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ZEN ZINGER

A ferocious dinosaur conference on the sunny lawn. . . . . .

I had survived a very challenging week and needed to restore the Zen in my mental balance. No power -walks for 2 days didn’t exactly help restore the zippity-do-dah in my normal embrace of daily life. Finally, when projects came to a halt because of circumstances and the Labour Day long weekend, I grabbed the moment, took time to breathe deeply and once again seek out treasures of visual delights.

The Brighton Street home that had displayed a parade of dinosaurs in their driveway and then later, had them climbing up the small sapline in their front garden, now had a ferocious dinosaur conference on the sunny lawn. The sight of them was enough to bring a smile.

Further along, another home had brilliantly painted rocks, tucked among the plants and greenery–the colours and designs were extraordinary. . . .

I think part of the reason my power walks are so restorative is probably because I never know what may catch my attention. The sight of a mother deer and her two fawns, crossing a busy intersection, had my heart in my throat until they were safely across. A reprimand from its mother stopped an adventurous fawn from crossing back to the other side. It reminded me that even in the animal kingdom, there are always young ones who test their Moms and challenge the humans. . . .I can almost hear Mama Deer say, “Now stay together and don’t wander off on your own!”

And yes, these are the same mischievous twins seen in an earlier blog. . . .

Apple trees ready to be harvested–definitely a sign of Fall. Further along, one homeowner had a wild tangle of grape vines, twining itself along his fence and over his gate. Doesn’t he know he has a supply of grape jelly or even a couple of bottles of wine at his finger-tips?

Chick weed and sweet clover covers a lawn with not a deer in sight. Guess the thought of roses and other blooming delights are far tastier than good-for-you veggies and other salad greens.

My walking route took me back along Cowichan Street with the sight of a bunch of Fall crocuses tucked among the leaves and patches of bare soil.

And a few houses down, a creative gardener made a heart shaped frame, composed of small pebbles and filled with mini-cacti, nestled between tow small plants.

Turning a corner, who can stay serious when confronted with a cheerful geranium border? There is something about bright red geraniums that dares anyone to stay solemn in their presence. . . .

I can happily say I found my Zen as well as the Zippity-do-dah Zinger. A stroll around my neighbourhood had restored the energy I had missed in seeing all my visual treasures as well as discovering new ones.

JUST WALKING TO NOWHERE

My Readers are often amazed at the things I see on my many walks here, tthere and everywhere in my neighbourhood. “You couldn’t have seen this. . .or that!” they would exclaim. My theory is that in a car, a person can miss so much of the tiny, sometimes not so tiny things that are tucked away under a bush or hidden behind a wall of rocks or even in plain sight like the pair of fawns following their mom to the next garden buffet or one of many painted scenes on utility poles or awesome outdoor art on permanent display. It’s often the unexpected that falls along the walking route. And, I’m a great fan of the unexpected.

I’m often fortunate in meeting people who have a story behind their piece of sculpture or unusual mailbox that makes a home among their trees and flowers. The miniature yellow volkswagon mailbox reminds the owners of the many happy family times that transported them to campsites and holiday destinations. The mini-house and orca whale mailboxes differentiate two houses on a steep lane—one behind the other.

I’ve often stated that Victoria is a haven for artists, writers and photographers. On my walks to “Nowhere”, art is everywhere. You just have to focus and bingo, there it is. It can be an amazing mini-art gallery mounted by the side of the road or the simple way a flowering plant drapes itself over a worn weathered fence.

Or portions of a wonderful mural on the entire side of a convenience store. The mural is named “In the Trees” and was created by artist Caitlin McDonagh in 2019. This is only a small portion of this colourful mural.

Or even a smaller mural with “Thank you” in 30 different languages—covering the enclosure for the local eatery, the White Spot’s recycling and garbage containers.

I can’t imagine living anywhere else where my walks are always fascinating discoveries of visual “treasures.” And, it’s an absolute requirement to do this on foot—because, in a car you’ll miss so much. . . .something like this gem of a free-lending library tucked in the foliage or a pretty bouquet growing blissfully among the tall grass.

