Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Banff compatriots

ground squirrel - elk - ground squirrel - elk - deer - deer - deer - ground squirrel (multiply x 100) - elk - swimming elk - deer - deer -deer- wolf - chipmunk - red squirrel - red squirrel - black pine marten - big-horned sheep - ground squirrel.

Pine Siskin - tree swallow - cliff swift - many Robins - sparrows (innumerable) - crow - raven - magpie - mallard- Merganser - Canada geese - one solitary Harlequin duck - Gray Jay (also known as a Whiskey Jack)- several osprey (or the same one, flying about?) - Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Dark-eyed Junco (innumerable) - two Mountain Bluebirds.

And one bat.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


reading Robert Kroetsch's A Likely Story, i'm thinking that blogs are much more like scrapbooks, open to the public, rather than private journals, secret diaries. we collate present-day links with ideas, magpie shiny images, and somehow this
"implies a larger whole, an organized universe, an explanatory mythology, from which the scrap was taken... A scrapbook is made up of stories--and of gaps and silences. A scrapbook is a kind of code; the code allows us to bring into play whole areas of memory." - Kroetsch

two shiny scraps that caught my eye this past week: first, my friend Sue Chenette writing about Paris, specifically the city's relationship to language

and, thinking about books, a rather brilliant tank re-purposing:

Friday, May 14, 2010


turns out this anthill is a well-known landmark on the Hoodoo trail...the ants have been building this pile of dry spruce needles for several years. being right near the arts centre, the hill has been featured in a number of videos etc. Hard to see them in these small photos...but trust me, the needles are completely covered in black & red patterned ants. they're quite nifty-looking ants, actually, and apparently they eat other more destructive insects, so i am trying to like them.

they didn't swarm out and attempt to drag us into the anthill when we walked i conclude that they are friendly. or at least, indifferent. which is fine with me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

more birds

seems like every day brings more birds to the Bow River birds, siskins, swallows...and i also spent some time watching two crows gathering dead weeds by the river, presumably to build or repair their nest.

which got me thinking about crows. i love this video, even though it is a group of caged crows, being studied. but still, the way the bird perfects the tool, clearly figuring out how to improve the wire it starts with...

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Virtual Banff

This morning over breakfast i asked the guy across the table from me what he was working on, here at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

"Repairing the virtual cave, in the basement," he said.

Uh-huh. Mental note: never ask anyone what they're doing before having breakfast.

But he really is working on the virtual cave...i plan to drop by later in the week when it's operational again. not sure what to expect.

I've already visited the real cave, created by the mineral springs which are the reason Banff exists. (the sulfur springs gave this place a quasi-medicinal purpose and in order to protect the springs--or, to protect the potential profits they could make from the springs--the government of Canada created the very first national park here in the late 1880s. & soon after that, the Banff Springs Hotel was built...

not bad for a hotel built because of a cave.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

a raven for Dickens

i saw a very tame raven while hiking near Banff. i used to be dubious about the idea of taming ravens...they seem so sure of themselves & sensibly wild. but on the trail, a very stout raven marched up and down beside people eating lunch. i suppose he was waiting for the humans to drop their food. though very tame, he was very much aware of his obvious superiority to us.

he made me think of Dickens and his pet raven, Grip. (above photo is Grip, stuffed--now owned by the Free Library of Philadelphia) i always associate ravens very much with Canada, especially British Columbia & the Yukon...but in fact a variety of raven exists all over Europe, and Dickens' raven is probably the most famous.

Dickens described the death of Grip, his tame raven, like this: "On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coach house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed `Halloa old girl!' (his favorite expression) and died."

for the record, Edgar Allen Poe apparently felt that Dickens' fictionalized raven in Barnaby Rudge deserved a more important role in the plot.

having seen the enormous glossy raven on the path here, I agree with Edgar: if you introduce a talking tame raven into a plot, you'd better give it all the best lines.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Writing mountains

i'm in Banff, at the fabulous Arts Centre here, working on a new manuscript. and lo & behold, today it snowed. quite a fact, it's still snowing just a little, and maybe it's because i'm originally from Montreal, but really, i find snow is very good for writing.

the view from my

...and the evening i arrived:

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Jane's Walk

was this weekend...around the world, from Saskatoon to Mumbai, from Toronto to La Paloma, Uruguay.

for some links & photos

“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations.”

— Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’