Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Magnificent Great Crested Fly Catchers (Myiarchus crinitus)

    The elusive fly catchers are feverishly feeding the chicks that reside in an older blue wooden bird house. The handmade structure is covered by a mature hydrangea and is tucked away in under a tall magnolia tree. Over the years there have been various residents who made this little wooden sanctuary their home, but this year, it has been a treat to see the flycatchers come and go, perch on the magnolia branches and bring back dragonflies, crickets and other insects for their clutch. The male and female work with incredible precision, elegance and have a remarkable cadence. I love their distinct calls and their chartreuse feathers. I also love that they can catch such large flying insects and bring them back to the nest in their beaks with such speed and accuracy. 

The female flies away just as the male arrives with the transparent wings peeking out of its beak. They also eat wasps, spiders, seeds and berries. The garden is filled with all of their delights.

    The colors of their feathers range from light and dark grey to subtle shades of dark and olive yellow. When they fly, they reveal a very beautiful belly that is round and fluffy. The colors of the feathers are almost tropical yet they camouflage so beautifully in this wooded environment. The first time that I saw one here, it was perched on the holly eating berries. I was curious as to its size and its song. It bounced up and down as it ate the berries and protectively gathered its bounty and flew away.

They are not typical back yard birds. They generally live near open fields and woodlands and migrate from the south, as far away as the Yucatan in Mexico. They are often found in nests off the ground, in forests and near water. They may also build a nest in a hollowed out or fallen tree near moist earth. 

The chicks must be ready to fledge very soon. I am imagining that they are well fed and just about ready to greet the garden and the deep shades of the nearby woods. 

They have been safely hidden for weeks now and as they enter the bigger world, they will blend beautifully with the safety and background of the yellow, green and brown tones of the oak forest. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Return of the Hummingbirds

   As the hummingbirds return, the flowers are blooming and expanding with gentleness. This gorgeous male arrived several weeks ago, gracing the garden with his presence. He is always fickle, but curious.

   In this photograph the male (affectionately named Estebanito) is pollinating the raspberries and contributing to the fruits of the season. So grateful for his elusive and colourful presence. The fly catchers are nesting, the cat birds are singing during healing sessions and the fig trees are swelling with green goodness. 

   During these very turbulent and painful times, there are small whispers of regulation and beauty nearby. I do believe that we need to embrace the tiniest kind gestures of sweetness and connection. We have so much healing ahead of us. There is a profound need for a strengthened web of support and goodness. It is my hope that Chinese medicine will deepen the mending of the chaos and inter-generational trauma. In my small corner of the world, we pray that ripples of clarity, integration, regulation and sweetness travel far and wide. I hope that each and every action towards personal and collective healing may count towards the greater good during these unprecedented times.

   Wishing everyone a peaceful and very gentle Summer. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Return of the Bluebirds

 With the recent cold spell, the bluebirds retuned. It has been a while since they have been here in the garden. They came for fresh water in the early morning hours of the deep freeze. They appeared each morning for several days in a row at first light. Both males and females arrived, shy and quick. They move in a blink of an eye and fly together in small groups. When one arrives, we can be sure that several will follow. When these images were taken,  they were here for several hours. It was such a thrill to see them travel together and be here for an extended period of time. Please enjoy these special photographs. It is such a rare and special gift to have them here.


They have the most incredible blue feathers that glow in the early morning light. Their feathers are also very beautifully photographed under a grey sky.  It felt like a magical presencet. All of these photographs were taken through a window so some of the details were lost but the proximity allowed for me to get some very sweet images of these amazing birds.

 Each and every time that I see them, I am so grateful. They make me feel so happy and full of grace as I witness the sparkle in the flicker of their feathers. It really feels like a blessing from another realm. Each time they come into my path I learn a little more about them. How they like to drink, the relationships that they have with other birds and how curious they are when we lock eyes.

As warmer weather arrives and more of nature's gifts emerge, I welcome more visits from bluebirds and the arrival of the hummingbirds. Wishing everyone a gentle and colourful Spring.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Honouring Moments of Pause

   Slowly, very slowly, I am emerging from a pause. I took time this year to deepen study in Chinese medicine, mind my private practice, read, watch, internalize and observe the changes. There are days that have felt like moments and others like eternities. While I have not written much for the blog, I did continue to take photographs and quell my curiosity of the natural world with my camera. 

