Saturday, February 27, 2010

Miniature landscape


This is a photograph of a small lump in the snow with tiny icy twigs in the foreground and light and shadow patterns in the background. I think it looks like a landscape on a much larger scale. It just reminds us that everything is relative and sometimes there is beauty in the details.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Telephone tag

I think my ordeal with the phone company is finally coming to an end! I'm not sure this cautionary tale will be of help to anyone but it makes me feel better to vent!

My ordeal (without naming the company - although it starts with "R" and is six letters long) began last August. I decided that I would change from dial-up to high-speed Internet and also change my home phone from company "R" to Videotron (my cable TV provider). Thus I would have three services with the same company and it would mean better rates and one consolidated bill.

Well, Videotron said that they would handle the transfer of the phone number but I needed to contact the old company to tell them I was cancelling the Internet. When I spoke to the company "R" rep about the Internet, I mentioned in passing (actually it was in anger due to some previous incidents) that I was changing my phone too. So there! ... but here comes my first mistake. I may have used the word "cancel".

So this rep took it upon himself to cancel my phone NUMBER. Thus each time Videotron set up an appointment to come to do the phone "transfer" company "R" refused to allow it! Videotron had no explanation why. This went on for about four weeks while I tried to figure out what was wrong. Finally a new "R" rep explained that the phone number was cancelled and therefore not available for transfer. This number, by the way, was mine ever since I left home at age 19 - sob!

He told me that from experience it would be better not to ask them to try to reactivate it (this should have sent off warning bells that they don't know how to manage their systems) and to tell the new company that I needed a new number. OK ... so I did that and things seemed to be fine until the old company sent me a phone bill (which went through my credit card).

Hmmmm. This is not right, I thought, so I called customer service and the rep said it was because of a 30 day notification policy which meant I had to pay this bill. But ... the next month another bill arrived. Again a call to customer service. This was "an error and would be reversed" - OK. Next month - same thing! Next month after that another bill arrived and this one went through the credit card before I knew about it. OK, another call to customer service. This rep said that it seemed that the cancellation had only been done in one system and not another but NOW everything would be OK and the charge would be reversed. I even got a bill showing the reversal ... but on paper only ... it never went through my credit card - because company "R" still thought they were providing me a service and the credit would be offset in future bills. BUT - I cancelled five and a half months ago!!

So, finally I WROTE to their office in Ontario sending an assortment of copied documents (requiring extra postage) and now, two and a half weeks later, I've received a call that the problem was that it was not "completely cancelled in their system" but that a credit will be processed through my credit card (I checked and it has gone through - yay!) and I should receive one more bill with a zero balance. Okaaay .... (she says nervously).

All this hassle when all I wanted to do was transfer my "legacy" phone number to another provider.

I guess the lesson is - do everything in writing from the beginning! This will save hours (literally) on hold or in conversation with reps and all the ensuing frustration.

P. S. Yikes! Now I just got a letter from Videotron telling me their rates are going up! Arghhh!

P. P. S. the BEST phone company that I have ever dealt with is SPRINT! They were just wonderful but were bought out by the "R" company. A sad day that was ...

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Sacred (a poem)

THE SACRED

A deer materializes before my eyes and the forest is lit by its luminance.
Its atoms flung by unseen hand in glorious constellation.
The divine is manifest and shimmers through its form.

It is the soul of the wild creature that humbles me.
It is the source of purest light, deepest knowing.
To catch sight of a wild animal makes the heart leap -
To be held in its gaze makes the heart soar.

The sacred is clothed in fur and feathers and scales and skin
It flashes out from shining eyes in darkened woods
And speaks in bird songs and cicada serenades…

It touches a place in me where wildness dwells -
A long forgotten, hidden place that shivers in sudden resonance.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Silence

I find as I get older that noise pollution gets more and more intolerable. I'm sure our ancient ancestors had plenty of noises to fill the air but they were the sounds of waterfalls, insects, wind, birds, and myriad other natural sounds. We, on the other hand, have to contend with leaf blowers, chain saws, beeping car locks & back-up alarms & bank machines, screeching sirens & car alarms, horns, airplanes, rumbling tractor trailers, and booming car stereos. I just realized as I write this that most sounds are related to vehicles in one way or another. Whatever their source, they interfere with our well-being even if it is at a subliminal level.

