Tag Archives: autumn

Orion has returned to hunt in the northern skies.

Reid Dickie

I’ve covered lots of Manitoba ground over the last ten days and the signs of change are everywhere, not just in the fields where the harvest progresses apace sending plumes of chaff and dust into the air. The red maples flame as loud as our flag. Always the leaders in changing colour, cottonwoods burn yellow in the dry dusty sun of late summer. Greens start to fade as russet and pumpkin shades emerge. An especially good summer for poison ivy, now its scarlet and orange leaves form bright carpets in the understory of shallow forests and along the ditches of the TCH. This year mountain ash are laden with large clusters of hot red berries awaiting the first frosts to sweeten up for the jays and waxwings.

Murmurations of blackbirds weave and dive across the highway coordinating their aerial sonar for the long flight ahead. Tiny flocks of LGBs (little grey birds, thank you Ed Abbey) polka along with the Tragically Hip on the mighty Avenger’s CD player. Vs of geese broadcast their lonesome message across the land. Red-tailed hawks populate telephone poles keen-eyed for their next meal, an easier feat now those nice farmers have cut down all the long crops making the yummy wee critters more vulnerable.

Generally critters get more mobile at this time of year in anticipation of winter. They plan ahead like the garter snakes who are now heading toward the nearest karst that’ll take them down below the frost line where they can overwinter thus many flattened snakes on the highways. Night critters like skunks, raccoons, porcupines and badgers populate the shoulders in larger numbers now than during the hot weather. Ravens tug at the carcasses. Nature bats last.

I caught this cluster of wild bees and several of their honeycombs over the entrance to Zoria Hall, a popular dance hall now and ago. There was honey dripping down the wall! It was a cool windy day so the bees were inactive.

 

In the cemetery next to the Zoria church was this beautiful white angel turning black with time.

Still driving around…

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, BEAUTY, Blog Life, Critters, Natural Places, Parks, PRAIRIES, shaman, Spirit

Dauphin Sinkhole/Landslide – Late Fall Pictures

Reid Dickie

I ventured up to Dauphin in late October and took a few shots of the Dauphin sinkhole which I first reported on back in mid-June. Today the earth has settled even more, the timothy field above it has been cut and baled while the grass in the hole has ripened to a golden colour. The site has been well trodden by the curious for the past four months and trails have developed through and around it. The Vermillion River, once raging and mean, creating landslides along its bank, is now a mere trickle.

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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Flood, Local History

Spirit Sands Today

Reid Dickie

Though I hadn’t planned on a day trip today, the morning broke so lovely and promising my wanderlust kicked in. Warm and sunny, the drive out Hwy #2 was pleasant and fast. One other car waited in the parking lot at Spirit Sands trailhead. It was a perfect day for a hike.

We’ve had a bit of rain in last day or so and the sand was a little wet but drying quickly in the sunshine. Along the trail I saw this poplar leaf bejewelled with dew gems. (Click on any pic for HD view)

From the observation deck this year, you can see an interesting phenomenon. Due to the prevailing northwesterlies, the dunes at Spirit Sands are always moving, literally. The sand blows up and over the edge, down the duneface, building the dune forward. On the right side of this picture you can see a clean new dune that is active and quickly moving unlike the other dunes which have some vegetation and are thus more stable and slower moving. I seldom see such a clear example of a fully active dune.

With most of the leaves gone from the deciduous trees, the evergreens are in their glory. Also more evident are the rampikes and deadfall. Today the rampikes, leaning away from the wind, stood out against the deep blue autumn sky.

I have been told that the length of a tree’s life is also the length of its death, meaning the number of years a tree grew is how many years it will take to turn into earth. That beautiful, balanced definition of the pace of Nature is as good as any I’ve found.

The hike to the dunes through the mixed forest offers numerous opportunities to see the aftermath of windstorms, spruce bud worm and the parasitic dwarf mistletoe, all have had their way with the trees in the park at one time or another. This tree trunk lay split, gaping and dying well along the trail, its meat and bones humbled by time and the elements.

Out on the dunes, where seven-eights of the world is sky, the wind drew its crazy calligraphy in the sand using plants as brushes. Can you decipher the wild wind’s subtle message?

As I arrived at the information kiosk returning from my hike, a swarm of bright red ladybugs danced in a sunny spot, several of them landing on me. There is a soul connection between Linda and ladybugs and I always know she is nearby when her bugs turn up. We walked this trail so often together, I frequently turn and think Linda is walking right along with me. She was today, every step of the way.

