Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

Ecotourism for Jaguars

Friday, April 22, 2016

jaguar -2

photos by Petr Kratochvil from

photos by Petr Kratochvil from

I had the privilege of attending a talk sponsored by the Alberta Wilderness Association Biologist, Jim Butler was speaking about his trip through the Pantanal in Brazil and Bolivia.  The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland and is teeming with wildlife. Among this wildlife is the largest population of jaguars on earth. 

The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest in the world – following the lion and the tiger.  It is large enough to pluck a good sized crocodile out of the river for lunch which, apparently,  is  something it does quite often.

Jim Butler came back with amazing photographs of jaguars taken while on a boat tour riding the river through jaguar country. After watching this National Geographic video I’m not sure how safe I would feel on a boat, but I have to admit I’d like a few jaguar photos of my own.

Ecotourism is providing income for the people living in the Pantanal and helping to preserve jaguar populations. In some areas jaguars are now worth more money alive than dead as they provide income for thriving tourist lodges instead of being killed to protect cattle ranching.

This was the first time I had heard about safaris to the Pantanal. These trips are as exciting, or maybe more so, considering the abundance of species,  as any safari in Africa. Numerous organizations are working to create intimate wildlife observations for travellers.  Arcana Mundi Expeditions operate the Jaguar Flotel and guarantee that if you do not see a jaguar they will refund you $1,000.  Jaguars even walk in broad daylight on the riverbank within 5 meters of the flotels.  

It is my hope that these magnificent creatures continue to grow and thrive through future centuries. 




Always Be on the Lookout

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder

-E. B. White

Butterfly - Wonder


Celebrations of Spring

Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring Table

Cultures all over the world celebrate the coming of spring.  Spring is marked on the calendar by the spring equinox, or by the local season for the beginning of planting. In the Christian traditions across Europe and North America spring is celebrated as Easter. Muslims in many countries celebrate Nowruz.  Jews celebrate the festival of trees called  Tu b’shevat. Hindus celebrate Holi, the most colourful festival by far. Google images gives us a great feel for each festival.

Celebrating spring is a valuable event in a northern climate, like ours, where we may have  six months or more of snow.  What we now know as Easter has evolved from various traditions across the centuries. The Persian  festival of Nowruz is an ancient spring festival that originated over 3,000 years ago,  before the existence of either  Muhammad or Jesus.  Traditionally the holiday is celebrated for two weeks with time off  from work and school.  Two weeks might be too long for modern North American sensibilities, but wouldn’t it be great to have a week of spring break for the whole country?  It could be holiday for people of every ethnic background and every religion that share our common climate.

Spring equinox is a little early for us to be celebrating in Canada. Parts of the country may still have snow banks.  It’s not a suitable time for picnics or planting. For Edmontonians “May long weekend” is the first real day of spring. It’s official name is Victoria Day but I don’t know anyone who still calls it that. May long weekend is when people plant their tomatoes hoping that all freezing temperatures are over. Parkas can safely be retired into storage and camping gear is dusted off.

Instead of a three day weekend I suggest  a whole week of spring break  to celebrate  warm weather.  After six months of snow and staying indoors we need this. What fun could be created by combining the traditions of all our varied cultures!  We could  have a week filled with family dinners, chocolates, Easter egg hunts, picnics in the park, gardening, tree planting and also water fights and coloured powder parties. A week of multicultural parties and outdoor activities to celebrate the end of winter. We’ve been a country long enough now –  it’s time to create new,  unique Canadian traditions.

You Grew out of the World

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The earth is peopled

You did not come into this world,
you came out of it.
You are not a 
stranger here.

As the ocean “waves” the universe “peoples”.
Every individual is an expression

of the whole realm of nature,
a unique action of the total universe.

–Alan Watts–

Here is a cute little video illustrating this idea.

Yarn Bombing

Friday, March 18, 2016

Yarn Bombing – Guerilla Knitting – Yes,  It’s  a thing. 

I am weary of violence and outrage. There’s a political campaign in the U.S. and my Facebook feed is filled with outrage all day long.  Just scrolling through without reading it’s clear that people are not in their happy place. Apparently some have even resorted to asking our prime minister to be their president Sorry, there’s enough mess to clean up in this country.