Here are a few excerpts from a recent Newsweek article by Julia Baird:

An Unquiet Nation

Silence is something you assume you will always be able to find if you need it. All you have to do is drive far enough in the right direction, trek through quiet fields or woods, or dive into the sea's belly. For true silence is not noiselessness. As audio ecologist Gordon Hempton defines it, silence is "the complete absence of all audible mechanical vibrations, leaving only the sounds of nature at her most natural. Silence is the presence of everything, undisturbed."
And silence, Hempton believes, is rapidly disappearing, even in the most remote places. He says there are fewer than a dozen places of silence—areas "where natural silence reigns over many square miles"—remaining in America, and none in Europe. In his book, One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World, written with John Grossman, Hempton argues that silence—a precious, underrated commodity—is facing extinction.

Hempton claims that, during daytime, the average noise-free interval in wilderness areas has shrunk to less than five minutes. Think of the snowmobiles roaring through Yellowstone, helicopters flying over Hawaii volcanoes, and air tours over the Grand Canyon. It is air traffic that Hempton seems to resent the most: in his book, he travels across the United States in a 1964 VW bus, recording sound as he goes, from Washington state to Washington, D.C., where he meets with politicians and officials to press his case for the preservation of natural silence.


I spoke to Hempton about his work, his mission, and whether he is just a cranky leaf-blower-hating hippie.


Why should we care about silence?


It has become an increasingly rare experience to be in nature as our distant ancestors were. Even in our national parks today, despite laws to protect them, you are much more likely to be hearing noise pollution, particularly overhead aircraft, than you are to be hearing only the native sounds of the land. Yet to be in a naturally silent place is as essential today as it was to our distant ancestors. Besides spending time away from the damaging noise impacts present at our workplace, neighborhoods, and homes, we are given the opportunity not only to heal but discover something incredible—the presence of life, interwoven! Do you know what it sounds like to listen for 20 miles in every direction? That is more than 1,000 square miles. When I listen to a naturally silent place and hear nature at its most natural, it is no longer merely sound; it is music. And like all music, good or bad, it affects us deeply.


Max Ehrmann was right-on when he wrote: "Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence."


Here are some other quotes on silence:

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation. ~Jean Arp

Everybody should have his personal sounds to listen for - sounds that will make him exhilarated and alive or quite and calm.... One of the greatest sounds of them all - and to me it is a sound - is utter, complete silence. ~Andre Kostelanetz

Silence is the secret to sanity. ~Astrid Alauda

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson



Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day


I just created the "Recent Photos" blog post when I realized it was Valentine's Day! - (a sad commentary on my love life!). So this picture is the closest thing I have to a heart. Hope you like it. :-)

Recent photos


Greetings!!


Snowy evening




Path where I had encountered the fox (previous post)




Winter sunset


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The National Parks

I have been watching Ken Burn's documentary "The National Parks - America's Best Idea" on PBS and find it riveting. The history behind these parks is disturbing in the sense that it took incredible efforts on behalf of visionaries to protect these areas. I guess this is the case in most situations. The protectors need to fight the exploiters at every step. Luckily for all of us, the protectors prevailed.

Having visited three national parks last fall in a wonderful nature tour, I could never be stronger in my convictions that these are sacred, precious areas (among many others) and should be allowed to exist for as long as this amazing planet exists.

One of the most exceptional parks that I visited was Mesa Verde in Colorado. The scenery, ancient ruins and wildlife were breath-taking. One evening wild Elk bugled in the far hills as the sun slowly set. Later that same night the sky was lit up by great splashes of distant lightning while the stars shone in astonishing abundance and a meteor streaked across the sky. It was a most magical time.




