're not exactly friends. Nor are they enemies. Ben always wants what Binky is eating. Binky would rather not share. Hijinks ensue.

This little critter landed on my right middle finger. I'm right-handed but decided to try to take a pic with my left. It was very awkward manipulating the camera with one (the wrong one) hand. But I'm pleased enough with the result. Except for the insect, it might make for a good "before" picture demonstrating the efficacy of dry skin lotion.

If you click the pic and have the eyes of a hawk, you just might espy a tiny black blob about 2/3rds of the way across the lake. There. Now you can say you've seen a loon. (Hilary would say I see one whenever I look in a mirror.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dog Daze Of Summer (#229)

As you folks are no doubt darn sick and tired of hearing, I’ve spent a lot of time at the cottage this summer. (And I’m going up again in a couple of days! Nyaa-nyaa!)

When I was a youngster, well before my folks built our current cottage, I loved spending chunks of the summer at my cousins’ cottages. Two of my aunts and uncles built adjoining cottages on a lake only 45 minutes from where we lived. I had loads of fun there, fishing, swimming (nearly drowning) and playing with my cousins.

As it was for me back then, for Sons #1 and #2 a large part of the allure of the current cottage was the chance to spend time with their cousins. Each of my five sibs has at least a couple of rug rats of their own and the age groups mesh reasonably well. Chances were, if we were sharing the cottage time with one or two other families, they’d have playmates with whom to swim, explore and get into trouble.

Now, my sons are in their 20s, as are most of their cousins. What with jobs, girlfriends, boyfriends and busier lives, they don’t get together at the cottage as often.

Fortunately, this is not the case for Benny and his cousins. He’s enjoyed spending time with, primarily, three pooches belonging to one of my brothers and two of my sisters. In the pic below, you'll see that he took up surfing this year. (As always, you can click the photo to see a larger version.)

But back to those cousins.

There’s Calley, brother Karl’s dainty, pretty, King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. Looking at her, you just know she’s a girl. It’s easy to picture her as Lady, in Lady and the Tramp. Even easier than picturing Ben as a tramp.

Wasn't lying, was I?

Calley is Ben’s size and he adores her. Well, he’d like to adore her. If she let him get with adoring range.

For Ben, adoring range occurs when his nose is from zero to one millimeter from her naughty bits. She tolerates it/him for a few seconds before doing the doggie version of slapping his hands. Fortunately, Ben’s a pretty good-natured pooch and deals well with rejection. He shrugs it off and tries again another time. Usually within a few seconds.

Luckily for Calley, sister Lisa’s dog, a big, lovely Bernese named Oona, is also at the cottage a fair bit and can share Ben’s affections.

That's her. Thanks to Hilary for the pic.

Oona doesn’t quite know what to make of Ben. Which puts her squarely among the majority of those who’ve ever met him – four-legged or two. I think she just might regard him as a furry mosquito, one who jumps instead of flies. He’s forever leaping up to give her kisses. Every once in a while she lifts a massive paw to swat half-heartedly but I’ve yet to see her make contact. I suspect she secretly loves the attention.

But Ben has spent most of this summer bonding with Duncan, sister Theresa’s big, stolid (and solid!) sheepdog. In his last life, I’m pretty sure Duncan was a tree. His gait is ponderous. Despite being euchred several years ago, every once in a while Dunc gets frisky and will try to hump any animal or human that he thinks is presenting. In the pic below, Dunc is considering logistics while Ben is busy draining the lake.

We’ve all learned to look around warily before bending over, especially when we’re on the dock. Duncan also has a signature move that cracks us all up.

When he wants into a room, he will approach the door, lower his head until the crown is just touching it, and wait.

And wait.

Head bowed, apparently studying something on the floor, he waits. And waits.

He knows eventually some human is going to wander along and open it. All of us have had to deal with opening a bedroom or bathroom door and walking into Duncan’s face.

Ben adores Dunc. Yes, it’s true. Ben’s an equal opportunity pooch and is not afeered of showing affection to another male, jumping up to deliver kisses to Dunc’s face or sniffs to his naughty bits.

As much fun as Hilary and I have had this summer, I think Ben has trumped us. The grin doesn’t leave his face ‘til he sleeps. Which is about all he does for a couple of days after returning home - resting up for next time. Which, did I mention, is coming in a couple of days? (Neener-neener!)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Hummingbird Poop - Naturally. (#228)

When asked, most of us define ourselves by our occupation. At various times I've been a farm hand, garbage man, salesman, worm-picker, youth counselor, writer, clerk and manager. I'm leaving out quite a few because I don't want this thing to get too boring while we're still in the first paragraph.

Some folks define themselves by their relationships: father, mother, brother etc. I'm still a father and brother but it's not the usual answer when someone asks what you do.

"Oh, I'm a brother of five and father of two. You?"

