Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Letter "K"

We were walking at Mount Maxwell on Salt Spring Island when I saw this "K" as clearly as one could ever hope to see a letter of the alphabet in the forest.  I took the picture and continued walking, and as we got closer, I realized it had been an illusion.  In fact, the "K" was formed by two trees.  However, it seems a good way to start a "K" post in a late entry for ABC Wednesday.

My "K" words for this post?  Well, they vary in tone quite a bit.  I go from "kin" to "kind" to "keen" to "kaleidoscope" to "Kahn" (artist) to "Krau, Karg-Elert, and Kirk" (musicians) and then a space to give you a chance to stop reading, because the last one is "kill" as it pertains to a sad but breakthrough moment for me a couple of weeks ago when I witnessed a mink drown a seagull. That section of the post is not for everyone, but it registers an acceptance of a fact of nature that I have resisted for a long time.  As always, I am happy if you find time to read just one section of the post, so I have used titles to make that easier. 
On Granville Island last week, I saw these Afghan hounds.  They were on the other side of the playground, but I had my big lens on the camera and was able to call a request to their human, John, for permission to take some photos.  He was fine with that.  We had met before, as the last section of a blog post on April 24th, 2009 describes.  At that time, he had told me about the family consisting of Papa (very protective), Mama and four kids.  He had an elderly rescue dog at home as well, no relation, but kin nevertheless.  This time, he had only five dogs with him.  Since I didn't get close enough to ask questions, I'm making a guess that the two here are Papa (on the right) and daughter.  Papa was staring  all the way across the playground at Black Jack, and did not take his eyes off her for the entire time we were there.  He clearly took his responsibility to kith and kin very seriously.

I think this is Mama.  She and her hubby truly seem to be kindred spirits.

Afghans are especially fun to photograph.  Not wanting to stress Papa too much, we didn't stay long.  I wondered why there was one less dog than three years ago, but felt reassured to see that the sense of kinship between family members was still strong. 

This is Twister.  I posted about him on July 18th and was happy to see that he was still doing well almost two months after I first met him. He is alive due to the kindness of a lady who comes twice a day to throw fish and beans in the air.  He cannot pick up any food from the ground because of his malformed bill, but he has become adept at catching and swallowing food that is thrown.  She also brings oatmeal to keep the other seagulls busy so that Twister can take full advantage of his nutritious meals.  I love this story and watch for Twister each time I walk on the other side of False Creek.

My examples of "keen" were all taken a couple of days ago.  I think these first five require no explanation.

The very bright tree in this next photo is at the end of my street.  I think it is an example of "keen" because..
it seems determined to make up for the other trees on the street that have lost their leaves.
The next five pictures were taken a couple of days ago as well.  Fellow blogger and friend, Penelope Puddles, did a post in March about kaleidoscopes.  It was a fascinating post that addressed the wonder I felt as a child the first time I looked into a kaleidoscope.  You can see for yourself how Penelope transformed one of her own beautiful photographs into a kaleidoscope, learn about societies for people who love kaleidoscopes and even read about a connection to quantum physics that I had never for a moment considered.

For some reason, that post came to my mind when I looked at a few of my photographs.  I thought they reminded me a little bit of kaleidoscopes.  


Thanks, Penelope for giving me new ways to think about kaleidoscopes.

I found several fine artists whose names begin with "K" but selected Wolf Kahn for this post.  He moved from Germany to England in 1939, at the age of 12.  The Wikipedia article (linked above) doesn't go into details, but I thought about the stories that must linger behind that move.  He now lives in New York City during the Winter and Spring seasons, but spends Summer and Autumn in Vermont.

He uses pastels and oil paints in a combination of two techniques, realism and colour field.    

The painting below (public on Flickr) showed up when I googled Kahn.  The artist, R.Zellers, was copying Kahn's style.

I have driven through Vermont in Autumn and it really is a spectacular place to enjoy the seasonal colour changes.  This painting reminds me a bit of my "keen" tree in that the path is the one brave blaze of colour  hanging on for just a bit longer.

When I was studying music at McGill, I remember my music teacher suggesting I listen to Lily Kraus.  I did, and was of course blown away by her playing, but it is only in the exploration of her life for this post that I discovered two videos about her: Part 1 and Part 2.  What a precious gift I felt I had been given to watch her teaching masterclasses, listen to her speaking of her passionate love for her husband, hear a friend of hers describe their time interned during the war, and listen to the words of her children who adored her but suffered immeasurably each time she had to be away for concert tours.  They are about 13 minutes each to watch but well worth the time.