Male Elk

Lavendar sunset

Another park was the Petrified Forest in Arizona. This place had a special significance to me since I had an uncle who lived in Arizona and gave me a piece of petrified wood when I was a child. I was fascinated by that wood. I probably thought "petrified" meant scared and I wondered what could have scared the trees so much. Even though I came to understand the actual nature of the transformation of the wood, it has fascinated me all my life. I was thrilled to actually be in this "forest" and walk where my uncle once walked.



Close up of petrified wood

Petrified log

And finally, the Grand Canyon, again in Arizona, which defies description. It is an experience rather than a place.



Blue shaded Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Temple Grandin

Every so often I have the need to rant and I figure this is the place to do it. Today is one of those days. You have been given fair warning!

With the recent airing of the HBO TV movie starring Claire Danes, you may be aware of Temple Grandin, the highly-functioning autistic woman who has made it her life's work to improve the handling of cattle at slaughterhouses. Sounds noble right? Many people think so. But I suspect they admire her because her work makes meat-eating less troubling for them. I guess I wouldn't have a problem so much if she just did this work without presenting herself as some kind of cattle whisperer and wouldn't go on and on about "loving" these animals. She even waxes poetic about having a religious experience as she calms a cow - calms it before it has its head bashed in.

Or could she at least - at the VERY least - encourage people to consume less meat (better for the animals - better for the environment). But no, instead she states that not eating meat is unnatural and how she became light-headed and dizzy (OMG!) when she stopped eating meat. She even implies that autistic people and maybe others are genetically required to eat meat. A thoughtful examination of that idea among others can be found at http://www.compassionatespirit.com/vegetarianism-and-genetics.htm

In my Google searches on Ms. Grandin I found several blogs where people were disturbed by Grandin's ideas. I am posting excepts of two of them here.

Olivia Lane posted back in 2006

"The article reports that after watching the rotating pen hang cows upside down and then slit their throats, slaughterhouse workers now listen for signs of consciousness before dumping the cows' bodies. Grandin used her divine gift of intuition and many years of animal behavior expertise to access the situation: "I didn't hear any cows mooing," Grandin said. "When they do things wrong, cows moo."

Am I wrong to be annoyed by Temple Grandin's existence? It's not that I don't like her. It's just that I'm irritated by the way people flock to her for answers as thought she were some sort of psychic bridge connecting humans to the minds of animals. Why don't people take a much shorter leap of faith and listen to the voice in their heads that says all living creatures wanna keep on living, they don't wanna die in some multi-million dollar "humane" slaughter complex? Is that so hard? Or is it just easier to pay some scientist with an "intimate" connection to animals to convince them that the cow who is now their hamburger died silent and stress-free and that makes everything okay."


Jim Sinclair, also autistic and an animal rights activist writes:

"Dying as a natural process is not the same as killing a healthy living creature... It’s irrelevant if a middle-aged scientist can say that she doesn’t fear death, that she understands it as a natural part of life. Almost all the beings whose lives she helps end are immature or just barely mature. Almost none of them are close to natural death. They’re not ready to die. If someone were to shoot or stab or electrocute the middle-aged scientist today, she might find that she’s not ready to die either. If you understand life, you know that it wants to continue. If you feel life throbbing under your touch, you know it’s desecration to set your hand to stop that living pulse. If you love something, you don’t kill it."

I think that last sentence pretty much sums it up.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Winter birds

Being blessed with a beautiful sunny week-end, I went to my favorite hang-outs to see what wildlife might be about. No foxes to report this time but I did see many lovely birds. Among other species I saw Chickadees, a Hairy Woodpecker and a Pileated Woodpecker.

Oh, and I don't know what got into the squirrels but some of them were dashing about, tossing sticks in the air and doing back-flips!

Here are some pictures of the birds and a squirrel (who was one of the more sedate ones).




Thursday, February 4, 2010

The place where Micha danced


The place where Micha danced

There was nothing special about it – just a small unused parking lot with a rusted fence and an old shed in the corner. Every night that I passed it after Micha disappeared, I said to my self that one day it will be gone - I should photograph it. Just like I had photographed her knowing that one day she would be gone.