See what I mean? Kinda awkward.

For much of the last couple years I wasn't sure how to define myself in a nice, neat, occupational manner.

Even though my book's still in print and selling reasonably well, I haven't written anything for publication in ages, so "writer" felt kind of wrong. "Retired" wasn't quite right either.

A few weeks ago, as I crept around the circumfrence of a pond trying to spot a bullfrog nearly perfectly hidden by dense weed growth, the answer occurred to me.

I'm an amateur naturalist.

(To avoid any confusion, a naturalist is one of those people who enjoys nature while still fully clothed. Unless it's really hot, when bathing attire may be called for.)

I did a little research (spelled "G-o-o-g-l-e") and found that one needn't have a science degree or even background to be a naturalist. Indeed, amateurs from Rothschild to Roosevelt have contributed greatly to the storehouse of knowledge gleaned via the study of the world around us.

All the job requires is noticing stuff. More or less. And maybe making a note or two. Suddenly, I realized why Yogi's statement about observing a lot just by watching resonated so deeply within me.

In a way, I suppose I've always been a naturalist, though I spent my first few decades specializing in fish and their habitat. Stupid me. I figured that only made me a fisherman. "Naturalist" sounds way more professional.

I've broadened my field of study now to include whatever flora and fauna happen to be in my field of view. I've quite happily spent a lot of time the last couple of years studying dragonflies, ants, tadpoles, bees, birds and other critters. I've read books, watched hundreds of hours of nature programs and visited the blogs and websites of other nature nuts.

I'm pretty darn sure my meandering and mulling isn't going to contribute much to the lore accumulated by my more distinguished peers. No matter. I ain't in it for the glory. My reward is the tiny "aha" of learning something I didn't know the day before.

For instance, while watching hummingbirds feed from our feeder at the cottage, I noticed, when the sun's angle was just so -- that hummingbird poop glistened like a tiny diamond. I noticed one male bird in particular who claimed our feeder for his own use and chased off any and all pretenders. He always fed from the same part of the feeder and I'd seen his tiny, glistening excretions several times.

After one such visitation, I decided to check the floorboards of the wooden deck which lay five feet (1 1/2 metres) below the feeder. I wanted to see what an accumulation of hummingbird poop looked like. Any naturalist worth his salt would be interested in something like that.

I squinted. I checked to see that I was indeed directly under the area where the hummingbird usually hovered. I took off my glasses and got on to my hands and knees. I rubbed my eyes and squinted harder.

Nuttin'. Nada. Not even a discoloration of the wood.

Obviously, hummingbirds are magical. Even their poop is so ethereal, it evaporates before it hits the ground.


Maybe I'll contribute some useful info to the cause after all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's 1:01 AM and

I feel semi-compelled to write something here before disappearing up to the cottage (again!) for another week.

The cottage, for those of you who may have just climbed aboard, is situated in the Land O' Lakes region of southern Ontario. It's a 3-bedroom pre-fab, sitting on concrete blocks on a couple hundred feet of shoreline on Lake Kashwakamak. In 1966 or '67, my father was told that Crown Land (belonging to the government) was being opened up on the lake and divided into lots. The land was free -- with a catch -- a catch my father was quite happy to accept.

If he didn't build a habitable dwelling within two years, he'd have to pay a penalty of $50/year until he did.

My father was proud to call himself a merchant. He built a retail home furnishings store and turned it into a profitable (until I ran it - but that's another story) business. He was a savvy businessman and knew a good deal when one presented itself. And, as a child who lived through the Great Depression of the 30's, he understood the value of a dollar.

And no way was he going to give up 50 of them if he could help it.

In 1968, for the princely sum of $5,000.00, the Baron Family cottage was erected on the south shore of Lake Kashwakamak.

Since then, my five siblings and our children have shared the premises every year from May (ice out!) until November (ice coming!). For too many years, as I struggled with a a failing business and difficult marriage, I didn't get up to the cottage at all, or for only two or three days a year. It was like being denied soul food and my spirit withered.

But that was then and this is now and guess what?


I'll tell you:

My toes are tanned. The last time my toes were tanned was 1971 and I had been in sunny Greece for weeks. (By the way, for Thumbelina and a couple of others who have read my website and asked: I'm quite close to writing about my time there. Stay tuned.)

They're tanned because it's been a hot summer and I've spent much of it at the cottage --  lazing aboot as only a good Canucklehead can -- drinking beer and fishing eh?

And I'm off to do more of the same in a few hours. I'll wave when I get back.

Hope you're enjoying your summer* as much as I.

Now it's 1:36 AM. Night all.

This is the view at sunset from the left side of our dock.