   I am including a few collages with some of my favourite images that tell a story about this past year. There are so many images to share as I edit and reconfigure my writings. It occurred to me this past week that so much of my time during the past two years was invested in cultivating safety for myself and for my work. When we feel safe, we can then down regulate, be curious and find breath. There have been days where the breath has been short, shallow and brief. The work has been to find the depth of the breaths where the air can sometimes feel trapped or held. It is during these levels of activation, I have felt the importance and necessity of honouring moments of pause. Taking photographs, especially of my hummingbirds, asks for stillness and focus on slow exhales.  I never use a tripod so it is always an act of meditation to keep a still hand.
   There were moments with peeper frogs, a luna moth, mimosa flowers, and countless hours with a new generation of hummingbird visitors. As the world has turned in so many directions I am eternally grateful for the presence of the small details of shimmering beauty that reside in the woods, the air and the earth.

 It is my hope that some of these images will spark curiosity and deep refreshing breaths as we enter the new year. One of my favorite images was taken this autumn of a passion flower vine that grew with such vitality that it climbed up the side of my home and drooped over a doorway. It gave the garden the feeling of something very romantic and old. The vines were curled, woven, knotted, stuck and integrated with the shingles and rooftop. Each time that I walked out the door, I was reminded to stay the course, and to follow the inspirations that offer glimmers of beauty and passion. This vine has been growing for over a decade. Inside in the winter and outside in the summer. It continues to gently bloom, offering magical green and purple flowers despite the wobble of the world. 

    As I write this post, the owls are singing in the woods. I hear them morning and night, just when the light has a certain dusky tone. I am so deeply grateful for their presence. They remind me that the cycles of nature continue and that we too are part of a circular process of healing and rebirth. They also offer the reminder of a place that still holds a little bit of wildness and raw woodsy beauty. Wishing everyone a new year filed with creativity, curiosity, patience and kindness. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Food is Medicine

 During the course of the pandemic, warm meals, carefully crafted fresh dishes, and layered soups have been creating much comfort and joy. Some days, a bowl of hot homemade vegetable soup has made a world of difference during these chaotic days. Sharing a freshly made dish with a neighbour, a friend or patient from my practice has also made me feel like I am participating in the solution. 

We can offer comfort and support through the love that we place in kitchen. I have found that cooking has been one of the most meaningful expressions of love and connection during these challenging times. I am deeply grateful for the beautiful vegetables and care that the farmers have given to their crops this past year. Sang Lee, Amber Waves and Balsam Farms are a my favourites. 

When I have had extra soup, I have packaged it and given it to friends and neighbours when they least expected the gifts. It fills my heart with goodness to share now more than ever. While we may not be able to share a meal in our homes, we can certainly share love in this gentle and nourishing exchange. 

I began a new feed on Instagram, the title of the feed is @pure_soups. In this feed, I share images of the flowers that sit on the table while eating, the herbs, the soups, the ingredients, and the intentions behind the soups. I have also included thoughts on the nutritional values of different foods through the five elements and the lens of Chinese medicine. 

I have enjoyed photographing the images of the ingredients, the color, the textures and the toppings that I have placed on the soups. At this time, I am finishing the squash and root vegetables from the winter shares of Amber Waves and Sang Lee Farms. 

The sweet potato soup has been the most frequency made soup. Enriched by garlic, onion, sesame oil, vegetable broth, hours of slow roasting and cooking, topped with beautiful elements from the last herbs in the garden.

One of my favourite ingredients has been Japanese pickled plums. I chop them finely and add them to the toppings of many soups. The sour and sweet taste offers a nice opposition to the sweet earthiness of the pureed root soups. The plums are astringent and offset the sweetness creating more of a balance in the soup.

As the days are growing longer and we gear up for warmer weather, I will be posted more of my recipes and my photography. My hope is that my posts inspire new explorations in the kitchen. Tonifying the middle Jiao is an important way to keep our immunity strong and resilient, especially during the colder days. 

As I am writing this post, I know that the farmers are enjoying the last days of rest before preparation for the next planting season. My seeds are being sorted and my new gardens designed in my dreams. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Autumn Hummingbird Medicine

 This beauty is about to leave for warmer days and colorful flowers. It is always heartbreaking to feel them leave the garden. It has been a wonderful Summer of curiosity and observation. 
This is one of my favorite images to date. 
The sky has been hazy and turned soft pastel colours as the particles from the wildfires of the West coast are flying over our lands. The soft halo behind our elegant female hummingbird reminds me of a Byzantine painting of a female Saint. 

