Monday, June 23, 2008

a dirty daughter from the labour camps

It was so glorious this morning that, after I dropped the urban assault vehicle off at the dealership, I decided to walk home through Fish Creek Park. I needed a long trek to walk off some of the excesses of the Martha weekend without immediately resorting to full-out workout. That'll happen tomorrow.

It took me about 20 minutes to reach the park, and as I descended into the river valley, the incessant traffic noise faded away behind me, and was replaced with the the buzzing of insects establishing territory in the swaying prairie grasses. Even at 9:00 am the sun was starting to become oppressive and the thought of trekking across that long stretch of native prairie, shielded from any cooling breezes by the cliffs bordering the river valley, was daunting and I began to eye up the glade of trees that run alongside the creek itself.

I left the main trail and followed a path that had been beaten into the grass, a path that grew narrower as the grass grew longer, until I was wading through a slight sliver in the waist deep grass, waking irate insects as I passed. But when I reached the deliciously shaded glen by the water, I knew it had been the right decision. The next several minutes belonged to those all too rare life moments that you know you will remember always. Those moments when you try to drink in every sensation - the way the morning light glints off the Russian olives leaves, the way the sunlight pierces the canopy of leaves only enough to lightly dapple the red shale pathway, the way the morning air is fresh and sweet and full of the promise of the day. It's almost enough to make you want to believe in a divine plan.

All too soon, the path diverged back into the prairie and into the sun, but by then I had been refreshed and I happily trekked along, knowing that before too long I would be pouring myself a fresh cup of coffee at home.

A few years ago, this area suffered substantial flooding, and Fish Creek Provincial Park was hard hit, so much so that a number of bridges were washed out, and Fish Creek itself forged new pathways into the battered soil. The red shale path that I was on looked well-travelled enough, but I should have suspected that perhaps it no longer got a lot of human foot passage when the red-winged blackbird suddenly attacked me.

I had to shield my head with my arms and run, trying to leave the area it was obviously protecting, but I was brought to a sudden stop by the creek looming in front of me. The creek which, swollen with the incessant rains of last month, now cut me off from my destination. For a crazed moment, I considered trying to wade across to escape from the crazed wildlife. The creek is only about 15 feet across, but looks about waist-deep, and in the end I decided to turn around and run the gauntlet of the blackbird again instead.

I know someone who regularly runs in the park and always carries a big stick in case of a cougar encounter, but in my experience it's never the cougars or the bears who get you.

I did make it home eventually, and by the time I reached the big hill where you climb out of the park, I had recovered sufficiently from another of my all-too-frequent crazed bird encounters to enjoy the lung and leg taxing trek up the hill. I always like to end a workout with a big push, and as we only live two blocks from the park, that big hill is perfectly situated. For someone who hates mountains, I sure like climbing up hills.

All things considered, it was a great way to start to exorcise some of the excesses of the Martha weekend, to counteract some of the obscene amount of disgustingly decadent food we ate. With any luck, I'll have some pictures and details of those adventures tomorrow. But first I need to survive a commute without a cd player or even a radio! Nobody suffers more than I do.


Gifted Typist said...

Tippi Hedren, eat your heart out.

mellowlee said...

Birds are gawd damn crazy I tell you! I was attacked by a raven again today walking to the bus. I think I will take your friend's advice and carry a stick with me! Can't wait to hear about your Martha weekend. :O)

bloody awful poetry said...

That park looks gorgeous. We don't have stuff like that here. Or maybe I'm too anti-nature or whatever you may call it.

And what IS it with all these Canadian killer birds? I'm having second thoughts about moving there.

Allison said...

It must have been international bird attack day yesterday.

Funny, I love mountains but hate hills.

John Mutford said...

I pictured you as Helen Mirren. Is that okay?

phlegmfatale said...


Anonymous said...

i enjoyed reading this (not only because there is no mention of radiohead) because the description reminds me of several places I miss from living in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I love native prairie. The grasses, valleys, uplands and badlands of Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan is a place that has always amazed me. I miss the endless skies, and sunsets that make one stop and stare in silence, and the wind...I've seen best described as tenacious. I miss seeing the antelope moving effortlessly with grace and speed, would you believe those things can move up to 50 mph?
When I go back to Regina, I always visit a small piece of native grassland overlooking the Qu'appelle Valley about 15 minutes outside the city. I first visited it when I was taking an ecology class at university, after that I took my parents out there to visit, after my dad died we took his ashes there. I still love living on Vancouver Island but there is just something about those places that draws me back.

justacoolcat said...

Hilarious! The red-winged blackbirds made national news yesterday for being big meanies near Chicago.

Next time you may want to carry a cat.

Anonymous said...

If only I could impart my bird whispering gifts to you I would gladly do so. ;)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

They shoulda cast me in that role, Gifted, it's starting to look like I was born for it.

The birds are still bat-shit crazy there, Mel? I'm starting to think it's something in the water. Big sticks all round!

It is a pretty park, BAP - very wild and right within the city too. I don't know why our local birds are all turning into asassins, but I wish they would stop.

I suspect they are mounting an offensive with their allies all over the globe, Al. Next thing you know they'll be recruiting the squirrels to their cause.

That is more than okay, John, that's an honour! Besides, she's got a pretty good rack for an old chick.

That was my sentiment about so many of the day's developments, Phlegmfatale.

That's so lovely, Kelly. That area is quite breathtaking, but you have to leave your eyes and your mind open to the subtleties to really appreciate its beauty.

A cat on a stick! That'll keep the bastards awat, JustA. Obviously the Chicago blackbird bullies have sent a delegation around the continent.

I think I would benefit greatly from a few lessons from you, Leazwell.

JustRun said...

Oh my dear heavens, that is one of my greatest fears.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Understandably so, Justrun, it was highly unnerving.

Joe said...

"The next several minutes belonged to those all too rare life moments that you know you will remember always. Those moments when you try to drink in every sensation - the way the morning light glints off the Russian olives leaves, the way the sunlight pierces the canopy of leaves only enough to lightly dapple the red shale pathway, the way the morning air is fresh and sweet and full of the promise of the day."


Anonymous said...

Seems Chicago is having that same bird problem. Citizens are being warned about the RWBBs.

dguzman said...

oh my gosh! The red-wings are pretty thick on the marsh behind the house, but they've never Hitchcocked me! eek! So sorry that my little bird friends saw fit to scare the bejeesus out of you.

Come to think of it, I was once pecked by catbird. Dirty bastards!

PS-I stole your beautiful moody Fish Creek photo for my desktop at work -- hope you don't mind! aaahhhh...


I heard on the news that morning that there was a "cougar" sited in the park. When they mentioned she was wearing a Radiohead T-shirt I suspected it was you.

When I heard that the cougar was being attacked by a bird I knew for sure. ;P

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thank you, Bubs, the moment felt pretty perfect to me.

I had heard that, Leazwell. How very bizarre! I wonder why they are so aggressive this year? I thought it was something I said.

Steal away, Dguzman, I stole it as well, and I am sure the photographer would be chuffed to know it is bringing someone some tranquility at work.
I really needed you along to keep those RWBB in line.

hahaha Urban Blonde, that was indeed me. Or it would have been if I actually owned a Radiohead tee. Shocking, I know. I shall remedy that in August.