By the time I came off the trail, about two and a half hours later, the day was over 20 degrees C with light winds and a fine cloudscape to entertain me on the way home.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, BEAUTY, Earth Phenomena, Linda, Natural Places, Sacred Places, shaman, spirit sands

Fall Colours at Rainbow Falls

Reid Dickie

One of my day trips this week was east into Whiteshell Provincial Park with a visit to Bannock Point Petroforms and a stop at Rainbow Falls. Lake and river levels are low at this time of year so the falls was a mere shadow of its spring and summer self but the surrounding forest glowed bright with autumn hues.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Day Tripping, Natural Places, Parks, Roadside Attractions

Autumn

Reid Dickie

 

This is the moon of wayward intermingling. An errant autumn wind blows a regiment of brittle leaves toward me, past me, through me. Each tree is releasing its billions of spent sentinels, this oak, that elm, this maple, that cottonwood, sending away once-securely-held flags to dance on the chaos of the wind.

Orion rises tonight. The hunter returns to his prairie.

Mixed with the brown rustle of the leaves and occasional goose music from high above is the changing voice of the trees. No longer aflutter, agiggle with leaves, now more wind sieves, branches straining out the harmonics to leave skeletons of dark notes hung on stark staffs.

Gone are the chlorophyll days, the thrill of songbirds, the ache of heat and harvest. Now only the spin and sputter of the leaves, crunchy as cereal, a rheologist’s reverie. When trees decide to forfeit their prize leaves, there is no consensus. Each tree decides which breeze will receive its reward. Perhaps it waits for that moment of pure stillness, utter windlessness, and, through sheer force of will, releases a single yellow acrobat that carelessly, delicately, unashamedly glides and chutes to the earth. Each leaf that lands sends a small signal to the sipping roots of the tree beneath.

Some trees prolong the gilded state until their full-sun radiance receives gratitude sufficient to warrant the golden release. In the tickle of two or three small breezes, the tree abandons its saffron robe to stand naked, posing against the blue-grey sky. Lungless now, breathless too, it awaits winter, the snow.

A small miracle: a squirrel, impossibly, finds an unshelled peanut among the welter of leaves. Frozen in suspicious surprise for a moment, the squirrel accepts the miracle, integrates the peanut into its intent and carries off its living treasure to be re-hidden, forgotten until, in the dozy squirm of a warm winter day, the squirrel remembers the exact location of the nut, dreams it onto a map that will unfurl once spring takes off the snow. Hunger will tweak this unfurling. The shell will split, nourishment gained, the dreaming proceeds.

A bouquet of swirling yellow erupts on a gravel road, tracing something indecipherable on the ground then gone. A settling of leaves, a stilled rustle. Clouds of leaves, brittle as butterflies, none the colour of blueberries, sail across the horizon. Stiff winds chase each leaf from the tree and pursue it at an unpredictable pace over unknown ground landing a mile away or further.

Though sharp, serrated, dry and propelled by anxious autumn winds, leaves don’t shear off our heads or lacerate bare skin. Buds and twigs, even playful bits of bark borne on an earnest breeze won’t damage our flesh. Large branches fracture bone; entire falling trees crush us to death regularly. Usually, though, trees do not kill us. They breathe with us, for us. If they die, we die.

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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Natural Places

Equinox Journey

Reid Dickie

The mighty Avenger and I are just back from welcoming in the fall season with an 800 km loop around Manitoba. The weather is way above normal and sunny, perfect days. On Friday morning I headed north out of Winnipeg up Hwy #6 along the east side of Lake Manitoba, Dauphin my destination for the night. The leaves on the trees in the early part of the journey were just beginning to turn but the further north I got the brighter and more spectacular the display became. My first stop was at Percy Moggey’s cabin north of Eriksdale to do a video report. Percy was one of Manitoba’s most notorious boogeymen. My report is coming soon to a blog near you.

I turned onto Hwy #68, one of the better highways in central Manitoba, and headed towards the Lake Manitoba Narrows. High dykes still protect the areas at and around the Narrows. For the first time this year I stopped at the Thunderbird Nest, just a few kms west of the Narrows, wondering if the peninsula it sits on had been flooded. No flooding was apparent, just a wonderful feeling of happiness which struck me as soon as I stepped out of the car and persisted the whole time I was at Thunderbird Nest. The site was peaceful and calming with unrelenting happiness. It was different from Linda’s Be Happy but just as effective. I felt blissful the whole time I was there. When I returned to the car, suddenly I received the story behind the happiness I felt.

