Tag Archives: walking

In the dead of winter.

Mid-January is a tough time for someone who likes to take pictures. On one hand, you can say that the hard part is behind you and that soon spring will arrive. But in fact it is not quite true as the hardest parts of winter are still around the corner. In other words, it will get tougher still before it gets better.

Sundays is my favorite days to take pictures. At least it was, but today left a bitter taste in my mouth. Everything seemed to conspire to egg me on and then at the last minute it was snatched away from me.

Another cold day with frigid temperatures. At least today we had nice blue skies and a small pesky wind. That was the problem, the pesky wind. I had to put my hood over my head just to feel warm. Lucky for me that my trusted photographer’s mittens did the job as I barely froze my hands. I am sure that a photographer in warmer climates cannot relate to all this.

As I entered the botanical garden I looked at my watch; it was 08:00 am. Early enough for the sun to appear slightly over the horizon. We are slowly getting back some of the minutes that we had lost previously, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. Yeah right.

It was not before 08:45 that I saw what I was looking for, a fox. It was near where a wooded area is located. It seemed to be sniffing the ground, probably looking for some small prey that was running under the snow. I tried to follow it slowly, sometime stopping in my tracks as the fox looked towards me.

At one point I had to make a decision; to continue to pursue it from afar or to use the road that straddles the small wooded area and hope that it stays in the area. I chose to pursue it, no doubt my appetite for a good picture stimulated by the sight of this semi-wild animal. Bad decision.

I continued walking towards the fox that by then had turned the corner and was trotting along the edge of the wooded area. At one point I could not see it and I knew that it might simply install itself on a rock and just bask in the sun. Should I wait? Of course not, I am still obsessed by getting one good picture. Again, bad decision.

The fox had begun to settle down when it saw me. It promptly got up and continued its trotting but at a faster pace. I knew that I was about to lose it so I quicken the pace. Again, a bad decision.

I emerged from the wooded area and could not see the fox anymore. Sorrow grips my heart as  I may have lost the only chance to get a good picture of a fox today simply because I had pressed too hard. I continued walking on the main road looking afar at the empty fields beside it with row after row of seemingly dead trees.

Suddenly I saw the fox. It was still sniffing the ground but it was far from me. I took the decision to quickly walk in its direction. The fox had not spotted me yet. I was trying to intercept it as it was oblivious to me. I knew that my boots were making noises now. It is hard to avoid this when the snow is hard and one is walking briskly.

I was still on course to intercept the fox when it decided to look up in my direction. I stopped, waiting to see what it would do. It continued it’s trotting along but then it quickened the pace as I did. It knew that I was pursuing it from afar. I was still too far for a good picture as my lens is not a strong one, only 300 mm. I needed to get close. Too late, as now it was running quickly away.

I lost it, somewhere in the area where small shrubs are located. I could hear on the main road bands of runners hooting and hollering. That could probably spook the fox towards me I thought. I climbed up a small hill beside those shrubs and there I saw the fox, obviously listening to the runners.

I was now on the hill and waited for the fox to move. It did, in the direction of the feeding stations for birds. I pursued it and promptly lost it again. I moved slowly around the area and then on a hunch decided to walk around the small pond near the feeding station. And there I saw not one but two foxes, the male and the female playing around in the sun. Once again I was too far. I finally decided to walk around the perimeter of the pond to see them much closer but they bolted, with one fox crossing the fence into another public park. The second fox disappeared without a trace.

In the end, for two hours of walking around the garden I took a few pictures but none were keepers. At least I had seen the foxes but nothing much else. I would describe this as my usual routine; you get close but never quite get the thing you desire. It happens often in winter. Spring is around the corner, I mumble to myself as I leave the garden to take my bus. Yeah right.

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Seeing and not seeing.

Here I was, walking in the botanical garden. It was late morning and I had been exploring the area trying to take pictures of something worthy of. In winter this is not easy. Sure, there were birds at the bird feeding stations but they were the usual birds that I have photographed often such as cardinals and juncos.

I was walking the ski trail and trying hard not to walk on the ski tracks but beside them. No need to arouse the ire of skiers I thought. I try hard not to antagonize people unnecessarily. I was walking towards an area of the garden where one can find tall conifers as well as several sculptures that are made of metal. Ugly objects in my view as rust was attacking them. It was cold, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I was a hunter on the prowl, but no animals would be harmed today by me.

I turned a corner and I could see on my left some conifers bathed by the morning sun. As I approached a tall conifer my heart raced when I saw a bird on a branch, a hawk called a Cooper’s hawk. It was only a few feet away from me and I was lucky that it had not been startled by my sudden arrival. Coming upon a hawk on a branch was a stroke of luck for me as these birds are notoriously difficult to see and especially to photograph. At least for me.

