Wednesday, April 29, 2009

soulful dogs

Since starting The Charlie Project, I have encountered many wonderful dogs. A number of owners have permitted me to photograph their canine friends and have shared many heartwarming stories about their time together. This project has taken on a little life of it's own and I am so thrilled to be able to spend time with writing, with photography and with dogs. Some of my favorite essays so far are featured below. You can click on their names to take you over to their special place on The Charlie Project site....Radar holds a dear spot in my heart as he is Charlie's successor and one of my most cherished dogs in this world.




I am looking forward to see where this Charlie Project journey takes me...and, as always, I will take it with Sophie by my side.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

sunday stills - barns

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was barns. This was a fun sent Sophie and I exploring down dusty roads in the country one evening and we always enjoy a good road trip. I did get some funny looks as other drivers slowed down to see what had compelled me to pull over on the side of the road with camera in hand.

This also felt a bit like a covert operation as I attempted to capture these wonderful old barns that belonged to someone another time in some cases. I had a sense that I was stealing a tiny piece of something from the owner....and from the barn.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


As a writer and a photographer, I have found it helpful that I am beginning to seek out and find the stories in this world around me. I am still learning for it is somewhat of an art to be able to quiet your mind and your spirit enough to listen to these stories, as they are not told with words....but, oh! they are there... the grooves of bark, worn and weathered... the etchings of stone that has stood the test of time... the swirling colours of a setting sun.

Sophie led me to these stories....she taught me how to listen...and what a world I have found.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

sunday stills - religion

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was religion. Now, Sophie and I already went out and shot a beautiful church for the architecture challenge a few weeks back, so this week I wanted to do something different. I wanted to capture an image that had meaning for me and, in keeping with the theme of Finding Sirius, that enabled me to relate my post back to Sophie.

This is a beautiful wooden carving of St. Francis of Assisi -- the patron Saint of animals. Many stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love of animals. His feast day is observed on October 4th and many Catholic Churches here perform the "Blessing of the Animals" service that day, where all animals and their people are invited to attend.

Legend has it that, on his deathbed St. Francis thanked his donkey for carrying him and helping him through life.....and his donkey wept.

Friday, April 17, 2009

a new version of you

A favourite song of mine is about "becoming a new version of you". I love the concept...the ability to always reinvent ourselves, to evolve, to awaken, to change what we can and to accept what we cannot.

I have started becoming a new version of me in the last six months....using tools like writing, this blog, my photography, walks with Sophie, the Charlie Project, talking with friends and family. And I finally feel connected. I finally feel defined by the things that truly matter to me. And the journey of becoming this new version has been the most rewarding experience of my life.

The question I've been asked lately is: will you ever be finished...will you ever find the final version of you? And my answer is:

I hope not.

"It's hard to live life well if you don't take time to think about it." ~ Jon Katz

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

the freedom of heart lake

I stumbled upon a dog owner's paradise one day back in February...Heart Lake. It's a local Conservation Area that is home to a number of large picnic areas, a paved walkway that goes on for miles through park, as well as several hiking trails that weave through wooded areas and around the large lake. It operates during the summer and fall season with the usual parking and admittance fees, packed crowds of families on the weekends, and the usual 'dogs must be leashed at all times" rules and regulations. It is, however, closed for the season between Thanksgiving and Easter...closed and transformed into a wonderland for dogs.

I discovered, purely by chance, that during the off season, Heart Lake becomes an unofficial, leash free park. And it is a little slice of sunshine. Due to the expansive nature of the park, dogs can comfortably meet and frolic with one another, intermittently on a walk, without the anxiety that can sometimes accompany the forced continuous interaction that occurs in the small, confined little plots of land that are designated as leash-free zones in the city. And for less sociable dogs, the space allows for freedom without interaction if necessary. As I walked Sophie through Heart Lake on several different occasions, there was peaceful vibe that simply did not exist at the frenzied leash-free zones.

The owners are calm, courteous and genuinely enjoy spending time with their dogs. They recognize the value of what they have found at Heart Lake and make a concerted effort to leave a small footprint. By continuing to treat the conservation area, each other and the dogs with respect, we hope that those who may have cause to speak out against our use of the park in the off season will continue to quietly look the other way. And our dogs will continue know the freedom and joy of Heart Lake.