Happy Walking, wherever you are—I hope you encounter some visual treasures of your own. They are there. You just have to look and appreciate what you see. . . .

THIS AND THAT

My feet tend to follow laneways and byways and connectors that seem to pop up everywhere along my route–whatever route I decide to follow.

Oak Bay is an area that is filled with streets that begin as one name, but around that bend, it becomes another street altogether. Laneways, byways and connectors can quickly put an adventurous walker into a different neighbourhood.

A driveway is transformed into a parade of colourful dinosaurs.

A tiny rural corner can open into something very surprising.

These beautifully painted stones, carefully placed beneath clusters of sunny yellow flowers—-are these someone’s artistic and poetic nature striving to be heard. . or are these rocks a remembrance to a passing poetic soul.. . . .?

I enjoy seeing how people make their entryways totally theirs. This custom iron work with its colourful red tulips is one example.

A homeowner decided to make the corner boulevard, outside his front gate, part of his scenic garden. . . while others use ornaments and flowers to capture passer-by’s attention.

Just leaning over a stone wall can bring you a woodsy wonderland. . . . .

Or just beyond, a charming children’s playhouse

Sometimes a few steps to the left or a few steps to the right will bring a walker to some incredible gates. What is it about gates that implies “keep out” or “Welcome, do come in. . .”

Doors can be intimating too–but there are some eye-catching ones that makes you wonder who are the people behind them?

Homes are as diverse as their owners. It’s always fascinating to speculate on whoever lives there and the choices they made to make the homes theirs. Besides admiring their gardens, it does pay to look upwards too. . . . .

Summer is almost here but the weather has been perfect to explore the byways and laneways—-time to follow this connector back home.

A SPRINGTIME JAUNT AROUND MY NEIGHBOURHOOD

When I start my early morning jaunts around my neighbourhood, I often have no idea where my route will take me. I follow my adventurous feet and discover corners and areas I never knew existed. A cedar chip path, off a residential street, led me through a grove of trees. Who would have known this existed except for the locals who lived close by?

With this pandemic heading into its second summer, people have tended to their homes and gardens with much more attention. Some neighbourhood streets have undergone transformations that brings a cheerful ambiance to their area. One street had talented artists who painted utility poles to show that Life doesn’t stop because of a virus.

Some homes are unique in creating spaces with a welcoming hospitality. . . . . .

Some homes choose to have unusual ornaments mysteriously hidden behind the foliage or in plain view.

Others choose to have an eye-catching entrance to their home.

Palm trees always make an impressive entrance and Victoria can certainly boast of palm trees popping up here and there. After all, we are the Banana Belt of Canada, especially in the winters and springs.

My feet are now on the final hill and homeward bound. The magnificent magnolias, in their creamy whites and pale pinks unfurl their petals in the various gardens I pass. But, it’s the stunning deep pinks of the small magnolia trees outside the grocer, that captures my attention.

Almost home and a few specially crafted “free lending libraries” are spotted along the route.

Down a sunny path and I’m finally home—another fun walk to Nowhere. . . . . . . .

HOOLA HOOPING

Does anyone remember hoola hooping in your younger days?

It was a big thing when I was in my early teens. And it recently came back on the local news because a Victoria teen-ager broke the World’s Guiness Book of Records for swivelling his hips gazillion hours while simultaneously solving the Rubik’s cube gazillion times.

I remember doing the hoop way back when. It didn’t take a lot of swivelling—just the momentum to get it going and gravity to keep it up.

My big brother and younger sister were quite good at it. I wasn’t too bad either.

So I got myself an adult hoola hoop. What exactly is that? To begin with it has a weight of 3 pounds. Theoretically, as you swirl it around your waist, it’s supposed to whittle away the inch or two or three of excess pounds that have made a home there.

Huh—it seemed like a fun sort of exercise and I liked fun stuff when it came to any form of exercise.

