Category Archives: Observations

Sidewalk Flowers

Guess who’s baaaaaack! On a long and gorgeous walk on Sunday, I found a few dandelions poking their friendly little yellow faces out of some brown grass and a few cracks in the cement sidewalks. It’s no secret that I love dandelions, and it was very cheering to see this lovely andfor bees, very important first flower of spring.

In 2015, I wrote about dandelions in one of my favourite children’s picture books of all time, Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, with illustrations by Sydney Smith. Read the review here.

On my two-hour walk a butterfly passed amiably by, as did some sort of buzzing insect. A bee? Hope so. My 12,000+ step walk took me into the river valley, Rossdale, over the beautiful Walt Jr Bridge, and then back again. I may have picked up a bit of a wind or sun burn. By the end of it, I felt like me. I felt like this is exactly what I should be doing on a sunny Sunday. Having said that, it was tiring, and so I took a short nap under a sun beam on my couch after I got home. All in all, a fantastic afternoon.

Bridge in Rossdale

View of the river just past the bridge in Rossdale

I can’t stress enough how wonderful this walk was, simply because this time last April, there was still a lot of snow and being new to the neighbourhood, I had yet to discover some the of paths I took today. This year, the river is far more open, and yesterday, the trails were packed with people biking, walking, and even skateboarding. We deserve this after the winter we had, especially February.

Walterdale Bridge, also fondly known as Walt Jr

1:15-3:00 pm/15C.

Windy Friday

A windy but refreshing walk home yesterday (Friday). It was much warmer in the woods than street-level, and the sun was only briefly out, but a walk is a walk. The river is breaking up at a faster rate than last spring, and next week is all in the teens, so the unpaved river valley trails ought to be open soon.

9C

Stick Day!

Went for a walk in Whitemud Ravine with Stella and Sharon on Sunday. There is still snow in spots, but the path down the power line is clear, and the creek is running very high and very fast. Stella found a series of giant sticks and amused herself (and us) trying to haul them away.

 

It was overcast, but warm. Saturday was beautiful with a bright blue sky (like today, Monday) but I was mostly running errands so I didn’t go for a walk.

A gushing Whitemud Creek

I’ve been walking most work days home, and that will pick up now that the hockey season is almost over (thank god). One more home game, and then we are freeeee! I wish the Oilers were in the playoffs, but the regular season is such a time commitment already, so I’m not sad about gaining some more time in my life. More time, that is, to frolic in the woods after work and on the weekends.

8C (yesterday). 

What is this…warmth?

Emily Murphy Park

March came in like a lamb. A big, gentle, blue-sky lamb. There were a few lionesque days to start, but since then, it’s been above zero every day, and this week, it’s all double digits. I don’t recall what the sidewalks were like in Oliver last year at this time, but this year, holy cow. In the morning they are lakes of ice. In the afternoon, just lakes. I’ve been walking down the street to avoid slips and soakers. Both pairs of boots have cracks, which has become glaringly apparent. Out they go at the end of this season. I expect we will have a few more dumps of snow, but with 14C today, and 17C tomorrow, the snow we have now should have well and truly fucked off by the weekend.

Yesterday (Monday), I walked home for the first time in months. Bad Donna. Not bad because I walked home but bad because it’s way too long! My route was down Emily Murphy Park road, over the Groat Bridge, and then up Victoria Park Road. It was beautiful but I was filthy by the time I got home. The sidewalk down to the river valley was covered in gravel, and even though there were no huge puddles on the road, they were still wet, which meant I was lightly misted with dirty water all the way home. And I was hot. I brought my leggings, but I should have changed into a t-shirt. It’s that time of year when it is hard to know what to wear, although it was wonderful to have running shoes on my feet and not boots. I had a taste of that in Scottsdale, but since my return it’s been all boots all the time.

You’re a dirty, dirty city, Edmonton.

In total, I walked about 14,000 steps, and to make my way home without crowded buses or trains in the equation was simply wonderful. That bus down Jasper is the worst. Now, without the frigid temperatures, I can at least walk home from the train, which is about 14 blocks. I will be glad when the sidewalks are dry, which shouldn’t be too much longer. I will be especially glad when the river valley trails are clear of snow, ice and water, but that will take a month, maybe less…

12C (yesterday)

Arizona Calling

Where to start?

I was in paradise, otherwise known as Scottsdale, Arizona, from February 8-15. It was a much-needed reprieve from a month that has seen life-sucking, record-breaking temperatures in Edmonton. According to local weather prognosticators, our city has only been this cold for this long two other times in the last 50 years (2nd longest in the last 30 years), with extreme cold warnings issued almost every day since the beginning of February. (ADDENDUM March 1: We did it! We suffered through the coldest February in the last 40 years! The average temperature for the month has been -19.7 C)

But enough whining.

Did I mention I was in paradise for a week?