* Yeah - yeah. I know you Oddsies and Brazilians and South Africans are shivering in your oh-so-terrible-cry-me-a-river winter temps of 14C/57F. Big babies. You oughtta be ashamed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Writerly Stuff (#226)

I've been a note-jotter most of my life. Partly because I've always been what my teachers kindly called, "scattered." Partly because that's what writers do. They get ideas, usually in a non-writing venue like a crowded bus or at the ball game. So, they grab a pen and paper and jot down a note, fully intending at some future time to expound upon it in a writerly and entertaining fashion.

Naturally, this rarely happens. Especially if one is a writer of the scattered variety. We usually either forget the note entirely, or lose the paper it was written on. Often both. Which, if you're not only scattered but also kind of lazy, is a pretty good deal. Those lost bits of paper saved me from writing quite a few words over the years.

Anyway, in this newfangled day and age they have virtual sticky notes that you keep on your computer. I was pretty excited when I found out about them. Imagine - a sticky note that doesn't ever peel off the thing you stick it on! Why, a scattered person of the writerly persuasion could write all sorts of notes and never lose them! (As long as his computer doesn't fritz out, of course.)

So, for the last several months I've been jotting down ideas, figuring to turn them into columns/posts somewhere down the road. But darned if I'm not having a busy summer, with hardly two consecutive days spent at home. I haven't had time to expound, entertainingly or not.

What to do? Then, as if having accumulated five or six ideas already this summer wasn't enough, I was gifted with one more: Just do a blog/column about the bare-boned ideas! That way, the ideas themselves would be saved for posterity on the Interweb and I could expound upon them later.

Or not. We'll see.

Here are the ideas:

1- The best test of character is adversity.
2- Facebook memorials: virtual bouquets and teddy bears.
3- "Trying is the first step towards failure." - Homer Simpson
4- The path taken doesn't matter, if you arrive at the truth.
5- "Just be yourself - in a whole new way!" - Marge Simpson
6- Celery: God's revenge.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

With a WHAT On His Horse? (#225)

No doubt most of you sharp-eyed folks have noticed a couple of minor additions to my blog. Up there near the top is a favourite quote from noted philosopher, Yogi Berra. Even if (according to the great man himself) he never said most of the things he said, what he DID say offered plenty of grist for the meditative mill. Godbless him. And to boot, he was a damn fine baseball player -- one of the best of his era.

The second addition is another quote, this time below the header. I titled it Wish I'd Said It. As a writer, I appreciate a well-turned phrase. I like to think that over the decades, I've turned two or three myself. By accident, sure. But they all count.

The quote, for those of you who didn't notice and abhor scrolling up, is: "'Cause beauty's religion and it's christened me with wonder" from a song called And If Venice Is Sinking by a terrrific Canadian band called Spirit of the West. The lyrics were written by John Mann and the song is about his honeymoon in Venice. It's a difficult song to categorize musically but the melody is darn catchy and the lyrics...those lyrics....Did he really say "...Marini's little man, with an erection on a horse?"

Yes, yes he did.

Every once in a while, I'll probably change the quote to something else I wish I'd said. But I'll leave this one here for a while.

Here's the original video of the early 90s song.

For those of you who have hung in to the bitter end, here's a bonus track from the same band. It's a rollicking drinking tune that shows pub crawlers in Newfoundland, Dublin, Glasgow and points in-between that a group from western Canada can kick major Celtic butt.

Here's Home For A Rest.

Hope you enjoyed. (I'm off to the cottage now for a few days. Will reply to your spiffy comments when I return. Thanks for visiting.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hithering & Yonning (#224)

Yep. That's what I've been doing. Hithering here and yonning thither. Coming home in time to find a computer that's nearly completely fritzed and has to be reformatted. Now, I'm hieing myself back to the cottage in the morning.

I haven't had time to write anything so I'm going to upload a few more pics for (I hope) your viewing pleasure. (Remember, you may click each photo if you wish to see a larger version.)

Ben's presence gives you some idea of the size of these fungi. Ben is 4 feet long and weighs 137 pounds.
(The previous sentence bears no resemblance to the truth.)

Even dead trees contribute much to the environment. This one, near Hilary's place, is a favourite of mine. Despite its gnarled and broken limbs, it emanates a sense of pride, echoes of previous grandeur.

You're going to have to take my word for this next one, folks. There is a bunny in the photo. Really. You can't see him because he's invisible. Every bunny worth its salt knows that if it remains stock still, it cannot be seen. The only reason I can assure you there is indeed a rabbit in the picture is because Nature has gifted me with Heightened Awareness. It comes naturally to fishermen who have spent several decades staring at sun-splashed water. (All the details are in my book that I never mention anymore which is still in print and called What Fish Don't Want You to Know.) 

Anyway, trust me, there's a bunny in the picture below.

This mud flat along the creek is a popular spot for small birds and mammals to bathe and drink.

I like this night shot taken at the park near Hilary's. The light appears to swoop towards (away from?) the light standard, giving an appearance of ghostly, golden motion.