Graffiti is often an expression of outrage and anger. People see graffiti as something dirty and destructive.  Some knitters have decided to do a different take on graffiti. This is graffiti without harshness and without anger.  It  is soft and cuddly. Knitting or crocheting adds bright colour and softness to concrete side walks and roadways.   Instead of knitting baby blankets or mittens they have tossed knitting across the urban landscape.  These knitters are bringing their  grandmothers’ craft from the hearth into the outdoors of the concrete jungle.

Instead of just putting a blanket over their head when the world is too harsh,  knitters are putting the blanket on the world.  Our grandmothers knit to bring beauty and warmth to their families. Guerilla knitters are knitting to remind us that beauty and warmth are necessary for the whole world. They remind us that our cities need the characteristics of the stereotypical grandmother. They remind us that we all need gentleness, nurturing, and warmth, no matter who we are or where we are living.



Here Today

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Statistically, the probability of any one of us
being here is so small
that you’d think the mere fact of existing
would keep us all in a
contented dazzlement  of surprise.

                                                                   —Lewis Thomas



This Glorious Life

Friday, February 26, 2016

Do you not know
that you will die?

Would you waste your precious life
on meagre insults,
anger and hate?

This glorious life
that breathes

a thousand times an hour

Would you discard it
like garbage
dumped in the parking lot?




Time Moves On

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Snow scene from  2012

The tree branch was cut away last year- this view is gone forever.

There is nothing like an abandoned blog to show how fast time goes by. It feels, to me, even lonelier  than an abandoned building.  So many years, so much  empty silence.

I remember when I was a teenager. A friend of my elderly father had died. The man’s wife was sitting in our kitchen.  With the tears streaming she said: You just work and work and work and then it’s all over.

Since that day, my worst fear has been, that I might find myself at the end of my life with  such profound regret.  I want to always give my best to life and make sure I feel alive and present every day.

We’ve all heard the exhortations to “Live in the moment.” My response used to be – “That’s nice if you’re in a beautiful garden, but what if your moment sucks?” What I understand now, is that our present moment is our point of power.

We understand this clearly if we are standing in the street with a truck speeding toward us. It is just as true is less dramatic circumstances. In every moment we are choosing what to think and what to do. In every moment we are not only acting but also  creating our own meaning about what is happening.  Even in the most simple tasks such as washing dishes there are choices available.  When our day is the same as many days before, we may forget there are other choices  but that doesn’t mean they cease to exist.

Whether there is a truck coming toward me or someone is yelling at me, the present moment is where I make the  choice. It may be an action or  only a thought. It may be the same as what I did yesterday or it may be different. Through it all the world turns and the sun shines.






The Courage to Write

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


“Be a writer.” has always been my answer to the question “What do you really want to do?” It was my real answer, even when different words came out of my mouth.  However, I didn’t really believe this was genuinely possible for me and there were plenty of people to tell me so. I once even took a writing class from someone who spent most of the class talking about how little money we would have to learn to live on if we wanted to write. I stayed with typing for a living.

Then along came the internet. It was free. Writing a blog was simple – no publisher, editor or permission needed. This was when I discovered the real reason for not being a writer. It was fear, big fear. I discovered I was afraid of writing in public even more than speaking in public. When you speak in public what you say may be forgotten in a few hours. When you write in public it is there forever. Even compliments made me feel queasy. I went back to typing. I believed that “Fear means I am not a writer.”

At some point in the last few years I read the book:

The Courage to Write – How Writers Transcend Fear  — by Ralph Keyes

He writes about all the various fears experienced by writers both famous and beginner.  He illustrates real life examples of  fears about beginning a project, fears about publishing, fears about critics, fears about being ignored, fears about success and fears about failure

Even Margaret Atwood, icon of Canadian literature is quoted in the book:

“You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer,” said Margaret Atwood, “an almost physical nerve, the kind you need to walk a log across a    river.” 

Now, here is a whole book that contradicts my belief, “Fear means I’m not a writer.”

We’re taught in writing class that clarity, truth and personal honesty are what make good writing – precisely the characteristics that make one feel exposed in public. I realize this statement  could be equally true: “Fear means I am a good writer.” Honestly, fear doesn’t mean anything about what kind of writer I am. What matters is what I believe and how that affects me.

There is one particular line from the book that has been haunting me:

“…you should write as if you were already dead and it no longer mattered what anyone said about you.”

 I’ve reached an age where I can no longer pretend that I have my whole life ahead of me. Each year I feel the possible allotment shrinking. Now it comes down to the simple — do or not do. How do I want to spend the rest of my days?  Someday I will be dead anyway. Here’s to living and here’s to writing.


Spring 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013


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