(All photos in this post, as well as many on The Charlie Project site, are from Heart Lake)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

sunday stills - the colour red

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was the colour red. There is a rural road just north of us that we drive along all the time, where a section of it has been bought up by developers and the existing homes and farm structures have been slated for destruction.

One barn in particular always caught my attention on the was painted red and right above the big doors the owners had painted a white star. At some point in it's life that big red barn had meant something to someone...had been worthy of more than a functional coat of paint, had been worthy of white star. I always looked for this barn on our drives and knew I wanted to photograph it...even though I would only be able to capture it from the side of the road. I attempted two pictures once, a few weeks back, but the setting sun cast the light against me and they came out too dark to do the barn justice.

Given this week's theme for Sunday Stills, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to hit the road early Saturday morning and capture it in proper light. I pulled my car over to the side of the worn and dusty road, got out and stared at the perfect, warm sunlight of the morning washing over a pile of wood, shingles and memories. I was too star barn was no more. And even though I had never set foot in it, never knew it's history...I was sad as I know I will miss it.

So I decided to use this week's challenge to play around with my "digital lab" so to speak and experiment with how I processed some of my photos....including the one I had taken a few weeks back of my barn.

the star barn

Monday, April 6, 2009

the nature of a dog

We spent Saturday morning at a popular Maple Syrup festival. The main street was shut down and filled with local artisans peddling their wares; children sat on bales of hay licking their sticky, sweet fingers and crowds of people moved through the festival, stopping now and then to greet neighbours with a hearty hello. It was not, however, Sophie's favorite scene. She pulled on her leash - which she hates. She cowered at the noise. She huddled up close to my legs when we stopped, with her tail tucked in. There were other dogs at the festival: big, gentle Labs with two or three kids hanging off them; a little Yorkie walking confidently down the sidewalk at the end of her flexi lead; a Retriever puppy dozing away in his owner's arms. But not Sophie...which is why we don't often take her on outings like that anymore.

Sophie went to many events like this when she was a pup as I attempted to acclimate her to everything...a Santa Claus parade; Remembrance Day ceremonies; our local Bread & Honey festival. She was generally okay although never completely comfortable, but I thought if we kept exposing her she would adjust and be that dog I wanted that I could take anywhere with me. As time went on, however, as she started to come into her own and I grew to know this dog that I would be sharing my life with, I realized that she had her own nature, her own personality and I wanted her to be the dog that she was...not the one that I was trying to mold her into being.

So leash walks became fewer as we sought out our trails; we steered away from crowds as she bounded through wide green fields and play dates with other dogs fell by the wayside as we perfected our agility course dance together. I believe our connection is stronger because I recognize Sophie's nature and permit her to be what she needs to be: a spirited border collie who loves to run wild with the wind. On the occasions when we are at the dog park and Sophie, while not at all aggressive, is disinterested in the other dogs, I will often have people say: "It's too bad she's not interested in playing with other dogs." And I ask it?

Dogs are diverse and unique's one of the things that I love the most about them. They have distinct traits...some genetic, some taught...but the sum of those traits make them the dogs that they are. I can remember when I started to really see Sophie....swimming in a blue lake on a clear day; tearing down the rail trail wild-eyed with a tail full of burrs; driving a flock of sheep over a rolling meadow. And I can remember closing my book on leash training for the last time; canceling our Tuesday night play sessions; and just smiling at the person who thought it was too bad she wasn't social enough with other dogs. As I toss the Frisbee for this great dog, watching with pride as, leaping into light of the setting sun, she pulls it effortlessly out of the air, I think: she loves me just the way I the very least I can return the favor.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

sunday stills - animals of husbandry

This week's Sunday Stills challenge was animals of husbandry. Sophie and I spent most of yesterday flying down country back roads in search of some shots and came up empty handed. So I pulled this from my archives. These were some of the first sheep that Sophie took herding lessons with.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

lessons - six

It's important to love with your whole heart....

...and like you've never been hurt before.