The jumbled pile of roots, trunks and limbs found near a bend in the creek is always photo fodder for me. From any angle, the textures and shapes are interesting studies.

For the most part, overcast, grey days provide a flat light that doesn't do much to "prettify" a scene. But I like the soft, muted, near black and white shot of a wee chickadee on a log. I watched it enter and leave the knot hole just to its left in the photo. I can only presume it was assessing it for nest-worthiness. Apparently it was found wanting because I returned several times and didn't see the bird again.

Lastly, here's photo of a small brook trout. Five seconds after I snapped the shutter, the colourful little guy was swimming away. If we hook up again in a couple of years, he may not be so lucky.

Before you go, I crave a boon. I'd like those of you who aren't regular visitors to Hilary's blog to please do so in order to read about a young woman named Mandi. Mandi is betrothed to the grandson of a friend of mine (and talented artist) Elaine Sell Prefontaine. Hilary did a great job spotlighting the tale and I'm going to piggyback on her work. Please take a few minutes and read the entry here.

Thanks, all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Music (#223)

Hiya folks.

I've been away at the family cottage for the last few days and, after a whirlwind few hours back home, I'll be returning there tomorrow.

I'm not sure when exactly, I'll be writing the next "proper" post. Summer seems to be kinda hectic these days -- but in a good way.

In the meantime, I'm going to post a couple of YouTube videos I particularly enjoy. I hope you will too.

One of my favourite musical genres of the 60s and 70s was Southern Rock -- the kind of sound popularized by the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyd, The Band and Little Feat. Probably my favourite practitioners of that kind of rock was a band called Wet Willie. It was fronted by a guy named Jimmy Hall. Jimmy's got a great set of pipes and can blow a sax the way you just know a sax likes to be blown.

(Let's get all the wet willie and great sax jokes out of the way right now, shall we?)

...Done?...A couple more? Okay...


As far as I knew, the band stopped recording in the mid-late 70s. I didn't know that Jimmy, and at least some of the original band, was still playing as recently as a few years ago. Now, thanks to the wonder of the Interweb and YouTube, I do. And I was thrilled to see, that at least in 2002, they could still kick musical derriere.

In the following clip, Jimmy and the boys, aided by his sister, Dee, let rip a terrific version of one of my favourite tunes of theirs, Street Corner Serenade. That they appear to be playing in front of about 17 people doesn't seem to faze anybody, especially Jimmy.

Turn up your speakers and enjoy.

My other favourite band of the 70s was the aforementioned Little Feat. Fronted by the incomparable, and too-soon-gone, Lowell George, the band combined boogie with country and bluegrass and blues to form a wonderful sound.

One of their simplest tunes, a ballad espousing the lonely life of a trucker, became one of their few hits. Like Wet Willie, Little Feat didn't get the airplay I think they deserved. The clip I'm featuring next is a song that my friends and I used to play and sing on the porch on summer evenings -- fueled by a little weed and a little wine. It's called Willin'. The video isn't great but the sound isn't too bad.

Crank those speakers, kids. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Father Cardinal & Others

No, this is not going to be yet-another of those sordid tales of the misdeeds of men in Catholic robes. Rather, it's a story, told in photos, of dedicated parenting.

Of all the visitors to either my, or Hilary's bird feeders, none are as wary and watchful as the male cardinal. He often forgoes eating his own meal, preferring instead to stand guard nearby while his mate dines. When she's done and has flown back to the safety of nearby bushes, he may grab a few hurried nibbles before joining her.

While at Hilary's a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching a Dad Cardinal introduce his fledgling daughter to the joys of the feeder. (Many of the photos aren't especially crisp because they were taken through a glass door. Click each if you wish to see a larger version.)

As usual, he first cases the joint from the nearby plum tree.

Daughter waits dutifully on a nearby branch. She's hoping for a bill-to-bill feeding. She's cute, in that endearing, gawky, pre-teen kind of a way.

Maybe Dad will get the hint if she flits over to sit near him.

Well, that didn't work. He flew down to the ground near where all that stuff is. Hmm, he seems to be eating....

Okay! Here I am Dad! Feed me, like in the good ole days, whaddaya say? Wait, where you going?

Dad's gone back upstairs to stand guard. He has faith that his little girl is as clever as she is cute. She'll figure it out.

Hey! Dad was right! This ain't so hard!

Our feeders play host to several other critters, mostly of the feathered variety. Here are a few:

Goldfinches are frequent, colourful, and welcome springtime visitors.

For some reason, when I saw this photo, I could easily imagine this grackle "Harummph-ing" self-importantly.

I was very pleased to be able to snap a photo of this infrequent guest, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. I hope I get another chance to get a better shot. It was a treat just to see him, though.

