Just after the Easter weekend, I posted an update about my tough weekend (An emotionally difficult weekend). Mostly what I described was how I felt disconnected from my roots since my mother died, and that I felt a bit lost. Lots of my friends chimed in, some with support, some with their own stories of loss, isolation, disconnection, even potentially feeling like an orphan despite being an adult. Some suggested ways to reconnect with the community or my own new family, although disconnection probably wasn’t quite the right sentiment that I was trying to describe. It isn’t like I feel isolated, no family, no friends, but rather more like an inexperienced sailor who has sailed out into the ocean but who now notices that he can no longer see the land that originally oriented him to his point of origin. So, lots of reactions, lots of support, and I appreciate all of it.
But, at the risk of “ranking” my friends, there was one comment I received from a good friend, and it was one of those “wow” moments that when people decry that the internet builds walls more than bridges, I think, “Umm, nope, sorry, I see pretty strong connections still being formed, still being built.”. Here’s the comment, which started with a quote from my post:
‘In my heart, I see my parents at the lake, with the summer just starting’ This may well be where your ‘home’ is Paul. Not a house, not a city, not a place. A moment in time that inhabits you all your life, where you feel safe, where you can be. This may well be what some call eternity.
That’s a pretty powerful thought, if you let it sit and percolate for awhile. Which I did. I’ve also been doing some thinking of late about how memories are formed, built, re-inforced, maintained and re-visited. So, I’ve decided to create a series of “memory bank” posts.
These are going to be, as my friend suggests, moments in time that inhabit my life. Some will just be places for me to visit. Others are ones that I will try and recreate with Jacob and Andrea. Today it’s a little of both.
For those on my FB feed, you’ll know that I do a countdown to “guaranteed spring” i.e. the date by which I can rely on the Ottawa winter to be REALLY over, and not subject to 3-4 more snowfalls after the spring date on the calendar. For me, that’s April 15th. I’ve been in Ottawa just over 22 years, and almost every year, there’s either been no snow after that date, or if there was, it was extremely temporary. People may not be able to PLANT things by that date, but most snow is gone, the streets are clear, I can get the snow tires off. I can’t quite bring myself to say that I hate winter, partly because I feel that I just don’t make the effort to enjoy the outdoors the way I did as a kid with snowmobiling, skating, skiing, tobogganing, etc., but I don’t miss it when I can shed the layers of clothing and move towards spring wardrobes.
What’s your first sign of Spring? Maybe it’s the robin. Maybe it’s Easter eggs. Maybe it’s no snow tires, windows open on cars, people on bicycles or motorcycles. Maybe you think, “Ah, spring, when a young man’s mind turns to hemlines”. But not for me.
There is one image, one thing, one memory that signals spring, and thus pending summer, is here. A red-winged blackbird. I have to see it. If I don’t, springtime is never really here. Normally I find a way to go somewhere nearby to see one…a park, a pond, somewhere near water. A few years ago, it was late May before I saw one, and it never really felt like spring until then. Even when Andrea took pics on a walk and showed them to me, it was a “start”, but it wasn’t quite enough. I had to see it myself.
Going back to the memory bank idea, red-winged blackbirds symbolize “promise” to me, just as I picture my father and mother at our old campsite preparing for the summer. Our campsite was on a sheltered bay, and across the left side of the bay (think of it like the letter C, with our campsite on the bottom of the curve), there were bullrushes. And if you know anything about red-winged blackbirds, you know they frequently nest in swamp areas, next to the bullrushes. So, every spring, as we were starting to get camp ready for the summer, the red-winged blackbirds with their distinctive calls would return to the bay. And, over several weeks, their colours would start off somewhat tame, and then grow brighter and darker as part of their mating ritual.
This weekend, Andrea, Jacob and I headed over to the Bruce Pit here in Ottawa and I dragged along the digital camera (Canon T5i with 250mm zoom lens). I had hoped there would be some opportunities to get close enough to snap some shots without going anywhere near the nests, and it worked out well. It was hard to see them across the bullrushes (they nest far from the path), but it was enough to make them out and turn the camera lens their way. You’ll see the results below, some of which are quite spectactular captures for a relative first time birding. The last one is probably my favorite — the bird turning to look at me as if to say, “I’ve got my eye on you, bucko with the camera.”
Jacob isn’t interested in the birds, partly because they’re too far away and too small to see right now. I’m hoping he’ll like the pics when he sees them, but at least we got the opportunity to walk around the trails which he enjoyed. And it’s a nice outing to share as a family.
So welcome to the first item in my memory bank that I’ve captured in virtual form. The “promise” symbolized by red-winged blackbirds.