The bird was somewhat hidden on one side so I purposely walked sideways more to the left of it as I wanted to get a good shot. Finally, after a few careful steps I was exactly at the spot that I wanted. The bird cooperated with me and I took several pictures, and then not content with what I had I approached the bird even more. Again I took several more shots. At one point the bird lunged in front of it, or so it seemed to me. I was focused on the bird but I did notice that it had released itself. I had seen nothing else. For me there was nothing else to see.

Soon after a skier arrived and as it passed by the conifer the hawk flew away. I could not find it afterwards even if I did try. I left the area shortly after and reviewed my pictures. They were nice and I was happy with them. A day later, as I reviewed again my pictures I noticed something red lying on the branch where the hawk was. I increased the magnification and to my surprise saw that it was some sort of prey that the bird had caught. It had chosen this branch on that conifer to eat its prey. Despite the fact that the scene was in front of me I had seen nothing!

Truly we are blind. We see what we want to see and nothing more and it is probable that all our senses are affected in this way. Our eyes do not see and our ears do not ear. It is the brain that interprets reality. I was wondering, what else escapes me during my walks in the garden, and of course, in my everyday life? Are we all sleepwalking through life?

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Infernal machines.

I might have told you dear reader that I am an amateur photographer. There is nothing more than I like than taking pictures in a natural surrounding. There is something serene and peaceful that fills my heart with pure joy. Usually. But when you enter a place that is supposed to be peaceful and it is not then I get frustrated. More than that, I get angry.

I entered my park one morning very early, around 07:00. For the next three hours all I did was trying to escape from the incessant and infernal noise of the leaf-blower. Have you ever heard that noise dear reader? It is similar to a chainsaw except it is slightly less hard on the ears. But only slightly. Now imagine three of these infernal machines well spaced out thus giving the illusion that I was being pursued by them.

I did try to walk away from it, walking great distances but each time, I was soon engulfed in the noise of those machines. Now, if I thought that using these machines made city workers more productive I would not be unhappy of that. Sadly, I do not believe that such is the case. What is more bizarre is that not all workers were using them. I passed by one such worker who instead of a machine was using that old technological tool called a rake and was thus busy using this low-tech implement to collect dead leaves that littered the area. However, as my gaze was on him, he stopped and took an unscheduled break. He then began doing calisthenics, as if he needed to limber up for the job! Raking leaves!

I thought about taking a picture to shame him but then demurred. He was young and I knew that raking leaves was never an activity that encouraged enthusiasm. I could remember that back when I was young there were many activities that literally bore me to death and I often did them in a lackadaisical manner. I was thus happy to return the favour of not taking a picture and embarrassing him.

In the end I decided to accept that today was not a perfect day and that perhaps tomorrow would be better. It was pointless for me to be angry with the gods for permitting this sacrilege of my morning. There would be other mornings and I knew that once Spring cleaning was over the park would return to a more serene nature.

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Feeling like chicken s**t today!

It has happened to most of us at some time or another. You wake up one morning and you have the blues. You do not feel right. The urge to do anything is absent. In other words, the forces of inertia work against you; an object at rest stays at rest unless something pushes it. You are at rest and you stay like that, for most of the day. I prefer to say that when this happens I feel like chicken shit. It summarizes my mental state perfectly as well as adding a touch of humour to the situation.

Such was my state last week I am afraid to report and on a Monday no less. For some reason I hate Monday’s with a vengeance. If I could simply skip Monday’s and go on to Tuesday I would be perfectly happy. Alas, this is impossible.

I awoke that morning in a state of lethargy impossible to describe, but I will try nonetheless for you, dear reader. Just the act of deciding was difficult. What to do, where to go etc. I finally did manage to decide and went for a walk. Once a goal is identified it becomes a lot easier to feel better, especially if one acts.

Unfortunately, once in the park, I simply sat there observing people play tennis or bicycle along the perimeter of the park. I too have a bike but just the thought of bringing it down three flight of stairs discouraged me. One must remember that my energy level was fairly low as well on that day.

I basically spent my morning walking and sitting, not exactly a taxing kind of morning. But then, just getting out of bed was a big effort! And tying those shoe laces…Yes, I am slightly exaggerating how things went. But I also knew that even if I just went through the motions today tomorrow would be a better day.

I have discovered this in the process; a good night’s sleep often solves the problem. Add to the mix a bit of mild exercise such as a walk and the mood definitely improves. If it does not, dear reader, then please consult as you may have more deeper problems to solve. And please don’t wait, don’t leave things to fester. Better attack it when it is a small hill rather than a mountain.