I usually scatter a few peanuts below the feeder each morning. Then it becomes a race between the blue jays, grackles and squirrels to see who makes off with the bounty. As often as not, it's the ever-alert jays. This fellow had no problem finding his prize among the fallen seeds and magnolia blossoms.

And we'll close this offering with an example of the disparate group one might find enjoying scattered birdseed. Clockwise from the top, we have a chipmunk, a male brown-headed cowbird, a redwing blackbird and a female cowbird.

Hope you enjoyed the show.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stripping (#221)

There’s this new television ad about Crest teeth-whitening strips. (What did you think I meant?) Maybe you’ve seen it. The thrust of the ad is that you can wear these strips and still do things. It features some pretty young women doing things. It kind of reminded me of those old tampon ads that assured women they could remain active while wearing them –- although apparently that activity was limited to running in slow motion through a field of daisies. 

What the pretty girls are mostly doing in the whitening-strip ad are laughing and tilting their heads in an attractive manner. I think they’re walking in one shot and sitting at a table in another.

The voice-over extols the benefits of doing things while wearing an invisible whitening strip on your teeth. There’s a close-up of one of the pretty girls, presumably the strip-wearer, smiling a pretty smile. Her teeth gleam. There’s no sign of a whitening strip. It really MUST be invisible!

Near the end of the ad, you could tell the voice-over guy was getting excited. He was headed for a climactic statement – the clincher that would tip the balance for an uncertain viewer: While wearing them “you can even,” he exclaimed, “drink water!”

Holy Cow!

What an incredible, slap-the-forehead moment! Let’s assess what we’ve learned so far:

We have the freedom to “do things” when we use these Crest whitening strips. It appears the things we can do are, in no particular order: sit, stand, smile, walk and tilt our heads.

And we can “even” (I love that they used that word!) ingest the most benign substance on the planet!


Now, I may not be the sharpest lure in the tackle box, but “even” I can do the math here: If you use these whitening strips and put anything in your mouth except water – your head may very well explode.

Ok, maybe not explode - but I bet something bad would happen.

Ever seen those nifty videos of folks putting Mentos mints in bottles of cola and turning them into mini volcanoes?

I wonder if something like that might happen if the strip-wearer drank some Coke instead of water? Now, if Crest ran a whitening-strip ad that featured a bunch of folks spouting mini, mouth volcanoes while en route to brighter teeth, it might tempt me to try them.

But I’m no darn good at sitting, looking pretty and sipping water. (However, one out of three ain’t bad.)

As the kids today might say (and I pride myself on being pretty darn hep to the jive) this ad is an epic fail.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mad Marie vs Chazz Chopperboy (#220)

Watching my bird feeder from the front window has provided a lot of entertainment lately. (Holy crap. There's no denying it now. I'm old.) Each day’s usual parade of visitors includes squirrels, chipmunks, mourning doves, sparrows, goldfinches, redwing blackbirds, grackles, cardinals, bluejays and chickadees. Occasionally a robin hops along, apart from the seed-seekers, in a never-ending quest for small, wriggly things.

Some of the birds seem crankier than usual, especially some of the mourning doves. Now, few of us would argue that the Creator favoured all his creatures with various gifts.  For instance, chickadees are cute, brave and curious. We all know dogs are loyal and fun-loving. Crows are clever and watchful.

Morning doves, although strikingly pretty in some light, are dumb as posts.

It’s easy, when regarding those tiny heads bobbing up and down, to imagine them filled with a single, cartoon thought balloon containing the word “EAT."

I liken them to cows - placid, social, ever-grazing, regarding the world with a singular lack of curiosity.

Like their bovine brethren, mourning doves generally get along quite amicably with each other. They also tend to tolerate the presence of other ground feeders, like sparrows, grackles, juncoes and squirrels.


Lately (as I said upstream before getting so windy) I’ve seen a few cranky mourning doves. One will suddenly decide it wants the feeding area to itself and will turn on, and chase away, another. It may have been grazing happily beside it a moment before, or it may challenge a new arrival while ignoring a couple of others.

I can’t account for it. Unless they’re males trying to act tough to impress a lady. Or maybe pregnant females having hormonal issues.

Anyway, today I was witness to a National Geographic moment: Mad Marie Mourning Dove vs  Chazz "Chopperboy" Chipmunk!

Bring It On!!

A flurry of feathers drew my attention to the area below the bird feeder. This, of course, is where the seed falls from above when scattered by the sloppy eaters. (I'm looking at YOU, sparrows!) This drop zone is roughly circular and about three feet in diameter.

The flurry that caught my eye resolved itself into a sulking mourning dove, standing just outside the seed circle and staring back inside, where a muscle-flexing chipmunk was patrolling and filling his cheeks.

At one point, the chipmunk absently worked his way toward the mourning dove and turned its back.


