Documentary night a hit in our house

On top of the world.

We have been to the far reaches of outer space to watch the birth of stars and the bottom of the ocean to discover new species of bizarre looking sea creatures. We have IMAX to thank for these wild and informative adventures. We are hooked on Documentary Night at our house. One night a week we have designated as the time to watch nature movies from the library. Our daughters, ages seven and four, are enthralled.

I have been sharing my interest in astronomy with them. They know some of their constellations and have looked at Jupiter’s moons, Venus and the mountains on our moon through a spotting scope. It occurred to me one day to see what the library had for space documentaries. The IMAX movie Hubble started us off. It’s breathtaking. It’s just the right length (about 45 minutes). It’s family friendly. I had to pause it every few minutes to answer questions, but that’s fine. They have good questions. Though often they are most concerned with what something eats or where the people go to the bathroom, but hey, they are still learning.

For the next two weeks the girls played astronaut, complete with back pack, gloves and helmet for their space walk. Everything was about Hubble. We built the Hubble telescope out of Lego. We decided Documentary Night might be a good idea. The IMAX movie Galapagos was next. Again, lots of questions, but a keen interest. For the next week, the girls were going to be marine biologists and were planning our trip to the Galapagos Islands. We were very happy with their enthusiasm.

IMAX is their new standard for quality film making. Under the Sea was the next movie. They were impressed that, just like the people in the movie, I have been snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. The movies help us make things relevant. The sea lions were cute. There was great concern over which fish were going to get eaten, but we had that great circle of life talk.

Everest was not the best choice. People die. It’s more about the expedition than the mountain. A good movie but not family friendly for the younger crowd. They still eagerly told mommy all about it when she got home, but she asked me what exactly I was showing them when the girls told her that it got too cold for some of the people to live. Oops.

Rather than make us appreciate the majesty of the world’s tallest mountain, it made us wonder why people do this. And why, even today, do the Sherpas get no recognition? Sure, in the special features they talk about them and thank them, but come on, three people climbed the mountain, a director and five Sherpas carried all the gear up and did the filming, but they don’t get any air time.

We’re going back underwater this week with Disney’s Oceans, then there are a few National Geographic films on the way. The girls get excited about Documentary Night, which is exactly what we were hoping for. They are keen to learn, and the older one is sharing her new info with her class and her teacher. Awesome! And I don’t think Everest scarred them too badly: one of them climbed the modest pile of snow in the front yard and gleefully declared that she was climbing Mount Everest and was on top of the world.

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Looking for signs of spring

This Blue Jay tried to keep out of the frigid wind by settling near the bird feeder.

The first robins of the season arrived a week or so ago. Not sure how they define spring because we are a long way from green grass and early buds. The temperature yesterday morning was hovering around freezing, but the wind out of the south was bitterly cold. The days are noticeably longer but that just gives us more time to look at the frozen landscape. If January is the dead of winter, then February in the Maritimes must be winter purgatory – you’re not sure if you’re ever going to get out.

We try to look forward to spring, planning the garden, thinking about green growing things, and the chance to get out the bikes and the kayaks. We are still three or four months from the first fresh rhubarb. Good thing we still have some in the freezer from last year. The Blue Jays, chickadees and crows stay close to our house seeking shelter from the wind. The Hungarian partridges have yet to show themselves in daylight. A few times they have come in the night to eat the seed we put out for them. Their tracks are pretty obvious, going in a group of little steps. There were eight distinct lines of tracks.

It has been an odd winter with a cycle of freeze/thaw weather and not much snow. That doesn’t make the season go any faster though. We have to look hard for signs that there will be a new season eventually. I read a magazine article about forcing blossoms, so I pruned a few branches from our prolific crab apple tree, apple tree and cherry tree. The crab apple blossoms are open now and the other two are getting close. It is so nice to see fresh flowers in the house!

It reminds me that we have to make our own efforts to enjoy the season or the day. Being mindful of today and what we can enjoy right now goes a long way toward shedding the winter blahs. Last weekend we had a fabulous day of outdoor fun skating and tubing at Mill River Resort in western PEI. The skies were blue, the weather was great, and the whole family had fun. Today we have more sunshine, fresh blossoms on the windowsill and a day ahead of us to enjoy. Perhaps we will get out for some snowshoeing this afternoon.

Tonight and tomorrow there is a big winter storm forecast. Crap.

Making tracks

Sunshine and fresh snow – time for some fresh air. Trying to convince our younger daughter, Ava, age four and a half, to go outside, I took the “let’s go on a nature walk!” approach. I suggested we fill the bird feeders and look for tracks in the snow. I am always trying to interest the girls in the nature we can see right here in our yard. Prince Edward Island is not brimming with wildlife, so we make do with what we can. Lots of bird watching and the occasional visit from the local fox. A few winters ago we had a raccoon drop by occasionally, and every winter we get a covey of Hungarian partridges, though this year they have been noticeably absent. We put out the special seed we get for them, and there were suspicious tracks around those trees, but we haven’t seen the birds like we usually do. I did see a covey of eight across the field a couple of weeks ago, though.

I suggested to Ava that we walk around the perimeter of our yard and see how many different animal tracks we could find in the snow. She was game. Out we went. The tracks of our cats were easy. We compared them to the larger tracks and determined they must be the fox. Bird tracks were everywhere, big ones from the crows down to tiny ones she described as so cute. Further afield we found rabbit tracks and what we guessed to be mouse tracks. Later when we checked our animal tracks book, we decided they were probably meadow vole. Small, grey, furry rodent – whose going to split hairs?