Just before the hummingbirds leave, they are very generous with their presence and they spend extra time feeding for their journeys South. She has been here a lot the past few days and I can feel her getting ready to fly away. To see the hummingbirds every day for many months, it is bittersweet to feel the intensity of their feeding, knowing that in a blink of an eye she may disappear. 
The last salvia are still in bloom, as well as the last cardinal vines. Little pops of color in an otherwise fading garden. The night air is cooler now and one can feel the activity of the Atlantic Ocean churning the winds and summoning crisper weather. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Owl Medicine

Yesterday, during the early moments of blue grey daylight I heard the young owls cry from the branches of a cedar tree just outside the window. These are the owlets that I have photographed and been listening to for several weeks. One of my wonderful neighbors invited me to see them in her back yard. It has taken me a while to understand their behavior, and there is so much to learn that it may take me a very long time to completely absorb their elusive habits. 

In years past, I have only ever heard them, never saw them in the wild. It has been a wonderful and incredible experience. The first time that I saw them, they were together on a branch at the edge of the woods. They were so well camouflaged that it took my eyes a moment to refocus. 
In the blink of an eye, they were gone. Their wide and impressive wingspan took me by surprise. They are magnificent. They are elegant and have the capacity to vanish into a tree canopy as if they are performing magic. 
They have been coming out of the woods at dusk and visible at first light with the little ones. The first good image that I took  was when it appeared on a branch from what seems like thin air. 

It took my breath away, its yellow eyes and strong body.  It sat on a branch and stared directly at us. My friend sat next to me, and I said to her, 
"I can't believe what we are seeing right now."
My friend is much better at staying still than I am and we both has a silent giggle under our breath. I was so excited that I could hardly stand it, as my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. Holding a heavy camera with a long lens was very difficult, the excitement made my arms and hands shaky. I was in complete awe. It was love at first sight. 

Since that encounter, I have seen them a few times and when my hopes were the highest, they hid from me, or flew over my head in the depth of the dark woods. I have been learning a lot about these Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus). The greatest lesson that they have taught me is how to see in the dark. This is a literal lesson, although it might also be interpreted as a shamanic teaching, I am learning how to see the unseen. They blend into their environment so well that one has to really adjust to a new way of seeing the woods. 
The second lesson that they have taught me is how to hear differently. I have learned what their wake up call is like and how they communicate with one another. One night, I was in the woods and I heard the owlets waking up and talking with one another, it was as if they were checking in with one another to say hello and also search out one of the parents. We believe that there are four owls.

Lastly, they have taught me how to be more curious. To learn more about owls all over the world and to read about the history of owls from different resources. The owl below is young, it bobbed and danced while looking at me. The feathers are more fluffy and soft than the adults.

The author Desmon Morris has written a book, the title is Owl
In the introduction to his book he writes:
"When we examine the history of our relationship with owls we find that they have, indeed, frequently been a symbol of both wisdom and evil. Wise or wicked, wicked or wise, the image of the owl keeps altering. For several thouand years these two iconic values have kept swapping and changing. Another of the contradictory qualities of the much misunderstood owl."

According to Morris, there are fossil remains of owls that have existed for at far back as 60 million years. When I did a little research of my own, I found images of ancient fossils and cave paintings in Europe. 
When I look at the images that I have taken, I can hardly believe that they incredible creatures have been on the planet for so many millions of years. It is like having an encounter with a modern day dinosaur, literally from my back door and I did not have to travel half way across the world to see them in all of their glory!
These elusive creatures have been with us, woven into our psyche and our cultures for so many centuries.
The owl graced Grecian coins, were made into gold beads by the Mochica in Northern Peru and revered for their magical and healing powers by many cultures all over the world. 

The goddess Lakshmi is often depicted riding on the back of a white owl when she enters the earth plane to visit the poor and bless them with her presence. The owl accompanies her in the dark as it knows how to travel well at night with its extraordinary night vision. In Minorca owls are painted on ceramics for good luck. Amulets of owls are also worn for protection. 

There are so many interesting facts about owls in cultures from all over the world that it could take a lifetime to read about how we as humans have lived with these magical beings. Desmond Morris did a beautiful job exploring their vast and meaningful relationships with humans throughout the centuries. 
Last week, I saw one of the owls fly through the back of the property. It took my breath away, again,  as it was almost dusk, the crows were making a lot of noise chasing it away and it flew so fast, it was a brief but amazing sight. 
I hope that this is just the beginning of my time with the owls. I love them so much, their yellow and black eyes, intense stare, silent flight and curious calls. They are mysterious and generous. My neighbour has been gifted many feathers from them and they love her sanctuary where they sleep, drink water and rest in the safety of her magical realm. 
Hopefully they will visit me again soon and I will have another story and new images to share with everyone. They are year round residents and hopefully that have found their forever home here in the woods of Springs.