My buddy Jim had booked the cabin several months ago for this past weekend. He was going with another friend who had to bow out at the last minute. Too late to cancel, and less than thrilled about going alone, he asked if I wanted to go.
It was short notice, and I had a lot of work to do, so my first impulse was to decline. I’m not spontaneous. I over-plan things, even though we don’t have nearly as much control over our lives as we like to believe.
All it takes is somebody running a red light and wrecking your car or having to evacuate your home for a forest fire to prove it.
I already have the cabin booked not long from now with another friend, but I decided to accept the invite, even though I felt like I didn’t really deserve two cabin trips so close together.
With some recent welcome rain and smoky skies temporarily cleared, we had perfect sunny weather.
As I get up at 5 am every day at home, sleeping in for me is usually limited to about 7:30, even though we were up until midnight each night. As the bedrooms in the cabin are beside each other and divided only by a curtain, I quietly made coffee each morning, grabbed the camera and went for a walk.
It’s a half section of land with lush green forest, pastures, a creek and lots of room to wander. There are plenty of birds, deer and coyotes. Every once in a while, you might spot a moose, beaver or a bear, and on one trip last fall, my buddy Darrel woke to a cougar walking right beside the deck.
However, my favourite wildlife experience on this property was one fall morning in 2020 when we watched a great grey owl hunt for breakfast. Unconcerned by our presence, Darrel and I followed it for a long time, snapping photos and taking video.
But there have been plenty of visits where I haven’t seen anything, at least not close enough to call it an encounter. Sometimes, it’s just deer off in the tree line or coyotes howling at night. But I love that sound, so I always count that as a win.
This past Saturday, however, I was delighted to see another great grey owl. This one wasn’t as enthused by my intrusion, but I still got some shots before it flew off into the trees. It wasn’t until I returned to the cabin and loaded the card onto my iPad that I realized the shots were much better than I had thought. Since they were all handheld at 300mm, I was surprised I got any that were even in focus, or close to focus, anyway.
The great thing about taking photos for painting reference is that if they’re a little out of focus or the lighting isn’t ideal, I’ll still keep plenty of shots a professional photographer would throw away. What’s not worth printing to them, could be a perfect reference shot for me.
The couple we rent from have become friends over the last five years, so they’ll often join us for a couple of drinks in the evenings. I mentioned that it bothers me that I’m nervous around horses. I want to be more comfortable with them, as I know they’re able to sense it when a person is uneasy.
Karen invited me to the corral that evening, brought one of the geldings out and gave me the lead. I had read some wrong information about interacting with horses and was happy to get better advice. She gave me some pointers on how to approach them and read their body language.
On the last morning, I woke early and went for another wander. I followed a path on the property through the trees to one of the pasture gates where the horses were grazing. Two of them came over to see me, and I greeted them how I’d been shown, feeling much more comfortable than I had on previous encounters.
Though I’m now a little behind on my work, with a busy week ahead of cartoons, paintings, and writing, plus some marketing tasks, I’m still glad I made the time for the last-minute getaway.