Mother’s Day Picnic

Here we are, our clan of extended family, out for a Mother’s Day picnic.  The weather’s just fine, though a bit chilly.  But for a May afternoon in Cowtown, we think it’s acceptable.


Well you got to eat out some time.  What better day than on Mother’s Day.  Why, our human neighbors have to cook… can smell their Bar-B-Q from far.  What a chore!   Wonder if it’s their Mom who has to clean up.  As for us, even though the grass is a bit dry, at least we don’t have to deal with all that trans fat and high sodium.


Wait, this is just too good to pass up.


And an evening stroll after dinner.  Ahh… Mother knows best.


Hey, who’s that trying to take our pictures?  Haven’t you seen a deer family picnic before?  Oh right, not in your backyard… but, isn’t this our backyard?


A Note About the Photos:  Arti took them in her neck of the woods, the shared backyard with the Deer Family, on Mother’s Day, 2010.  All Rights Reserved.



Arti disappeared from Cowtown for a few days and reappeared in Ketchikan, Alaska.  That’s the cause for the delay in replying some of your comments from the last post.  I decided to rid myself of all internet and phone access so I could make these short few days a real getaway.

But herein lies the nagging dilemma:  Is there a better way to access nature other than the commercial route?  Arti had to follow the crowd and board a cruise ship, not her choice of transport, but … what are the options?

So here it is, a visual account of my journey at sea to Ketchikan, the south-western tip of Alaska, north of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

We set sail at the Canada Place Terminal.  On deck looking out, Port Vancouver’s famous architectural sails look slightly surreal, a virtual outdoor gallery of sculptures larger than life:

Canada Place View from Deck

Leaving Port Vancouver:

Leaving Port of Vancouver

After a couple of days at sea, we arrived at Ketchikan, Alaska.  Among  other things like being the salmon capital of the world, Ketchikan is famous for its rain, measuring its precipitation in feet, not inches.

Here’s Ketchikan under overcast sky:

Ketchikan under overcast sky

A little  more cheery scene:

Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan is also home to The Tongass Rain Forest, the largest national forest in the United States.  It is part of the Pacific Temperate Rain Forest Region, which is second in size to the world’s largest Amazon Tropical Rain Forest.

Moss on treesArti ventured into this area with a naturalist. Together with 15 others in our group, we trod the trails of the Alaska Rain Forest Sanctuary.  Here are the sights I’ve sailed all the way for:






Berries UndergrowthColorful undergrowth




MushroomOne of the many species of mushrooms, some giant ones grow on trees.



Devil's Paw Food for the BearsDevil’s Paw, food for the bears.  Underneath are poisonous hooks, but the bears deftly eat off the stems of the plant.



Ferns and mossFerns and moss: Even tree branches are covered with moss.  As the branches grow heavier, they will break off the tree, fulfilling a natural pruning process.



Momentarily, we came to a creek.  Yes, salmon swam up here: Right in the middle of a rain forest we saw gulls gathering, competing with the bears for the salmon in the water.  We were fortunate to see a mother bear with two cubs.  Here in this fuzzy (sorry, Arti was too excited) photo, you can see, even though ‘bearly’, the mother and one of her cubs on the left:

Bears having lunch

And this next one is out of this world.  Gulls flying all around above the creek, a magical, even mythical sight to behold:

Rainforest Gulls


We next visited a reindeer farm.  I’ve seen elks and deers in my neck of the woods in Alberta, but this is the first time I saw reindeers.  Here’s a curious fella:

When we left Ketchikan, it was pouring rain:

Leaving Ketchikan in the rain

On our way back to Vancouver, we cruised through the Inside Passage.  It offered one of the most beautiful sights in the whole journey:

Sailing through the Inside Passage


Of course, it’s Arti’s nature to find ripples everywhere:



Ripples 3





The Inside Passage at dusk, the silence punctuated only by the calls of gulls and frolicking dolphins splashing in and out of the quiet water.  Yes, I saw the synchronized dances of two dolphins jumping out of the water and diving back in, but it was just too impromptu to capture by my camera.

The Inside Passage at Dusk

This is my best memory, sunset along the Inside Passage:

Sunset in the Inside Passage


Photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, September, 09.  All Rights Reserved.

Vancouver Journal

Arti is blogging from Vancouver these two weeks. Here are some initial sights from yesterday’s roaming.

Rhododendrons everywhere:

Rhododendron everywhere

Rhododendron in bloom

Views from Spanish Bank:

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver skyline from Spanish Bay

Solitary Moment

Solitude at Spanish Bay

Woodpecker hard at work and play

Woodpecker at work and play

Despite the temperamental weather, Arti will be soaking in all the views, making best use of her solitary moments to peck away … oh, who cares whether it’s for work or play. The woodpecker knows there’s no boundary separating the two.



