We cannot see our reflection in running water.
It is only in still water that we can see.
~ Taoist proverb
A Trip We’ve Taken A Million Times
Early in July, my Sweet Bear and I packed up our vehicle for the 600 kilometre road trip from Calgary to my home town, North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Our car was chock-a-block full, containing everything needed for our contribution to my mother’s birthday party: two homemade cakes, one poppy seed cake and one orange-almond cake (careful where you put them honey, they can’t be squished); an electric hand-mixer and a large stainless-steel bowl (to make whipped cream for the cakes); five strings of fairy lights (for a splash of magic); assorted plates, utensils, cutlery and fancy napkins; two small suitcases and one garment bag; two pillows and one yoga mat; one guitar and an entire sound system, which included two heavy and somewhat bulky microphone stands, two speakers, a very heavy amp, a sound mixer, a big box of cables and wires, and two microphones—all equipment required for the live entertainment (Sweet Bear and I were the live entertainment.)
After some concern about whether everything would fit in our car and many trips to and from the car (parked down in our building’s underground parkade) and a good amount of sweat, Bear somehow managed to successfully sardine everything into the car.
We were locking the door when I asked him if he thought we should bring our cameras. Wincing with the thought of where he might wedge the large backpack holding our very long, 7 lb 600mm lens, he decided to leave it at home. I agreed. We’ve traveled that stretch of road a million times—what could we possibly see that we’ve never seen before? At that moment, the easy solution seemed best. At the last minute though, I threw my camera and my 300 mm lens into the front of the car, where it sat at my feet for the eight hour journey from Calgary to North Battleford.
The Way Things Go
Of course, we did see something we had never seen before. Near the side of one of the back roads we like to take as we travel cross-country, in a small, shallow pond, we spotted an American Avocet couple and their three adorable little chicks. Thank goodness, I had taken my camera at the last minute! The chicks were the cutest little things we’d ever seen. Sadly, however, the birds were a good distance away and we didn’t want to frighten or disturb the family by getting out of our vehicle to try to get closer.
We were only about an hour or so away from our Saskatchewan destination when we spotted the Avocets and stopped so I could take some shots; but it was late afternoon, the bright summer sun was directly behind the birds and there was glare on the water. I couldn’t do much about the light, so the shots I took that day didn’t amount to much.
We continued on our way, calculating when the morning sun would likely hit the pond on our return trip back to Calgary so the light would be just right for photographing the Avocet family. We figured that we’d have to be at the pond shortly after sunrise, which meant that we’d have to be in the car and on the road by 4:30 in the morning.
And, for the love of birds, that’s exactly what we did!
The early morning light was exactly what we’d hoped it would be when we arrived at our little pond on the prairie. Miraculously, the long, low fog fingers and misty haze we’d driven through up to that point suddenly cleared and the light was perfect. There was only one problem: my 300 mm lens simply wasn’t long enough to get the kind of close-up shots I wanted. Why, oh why, didn’t we bring our big super long lens? Couldn’t we have squeezed it in somewhere? Oh yeah… the trunk would barely close and the back seat was stacked as high as it could possibly be. Still, I tried not to kick myself.
The three little chicks were out and about and feeding contentedly in the pond. They were adorable to watch through binoculars, but in my camera viewfinder, they looked like small blurry dots. I took some shots anyway and I thought I’d post two of the best (highly-cropped, rather grainy) shots. I hope they give an idea of how cute these little chicks were.
“With its elegant profile and striking coloration,
the American Avocet is unique among North American birds.
In summer it can be found in temporary and unpredictable
wetlands across western North America where it swings its long upturned bill through the shallow water to catch small invertebrates.”
~ Cornell Lab of Ornithology (All About Birds)
A male Yellow-headed Blackbird perches in a willow bush at the edge of the pond, likely guarding a nearby nest.
Ponds are magical in morning light. At the pond’s edge, tiny crystal beads of morning dew caught the light on a thin strand of spider’s thread.
“I hope you love birds too.
It is economical.
It saves going to heaven.”
~ Emily Dickinson
Heaven in a Prairie Pond
I wanted to stay at our little prairie pond all day—to sit quietly, find an inner stillness and delight in the abundance of life generated by this one little pond.
Although I was thrilled that I got to enjoy this little slice of heaven, I knew we still had a long journey in front of us, so we reluctantly left our little pond and its resident Avocet family to carry on our way.
Back on the road again
Cruising down the highway, mesmerized by the beautiful world spinning madly by, I thought, “We can never really take the same journey twice, can we?”.
All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2016 madlyinlovewithlife