Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Roberts Creek: communing with bears, eagles, and cougars


As I have said numerous times on this blog, I love where I live. This is the uphill view of Roberts Creek from the bridge on Lower Road. Not far from there, northeast down the road, two bald eagles live in a tall Douglas fir with a nest at about 120 feet (36.6 metres) up. Every day, as I sit at my computer, I hear them screeching and calling and can see them gliding effortlessly in the sky.


My husband Frank, who had never seen a bald eagle before moving to Canada’s west coast, likes to watch this talkative pair from our front deck, using a telescope. In a recent severe wind storm, the eagles’ nest of large sticks and pine branches appeared to dislodge and break apart. In the past few days, we have seen the eagle pair build a new nest, flying in with long sticks hanging from their beaks. I love having them as neighbours.


Our area also has black bears and cougars. Although a few people in the Creek have seen a cougar on the beach and in their yard, Frank and I have only seen their footprints. Several years ago, a neighbour of ours up the hill had a cougar on the roof of their woodshed. I thought that we might have had one on our roof one dark night. I heard something heavy pounce and land on our roof, causing it to shake significantly. Nothing I have heard before or since equalled that shake and sense of weight.


Here’s the mouth of Roberts Creek, where it opens into the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver Island is the silhouette on the horizon. We get salmon spawning here every year.

Occasionally, a bear will stroll through our yard, almost always at night. One bear bashed its way through our side gate, knocking out the vertical slats, and got into our garbage. We’re really careful now about not putting out our garbage until the morning of pick-up. The same bear broke through our neighbour Cathy’s front gate three different times, leaving a large hole in the middle of it. The bear awareness official ended up putting a huge bear trap in the parking lot behind our house; it’s a large, mesh tunnel-shaped cage. They didn’t catch anything.


Recently, a bear knocked down our bird feeders and our hummingbird feeder, emptying them all. Frank and I feel no ill will towards the creature and are sad that humans have encroached so much on their habitat through housing developments and deforestation. We wish that everyone would be careful about their garbage and fruit trees to prevent attracting bears.


This week, Frank  found a small bear claw inside our Mazda Miata on the passenger side. It was below a small slash in the soft-top roof of the car. He had always thought that some vandal had knifed the roof, but that explanation never felt right to me. What a surprise to discover that a bear had caused this damage! We’re keeping the claw as a memento.

April 25, 2010 at 3:57 pm Comments (0)

A portrait: composure and compassion

Mudito Drope, an artist in Gibsons, BC, recently asked me if I wanted to pose for a colour portrait. Flattered, I said, “Sure.” When I asked: “Why me?” she replied: “You have an interesting face.” (That’s better than what one ex-boyfriend told me: that I had an “unfinished face.”  I’m still not sure what he meant by that, but I’ve never forgotten the term.)


While posing in Mudito’s studio, I thought it would be tough to remain in the same position, but it wasn’t. I treated the exercise like an open-eyed meditation and had no problem lasting longer than Mudito’s suggested 20-minute increments. The time from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a break for lunch, went by really quickly.


For some of that time, we listened to a tape of Bill Moyers interviewing Karen Armstrong about the societal need for compassion and tolerance, and about the Charter for Compassion, which Armstrong helped to forge. The charter states: “We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.” It also declares:

“Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”

The charter ends with this: “Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”


I found Moyers’ and Armstrong’s conversation inspirational and easy to absorb while staying still. During my sit, a crow landed on a branch close to the studio window and a pesky flicker tapped away at the outside wall of Mudito’s wooden, board-and-batten home.


By the time that I left at about 1:30, Mudito hadn’t finished the portrait, but was well through it. I thought that I looked severe and sad in it, but it definitely looked like me. Besides, I was feeling sad that day, concerned about my father, who was in the hospital with a number of serious medical issues.


It was intriguing to watch Mudito in her focused process and to see the colour palette that she uses on faces when doing portraits. On some of her paintings of people, she includes a phrase, an idea that I love. I suggested that she use “Bring a voice to what lies hidden,” which has been a creative theme for me for years and fuels my current memoir writing and SoulCollage work.


Mudito now has her first solo exhbition of portraits at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, which will be on display until May 31. Check them out and enjoy.

April 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm Comments (0)