Every summer I enjoy keeping a container garden on our high-rise balcony and I love it all summer long, but I find beauty in my little balcony garden in every season, including winter.
Rather than clearing out all my potted plants in late autumn, I purposely leave all of my plants to naturally dry and I allow winter to engulf them. Winters are cold here in Calgary, so nothing potted survives it except my two potted trees. I love the way the dried grasses and flowers frost up and the way they create beautiful shapes and organic sculptures as piles of snow cap the leaves and branches. I think the bare bones of my little trees look so beautiful too.
Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles
and all the years you have lived.”
A Holiday Decoration to Delight the Senses
The first pomanders (from the French pomme d’ambre, “apple of amber”) were balls made of perfumes and they were one of the earliest forms of aromatherapy. Modern day pomanders are often made during the holiday season by studding oranges or other citrus fruits with whole dried cloves and curing them in fragrant spices. They can be left out to scent and freshen the air, used as beautiful tabletop decorations or tree ornaments, or placed in drawers to keep linens and clothing fresh and pleasant-smelling.
Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking
if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.
‘Tis the Season to Enjoy Exotic Fruit
Here in Canada, where winters are cold and “all green things cease to grow”, the holiday season has always been a time to enjoy imported exotic fruits. When I was a child, the big treat in December was mandarin oranges from Japan. While I still look forward to having a fresh mandarin (or my new favourite, the satsuma orange), I also look forward to a new exotic fruit which has become readily available over the last ten years: fresh pomegranates.
The Danbo Brothers lead a busy and adventurous life and it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen them. I know they love the woods in fall and, as we’ve had an unusually long, warm autumn here, I believe their prolonged absence probably had to do with them taking many a long stroll in the woods to enjoy the splendour of the autumn foliage.
More often than not, if I run into them at all, it seems we most often rendezvous in the kitchen first thing in the morning—so I’m never quite sure what might await me there (which is always rather fun). And no matter how early in the morning it is, I can always count on these guys to be in a happy mood.
“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”
~ Jim Bishop
The Autumn Colour Palette
Autumns are short here in Calgary and in the nearby Rocky Mountains. If you want to enjoy it, you have to get out there and savour every day you can—lest a particularly hard frost, unexpected snow dump or a big wind takes it all away overnight. It’s happened before: autumn can quickly disappear here by mid-September. But this year, we’ve been extra fortunate. We’ve had a bonus month of autumn—October has been a gloriously beautiful month, with most days being warm and sunny, and graced with incredible azure blue skies. The weather has been so lovely that my potted geraniums are still blooming! It’s highly unusual to have them last this late into the season. We took full advantage of the spectacular weather this whole season and got out for long walks with our cameras in the mountains and in our city parks as often as we could. Here are some of the sights we enjoyed on our autumn walks this year.
“When you arise in the morning,
think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—
to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
~ Marcus Aurelius
We Only Wanted to Glimpse One Bluebird
One of the things my partner and I were most hoping to see on our recent foray into wine country in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, was a Western Bluebird. While we get to enjoy the gorgeous Mountain Bluebirds which live here in Alberta, the beautiful Western Bluebird does not call Alberta home. We had never seen one of these little beauties before and we really wanted to catch a glimpse of one this trip. So imagine our surprise and great delight to discover that an entire flock of Western Bluebirds was roosting in the large Ponderosa Pine trees just outside our lovely accommodations in the Okanagan!
“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it
and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes
as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”
The Perfect Autumn Getaway
Let me take you to the heart of western Canada’s wine country in Penticton, a town cozily nestled in the sunny Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Canada. The drive from Calgary to Penticton is a scenic 8 hour drive, winding over two stunning mountain passes and passing through three contiguous National Parks in the Canadian Rocky Mountains (see my previous post). Once we are over the mountains, the road glides down into the valley and hugs the shores of scenic Lake Okanagan for 132 km (84 miles), making for lovely vistas all the way south to Penticton. For my partner and I, the road trip itself is one of the best parts of our getaways to the Okanagan Valley and we milk it to its fullest.
The Okanagan is a pretty valley stitched together with picturesque patchworks of fruit orchards, vegetable farms, vineyards and small wineries. A few days spent basking there is what we call a perfect getaway. It is pure balm for the soul.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
The Landscape Through My Lens
Oh, how I love a good road trip, especially a drive through beautiful country. When it comes to road trips, my partner and I usually find ourselves driving eight hours east, across the prairies from Calgary to Saskatchewan, to visit my mother. But this time we are driving eight hours west, on a little autumn getaway to beautiful British Columbia. The landscape is whizzing by at 120 km/hr but I can’t help myself: it’s such a beautiful morning, I take my camera out and start snapping away as soon as we leave the city limits.
“There is not one blade of grass,
there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”
~ John Calvin
The Green Green Grass of Home
Being a prairie girl at heart, I love tall wild grass. I love the way whole fields of it sway to and fro on windy days like waves on the ocean. I love how brilliantly green it starts out and how the summer sun slowly fades it into beautiful hues of yellow and gold; I love the diversity of different and beautiful seed heads. But mostly, I love the way grass dances with sunlight.
Whenever I go for a walk in the meadows and natural grasslands, I’m totally beguiled by the beauty and artistry of grass. Nothing feels more perfect on a warm summer’s day than lying on my back in a grassy meadow, listening to the wind play its music through the grassy fields and watching sunbeams dance with the beautiful bobbing blossom heads of the grass.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
~ Rachel Carson
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Finally Reopens
Our long wait is over: after a two year and one month wait, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary has finally reopened. Calgary’s June 2013 “Hundred Year Flood” severely affected our city’s beloved bird sanctuary and it was immediately closed to the public. Great care was taken in the restoration work so as not to disturb nesting or migrating birds, so work proceeded slowly. While a lot of restoration work clearly remains to be completed, the main pathways and pedestrian bridges have now been repaired and the sanctuary reopened its doors to a jubilant public on July 30th, 2015.
One of my great summer joys is watering my balcony plants first thing in the morning. A few weeks ago, I was doing just that (using my fancy brand-spanking-new copper watering can) when along came a little hoverfly. These little guys somehow found their way up to my sky garden the moment I brought out my first plants and they’ve been visiting regularly ever since.
Delighted to see one, I jokingly said to her, “Would you like a little drink of water, Miss Hoverfly?” And before I could even finish, she alighted on the spout of my watering can, took a tiny sip from a single droplet of water and quickly hovered off to check out the rest of my garden. Well, that just made my morning, because—surprise, surprise—I adore hoverflies!