Telling her mother and sister about our expedition, Ava ticked off the tracks we found: big bird tracks, little bird tracks, our cats, fox, rabbit and mouse. We had fun, we got some fresh air and exercise, and hopefully, I am helping them develop a lifelong interest in our environment and the outdoors.

Photography blogs to follow

Confederation Bridge, PEI side.

One blog post leads to another, a comment or a ‘like’ from another blogger leads to that person’s latest post – no wonder it is called the web. I am still new to blogging, and it fascinates me how the blogging world connects people and shares ideas. It is both astounding and comforting to find so many other people who share one’s ideas and ideals.

It is also easy to feel lost in the millions of blog posts – hundreds of thousands every day here on WordPress alone – yet somehow my little post about a few books I like got comments from people across the continent and across the ocean. As I say, fascinating.

The blogisphere is an ideal forum for people to showcase their visual work such as photography. It seems to be totally random how I found these, but here are a few photography blogs I’ve found recently that I like:

The Daily Image Project – from a photographer named Gerry Curry in southern Nova Scotia. I like what I have seen, Gerry!

Photo Nature Blog – Nature and Outdoor Photography by Jeffrey Foltice, a Michigan outdoor photographer.

This guy’s photos from Rocky Mountain National Park are great. Sam Adams Photography.

Beautiful photos of the Bath Abbey at this site.

Take a look & enjoy!

Recommended reading

Echoing Stephenie’s discussion on her blog of recommended books, we recently ran through a list of  the best books we read over the past year. I thought about it and gave the titles of three that surprised me and therefore stuck with me. In no particular order:

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer. The stunning movie by Sean Penn still haunts me. The book, which I actually listened to as an audio book, was just as riveting. It is totally engrossing. It makes one think. It made an impact.

Paths of Glory, by Jeffrey Archer. A fictionalized telling of the life of George Mallory, the famous British mountaineer who tried to conquer Mount Everest. The book’s description says, “On his third attempt in 1924, at age thirty-seven, he was last seen six hundred feet from the top. His body was found in 1999, and it still remains a mystery whether he ever reached the summit.” Regardless of the truth or suppositions made in the book, I again found it a totally compelling read. High adventure, high drama, an exceptional tale made even more interesting because of its portrayal of a real person.

The End of the Alphabet, by CS Richardson. The only book so far from this Canadian author is an amazing little story that eliminates everything except what is absolutely necessary. It’s only 140 pages long, but it details two people’s lives concisely. From the outset you know it is not going to have a happy ending, yet the clarity of the narrative is so impressive and refreshing, I was hooked immediately. His second novel comes out later this year. I’ll be watching for it.

Okay, so all three books were heartbreaking. I wasn’t going for that theme. Perhaps that is why they stayed with me. I highly recommend them.

If you go down to the woods today

Hiking trip with Steve in Cape Breton with Cape Smokey in the background.

Because writing and maintaining one blog wasn’t enough to do, I have decided to start this second blog. My first blog, The Experience is the Story, was an experiment, an opportunity to post some work-related writing as a portfolio, a place to send people interested in working with me to see some of the experience I have from a twenty year career (egads) in communications. I was pleased that friends and family found it interesting. Who knows whether anyone interested in my work has actually read it. I will still post to it once in awhile when the right idea strikes me.

Then life crept in. Stephenie’s example of writing about life, children, everyday lessons and milestones in her blog, The Mind Does Wander, made me want to write about these things, too. Things that do not necessarily fit into a blog that I am using as a professional portfolio. What to do. Start another blog, I guess. You can find the explanation of the title The Educated Woodsman here in the About section. Thanks, Steve.

It has made me think about the two lives we lead – our professional lives and our home lives, who we really are. Often we know so little about the people we work with, or we think we know them but do not really have a clue. I am pretty sure almost no one I worked with for four years in my last job knew I fish and hunt, that I love the great outdoors. It wasn’t the kind of place that attracted that kind of person. It would have been a non-starter as a topic of conversation at the lunch table. I am not the type to talk often about my personal life at work. I like to keep my personal and professional lives somewhat separate. Interestingly, one co-worker told me she thought that I displayed a great work-life balance and she admired that. (Just to be clear, it wasn’t my boss who said this.)

Kayaking, PEI. Photo by Linda Campbell.

I know that a couple of the people I worked with went camping sometimes. Working in Cape Breton Island several years ago, I knew more about the people I worked with – smaller office, tight-knit communities, more shared experiences. We were civil servants; something in that title just doesn’t shout out mountain man.

Perhaps I do not fit the generic outdoorsy guy image. I’m not big on working on my image. Many times in many jobs in many places when people I have worked with hear that I am going fishing or hunting or camping, canoeing, kayaking, geocaching or hiking, they are surprised. Apparently clean-cut professional, educated, English major does not go with their idea of woodsy guy. Perhaps my turtlenecks, button-down collar shirts and sweater vests hide my red neck.

Perhaps it is about finding that perfect work-life balance. Finding that niche where I do what I love for a living and it meshes with what I love to do outside of work. I am awaiting the job interview where I get to highlight my skill at reading the classics around the campfire, pitching a tent, and cleaning a fish. It should be an interesting journey.