The hoop came in a long narrow box that contained 8 sections—each one a different colour. By the time the hoop was fully and firmly assembled, it was a rainbow of colours.

The instructions for hooping seemed simple: (1) Press Sports Hoop tightly against the back of your waist. (2) Keep the hoop in the horizontal position before swinging out. (3) Swing out the hoop forcefully and horizontally. (4) Move your body in any direction against the hoop. (5) Keep your motion fast enough to allow the hoop to stay up.

Easy-peasy, right? Not even close.

First of all, I got steps (1) and (2) without any problems. I even got step (3) moving for half a second. I know the concept of step (4), but even though my brain was yelling “opposite” direction, my body moved with the hoop’s.

I was told that once you learned how to hoop, it’s like riding a bicycle—you never forget.

How the heck did I do it when I was younger? Okay, okay—a whole lot younger.

I dredged up the memory of my Big Brother telling me, “Don’t think about it, just do it.” And, so I did.

This time I followed steps (1) to (3) and when it came to (4), I just reverted to instinct and did it. By golly, I did 4 revolutions before I realized I was really hooping. And, just that second of celebratory glee caused the hoop to falter and drop with a thud on the floor.

I’m told that perseverance and patience are senior traits learned from years of experience. I don’t know about that but stubbornness is definitely in my genes.

And I did do 4 revolutions. If I can do 4 revs, I can do more.

Yesterday, I did 8 revolutions.

There is a definite learning curve to hoola hooping. I’m talking adults‘ learning curves, not little kids or teenagers. Adults have to learn not to question the thermodynamics or science of hooping. As for the “instructions”—honestly, it’s like needing detailed instructions on how to open a door.

I would rewrite the instructions for hoola hooping. Simple is best, right?

My instructions would read: “Don’t think about it. Just swing the hoop to get it going and let your instincts do the rest. Keep it movin’ and groovin’. Gravity keeps it up.”

Don’t be distracted. I find my crime-writing thoughts are quite random and could involve a problem that needs to be solved. One such problem was how to murder someone with a hoola hoop. Don’t even think this as it will seriously cause the hoop to fall to the ground.

I just noticed that there are a series of Cautions and Warnings on the back of the Instruction sheet.

I am so glad I didn’t read these first. My hoop would still be in 8 sections and still packed in its box. Today I can do up to 8 revolutions. Tomorrow, I will do more. And somewhere along the way, I’ll know how to “murder” someone with a hoola hoop.

Happy Hooping, Everyone. . . .

SINFULLY WINTER

Most places in my area—at least, the higher elevation places—get their fair share of snow in the winter. In my hometown of Victoria, winter usually means heavy rains, but once in a while, just to shake up the Locals’ smugness at driving with summer tires and preparing for the “Annual Spring Flower Count,” Mother Nature dumps a load of white stuff on the city.

Aside from visions of sleds, sleighs and snowballs, winter at my house means snuggling in with a pot of hot coffee, freshly baked cinnamon rolls or slices of lemon loaf. Delicious choices but after months of self-isolation and cookie tins emptied of festive Holiday cookies and mince tarts, I felt like rolling out the “big guns”—Dark Chocolate Fudgy Brownies–my weapon of mass cacao beans and calories. This is sinfully winter and massively destructive to New Year’s resolutions regarding diets, exercise and other good intentions.

I have a go-to recipe for my brownies, but in the excitement of actually making some, the recipe somehow got lost–buried in one of my many don’t-forget-where baking books. My other go-to source was a hunt on Google Search and what a treasure-trove that was!

Land O Lakes Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies

The first one I found was “Land O Lakes Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies,” a truly rich and fudgy dark chocolate morsel that had my mouth watering just reading the recipe. This recipe used dark chocolate chips, dark chocolate chunks and instant dark coffee or expresso. The link is: https://www.landolakes.com/recipe/18243/fudgy-dark-chocolate-brownies/ To make it even more sinful, I broke up pieces of Rogers 72% Dark Chocolate bar on top of the baked brownie as it was cooling on the rack. After the chocolate bar had melted, gently spread and swirl with a knife. Completely cool before cutting and sharing. Because I added a chocolate bar topping, I reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe.

