Camping at Creekside

There always has to be a first, to everything. Camping is no different. The first camping trip of the year, even if only for one night within an hour of home, qualifies. Last week, with technical difficulties (I will spare you the details), I made my way to Creekside Campground, a few kilometres east of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Camping at Creekside was not a first; I camped there back in 1983 when it was called Norquay Beach Provincial Campground… and I still remember how cold the water was. I stayed out of the water this time.
Creekside Nature (25 of 211)

Camping in May is usually a most enjoyable experience: no bugs, blossoms fill the air with their fragrances, nature awakes, plenty of birds to see. The perfume from the blooming Alberta dwarf lilacs in my backyard fill my senses as I write this post.Blossoms_ 008

Despite a few thundershowers, I was able to take long walks around the park and explore the trails. Creekside did not disappoint. In fact, quite to the contrary, I was pleasantly surprised with all I saw. Orioles sang away, perched on a branch. An elusive rose-breasted grosbeak saluted me with its loud, melodious, and complex whistling—a beautiful song. Other smaller treetop dwelling birds teased me with their shrill tweet-tweet, fleeting but never to sit still long enough for a photograph. I glanced at a yellow warbler and snapped only a quick shot before he was off. The list goes on: red-winged blackbird, robin, grackle, purple martin and tree swallow, raven, Swainson’s thrush, chickadee, gray kingbird, sparrow…

The beach proved to be a sought-after location for sandpipers, plovers, killdeer, ducks, and Canada geese. Mind where you step on the sand! Killdeers warned the wandering trekker with their loud shrieks and their frenzied scurrying. Nests dotted the beach where tufts of grass grew. I spotted a great egret across the creek, its white reflection on the greenish water surface a sure giveaway. Eventually it flew away, seeking more tranquil waters. Around the bend, a great blue heron sent my heart racing—maybe my approaching footsteps sent its heart racing too—as it took off from the reeds, revealing an impressive wingspan of gray and indigo, dangling two long legs.

Other than the gentleman who greeted me on arrival, I only met two others: I’ll call them the campground crew. They approached on their John Deere Gator as I strolled with my camera hanging from my neck. First impressions being of the utmost importance, they each sported a broad grin, genuinely happy to stop and say hi. Although definitely of a certain age, these were not two grumpy old men. The driver told me of the large painted turtle population, in a thick down-under accent, and then tried to scare me with a story of sixty year old snapping turtles “This big!” up along the creek. His partner in the right seat nodded with the same broad smile, as if to say “He’s not kidding, you know.” I knew. I never made it far enough to encounter the elder snapping turtle, but I never doubted for a moment that it lurked there, somewhere around the bend…

My morning walk supported the crew’s claim concerning the painted turtles. I had only seen a couple the previous day, my noisy footsteps sending the majority plopping into the pond’s murky waters. This time, I tiptoed off the gravel onto the grass, eager to sneak up on whatever might be waiting for me. The sun’s warmth had beckoned an entire lot, warming themselves on the logs strewn creekside. It seems they were only too happy to pose. I stared in amazement at their numbers; the old men had spoken the truth. Here were more than twenty painted turtles, looking like a bad traffic jam, heads to tails (bumper to bumper), on the two or three logs that lay half-submerged only a few feet from the shore. What a sight. I sat in the grass and watched with great curiosity and wonder; the turtles I think observed me more with indifference.

The rain began to fall softly just after I had packed up, just in time to make my way up the road toward the gate. I slowed as I neared the turtle rendez-vous; the logs were empty. Maybe turtles don’t like the rain… But Canada geese don’t mind it. A pair of geese watched their eager brood paddle along, raindrops rolling off their downy coat. I pulled the camera from my bag which sat on the passenger seat and snapped a few shots through the open passenger window.

A most enjoyable 24-hour camping trip, which only made me long for the next one.


A Matter of Perspective

Version 2

A ray of sunlight
Threads its way
Filling the carafe*
Joining steel, emptiness, and water.
The chemistry reveals a trio of states:
Solid, liquid, gaseous.

But if you bend your head, or lay on your side…
Look again. A different perspective.
A guitar maybe?

Version 3

Tip the urn*
Take your turn
Pour out the sun
Have a little fun
Pluck a string
Play a chord.
Aqua minor

Flip it over. Now an entirely new perspective!

Version 5

Good to the last drop…
Liberated of its contents
Dangling amidst puffs of mist
The bottle* almost floats
Upwards like a balloon?
Solar urchin, porcupine, pincushion

Some days you’re up, some days you’re not, and others you’d just rather be lying down…

*I chose three synonyms to describe the sculpture I photographed a few weeks ago by Winnipeg’s Millennium Library, yet this unique beaker has its very own name.

