We will be more successful in all our endeavors if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-center ourselves.
And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Summer in My Little Garden
We are having a beautiful summer. The days have been a mixed bag of everything—sunny mornings, afternoon rain showers, perfect humidity, warm temperatures, deliciously cool evenings (perfect for a good night’s sleep), terrific storm clouds rolling in from the west in the late afternoons, bringing grand displays of lightning and crashing thunder, and quintessential calm summer days with blue skies peppered with soft animal-shaped clouds and a cool gentle breeze. I love it all. And, so, it seems, does my little balcony garden in the sky–it is thriving!
This post is dedicated to my dear friend, artist and photographer, Skylark.
“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”
~ Jim Bishop
The Autumn Colour Palette
Autumns are short here in Calgary and in the nearby Rocky Mountains. If you want to enjoy it, you have to get out there and savour every day you can—lest a particularly hard frost, unexpected snow dump or a big wind takes it all away overnight. It’s happened before: autumn can quickly disappear here by mid-September. But this year, we’ve been extra fortunate. We’ve had a bonus month of autumn—October has been a gloriously beautiful month, with most days being warm and sunny, and graced with incredible azure blue skies. The weather has been so lovely that my potted geraniums are still blooming! It’s highly unusual to have them last this late into the season. We took full advantage of the spectacular weather this whole season and got out for long walks with our cameras in the mountains and in our city parks as often as we could. Here are some of the sights we enjoyed on our autumn walks this year.
“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it
and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes
as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”
The Perfect Autumn Getaway
Let me take you to the heart of western Canada’s wine country in Penticton, a town cozily nestled in the sunny Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. The drive from Calgary to Penticton is a scenic 8 hour drive, winding over two stunning mountain passes and passing through three contiguous National Parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains (see my previous post). Once we are over the mountains, the road glides down into the valley and hugs the shores of scenic Lake Okanagan for 132 km (84 miles), making for lovely vistas all the way south to Penticton. For my partner and I, the road trip itself is one of the best parts of our getaways to the Okanagan Valley and we milk it to its fullest.
The Okanagan is a pretty valley stitched together with picturesque patchworks of fruit orchards, vegetable farms, vineyards and small wineries. A few days spent basking there is what we call a perfect getaway. It is pure balm for the soul.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
The Landscape Through My Lens
Oh, how I love a good road trip, especially a drive through beautiful country. When it comes to road trips, my partner and I usually find ourselves driving eight hours east, across the prairies from Calgary to Saskatchewan, to visit my mother. But this time we are driving eight hours west, on a little autumn getaway to beautiful British Columbia. The landscape is whizzing by at 120 km/hr but I can’t help myself: it’s such a beautiful morning, I take my camera out and start snapping away as soon as we leave the city limits.
“There is not one blade of grass,
there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
~ John Calvin
The Green Green Grass of Home
Being a prairie girl at heart, I love tall wild grass. I love the way whole fields of it sway to and fro on windy days like waves on the ocean. I love how brilliantly green it starts out and how the summer sun slowly fades it into beautiful hues of yellow and gold; I love the diversity of different and beautiful seed heads. But mostly, I love the way grass dances with sunlight.
Whenever I go for a walk in the meadows and natural grasslands, I’m totally beguiled by the beauty and artistry of grass. Nothing feels more perfect on a warm summer’s day than lying on my back in a grassy meadow, listening to the wind play its music through the grassy fields and watching sunbeams dance with the beautiful bobbing blossom heads of the grass.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
~ Rachel Carson
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Finally Reopens
Our long wait is over: after a two year and one month wait, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary has finally reopened. Calgary’s June 2013 “Hundred Year Flood” severely affected our city’s beloved bird sanctuary and it was immediately closed to the public. Great care was taken in the restoration work so as not to disturb nesting or migrating birds, so work proceeded slowly. While a lot of restoration work clearly remains to be completed, the main pathways and pedestrian bridges have now been repaired and the sanctuary reopened its doors to a jubilant public on July 30th, 2015.
One of my great summer joys is watering my balcony plants first thing in the morning. A few weeks ago, I was doing just that (using my fancy brand-spanking-new copper watering can) when along came a little hoverfly. These little guys somehow found their way up to my sky garden the moment I brought out my first plants and they’ve been visiting regularly ever since.
Delighted to see one, I jokingly said to her, “Would you like a little drink of water, Miss Hoverfly?” And before I could even finish, she alighted on the spout of my watering can, took a tiny sip from a single droplet of water and quickly hovered off to check out the rest of my garden. Well, that just made my morning, because—surprise, surprise—I adore hoverflies!
A couple of weeks ago, I was driving down a busy Calgary roadway—windows rolled down, sun on my shoulder, my arm exuberantly slapping the side of the car in time to a snappy tune on the radio—when I came to a stoplight. As I waited for the light to change, my eye caught a flash of something bright pink. I turned to see that the attention-getting vibrant hot pink colour belonged to the large, heavy-headed blossoms of some tall prickly thistles growing in a dense thicket amidst a mass of Yellow Sweet Clover—all flourishing in an abandoned empty lot beside the railroad tracks. The striking tangle of vegetation bestowed a spectacular and flamboyant splash of colour on an otherwise drab looking landscape.
The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry,
of painting and music, of religion and architecture,
all make the point as clear as possible:
The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.
~ Thomas Moore
The Joy of Small Space Gardening
Don’t let a small space, even one in the sky, deter you from gardening. Small spaces can yield a ton of beauty and enjoyment. The pleasure I extract from my small container garden on my balcony—watering it, dead-heading the blossoms and fussing over every single pot—is enormous. I love every plant in every container, big and small.
I love it when designers successfully marry beauty and utility. My new Haws copper watering can, handmade in England, is an excellent example of something beautifully crafted, beautifully designed for its purpose and a pleasure to use. I’m so enamoured of it, I can’t stop photographing it!
“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly,
“one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.”
~Hans Christian Anderson
Bumping into a Good Friend
Several summers ago, as I stepped out onto my balcony garden, I literally bumped into my good friend, the Clouded Sulphur Butterfly. It was a beautiful, hot summer’s day and the vertical blinds of our sliding glass doors leading out to the balcony garden were closed to keep out the heat of the late summer sun. I was working in the kitchen when I heard some commotion on the street below. Curious as to the cause of the sound, I decided to step out onto the balcony to have a look-see. But, rather than open the vertical blinds so I could step out unimpeded, I lazily threaded one arm between two of the vertical panels, parted them, and gingerly placed one foot out onto the balcony. Half out, with one foot and one arm through to the other side and my other arm and leg still inside, laced between the vertical panels of the blinds, I bumped smack into a little Clouded Sulphur Butterfly.