The fun of researching dark chocolate fudgy brownies isn’t just to bake-and-snack, but also to discover other variations. Marissa Stevens (https://pinchandswirl.com/fudgy-dark-chocolate-beet-brownies/ ) caught my eyes because of the veggie, beets, added to her recipe, “Fudgy Dark Chocolate Beet Brownies.” I tried this recipe a month after the Land O Lakes one. I found Marissa’s version a moist brownie; no taste of any beets and quite chocolatey. Again, I reduced the sugar in the recipe allowing for the natural sugars in the beets and also for the melted 72% dark chocolate on top. Half my tasters commented they liked the moistness of this brownie while the other half preferred a slightly drier brownie. Everyone like the topping.

The Best Fudgy Homemade Brownies From Scratch made me pause. http://sweetannas.com/2013/10/the-best-fudgy-homemade-brownies-from-scratch.html Everyone claims a “Best” or “Greatest” to make their recipe stand out from the crowd. A few weeks after the beet brownies, I tried this one because the ingredients were all in my cupboard and fridge. And like the other recipes I reduced the sugar–in this case, from 2 cups to 1 cup. I substituted Fry’s unsweetened cocoa powder for the Dutch-processed cocoa powder in the recipe. I also melted a 72% Rogers dark chocolate bar on top when it was pulled from the oven. Cool completely before cutting. This dark chocolate brownie had a fudgy texture—not as moist as the beet ones but definitely a dark chocolate fudgy brownie that appealed to all my tasters.

If healthy can be attributed to dark chocolate brownies, I’ll toss in my neighbour, Anna-Marie’s version of her “Fudgy Dark Chocolate Strawberry Brownies made with nonfat Greek yogurt, maple syrup and whole wheat flour. Anna Marie’s recipe came from a blog called Amy’s Healthy Baking found at https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2015/08/02/clean-fudgy-dark-chocolate-strawberry-brownies/ The recipe was meant to taste like 72% dark chocolate and be extra fudgy. The samples each taster enjoyed mainly agreed with that description–2 tasters wanted another sample to confirm but there was nothing left.

So now you have 4 delicious sources for Dark Chocolate Fudgy Brownies. I added my dark chocolate bar to melt on top of my baked brownies just to be extra decadent, but this is totally optional as each brownie does produce a nice top of its own.

Diving into the first day of February and almost midway through winter, here’s wishing all of you delicious brownies with your coffee. Stay well and Stay safe.

THE SCALES

In these crazy and uncertain times of Covid, we all have special worries and thoughts that we try to stifle–mine is my scales.

I always had the thought that if anything drastic happened, my first instinct is to grab my Hubby and grab my scales. It would be a close race but both are easy to grasp quickly.

Hubby is special. But let’s talk about my scales, that have moved with me from place to place and suffered through my agonies from doughnuts, pizzas, chocolates, fresh baked breads, cookies stuffed with dried fruits and walnuts, cakes, pies, tarts—the list goes on.

It hasn’t been easy.

I’ve had my scales for decades—well, maybe not that many decades, but it served its purpose of displaying my sins in large numbers. The numbers goes up and eventually goes down. It all depends what was happening in my life at that particular time.

When I was working—that is, working initially as a blood bank technologist at a large and busy hospital–the sheer energy and medical emergencies were enough to curb anyone’s appetite. Lots of blood and messy accident scenes will do that. I was a feather-weight, but then, I was much younger then. I did my share of shifts and on-calls. At that time, Fate seemed to know I was new and nervous, so it seemed I worked 24/7 and had no time to eat.

I didn’t have the scales yet.

Fast forward through the quieter, calmer years–until we reach now. And my treasured scale.