What is it?
The “emptyful,” an erlenmeyer flask-shaped fountain, is the most expensive piece of public art in Winnipeg history. The artwork (by artist Bill Pechet and lighting co-designer Chris Pekar of Lightworks) represents the idea that something can be empty and full at the same time. “It was influenced by the phenomenon of weather and human endeavor,” Pechet says. “When you first visit Winnipeg, it can appear empty and open, set amidst the vastness of prairie and sky. But within, the city is full of creative energy.” emptyful is inspired by the idea that Winnipeg (and the prairies which surround it) is full of emptiness…a boundless space where various phenomena such as weather, light, seasons and human endeavour come and go. The recognizable shape implies containment, but the open construction allows for the opposite: light, wind, rain and snow flow through easily. This shape also suggests an experiment, as a way to acknowledge that the city itself is a constant experiment, the product of imagination and knowledge.

Description and artist’s remarks
Kives, Bartley (21 July 2012). “Library park’s opening better late than never.”
Winnipeg Free Press.

New York, New York


I spent a week in New York City in the middle of April, taking little bites from the Big Apple. I had been there once before, in July 2008, on a zoom-zoom visit with my two favourite ladies. Back then, we stayed in a fine hotel on East 64th, and took big bites; no time to waste. This time, we rented an AirBnB apartment in the East Village, took our time, and allowed the City to wrap itself around us. New York can do this very quickly.

I was a tourist—I surely looked like one—but never felt out of place. I soon realized that nobody pays too much (any?) attention, at least not in the areas I frequented. Everybody blends in, at least that is how I felt, free to take my camera with me wherever I went, free to wear whatever I felt like wearing. So I did! Loved it!

We walked until our feet ached…then we walked some more; that’s how I remember my first visit as well. It seems we only looked for a subway station when absolutely necessary, as a last resort, afraid to miss something on the surface while we whizzed by underground. We took the subway (and the bus) from the East Village to LaGuardia Airport on our last day. Daring. Again, something that seemed adventurous to my wife and I—a little out there maybe—proved to be a common occurrence for everyone else around us.

I love the New York architecture. There is nothing quite like it: an eclectic potpourri of cultures. The old and the new, the grandiose and the subtle, where brick and limestone meet steel and glass, where it seems every square inch of land is occupied, yet another structure emerges. So many contrasting epithets to describe it: bold, dingy, trendy, old-fashioned, artistic, practical, opulent, economical, functional, ornate, colourful, drab, bright, dark…

Born in a small town close to Montreal, and living in a relatively small city (compared to New York), I still find crowds a little intimidating, but very interesting. New York never disappoints from that perspective. A bit of a statistician, I choose three broad categories to  describe people I saw (on weekdays): going somewhere in a hurry, standing still, and tourists. Early on weekends, two new categories emerge and often combine: out for a jog/stroll, and walking the dog. While strolling in Central Park, a young jogger with bright pink runners approached me, handed me a small camera, and asked me to take a picture of her, pointing at the lake and the buildings she wanted in the background. She smiled, thanked me, and as she jogged away I added a new subset to my categories: people not from here, who live here, and who post/send photos to friends and family.

The trees lining the path had provided some protection from the elements, but as the rain intensified, we set out to find shelter. Eventually we made our way into The Met. What an experience! So much to see in so many galleries on four floors. One better leave a trail of breadcrumbs to avoid walking in circles, and to ultimately find the way out. I could not remember ever seeing such a collection of art and historical artifacts: pottery and coins, statues and paintings, furniture and sculptures… I don’t think a week would have been sufficient to take in all that the museum had to offer. Three hours left me a little dizzy, my sponge full, art saturated. Nevertheless, my visit to The Met made a lasting impression.

One World Trade Center also provided an unforgettable experience of a different kind. At 1,776 feet, the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere, the tower dominates the Manhattan landscape. Standing by the reflecting pools of the National September 11 Memorial, frozen in time, the waterfalls brought a flood of emotions and left me speechless. We then decided to make our way up to the Observatory; not for the faint of heart, the 60-second ride (that’s almost 30 feet per second) excites the senses. In a flash, we emerged at the top only to realize that the motto See Forever is very fitting. The view was absolutely breathtaking! The light-and-shadow combinations from the sun sinking towards the Jersey horizon and the clouds created an ever-changing panorama. Two hours flew by and soon we made our way back to the ground, the elevator ride virtually taking us away from the building, only to bring us back in a rush through glass and steel columns, just before the doors opened.

Back home and a few weeks removed, our visit to the City that never sleeps almost feels like a distant dream…

Here is a small sample of the hundreds of photographs I took, from the East Village to Central Park, the Guggenheim to the Met, Battery Park to Bryant Park, World Trade Centre to Empire State Building, and back. By foot or by subway, we criss-crossed Manhattan and wore out our soles, and truly enjoyed a week in the Big Apple.