The cartoon balloon word changed from “HUH?” to “ATTACK!” and the dove launched itself at the chipmunk’s rear end. I couldn’t hear the squeak through the glass but I’m pretty sure there was one, as the chipmunk leaped and skittered out of the circle.

The circle which was now proudly paced by the victorious dove. “EAT” was on display inside its head again and it pecked away, seemingly without a care in the world.

For about 20 seconds.

That’s how long it took for the chipmunk to decide it was mad as heck and not going to take it anymore and hurtled its furry little body towards the unsuspecting dove.

Once again, in an angry flutter of wings, the disgruntled dove hightailed it for the border where - uh-huh, you guessed it -  it pouted until the chipmunk presented itself as a target once again.

A few minutes later, something outside startled both combatants and they scattered. I'd score the bout a draw, with about three or four successful oustings each. It was very, very funny and a treat to witness. Unfortunately, I’m not ept at using the filming feature of my camera and my attempt failed.

I'm telling you folks, if there's nothing on tv - get yourself a bird feeder.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Excerpt From: Walking With Benny (#219)

Watched a grackle in the backyard gathering nesting material just a few moments ago. He’d hop along (you’ll understand how I came to be certain of his gender in a moment) gathering bits of dried stalks of grass or weeds. When he had two or three bits in his beak, he’d open it again to gather more and drop the ones he had - thereby having to start over. I watched him do this several times.

Now you know how I knew.

It was easy to picture Mrs. Grackle tapping her foot and pointing to her watch when he finally appeared at the nest-to-be with something to contribute.

At the same time, about 10' from the grackle and deeper into the shade of the SW corner of the yard, I watched a cowbird engaged in what I first thought was the same behaviour as the grackle. It was walking slowly but purposefully, pecking over here and then over there. After a handful of pecks with no visible result, I figured he was looking for food, not nesting material.

And now, as I write this a few minutes later, I recall that cowbirds always lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Duh. They’re never concerned about finding nesting material.

Animal behaviour is fascinating.


Spawning is just about done. The trout population is sparse now, and scattered. But the warm, dry spell has lowered and cleared the water, so the ones which remain are easier to spot.

Some people, even with sunglasses, sometimes seem totally unable to see these torpedo-shaped shadows. Unless I’m fishing, I never wear sunglasses while walking, and still, I have no problems spotting fish. I suppose decades of squinting at water gives me something of an edge.

Bumped into, and chatted with a couple of folks along the way this morning. Both expressed disappointment at missing the peak of the trout run when the fish were jumping at the dam. One woman in particular, said she hadn’t seen a “single fish” in the last 10 days.

As we spoke, without even turning my head much, I could see a pair of rainbow trout tucked behind a boulder not 20 feet away. Along this particular half-kilometre stretch of creek, I could probably see two to eight fish every hundred metres, if I was looking for them. Two weeks ago was three times that number, last week, twice.

She hadn’t seen a single one.

I think there’s a lot of folks like her. Folks who can't seem to see, even when they’re purportedly looking.

First of all, most of them aren’t really looking at all. If not actually accompanied by someone and chatting, or strolling with their iPod cranked up, they’re busy inside their heads thinking clamorous  thoughts about work or the children or finances or sex or medical problems.

Their inner noise and busyness, in effect, deadens their senses. They see well enough not to bump into trees but they don’t see the squirrels or birds among the branches. They see the water splashing over the rocks but they don’t hear the music of the creek.

And at least some of them aren’t seeing fish that are finning in plain sight.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This n' That n' Trout - Mostly Photos (#218)

I've collected something of a mishmash of photos over the last few months which I'd like to inflict share with you good folks. As a bonus, I'm offering a video of leaping rainbow trout! All for the incredibly low (albeit regular) price of free!

The photo below will probably become my new header picture. It's taken from virtually the same place, but in winter rather than fall. Maybe I should put it to a vote. Keep the old one or replace it with this one? (Or maybe I should have just switched to see if anyone would notice?)

Remember, if you wish, you can click each photo to see a larger version.

Last fall, in the middle of the annual salmon run, I took the following pic. You can see the shadows of the big fish in the creek behind an oblivious Benny.

The trio of ducks below, appeared to me to be lost in thought. Perhaps in the same one: "Who's that lumbering dude pointing that thing at us?

This next one goes back to last New Year's Eve. It's a snapshot of part of the table at hosts' Debbie and Mario's place. I swear by my Big Baba's apron that the view changed every three minutes as more (and more and more) food and drinks appeared and disappeared. But every view was just as festive and colourful as the one below.

A few weeks later, Hilary decided to buy a bouquet of flowers to beat back the winter gloom. They made a striking display on her dining room table. (She just up and bought them. Honest. I'm pretty sure I didn't miss a hint....)

Here's a closer look at one of the blooms on the other side of the bouquet.