It’s only a number I tell myself. After all, a power-walk, abstaining from the toasted fruit bread and eating lots of green salads usually worked in the past. However, the problem of getting older is that one tends to reason very logically the pro’s and con’s of doing all the above. I love my power-walks so that’s no problem. One has to sustain energy to do a power-walk so the toasted fruit bread is a perfect source to provide energy. As for salads, if humans were meant to eat greenery, then we all should have been rabbits.

For the past year—and I can track it to the beginnings of the pandemic—my trusty and accurate scales have only moved in one direction. Up. It could have been the grandkids who discovered it and did this jumping jack thing just to see the numbers leap, jiggle and skip. However, that was decades ago too. The scales no longer stayed at the number. It seemed to bound to the next line and then the nexst line until you looked to see if someone had added their foot on the scale too.

In my defence, I can only state that if we didn’t have to self-isolate and/or stay in our own small bubble, I wouldn’t have this scale problem at all. Google-search can burst forth with a ton of recipes if you’re idly searching for meal or dessert ideas. Pop in an idea and bingo, an avalanche of recipes appears on your screen. And in case the text recipes don’t make sense, the cook/chef thoughtfully provides you with the Youtube version so you can actually see the results. Unfortunately, being a dedicated foodies I have that talent of reading the recipe and knowing what it would taste like.

So my advice is this. Don’t step on any scales. In my case, it brings unwanted news. Find an exercise you enjoy–mine is power-walking or just a leisurely long walk. My brain tells me to avoid bakeries and coffee bars with their displays of goodies, but my feet haven’t caught on yet. All the walking routes go past delicious places.

Thinking positively, I’ve decided that as long as I’m feeling good, am staying healthy and keeping safe, the scales should be the least of the worries. Keeping to that positive note, perhaps by Spring, the numbers on the scale have dropped and moved in the other direction and that this pandemic has almost disappeared. Besides Winter is approaching and like the bears preparing for hibernation, humans need a source of extra fat to survive too.

As BC’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry often says: Be Calm, Be Kind and Be Safe.

AND toss out that darn scale.

KALEIDOSCOPE

Life is often a kaleidoscope of events, images, thoughts, duties, happy moments, gentle touches and even not-so gentle touches, scary moments and unforgettable moments. At the end of the day, these bits and pieces somehow come together like a continuous giant puzzle. This puzzle has no ending in sight—merely additional pieces that fit somewhere in the giant picture. I see my walks in the same light.

As I move down neighboring streets and beckoning lanes, I know there may be something phenomenal around the next curve.

Perhaps, an impressive entrance

or intriguing piece of garden ornament

It always lifts the spirits when a plain gate offers Oriental lanterns. . .

Or the stone birdhouse perched on its own wall

A ritzy Elf’s home complete with teeny barbecue, mailbox and teeny lawn chair

Or a miniature windmill on a quiet neighbouring street.

Strolling through the Village, the Oak Bay Artists have each contributed their version of the Covid Hearts to liven up the planters and boulevards. Here are two examples:

The unexpected treasure of a bi-plane made from strips of coco-cola cans–suspended from a tree. . . .

An artistic “Welcome” and “Farewell” at the foot of a homeowner’s entrance to his home.

BUT sometimes there is absolutely nothing but an enjoyable walk. . . .

just enjoying the peace and quiet from a hectic pace.

What I Learned From Cowboy Movies

I blame it all on John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson–may as well throw in Jason Robards Jr, Clint Eastwood and Jimmy Stewart too. All these super Hollywood stars played memorable roles in the Old West tales.

Hubby and I are avid Western fans. The setting has to be the the Old West with the cavalry, cattlemen and train robbers. Throw in a few gun-runners, Commancheros, Apaches or Commanches plus a wagon train guided by Ward Bond with one of the feisty new settlers being character actor Edgar Buchanan, who is either a doctor or a dentist or saloon keeper. We don’t like modern Westerns–too much convoluted angst. The old West had it but it was much more fun fighting cattle rustlers and gunfighters among all that tension.