Sharon was in Scottsdale with Stella for her usual month of holiday. Joanne and Steve traveled at the same time, and I showed up a week later (sans Tom, who won’t travel to the US). On the same day I arrived, my cousin Cathy and her husband Larry also arrived from Winnipeg (via Palm Springs) for a couple of days. For 24 hours there were six people in Sharon and Vic’s condo, plus one large dog. It was a blast!

By mid-week, it was just the sisters, and Stella – an honourary if rather hirsute sibling.

This was the first time that I’ve been down to Scottsdale for more than just a few days. I don’t have a ton of holidays built up since switching jobs, but this seemed like exactly the right thing to do with one of my weeks. How often do I get to spend time with family like this, on holiday? Never.

The weather was on the cool side for most of my stay (around 15C), but we had a few days at plus 20C. It didn’t really matter. It always feels like some kind of miracle to sit on a plane for a few hours, only to disembark in an entirely different climate. One with palm trees, cacti and air that doesn’t want to kill me.

It took a long time for my suitcase to show up, so we were late back to condo. Larry had bought pizza for everyone, which was very kind, and oddly, very apropos. Earlier, while I was still on the plane, the seat belt warning suddenly came on. There was no turbulence, but at that moment the cabin filled with the smell of mushroom pizza. Maybe it was a way of keeping the passengers strapped down while the crew enjoyed a slice or two? No judgement, although my free packet of tiny pretzels suddenly seemed very inadequate.

The next day, after a walk with Stella around the golf course, we all headed to Old Town for a parade, or as it locally known, the Parada del Sol. The day wasn’t exactly sunny, but what it lacked in sol, it more than made up for in Americana, including marching bands, horses and flags. Lots of flags. No MAGA hats, thank god. It was interesting and a nice introduction to Scottsdale life.

Cousins Cathy and Larry at the parade

Sharon and Stella taking a break at the parade

Steve flew back to Edmonton around dinnertime, and we just hung around for the rest of the evening, drinking margaritas, before taking Stella for her final walk, which usually involves a trip down to the pond to see if the night heron was stationed at its usual spot. It was.

The nice thing about walking Stella in Scottsdale, other than walking Stella, is that the birds are very different, and therefore, the ambient sounds very different. No magpies. No chickadees. None of our usual over-winterers. They have grackles, lots of them, hummingbirds, mockingbirds, Gila woodpeckers, starlings, quail, cormorants, egrets, herons, cardinals, some Canada geese (which I warned not to return to Edmonton just yet) and many other birds that we just don’t see, or hear, in Edmonton – at least not at this time of the year, if ever. It was wonderful. A feast for the ears, and one of the biggest pleasures of traveling to this part of the world.

Desert Botanical Garden

Cormorant!

Angry Hummingbird is angry

Quail!

Starling Peekaboo

Day Heron

The landscape also speaks to me. I love the desert. I love the flatness spiked by saguaro cacti and terra cotta mountains. I love the smell of the air, the flat roofs, the shiny cars, and the ice-free sidewalks. In fact, the only thing I stepped gingerly around was a lovely little snail.

In the middle of a harsh winter, it is phenomenally cheering to be in the presence of living things like flowers and grass, and the huge variety of bird life. This place is surely a cure for seasonal effective disorder, or at least, a temporary break. I’m not sure that I suffer from SAD exactly, but the daily anxiety of walking on slippery surfaces and driving in snow storms is mentally and physically exhausting. And, it was so nice to say goodbye to the layers of heavy clothing and micro-spiked boots for a week.

We did lots of things, especially walking. One warm day we took Stella out for a hike to the Gilbert Water Ranch, which was extremely nice. A flat trek, with lots of dust, gravel trails (hence the dust), egrets, bunches of tiny scurrying bunnies, and wading birds like the Black-Necked Stilt or as I called it, the Black-Stilted Neck. Stella had a blast running after the bunnies (on leash), and to her credit, my shoulder eventually popped back into its socket.

Bunny!

Upon reflection, I have no egrets

 

Other highlights:

I really enjoyed the Queen Creek Olive Mill, which Joanne, Sharon and I visited on the Wednesday. I had bruschetta sampler plate, and it was outstanding. And then we all loved the boutique store, with olive oils and balsamic vinegars made on site. I bought a few things. Maybe a lot of things.

I also loved the Heard Museum in Phoenix, which is dedicated to the American Indian. We went there on my last full day, which was raining, and I fell in love with the Hopi Katsina dolls, of which they have hundreds. All very weird. When we got home, Sharon and I sat in the hot tub for half an hour in the rain. It was surprisingly pleasant.

Now that’s a dolly!