Here, you can listen to Lily Kraus playing Mozart's Piano Sonata no.11, k331, Rondo Alla Turca.  It was recommended in my "1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die" book.  I have put a link to that book's author, Tom Moon, because I am really grateful for the three years that he took to research and document the lives and work of so many musicians.  Tom Moon's life is probably at least as interesting as those he writes about.  So many countries visited, so many genres explored, and so much true appreciation comes through as he describes the music he admires and loves.  As he says in his introduction, "Every day for more than three years, I went off searching.  This book is the product of my journey.  It's been an odyssey powered by the thrill of discovery and governed by a simple notion: that the more you love music, the more music you love." Perhaps, a subject for an "M" post one of these days :)
Tom Moon was not the person who introduced me to musician, Jonathan Scott, playing a 1908 Art Harmonium in a performance of Sigfrid Karg-Elert's Totentanz Op. 70 No.2.  It came up in a random search for musicians with "K" names.  However, I think he may have been as excited by my find as I was.  As someone said in the comments, "I have read that Karg-Elert's great strength as a performer was as a virtuoso on the Kunst-Harmonium.  Thank you so much for bringing this facet of this composer's artistry so vividly back to life. Your performance is superb in every way."  Karg-Elert, shown below, was internationally oriented and struggled against the cultural climate in pre-WW1 Germany.  The last few years of his life were unhappy, a fact that I think shows in his expression.  However, I think, like Tom Moon, he would have been very pleased to hear Scott's fine performance of his music. 

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-77) was born on August 7th (my mother's birthday).  He is another musician a teacher recommended I listen to while I was in university, but somehow, became lost at the back of my memory in recent years.  I enjoyed reading this Wikipedia article about him.  I hadn't realized that, for the last two years of his life, he continued to perform by adapting his technique to accommodate paralysis on one side after suffering a stroke. A second stroke killed him in '77, but this is a man who held nothing back, as you will feel in this performance, "Volunteered Slavery (recorded before his stroke). It goes through many phases in ten minutes, starting with a solo, then, at around the two minute mark, he goes on a walkabout through the audience.  The microphone doesn't pick him up during that walk, but someone says in the comments that he doesn't think Kirk breathed once in that entire walkabout.  He of course, does, but he is master of a technique some call circular breathing.  When he returns to the stage, he builds the intensity and emotion to give a performance that takes you on a wild ride.  Kirk was blind and performed on two and sometimes, three, wind instruments at the same time, so there was a kind of circus-performer aspect to his playing that put off some music critics.  However, Warner Jazz put out a 22-track compilation of his performances between '65 and '76.  I enjoyed this article about that performance, and in particular, these words by Chris May: "Initially derided by "serious" jazz critics, who thought he belonged in a carnival side show, Kirk ultimately won over most skeptics. He was an experimentalist hardwired into blues and gospel roots, an incandescent soloist, and a supreme entertainer. He was also an articulate supporter of the black and civil rights movement. He just about had it all—and his music still sends shivers up the spine 35 years after his death."
There you have my ABC Wednesday "K" post.  Thank you so much for reading any part of it. You can check out people's contributions for the letter "N" by going to this link.  As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is one more section, but scrolling down will take you to some pictures that will be disturbing for many of you.

Warning: Disturbing photos below of a mink drowning a seagull.

I heard the screams of the seagull as Black Jack and I walked along the seawall.  They only lasted a few seconds, but sent chills down my spine.  

What I saw horrified me.  The scene dominated my thoughts for several days.

Vegetarian for more than 40 years, and vegan since January, the killing of another living being is abhorrent to me.  However, I came to some conclusions this time.
1. I forced myself to look, first through the camera, and then, at the photos. No more hiding my head in the sand, pretending all nature is cute and adorable.
2. Animals have to eat, and many survive only by killing.  They have to learn how to do that or die.
3. It's not easy.  They work hard for every bite they eat.
4. There is no malice.  They kill as quickly as they can, and there is very little waste.
5.  I still don't like it, but I accept it.

I was able to get a close enough picture of the seagull to know that it wasn't Twister, and for that, I was relieved.  I'm sorry, young seagull, that you were the loser this time.  The mink must have swum up under you so quickly that the game was over before you knew it had started.  Eat well, little mink.  You worked hard and you earned it.

When the screams shattered a beautiful day, Black Jack and I were not the only ones to hear them.  Several people watched with me, and in fact, I had a memorable conversation with a very empathetic young man.  A wave of seagulls also arrived at the scene.  Family and friends or just by-flyers?  I don't know.  I think they quickly realized there was nothing to be done, but I thought I saw grief in this adult's face.  However, within a minute, they were gone, the victim was silent, and I was alone with my thoughts.  If you did choose to read this, I thank you and of course, would be interested in your response.


  1. nature can seem brutal but i do agree, they have to fight for their survival. poor twisted. i am glad that woman looks after him or he'd surely starve. black jack is too cute, as always, and that K tree is wonderful!

  2. Amazing... That must be a meal for a whole richness of minks!!!!! Mink don't hibernate and the mountains are showing snow... I wonder if they use the feathers for winter insulation in the den.

  3. Carol, a wonderful variety of K images. K can be a difficult letter to use in Scrabble but you have done wonderful things with it. The gull with the twisted beak looks good thanks to the kindness of that devoted woman.
    Black Jack is indeed keen and entertaining, I never tire of her antics.
    Nature can be cruel, whether it is the mink or a hawk taking a songbird, makes me sad but it is natures way.

  4. Thank you, Carol, for linking to my kaleidoscope post … it’s been a while since I’ve seen it myself. :) Also, the Afghan hounds are fascinating creatures. With their long flouncing coats they are poetry in motion. I was also interested in the musician Kirk and how he coped.

    About your last captures: There is a cringing feeling when seeing this aspect of nature. But in the wild there are no pretenses when attacking food for survival unlike when having it handed to us neatly packaged at the supermarket.