We have been watching a lot of movies during the period of self-isolation and staying safe. Two of our fave movie channels, Turner’s Classics and Silver Screen have been tossing out old Westerns like they were cleaning Granny’s attic. Hubby and I have been watching so many that we know our character actors and like the old stars who play the leading roles.. We had already seen many before but after a lapse of 1-2 years, the movies appear familiar but still enjoyable. This is what we’ve concluded watching these wonderful Hollywood and Italian westerns such as Fort Apache, The Searchers, High Noon, A Fistful of Dollars and Tombstone, naming a few. 1) Old Westerns are the best. “Old” meaning a setting in the old horse and buggy days with crooked, greedy ranchers pitted against the “little guys.” The land and water rights are the biggies. Stage coach robberies, gunfights and crafty saloon gamblers are all part of the excitement. 2) The little guys always win especially when Clint Eastwood, William Holden, Gregory Peck or Sam Elliott are fighting on your side. 3) There’s always a beautiful woman who is either the daughter of the rival big rancher who loves the son of the little rancher or the daughter of the little rancher who loves the son of the big rancher. In the end, love wins especially if the good guys are led by Clint, Val Kilmer or Jason Robards Jr. 4) If you have seen “Tombstone” starring Val Kilmer, Kurt Russell and Sam Elliott, then watched it again a few years later—did you spot Charlton Heston playing a cameo role of a character called Henry Hooker? Hubby and I have watched this classic western a number of times and still didn’t recognize the star famous for “The Ten Commandments.” 5) “Tombstone” is considered a classic western because it has endured. Others that falls into this category are Clint Eastwood’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “For a Few Dollars More,” “The Last of the Mohicans” with Daniel Day-Lewis, “High Noon” with Gary Cooper, “Major Dundee” with Charlton Heston and our all-time favourite, “Once Upon a Time in the West” with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson and Jason Robards Jr. Just check the website for the greatest “Hundred Best Westerns” and these would be among the top of the list.

Now I’m sure you’re asking yourselves—what exactly did I learn from the old western classics? First of all, the Villains may wear white stetsons and the heroes black ones, but the good guys win 99.9% of the time regardless of what colour hat they wear or how ratty it looks. The beautiful woman doesn’t always get her man as we witnessed in at least 3 of John Wayne’s westerns–he rode off alone at the end.

The westerns made by Sergio Leone were realistic with grey, dreary towns, harsh survival with only the hardiest and most determined surviving. And, like Oriental movies, Sergio’s had an elaborate story plot that eventually worked out in the end. This was seen in Clint’s spaghetti films also directed by Sergio Leone as well as “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Attitude gets you somewhere. Charles Bronson in “Once Upon a Time. . .” played a stoical character with few words; had a poker face when confronted with trouble; played a haunting melody on his harmonica; could outshoot the villains and got the lady in the end—-well, I think he did as it sort of faded out with the credits rolling but he was heading back to where he had left her.

History is supposedly depicted in these classic westerns—the fall of the Alamo; the fight for Texas statehood; the Earp Brothers against the Clantons at the O.K. Corral; Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday—how much is really true? Whatever grains of truth are in these movies, let me say they make entertaining stories and in western movies, that’s what counts.

MOTHER NATURE

I think Mother Nature is an awesome being to have such a conglomerate of living beings inhabiting this Earth and navigating its many obstacles each and every day.