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Of cars and pedestrians.

It was Saturday morning and I was walking towards my bus stop a few feet away. As I always do I stopped at the curb of the sidewalk to look across to see if the lights were red for the cars and green for me. The lights were green for the cars and yet I advanced with confidence across the road, knowing that it would take me less time to cross as the car was slow in driving across the street. I am not an old geezer who walks with a cane but a spry 52 year old who can walk at a nice pace. I was not worried.

I was right in my assessment as I was able to cross the road in less than 6 or 7 seconds. In fact, I distinctly remember that as I set foot on the sidewalk on the other side the car had barely arrived behind me. And then it happened, the driver made an unpardonable sin; she honked at me!

I immediately turned around to see her pass behind me. I was so incensed that I shouted obscenities at her and shook my hand in righteous indignation and I might say, in a slightly juvenile way. But it felt so good. Now dear reader, I must say that I have been honked at in my life at various times not only by cars but by geese as well. Some were flying over me in a V formation while at other times I simply got too close to them and they honked at me as a warning to others that an intruder was approaching. But being honked at by cars is something that I can recall only once happening, and that was only a few weeks ago. I was fiddling with my mittens and was walking casually across the road not having seen that the lights were now green for the cars. A driver honked to warn me of what I was doing. I retreated of course and I silently thanked the driver.

I will be charitable and say that perhaps the driver was simply having a bad morning and seeing one lonely middle-age pedestrian getting away with breaking the law was too much for her. It was the proverbial drop that broke the driver’s back. But she could also be one of these self-styled busy bodies who make it their business to impersonate the police when the real police is not around.

Had I been in the middle of the road or on the verge of being hit I could have understood that she would have honked at me in alarm for my safety. But I was not in the middle of the road but safely on the other side. She was late, much too late and that offended me, attacking my abilities as a professional walker that I am. I have my pride too.

So, dear reader who might also be a driver, the next time you honk at a pedestrian make sure that it is warranted and not simply out of spite of having missed the walker. They will silently thank you I am sure.

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The smell of death.

I love to walk in parks and I feel better and noticeably saner afterwards. But if it is the month of November or April then I hate that pungent smell which offends my olfactory bulb, you know, that earthy smell that is present which is the smell of decomposing leaves. It is an odd sight of seeing squirrels running around full of life and then smelling that smell. It is an odd juxtaposition of life and death in the same moment and it is very odd, to me at least.

I look at the trees as I walk and see that they are without leaves, looking more like skeletons than their old selves, with their branches extending in all directions but naked without their covering. Hundreds and hundreds of leaves littering the ground, reminders of past days when these trees were in full bloom, a marvel to the eyes. Now they looked more like eyesores and reminded me of my mortality. I felt sorry for them as I continued my walk on the trail.

I was sad when I saw those barren branches but if it is April I know that they will soon come alive again and the cycle of life will resume. The tree will seemingly resurrect from death after lying dormant for several months. But if it is November then I know that the worse is still ahead for them. Of course all this applies to areas of the world that enjoy the four seasons, as we do in Eastern North America. My experience would no doubt be different in warm climates where trees are the same year round and do not shed their leaves. Perhaps then that would make me think of immortality instead of my mortality.

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Walking in the footsteps of others.

I am an avid photographer but I will admit that winter in the eastern part of North America is no picnic. The snow and the cold can be taxing and your perseverance and endurance is often tested, as well as your equipment of course.

Naturally when I am walking I always look if someone else has walked in the same area that I am walking. It is always easier to walk in the footsteps of another person as they make my walking far easier and of course I exert less energy. Even the animals of the wild will do the same thing. I often see foxes quickly running on paths made by men instead of wading through deep snow. But of course, if I walk in the same paths that others have opened for me I will probably see what they have seen and nothing more. One could also add that a sense of adventure would be missing in walking in the footsteps of others so at times I will eschew the easy path and will try to open a new path. I know that it will cost me more in time and energy but I always hope that in doing so I will be rewarded by seeing something that others have not seen. Often just this act of opening a different path leads me to new discoveries, as for example discovering birds called cedar waxwings eating berries perched in a tree. Had I stuck to the usual path I would not have seen them, a missed opportunity.
In our lives, we often do this, picking the easy road and letting others dictate our path. At times we are simply too lazy.

Perhaps we should be more adventurous and pick our own paths. We might have to exert ourselves more but at least it would be more interesting and of course, it will be our paths and not the paths of others. We would be following our own genius and no one else.

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