And so one day I did and it was not long after that the sign went up “Condominiums – Plaza Ste. Croix”. At least I preserved Micha’s place in this small way.

Let me tell you of another cat named Micha that I once knew. He was a black and white young, languid, almost liquid cat – who draped himself across your arms, hanging like he had no bones. He was an amazing cat who cried and pawed at the pill bottle for the same medication that his “roommates” desperately tried to avoid and who lay in front of the broom as I tried to sweep the room. Micha lived in cramped quarters with 44 other cats and when I would go to the house where he was being kept to try to help out, he always brought me joy. The woman who kept these cats was overwhelmed by life and by problems that left her with no control. Micha came to a bad end in that house and my life was diminished when he left my world.

It was in his honour that this lovely stray was named Micha. She was not at all like him. She was Siamese and would not allow anyone to approach her let alone hold her. She had been on the street far too long to trust. How I wanted her to trust me. With a live trap she was caught and sterilized and kept in a large cage to see whether she could adjust to a life indoors. It was early winter and yet although she was out of the cold she would not eat and simply crouched with her head hung low. Feeling that I was doing the wrong thing, I decided to return her to the outdoors but in an area that I hoped would be sheltered and safe for her. As I walked with her in the carrier to the spot, I could feel her perk up and become alert. She became interested in life again.

How lovely it was that night. Soft flakes of snow were slowly falling and they glittered in the street light. The snow on the ground was like diamonds sparkling everywhere. Sounds were muffled and the street was still and it seemed that only Micha and I were in this new and beautiful world. She bounded from the carrier when it was opened with what seemed like joy.

But I returned home with dreadful worries. Yet I saw Micha every night for many months after that. Beautiful Micha who I would sometimes find sitting with an air of majesty in the center of a picnic table on a college campus washing her paws, or patiently waiting out a rain storm under the protective shield of a maple tree - or standing on her tiptoes to peer above a particularly high snow bank to see if that really was me coming with her nightly food. She became a regular watcher who ran in circles when she saw me coming or ran down the sidewalk to greet me and then lead me to the feeding place. Often she was accompanied by a tabby friend (I named her Firefly because she lit up my night) and I would often see them side by side. Sometimes each of them would have burrs in their tails from brushing against the same burdock bush.

And one magical night she followed me to the side of my apartment building and let me stroke her for many, many wonderful minutes. Every night I worried about her out in the cold or crossing the busy side street and even though I would see her the next night and I would sigh in relief, it was short lived as I knew the next day would again bring danger to her. She was living on borrowed time. I knew that.

One very cold and blustery, snowy night I went out to feed her wondering how she could stand the misery of her existence and how she must be huddled somewhere in the dark, cold and wet. That was the night I found her dancing with the leaves. Atop the snow, there were many fallen leaves lying about dry and crisp. And in a corner of the small parking lot, by the fence and the shed, the wind was pulling the curled, crisp leaves up and about, spinning them in little cyclones - and there was Micha leaping and pouncing and batting at them. There was Micha dancing.

Many more nights passed and then one night Micha didn’t come running down the sidewalk and she never again stood on tiptoes peering over the snow bank, and she never again felt the stroke of my hand or heard the delight in my voice as I caught sight of her and called her name.

And she never again danced with the leaves.
Micha and Firefly


Postscript 2010-02-04: Firefly is currently living with me and has been off the streets since October 2001

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhogs

Well since this is Groundhog day I figured I would post some photos. I don't believe in this idea of "seeing shadows" etc. and I hate that they use a live Groundhog to celebrate the day in the U.S. (and maybe elsewhere). I say give these animals a break and let them hibernate peacefully until it is warmer.

This mother and her babies were seen in May (when being awake is a real pleasure!). :-)



Monday, February 1, 2010

Foxes forever!

Here is a series of photographs that I have put together after coming upon a fox den which I then visited many times as the kits grew into beautiful adult foxes.