My neighbour has a bird feeder on her patio. It gives her great enjoyment to watch the many species of birds come to nibble their meals congenially. This particular feeder only allows smaller birds to find their way to the trough, so my neighbour would only need to fill the feeder once a week. Bigger birds cannot access the feeder. One day she spotted a Papa Robin, Mama Robin and Baby Bird flying about the feeder. It was obvious the parents were too large to grab any seeds. A few minutes later, Baby Bird was able to flutter his wings to the little railing outside the feeder, settle on it and begin grabbing beakfuls of seeds—seeds he dropped to the ground to his waiting parents. Several beakfuls later, Baby Bird managed to feed himself, then flapped down to the ground where they all flew off together. My neighbour laughed as she continued her story. “I only fill the feeder once a week but since the bigger birds figured out how to get the seeds, the feeder was empty after 3-days. The other day, I went out to my patio to enjoy my morning coffee and all these little birds were lined up waiting for me to refill the empty feeder. I tried to ignore them but there were all these tiny eyes watching me and against my better judgment, I refilled the feeder. Now I ask you—who taught these little blighters to put the guilt on me to feed them and who taught the bigger birds to use the smaller ones to get them seeds?”

Didn’t I say that Mother Nature is amazing?

Many people in my neighbourhood have a “deer” story or two or three or. . . .My building has a fabulous garden that serves a supremo buffet for any deer. Last year there were a pair of young deer who were taught by their Mom to walk to the crosswalk, look both ways for cars and then cross the street—actually, they barely got to the other side before they nimbly jumped over the rock wall, nibble their way across the lawn and work their way to the back where the tastiest ornamental bushes are. Nothing is guaranteed “deer proof”. whatever that is. The young teen-agers looked out for each other and proceeded to test-taste the camellias and the rhodos; munched on the pansies, lavender, daisies and bachelor buttons; tried the cone flowers and thoroughly enjoyed the roses carefully avoiding the the thorns. I don’t think anyone ever told these deer that some things were not good to eat. I suspect that being teenagers and away from parental control, they were enjoying everything that was supposed to be bad for them.

When Hubby and I had our house, the strip of lawn between our house and the neighbours, had a large ornamental bush that burst into tiny green leaves and tiny pink blooms by early spring. We named it the “Condo Bush” because, from our breakfast table, we could watch the many tiny wrens build their nests somewhere inside the vastness of the dense bush. We never knew how many families of wrens lived in there but one day, two curious robins decided to investigate and within 30 seconds, a massive flock of tiny birds had chased the intruders away. The survival instincts had kicked in when it came to protecting their families. And, somewhere along the way, the commune of tiny wrens had learned about “safety in numbers.”

Across the street was another neighbour’s house that had a humongous prize-winning rose bush outside her large living room window. This bush just dripped large lush red roses by mid June. We were walking past when a large male deer with spectacular antlers and his dainty doe ambled across the neighbour’s lawn. The big buck went right up to her large picture window and carefully scrutinized the interior. Satisfied there was no one home, he nodded to his mate and both proceeded to nibble at the bounty of delicious red roses before they moved away to check out another garden.

I guess this is another “bird” story but this time involving a seagull. Grandparents and their little grand-daughter were spending a fun time at the Marina. They had stopped for lunch on the patio deck and were obviously enjoying every moment with each other. Grandpa dipped a French fry into the tiny cup of ketchup and popped it in his mouth. The toddler watched wide-eyed. Grandpa dipped another French fry into a bit of ketchup and passed it over to his granddaughter. Before she could take it, a watchful seagull flew low and without pausing, snagged the French fry in his beak, leaving behind a feather. He flew up to a tree and shared his “catch” with his mate.

While on one of my strolls through the Village, a tabby cat with black, reddish brown and cream coloured markings, appeared beside me. He had obviously injured his left hind paw as he was gingerly limping on he grassy boulevard, heading in the same direction I was. Suddenly, out of one of the wide driveways, Jonah, the neighbourhood’s large St. Bernard went over to the tabby cat, nudged it with his nose and then crouched on the ground. The tabby paused and then, as if doing it all his life, jumped lightly onto Jonah’s strong back and allowed himself to be transported to his own yard, three houses down.

Like humans, birds and animals have a strong sense of survival. Like humans, birds and animals develope strong bonds of friendship—friendships that exists between the unlikeliest of friends. We can learn a lot observing the animal and bird kingdom around us. The bonds of family and friends; caring and sharing; safety and survival exists even there. As I said at the beginning, Mother Nature is an amazing and awesome being. . . .