Baby marmots and me

Okay, I know if you put "baby" in front of anything, you pretty much get everyone's attention... am I right? 

Welcome to my time in nature's nursery.

There's a point along the Trans Canada Trail near Christina Lake, where you walk through some carved out areas with high, rocky banks that the former railroad tracks used to pass through. Marmots like rocky areas and you're sure to see a few, standing up on their back legs looking out for possible danger. Or, you might hear them with their high-pitched, whistle-squeaks, warning their buddies of trespassers. I always feel like I'm walking into some sort of ambush when I hike along this area, seeing heads poking up on both sides of the trail, high above, and warning sounds being passed back and forth. It's a good thing they don't hunt humans and have a vegetarian diet! 

I've been wanting to get some pictures of this species of large squirrels (yes, squirrels believe it or not) and decided to climb up to the top of one of these rocky sections a few weeks ago, hoping to get a shot. What I didn't expect to see up there was seven sets of little eyes staring back at me from various locations among the rocks. Yes, babies

Babies everywhere!!

Now I don't believe I've ever encountered a baby marmot before, never-mind even thought about one. The ones I see on the hillsides around here during these months are very well grown up. They lounge around on the warm rocks or munch away on green grasses in the fields. How they survive the summer heat in such furry coats is mind-boggling. I find them an adorable sight that I look forward to each year. Discovering their young ones has taken my marmot love up a whole level. 

When I first saw these little guys, I was scared they'd dive into holes in the pile of rocks and hide. But, they seemed as curious about me as I was about them and we pretty much had a stare-off happening within minutes. There are days I decide not to carry around an extra 4 pounds of telephoto lens in my pack and wish I did. This was one of those days. Telephoto lenses are essential for those close-up wildlife shots, which I knew wouldn't be much of a problem with how this meet-an- greet was going. So I made a plan to return the next day. 

When I returned with my extra four pounds of lens, the scene was pretty much the same. This time momma (or maybe daddy?) marmot was there and took off to a location far enough to watch the babies, but not be in too much danger herself. I was really surprised the little ones didn't follow. I settled down with my camera on a low, flat rock about 15 feet away from my subjects. Once in a while, momma would whistle-squeak a warning and the babies would inch back into the rocks. But they returned just as quick to watch me watching them. The photo-ops came easily. I took shots, enjoyed my furry little companions, and made sure I didn't overstay my welcome. 

Then, I got to come home and look at these adorable babies again while I went through all the photos.

 

Parent marmot keeping an eye on me and babies.

 

It's moments like these that I am so grateful for my love of the outdoors, living where I live, and following my passion for photography. I encountered a question the other day, which was, "What is it that you love about being a photographer?" My response is: Sharing the beauty of the world, a special moment, or something that someone may never get to see themselves.  So, if you were like me and never saw a baby marmot before... hope you enjoy seeing these photos as much as I do sharing them!  

Reading break

When you dream about Al Pacino as Tony Montana, just because you’ve put Scarface in your Netflix queue, it’s time you start reading more and watching less. At least that’s my interpretation of last night’s dream.

Okay, maybe this Pacino dream happened even while I have a book on the go, but it’s still a sign that I need to up my reading game this year. I’ve always been a reader and my proudest moment was reading The Stand by Stephen King in three days (800+ pages non-stop pretty much) as a teenager. My reading has fluctuated as an adult and I’ve slacked off in the last few years. Non-fiction became my choice for a while, but I’ve missed fictional stories. I figure I can always read more. I’m proud to say I already have a book under my belt for the year, and The Secret Place by Tana French is said book.

 
 

This novel took me a while to read – I started it before Christmas and finished last week. It’s 452 pages, small print, and Irish. Irish? What does that mean exactly?

I’m going to tell you…

I’ve read plenty of stories that have been translated from the author’s native language into North American English. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson are just two that come to mind. There also happens to be two versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie –Swedish and US – in which I avoided the US version due to poor casting choices, and the Swedish one was excellent, so why bother? But I digress, this isn’t a movie review.

This is, however, about a lesson I learned while reading French’s novel: there is Irish English. This may well seem like a “duh” moment on my behalf, but how many Irish English books have you read? I’m not talking about slang and all those words (bollix) we find so enduring about Irish culture. I’m talking about different grammar, like “yous” instead of “you” and sentences that end with “but.” For someone (me) who has spent the last year and a bit in editing classes fussing over sentence structure, it was a tough transition to a language I understood, but some grammar that confused me. Mix that together with those lovely Irish words and over-dramatic, teenage-girls (in boarding school no less) and I was totally thrown for a loop. But once I put my trust in French’s editor and my own ability to let go and enjoy the journey, I loved it!

Of course, I had to do a little research on Irish grammar for my own knowledge as an editor, and came across this transcript from the Grammar Girl podcast called How to Speak English Like the Irish. Fitting for St. Patrick’s Day coming up, and I thought I’d share. In some way, I think we all want to be a bit Irish. At least that’s how I felt while drinking Guinness in the Irish House during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC (which also happened to be the extent of our Olympic experience – what else do you need after that?).

So now I’ve gone from a dream about a Cuban drug kingpin to a Grammar Girl lesson on Irish speaking – on my photography website blog – and I’m not sure where to go next. Maybe I’ll just say that this novel was a great read and because of the way it’s written, allows you to transport to a new culture for a while. At least for us who are not from Ireland. There’s some good twisty suspense too, which I always like. It may also help you get through the last of this winter when spring still seems soooo far away.

My next book, In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, is based in England – I picked both books by random – and I’m learning some new terminology (a “hen” is a bachelorette party for instance), though the grammar is nothing out of the ordinary. According to the review blurbs in the first couple pages, it’s going to be a movie soon. So get on reading it if you don’t like movie previews ruining your own imagination. Reese Witherspoon was quoted as saying, “… I almost bit all my fingernails off!” I don’t chew my nails, but yeah, it’s good. You can probably trust one of us on this.

As my novel queue will be empty soon (Ware’s book is going much quicker), I am more than happy to receive suggestions from any book lovers out there. While on my reading quest this year, I may end up suggesting another book or two myself. Perhaps I will find one about a photographer even, to make the subject here relevant to the blog. In the meantime, though, I think Saturday may turn out to be a movie night.