Fall on the B.C. Coast

Took a short trip out to the west coast last week. These pictures were all taken on October 30 in Victoria and Vancouver, still lush and colorful.

Fall’s foliage by the sea, composing nature’s own collage:


Or, was it Jackson Pollock leaving his mark?


There must be some lessons for us to learn from theses Canadian geese, in organization and leadership… and integrity too: They walk as they fly.



And in Vancouver, the beauty of fall’s foliage is best seen where they are, fallen, on the pavement, in the gutter, on the bench.





Came back home a few days ago, just in time to greet the first snow of the season. What a difference an hour’s plane ride can make!

All photos above taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, October 2008. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DO NOT COPY.

Fall Fantasy

Thanks Ellen of The Happy Wonderer for the link to the Round Robin Photo Challenge’s current theme: The End of Summer.  Here are the scenes of the onset of fall in southern Alberta.  This is the time where we see golden colours and enjoy fresh and crisp autumn air.

The weather has been just wonderful this past week.  Getting 26° C (79° F) in October is a rare treat for us here.  To capture fall in its glorious form, I was planning to drive 90 minutes to Banff National Park yesterday.  But just a stone throw away from my home, I saw these views, beauty so close by that I’ve been oblivious to … Banff can wait.  Let me spend some time in my own backyard.  I know it won’t last.

Photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects


From a Country Garden

Finding Internet access has not been easy.  But I have to post these pictures.  The log home has been vacant for almost 10 months.  So when I found what were in the garden, I was pleasantly surprised.  With the temperature reaching 30C here in southern Alberta, and the amount of rain we’ve been getting in the last month, the garden has started to grow, albeit with all the unwanted weeds as well.

I can tell from the design and the variety, this country garden wrapping around the log home was once cultivated with much TLC.  Even among the thorns and thistles now, and without human maintenance, I can see beautiful flora, ferns, and bushes blooming in resilience.  Here are a few samples from this once glorious garden.  I also must admit my ignorance in naming some of them…although the Alberta wild rose I can readily recognize…No, that wasn’t the Alberta wild rose as one commenter corrected me. These must be some kind of cultivated garden roses.

All you green thumbs, nature lovers, bird watchers, and naturalists, please help me out here.  I’d appreciate if you’d identify these other beautiful flowers and creatures:

another view here:

These look like lilacs, but I’ve always seen purple, not white:

And these lovely ones with blue petals:

Forgot its name:

And this creature…with it’s black stripes on a brown body, and the buzzing sound it gave out, I thought I was photographing a wasp of some kind.  So after a few quick shots, I stepped out of its way.  But when I saw it on my computer, I was amazed it had such beautiful wings…is it just a moth?

And this bird that gets so attached to the feeder on the fence…first the front view:

and the back:

Looking at the exuberance and beauty of life here in this derelict patch, I’m reminded of a precious quote:

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable you are than birds!


Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!


Nature Photography

For some reasons, staying out here in the country, with all the quiet and almost static serenity, does not induce me to spend more time reading, or even on quiet meditations.  I’ve been so busy commuting, and if I’m around the log home, I’d be busy observing and appreciating the natural environs here, taking it all in by means of photography. 

I have been using mainly my pocket digital Panasonic camera, haven’t even had time to sit down to learn how to use the Nikon which I’ve also brought along.  For now, I’ll have to be satisfied with some snap shots…hopefully one of these days I’d be able to use a real camera, and a zoom lens, for more serious photography.  Here are some snap shots of my surroundings.

Good fences make good neighbors: 

The shack between the wires:

A country sunset:

Rock samples:



The building material:


Golden sunset:


What I have are images, but no words came.  The literary doesn’t come naturally to me I suppose.  With these sights and sounds, I hope the poetics would come sooner or later…


More pictures from my log home can be found in these posts:  From a Country Garden, and Summer Indulgence.

Summer Indulgence (2008)

No, this is not a movie. It’s real life. I’ve to move to make way for some major renovations in our house. For a month or so, Arti the urbanite is living in the country. My summer abode is a log home amidst acres of farmland, at the foot of the Rockie Mountains in Alberta, Canada.  I have fresh air, big blue sky, quiet neighbors, and magnificent views. The following are some pictures of my summer indulgence.

The little big house on the Prairie:

Little big house on the Prairie


My view:


My quiet neighbors:



My other quiet neighbor:


My visitors:



There’s no water for me to make ripples.  I’ll have to create sketches in the wind.  I’m gratified by the views and the solitude I’m granted here in the open country.  But there are costs:  no TV, no Internet, the commuting to the City (about an hour’s drive), unwanted house guests: mice and other rodents.  As much as I yearn to embrace nature, I confess I’m no Thoreau or Dillard…I just can’t live without modern conveniences, nor can I survive without the Internet.  How can I be a recluse and stay away from the blogging community for a whole month!?

