Monday, November 1, 2010

The Oak Hammock Marsh

I so appreciate all the supportive comments and emails I received from everyone over the past week.  I got back from Winnipeg yesterday and although it was a sad and difficult visit, it was also great to see all my relatives and especially to visit with Diana's family.  The memorial service was held at a hotel as my sister wanted it to be a celebration with good food, fellowship, honour, and dignity.  All of that was certainly accomplished and more.  One of Diana's friends gave a long and lovely tribute to my sister, a few other friends played music and sang an Irish dirge, and her brother-in-law sang the Lord's prayer which he was supposed to have sung at their wedding 20 years ago, but had missed the wedding due to airline trouble.  There were photos around and everyone talked and mingled and visited and remembered together. 

You never knew when things would get difficult though.  You might be doing the most mundane thing and then would be reminded about why we were all there and the end of my sister's life and how sad it will be for my brother-in-law and my nieces and nephew.  On Thursday my niece and I popped into a grocery store to quickly pick up two more pumpkins to carve.  When we were checking out the cashier asked us if we would like to donate money to help fight breast cancer.  I glanced over at my niece to see how she was doing and made the donation.  Then the cashier asked if we had a loyalty card from that store.  I didn't since I was from out of town, but she said she could look it up from my niece's phone number.  When she found the number she announced that there was a card belonging to Diana ...  gulp ...  just when you thought you were doing something so innocuous and fun as buying pumpkins, you are reminded about her death.  Unfortunately I think there will be a lot more moments like that for them.  

Mixed in with the sad moments, though, there were pumpkins to carve and costumes to make.  My niece had her heart set on being a popsicle for Hallowe'en, so several of us helped my niece and her friend make popsicle costumes out of boxes and a pink tablecloth - phew!  Several hours of work later they looked really cute, which is fortunate as I had my doubts when we were in the middle of the process.

On Thursday we went to the Oak Hammock marsh, which is a wildlife management area, just north of Winnipeg.  It was great to see my sister's children running, and climbing, and playing, and laughing.

The Oak Hammock marsh is an important wetland where thousands of birds, especially waterfowl,  gather to feed on the grains in the area before their long migration south for the winter.  Usually there are thousands of Canadian geese, snow geese, and ducks here in the fall, so many in fact, that apparently when they are startled the birds darken the sky as they take off.

Unfortunately the weather had turned cold at the beginning of the week so the last of the masses of birds left the previous weekend.  We did see a few stragglers, but they were not really hanging around fattening up - they were on their way south.

This ice was in the shadows - I'd move on too if I were a goose.  Winnipeg's nickname is Winterpeg for good reason.

The ice looked like a piece of art when held up to the sun.

We hiked along the trails, although it was a little bit wet.  The prairie fields have huge puddles and wet areas which has made it difficult for the farmer's to get their crops in and the water level in the rivers are very high.

We looked for some prairie dogs in this active colony, but of course they have all gone to sleep for the winter.

That didn't stop the fun, though, as there were cartwheels to spin, and rocks to climb, and piggy-backs to give,

and boardwalks to take us through the marsh and the dried tall prairie grasses.

The interpretive centre is a lovely sinuous building made out of stone the colour of the prairie grasses.

This cabin, built in 1938, used to be the ranger's station.  I love its early prairie vernacular style.  According to my brother, a lot of prairie buildings have the roof sloping in on all four sides like that so the wind can't catch any shingle edges and blow them off.

I just wanted to show you how flat the prairies are.  Well, in actual fact they aren't always - but they sure are around the Oak Hammock marsh!

While we didn't see the thousands of geese we would like to have seen, we did see some and it was lovely to get out and walk in the tall grass prairie. 

The funny thing was, the next day we drove down to North Dakota to pick up my sister who was travelling from Kentucky by train and we saw all the geese in the photo below while we were waiting to cross the border.


  1. Beautiful photos, especially the ice held up to the sun..

  2. Those are some great shots. I love the one of the dock through the marsh. It is so hard to believe that there is ice already, but I guess it is time up north. Just so used to it being warm here. I can send you pics of the geese in the south if you want. Just kidding.

  3. Thanks so much for posting about my giveaway. You have some beautiful photos here.
    I'm so sorry about the loss of your sister.

  4. I'm so glad you managed to find some light moments and a few distractions in amongst all that sadness Grace. And you've taken some gorgeous photos as well. I love the boardwalk with the grasses on either side...just lovely :)

  5. I'm so sorry to hear that you lost your sister. Your photos are very pretty...I love the one of the boardwalk. Best wishes ♥

  6. Grace I thought of you last weekend and hoped there would be some happiness intermingled with the sadness of losing your sister Diana. Looks like you all are finding your way as you move forward.

    It also looks like from your beautiful photos that being close to nature was a wonderful way for you to reconnect with everyone, I know it always helps me.

    I'm sure your sister is at rest and smiling down upon you!

    Kat :)