I relay it: Not that long ago her family brought Old Mother, an elder on the nearby nation, to the Thunderbird Nest. She was so excited because she hadn’t been back to it since she was a girl and something very important had happened on that visit. Even though her family had to wheel her in her chair across the rough and rocky trail to the place, Old Mother stayed happy and full of laughter the whole time. As we passed a certain tree, she tied a gift to the branch of a tree, something she had made with her old and gnarled fingers. It was a piece of jute string tied around a stone she found with a striped feather floating at the bottom. When we got to the Thunderbird Nest she held her breath and when she let it out, it was full of laughter. The trees echoed her happiness back to her and birds began to call. She prayed and sang, tears of joy flowing from her old but keen eyes.

She told us why this place was special to her. When she was a girl she received her power animal here: it was flicker, a large woodpecker. They still frequent the bur oak forest in the area. She said the bird loudest in the forest was the flicker. We listened and sure enough a large flicker came flying through the trees and landed on a branch above Old Mother. She smiled and sang a little song to the bird. As they wheeled her back down the trail she said she had never felt more peaceful in her life and was ready to die. Three days later she died with a smile on her face. Old Mother was 93. I thanked Great Spirit for bringing me safely to this place and for the happiness message. I have recounted another experience at Thunderbird Nest here.

Though the quality of Hwy 68 deteriorates somewhat on both sides of the Narrows, mostly it’s smooth with wide shoulders, a pleasure. This time of year though it got a little gruesome with the number of dead garter snakes on the road. They are heading to their underground caves below the frost line for the winter, lots of them on the move. This was especially noticeable west of the Thunderbird Nest. Even writing about it makes me a little sickish, driving it was grim. By the time I got to Ste Rose du Lac, the snakes were much less frequent; skunks were the other unluckiest roadkill.

I stayed at the Super 8 in Dauphin (excellent steam room!) and wined and dined with two lovely and attractive women: my cousin Vonda and our delightful friend, Cheryl. A perfect sunset promised another hot day. After a leisurely breakfast at The Bully (Boulevard Hotel) with Vonda, I drove through Riding Mountain National Park. The north face offered a garish array of fall colours from the red and brown understory through to the lush electric yellow of cottonwoods, poplar and birch all broad stroked against the solid stoic evergreens. The south face was a few days less colourful. Best time to drive through RMNP for the fall colours is likely mid to late this week and next week (Sept. 28 to Oct. 8). Not many leaves falling yet but a frost or two will hasten that, along with a few windy days.

Mountain Road (PR 357) always has majestic Manitoba vistas, today dabbed with autumn hues. The view of the lakebed misted with dust and chaff was breathtaking and the chute to the bottom always a thrill. The harvest is proceeding well with fields of late crops now dotted with combines and trucks. I passed through Neepawa, Tim Horton’s in hand, and went south to Carberry where I did some visual heritage recon and gleaned great shots of two old historic sites near Carberry. I will have full reports on both sites but here is a picture of each.

The hike on Spirit Sands today was perfect at 25 degrees C, sunny, slight breeze I wished was a little more frequent once I got to the dunes and the fulfilling effervescence of Spirit that percolates through me. Boots off, feet bare, the sand is hot today, cool an inch below. At our special place I sit and commune, Linda reaffirms a recent message: “I’ve only been gone a minute, Reid.” Her wonderous experience of eternity and her attempt to tell me what it’s like sends me into new realms of bliss. I laugh and roll on the sand. Linda died 21 months ago.

Since it opened for the first time this year in early August I have visited Spruce Woods Park several times. Sinkholes have appeared by the side of the highway, another aftermath of the flood. Some have sunk due to residual river water and have small fish gasping for oxygen swimming in them. Others appear to be more recent and their water has a slight emerald tinge to it not unlike the punchbowl.

On my return to Winnipeg along Hwy 2, I saw several massive flocks of blackbirds, thousands of birds moving as one across the blue sky. It went on for about a mile with birds arising from the trees along the road to join the throng.

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Filed under Carberry, Earth Phenomena, Flood, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Parks, shaman