So here’s my list of survival gears:

Electronic gadgets:  A 7″ portable DVD player, a couple of cameras, my laptop, and of course, my BlackBerry.  I’ll have to drive to the nearest town to find Internet access.

DVD’s I brought with me:  Sketches of Frank Gehry, Paris, Je T’Aime, Life As A House, Fargo, The Hours, Wordplay, The Namesake…plus some titles I need to preview for a Film Festival.

Books:  My current reading list includes The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Persuasion by Jane Austen, and two books by Robert K. Johnston, Reframing Theology and Film, and Reel Spirituality: theology and film in dialogue.

Also, I intend to visit the nearest town and explore some arts and crafts stores and yes, they have a public library there…I won’t feel so alienated after all. 




The Maytrees by Annie Dillard: Book Review

To celebrate National Poetry Month, I am reviewing Annie Dillard’s novel The Maytrees.  That’s right.  For Annie Dillard, even her novel reads like poetry.  Consider these lines:

“Behind his head, color spread up sky.  In the act of diving, Orion, rigid, shoulder-first like a man falling, began to dissolve.  Then even the zenith and western stars paled and gulls squawked.”

Toby Maytree came home to Provincetown, Cape Cod, after the Second World War and met Lou Bigelow.  They soon fell in love and married, their lives bound by nature.

“His wife, Lou Maytree, rarely spoke.  She painted a bit on canvas and linen now lost.  They acted in only two small events–three, if love counts.  Falling in love, like having a baby, rubs against the current of our lives: separation, loss, and death.  That is the joy of them.”

Toby and Lou Maytree live a bohemian life. Toby works enough as a carpenter to support his real pleasure, poetry writing; Lou paints, rendering obsolete her MIT architecture degree.

“For a long time they owned no car, no television when that came in, no insurance, no savings.  Once a week they heard world news on the radio. They supported striking coal miners’ families with cash.  They loved their son, Pete, their only child.  Between them they read about three hundred books a year.  He read for facts, she for transport.  Nothing about them was rich except their days swollen with time.”

Can life, or love, be any simpler for any married couple?   Life in Cape Cod is idyllic for the Maytrees, and for a long while, time almost stood still.  Until, a third person, their long-time mutual friend Deary, came between them. Anticipating the ambivalence of guilt and desire, Toby and Deary secretly plans a move away to Maine, leaving Lou to raise Pete alone in Provincetown. 

“We bound ourselves to the fickle, changing, and dying as if they were rock.”

Dillard follows the Maytrees’ lives together, apart, and together again years later under very peculiar circumstances.  She uses condensed and poetic language to describe the subtle beauty of love, the reality of human frailty, the numbing of separation, and the inevitability of death.  Against the backdrop of nature, and a web of characters in the Maytrees’ lives, the author explores the power of forgiveness, the sharing of human responsibility, the acceptance of the human condition, and the preparation for death.  Love can still triumph despite failings, and yet, she also queries, what exactly, is love.

For most of the novel, Dillard displays fully her expertise: meditative nature writing, her thoughts touching the realms of science, literature, anthropology, religion, and philosophy. I do not pretend that I fully comprehend all that Dillard writes.  Eudora Welty in her 1974 New York Times review of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek admitted that: “I honestly do not know what she is talking about at such times.”  Who am I to say I have understood all that Dillard has written here in The Maytrees. It may help if you are well-versed in Keats, Kafka, and Wittgenstein.  But often it is in the language.  Occassionally, her condensed language has left me cold and clueless.  However, it is also her language that appeals to me.  Amidst the ambiguity, I have appreciated the mesmerizing power of her poetic sense.

“Later he stood on the foredune’s lip and looked at the stars over the ocean.  A wider life breathed in him, and things’ rims stirred and reared back.  Only the lover sees what is real, he thought.  Only the lover sees the beloved truly, inwardly.  Far from being blind, love alone can see.  Watching the sky now, and forever after, doubled his world.  He felt he saw through Lou’s eyes as an Aztec priest, having flayed an enemy, donned the skin.  Or somewhat less so.”

At the end, death wraps up a life and a narrative. Surprisingly, Dillard describes it in a prosaic and matter-of-fact manner. And yet, the images are vivid, and the humanity shines through.  This is the genius of Annie Dillard. The Maytrees is a gem of a story; it gives and demands much. It may need some effort to plough through, but well worth the time. And like poetry, you would want to go back and savor it again.

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. Harper Collins, 2007.  224 pages.

~ ~ ~ Ripples