And of course, the Desert Botanical Garden – which we visited twice. On Sunday night, we all went to see their Electric Desert exhibit, which is exactly as it sounds. The whole place was lit up like a disco, only pricklier. It was beautiful, kind of like being underwater at a coral reef. Even the mountain had light images undulating across its surface. Whoever runs this place is endlessly creative with their annual feature exhibits. One note, I was absolutely frozen, which I know sounds weird considering it was about 11C, but I was not dressed for a desert night in February. Long pants would have helped, and the sandals were also a mistake. I wasn’t going to die from the cold, however, and that’s the difference.

Electric Desert

Electric Cathy and Larry

Electric Joanne

The next morning, Sharon, Larry and I were back at the garden with the birders. Saw some cool birds, some of which I was able to capture on my camera, others not so much.

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum was also a treat. I thought I had been there with Dad and Shirley way back in the 90s, but it must have been some other arboretum (or Are-borea-torium, as my dad pronounced it) because it wasn’t familiar at all. Lots of little winding trails and far more lush than the botanical garden. It was hot outside too, which was awesome. Stella enjoyed it as well, although whoever was holding her leash had to make sure she didn’t walk into cacti. As Joanne pointed out, some of the locations looked like the battle scene between Kirk and the Gorn on Star Trek. No gorns, but we did see turtles laying on a rock in the sun. That’s a first. We had a picnic lunch in the tree grove. Can’t remember what they were, but they were huge. And apparently, full of cardinals.

Me at Boyce Arboretum

Happy Valentine’s to you too, succulent!

Sharon, Boyce Arboretum

My first turtle sighting!

Throughout the trip, I felt enormous gratitude toward for my sister and brother-in-law for kindly purchasing this condo in Scottsdale in 2016, and for opening its doors to family and friends. And especially, for the opportunity to spend some time with my sisters in total relaxation. Sharon had to do all the driving since their car is a standard, but I think…I hope…she was relaxed. Stella certainly was relaxed, when she wasn’t on high alert in the car, or hyper-focused on her favourite blue ball, which, by the way, I accidentally threw over a wall and lost. My sporting abilities continue to amaze.

I was sad to go, and if I had been a better planner, I would have stayed for another couple of days. Once the plane was in the air for about 20 minutes, the landscape became white, and we landed in Edmonton in a white-out snow storm.

Sigh.

As the Westjet spokesman said, “As you step out the door of this plane, please remember, you asked us to fly you here.”

Indeed.

Nevertheless, it was a great time. Thanks Sharon and Vic and Joanne and Steve and Cathy and Larry and Stella!!

Don’t make me get off!!

The Coldest Day in a Decade

Sunny and deadly! The view outside my office in Humanities

It was -33C this morning when I went to work, the coldest day in Edmonton in a decade. Just three blocks to the bus, but that was enough. I had double socks, double mitts, two sweaters, plus leggings under pants. And then a snood for my neck, a hood (pulled tight) over my head, and a scarf wrapped around the whole mess. I could still feel the frigid air slice through every layer like a hot knife through butter, but it was OK for the short walk.

I hate this. The weather has been below -25C since Thursday last week (it’s now Tuesday). The previous weekend, it was 7C above! And we’ve had about 20 cm of snow.

Snow. Every. Dammed. Day.

It used to be that if the temperature was this cold, it would be under blue, snowless skies, but today is the first day we’ve seen the sun. It’s been truly miserable. I haven’t seen Tom for days. Usually we get together on Friday and the weekend, but neither one of us budged from our respective homes.

Outside my office in Humanities around 8:30 am

And, my furnace broke on Saturday. I decided to take public transit to my hair appointment that morning because I didn’t want to drive on the snow-covered streets, and when I got home there was a power failure just as I was walking through the door. The power was out for two hours in Oliver and surrounding area, and it got really cold in my place. When the power was restored, the furnace fan came back on but not the furnace. It took until Monday morning to identify and resolve it, and I’m not even sure if it is resolved. They did replace a broken part (the heat pump with the little propeller thingy which in the old pump had totally disappeared), but it’s so cold outside, and my windows are so big and plentiful and single-paned, it’s just not possible to keep the temperature up. That’s my theory anyway. This is the first February in my Oliver home, and the first real cold snap, so it’s all new.

So other than work, I’ve done nothing, and seen no one. It’s very isolating. I miss Tom. I miss not being afraid of my furnace. I miss driving. I miss being truly warm in my apartment. At least I have a roof over my head and multiple duvets.

The good news is that I am going to Scottsdale on Friday. I can’t believe how lucky I am. Sharon will be down there with Stella for the month, Joanne is there right now with Steve, my cousins Cathy and Larry will be there for a few days, and when Joanne and I leave, Vic will join his wife and dog for another week. That condo of theirs has been a real gift. This is the first time I’ve gone for a whole week. Last time I went, in February 2017, we packed a lot in in four days. One thing is for sure, it won’t be -33C! And I will be walking. A LOT.

Outside the corner office in Humanities, around 8 am.