I wish I could have gotten a better pic of the next subject. He was a rare visitor to the little pond near my home which hosts a large flock of mallards. He's a Northern Pintail duck. What's particularly striking about them is the configuration of their feathers (which of course, explains their name).

At Hilary's last weekend, I borrowed her camera to take a few pics of birds at her feeder. Shooting through the patio door glass obviously flattens out the picture - but the subtle iridescence of the grackle's colouring still comes through.

For several weeks, birds were avoiding both my and Hilary's feeders. I eventually became convinced we had an unappealing batch of seed. Changing the seed helped coax the birds back. But undoubtedly, the presence of the little fellow in my next photograph deterred the locals as well. The merlin perched nonchalantly in my magnolia tree, about 10 feet from the bird feeder, undoubtedly awaiting the arrival of his own feathered lunch. After admiring him a while and taking the shot (again, unfortunately, through glass) - I went outside and shooed him away.

Well, it seems I still have a few pics but this post has gone on long enough. I'll save them for another time. As threatened promised, the video below was taken about a week ago, a few minutes' walk from my house. The rainbow trout (steelhead) were anxious to get upstream to get some serious, fin-to-fin canoodling done. Part-way through the video, if your sounds are on, you'll hear an excited little boy announce each airborne fish he spots.


Monday, March 22, 2010

It’s So Sleazy Being Green* (Sometimes) #217

Ladies. Gentlemen. Please permit me a little preambulation before I mount the pulpit and invite the wrath of the gods to smite those who have offended me.

Preamble One:

Here are some things that really bug me: bullying, lying and hypocrisy. They’ve always bugged me and always will. They aren’t the only things, of course. There’s Joan Rivers. And her face. And don’t get me started on mosquitoes or voice mail. But bullies, liars and hypocrites can always make the bell ring atop my Pissoff-O-Meter.

Preamble Part Deux:

This may come as shock to some of my American readers but despite being a Canadian, I am not a communist. Or even much of a socialist. I believe in capitalism. Businesses should make a profit.

Preamble The Last & Intro To The Main Event - Enviroman vs Greedzilla:

I’m fairly environmentally conscious. As a lifelong angler, I probably appreciate pristine, natural environments more than most. Many of my early newspaper columns in the 70s were devoted to raising awareness of the effects of acid rain and other habitat issues. I believe in recycling and have switched nearly all my light bulbs to those weird curly jobbies.

But I’m not an eco-nut, or eco-nazi or whatever term is being used these days to describe/denigrate those who are exceptionally environmentally conscious. I still buy and use paper plates occasionally. At least once every week or two, I lazily toss a tin can into the nearest garbage instead of walking a few more steps to the recycling bin.

And all of my bills are mailed to my home. They are printed on paper and mailed in paper envelopes.

Many companies are upset with me about that.

Why-oh-why do I hate trees? Do I not understand how many could be saved if I simply switched to online billing and/or automatic withdrawal?

Yes, actually, I do. Well, not precisely how many, but I imagine that over the course of time it would be quite a few trees. Gobs of them in fact, if everybody switched.

And I’m a huge fan of trees. On top of the wonderful things they add to the planet and to our lives, I believe they possess spirit. I respect and admire them greatly.

But I don’t for one minute think that the phone, cable, gas, electric, and all those other companies are losing sleep over the amount of trees they’re killing because of my stubborn refusal to switch to a paperless system.

Nope. Nuh-uh.

It’s not a lofty environmental conscience that has them spend money on monthly (paper!) inserts and expensive advertisements, pleading with us darn tree-haters to change our evil, selfish ways.

No, the truth is, they want to save money. They could save bundles of cash if they didn’t have to print, stuff and pay postage to mail those bills. They wouldn’t just be saving big bucks on supplies. Nosiree. Think of all the employees that would be made redundant! They could trim a substantial part of the payroll if they get me, and all those other stubborn old farts, on board.

Think of what they could do with all that newfound money! Why, they could reduce our bills! Or donate the savings to a worthy environmental cause! Or they could take that money and pay for retraining those laid-off employees! They could even, godbless’em, do all three!

Or maybe they could just filter it to their shareholders and toss the execs a few extra million in bonuses.

Which scenario do you see happening?

Me too. And it ticks me off.

I wish just one of them would admit that yeah, the saving-trees thing is cool but it’s the improved bottom line that really counts.

But none of them will. They’re hypocritical liars trying to bully us into being green in order to cut costs, eliminate salaries and pad their bank accounts.

I intend to help envelope stuffers and postal workers keep their jobs as long as I can. So, keep those bills and statements coming.

But I do believe I’ll plant a tree this year.

*Apologies to Joe Raposo and Kermit.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Winter Wrap-Up (#216)

There we were just a few short days ago, waddling around in our swathes of woolies when presto! March arrives, and I'm opening windows to catch the first of the warm spring breezes. In like a lamb, indeed.

(This is me not complaining. In a day or three, there should be open water and I just might wet a line.)

But there were a few, short, winter-related notes I'd jotted down over the last couple of months - fully intending to flesh out each into a witty, humourous and incisive post. Sometime this winter. When I got around to it.

You know folks, over the years I've developed a very high regard for your intelligence and creativity. As a result, I have complete faith you'll have no problem imagining each of these notes to be longer, wittier, funnier and more incisive than they appear.


Well it, and its brother word "phlegm," were usually heard several times in voice-over during cold-remedy commercials. No more delicate tippy-toeing about "runny nose" or "congestion." Nosir. Not this winter. We watch and listen and stifle our gag reflex as Mary, and then Larry, hack out a lung, or at least try to hork up a loogie. The sombre announcer intones the horrors of Mucous and Phlegm. Like all good voice-over announcers, he manages to verbally capitalize the letters that matter: Mucous. Phlegm.

I'm concerned about the next generation of ads for diarrhea cures.


I hate crazy glue because every time I've used it, I've bonded my fingers to each other. In seconds.


Found a brand of honey-glazed donuts that contain zero trans fats!!


Pretty good, eh? Despite failing to erect for the fourth time there, in the Opening Ceremonies. Still, at our age, three's not bad at all. Good job by those Yankee kids, winning all those medals. But good job by our kids too, what with winning the most golds of any winter Games. Including, of course, the only one that mattered:

Mens' hockey gold.


Eat it, you Americans with your best-goalie-in-the-NHL!! Ha! We weren't even nervous there when you tied it with 24-frickin' seconds left in the frickin' 3rd period!! And no, that wasn't barfing that was going on during the intermission! We were just making room for more pre-victory brewskies.

We're Hockey's Hosers!!


Can you say "boring" boys and girls?

I knew you could.

Both Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were under-utilized. They weren't given a chance to make an impression, let alone shine. And, unless it happened while I was searching for another toothpick to hold up my eyelids, no starlet almost fell out of her dress.

I was pleased for Jeff Bridges, though. The Dude abides.


Apparently, "trans fats free" all of a sudden doesn't mean "zero calories." Sheesh. Don't you think it's about time we toughened up our truth-in-advertising laws? I mean, any reasonable person might ask - if an edible item contained no fat, where would the calories hide? Calories adore fat. Everybody knows that. And trans fats are the worst. Everybody (especially Hilary) says so. Over and over. Ergo, ipso facto and other appropriate Latin abbreviations, we need to change the way people think of food. Or stop labeling ingredients. I'm not sure which. I wish this item was more incisive. I'm feeling a little bit anxious right now and would like to have a donut.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ice, Pain & Death (#215)

Every year for the last four, a mid-winter thaw accompanied by heavy rainfall has resulted in flooding in the creek across from my house. Winter floods aren't just about too much water. They're about too much water surging under the frozen surface, heaving up chunks of ice ranging in size from a football to a truck, and sending them hurtling downstream.

The mass of broken ice respects no boundaries. It overflows the banks and surges across and through groves of trees. It flattens saplings, removes topsoil, wounds, and even kills century-old trees.

It's a stark and savagely beautiful reminder of nature's power, as the photos below illustrate. Remember to click each picture if you wish to see a larger version.

It starts innocently enough, mild and misty.

A few hours later, a 2nd creek appears, roughly paralleling the first, flooding the paved path and littering the area with scattered ice.

A couple of days later, the water recedes. The ice will remain for weeks in the field and months in the woods. Let's take a look upstream.

The path is blocked here but still navigable, if one is careful. (I've only fallen three times.)

Farther along, it becomes impassable for all but billy goats and young teens. This mass below is the size of two football fields. I have to take a wide detour around it.

The destruction is not without beauty.

In the background of the above photo you can make out a felled cedar. It breaks my heart to see these magnificent old warriors toppled.

Some receive wounds from which they'll recover. But the scars will last forever.

Trees aren't the only living things imperiled by the flooding. Fish unable to withstand the rushing water are lifted up and deposited far from the creek's normal course. When the water recedes, they die. In the photo below, a 10-lb. rainbow trout lies on the ground, a full 200 yards from the creek.

If you're at all squeamish, avoid the next photo. It's a closer look at the trout. You can see where a bird, probably a crow or gull had a meal. Interestingly, the next day, the trout was gone. Something big enough to carry off a fairly large fish had done so. I couldn't spot any drag marks nearby, nor were there any bones or other remnants indicative of a meal on the spot. My guess is a coyote or perhaps a pair of raccoons working as a team carried off the prize.

Well, let's not end this one on a gloomy, unattractive note. On a crisp, clear winter morning, it's easy to find beauty in the aftermath. (Most of those tracks were made by a muskrat.)